Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sorry. I just feel down in the dumps gloomy right now. Sure I put out a fantastic post (with some rather exhilarating writeups I might add---in fact some of the best dribble I've posted in at least six months!) and the influx of interesting and downright hotcha recordings and mooms (courtesy of Bill Shute) is keeping me occupied when I could be doing less moral things with myself, but-----let's face it-----no matter how much I stamp my foot and try to pretend otherwise it just ain't 1962 out there anymore!!! I didn't want to admit this because hey, I don't want YOU to get all gloomy about it as well. But let's face it---'62's a good fifty-three years in the past, and come to think of it so is good tee-vee, hotcha rock 'n roll radio (and don't you argue otherwise!), snazzy cars, good looking females and a clear knowledge of right (the self, property rights, morality) vs. wrong (dykes and fairies and all that stuff Ten Years After warned us about)! I might as well also throw in the pre-Vatican II church, but I think you knew that already. Let's face it, 1962 might have had tee-vee tubes that blew out leaving you entertainment-less for a few days and a quicker death due to heart disease and terminal diseases we can now conquer or control, but it didn't have brand new episodes of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER or twelve-cent SUPERMAN comic books to keep your relatively sane self from turning into the next Joan Baez.

At least the following recordings keep me from going totally bonkers over the travails of trying to live a ranch house suburban slob life in a Compassion Inc. world. Got some real hot newies here (and a couple oldies that were floating about) you just might want to read a li'l about. And face it, one sentence of my pontificating o'er even the cruddiest of Cee-Dee pile finds is way more invigorating than entire posts regarding the post-punk mewlings of some introspective losers that them other blogs toss at you like turds flinging from an Amish horse at full gallop!


Francis the Great-RAVISSANTE BABY LP (Hot Casa Germany, available via Forced Exposure)

Hot outta nowhere surprise of the week's this reissue of a pretty obscuro mid-seventies album that was recorded by a seven-year-old Cameroonian kid transplanted to Paree. Not only did this progeny (that's a malapropism, son!) write both of the side-long tracks that grace this longplayer but he sings 'em with his definitely pre-pubesprout voice that makes Speedy Alkaseltzer sound like he has balls! An' hey, this single-digit wizard is tops in my book not only for his absolute gushing of talent beyond his years but for recording a platter that stands up with some of my fave raves, what with is primitive drone beats and overall mesmerizing sounds that you can really snuggle up and get into whether you're reading old DICK TRACY comic strips or doing an extra-deep wipe. It's that engrossing!

Title track's a wowzer, the same hypnotico (dare I say at the risk of sounding like an amerindie doof Velvet Underground-ish?) riff repeated ad-afanablum sukering you into its web while Francis adds his voice to the fray in his native Camaroon tongue. It kinda conjures up the same maddening effect one gets listening to "Up In Her Room", "Sister Ray" or "Persian Surgery Dervishes" on those hot 'n sticky August nights right before the tornado hits your hovel. If this is the basis for all of that seventies African rock that's getting reissued then count me in for a Missionary trip to the darkest part of Africa, and don't forget the electric guitars!

On the flip Francis goes hot funk with a riff that recalls "Greenfield Morning" offa YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO BAND where Our Hero sings about a typically second-grade-ish love of nature. Kinda incongruous since listening to this music I somehow conjure up dank inner city streets or those blaxploitation mooms that alla the cool kids (white and black) wanted to go see back during my years of passage from insecure kiddiedom to even more insecure adulthood back inna seventies, but then again I sure wish I heard more of this kinda music during that best/worst of times decade and less of that Anastasia Pantsios-approved tough women in rock who'd probably cry if they broke a fingernail crap.

Of course it's a top notch winner (ranks with the primalness of the Stooges so it IS that good!) that'll set you back quite a penny given these ain't exactly showin' up at your local supermarket. Maybe if you're lucky (and cheap enough) someone'll post this via youtube but until then save your plasma money!
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Red Noise-SARCELLES-LOCHERES LP; Mahogany Brain-WITH (JUNK-SAUCEPAN) WHEN (SPOON-TRIGGER) LP (Souffle Continu Records France, available via Forced Exposure)

Wow, two of the wilder, punkier efforts to come out on the legendary French-based Futura label during the early-seventies are once again available, and not only that but Souffle Continu (who are handling these and other Futura efforts) did a painstakingly powerful job doin' 'em up right from the top notch sound and pressing to the impressive gatefold sleeves. Of course they too are rather pricey, but maybe if you act like you're having a spasm at the welfare office they'll dish out a li'l more moolah your way.

Red Noise sound fantab here compared with the youtube burn I got, coming off like a mad dash of Captain Beefheart filtered through Eric Dolphy with a whole load of late-sixties punk rock points tossed in to remind you of that teenage band down the road whose rehearsal got put to a halt after dad stuffed up the cracks, hitched the exhaust pipe of his '59 Lark to a vacuum cleaner tube and pumped it in! Some Fugs-y craziness also ensues both in the Frog and English language, but it doesn't get in the way of this overall crazed effort that really does live up to all of your 1968-75 punk expectations with a slew of atonal freeform tossed here and about. And hey, if the Titfield Thunderbolt put an album out it probably would have sounded a whole lot like this! Don't let the Zappa goatee on the front fool ya---this is primal rock 'n rot that (as one French crit put it) has reference points in such stellar acts as the Velvets, MC5 and Plastic Ono Band!

Mahogany Brain need no introduction to those of us who have scoured the earth looking for the spiritual successor to the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT blare reduced to something that even makes NO NEW YORK sound happyhappy in comparison. Band leader Michel Bulteau and his crew scrape blooze licks and harmonica farts seemingly in a most indiscriminate way that makes most of those eighties art rock expressions sound totally self-centered amateurish. About one step removed (in the right direction) from even such out there seventies anti-rock acts as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (who sound structured next to this crew!), and come to think of it former co-leader Patrick Geoffris was an early-eighties Contortion so it did all "come around" like we always knew it would.

More adventurous (and richer) readers might wanna get the limited edition color vinyl versions, but penny-counting me just stuck with the good ol' black stuff. Either way these'll make you really happy, or get a hefty price put on my head after someone parts with a good $44 (for both) and feels they've been had and but good!
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Other Dimensions in Music w/Matthew Shipp-TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE IS BEYOND TIME CD (Aum Fidelity)

Dunno why this '97 slab didn't tickle my hammer'n stirrups back when I first spun it o'er a good decade back. Musta been onna male rag at the time because is something that I sure coulda used more of during the past twennysome (plus) years than the reams of precocious amerindie platters done up by a buncha Poppy Family wannabes who thought they were channeling the Velvet Underground through Gordon Gano's sphincter.

Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter (who also popped up in Freedomland and the beauteous Storm  (I do hope somebody preserved this racket!) lends his talents via saxophones, flute and trumpet while Roy Campbell Jr. (another big star of the old CBGB Lounge Freestyle series) does a pretty good job  himself. No Ayler he, but then again he ain't no David Sanborn! Freedomland's William Parker handles the bass chores while Rashid Bakr, the original Blue Humans drummer himself is present making this like a supergroup of a substance and form that could put Penelope Playtex to shame!

Oh yeah, pianist Matthew Shipp sat in here and he doesn't get in the way even if he is a white interloper. Comes off less Cecil Taylor and more Burton Greene albeit a more restrained one, but it all works copasetic-like as if these guys had their antennae tuned to the same brainwaves and could bounce off each others' impulses like something outta TWILIGHT ZONE. In many ways this reminds me of that free group recording from '62 with Greene and Alan Silva that also deserves another spin, and if you think I'm gonna ignore any other other ODIM releases (have at least one stashed here in the closet along with a whole slew of fag relatives) you are most sadly mistaken!
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Francois Tusques/Don Cherry-LA MAISON FILLE DU SOLIEL 7-inch 45 rpm single (Cacophonic France, available via Forced Exposure)

Weirdo (if neat) '64 sides recorded by French multi-instrumentalist Tusques (here plunking on his main instro piano) along with bigtime great Cherry and somebody other than Bernard Guerin on contrabass (though he does get credit). The three perform what could best be called chamber free jazz that sounds as if it were recorded on reel-to-reel in either a rehearsal hall or one of the cheaper studios in the vicinity. Coolsville, but why is this a single 'stead of a longplayer (I assume there's more...and yeah, I know that this is a reish of one of the rarest free jazz singles extant) and what was the Le Corbusier exhibit this was recorded for about anyway? Matters that deserve to be discussed true. but if you wanna part with a good fourteen smackers for a free jazz single you couldn't do better'n this.
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MORGAN TAYLOR'S ROCK GROUP CD (no label)

Twas wondering how much this early oh-oh's underground-y platter held up considering I hadn't spun the thing since first reviewing it in the pages of my long-capsized crudzine. Turns out that these Morgan Taylor's Rock Group people still sound as fresh and as late-sixties Greg Shaw special power pop issue of BOMP! as I remembered...sure there's a trace of twee in the vocals, and some of the melodies ruin the impression of seventies veneration of sixties moves but this is still solid enough (even on the softer, introspective numbers) to remind you of the hope you had in the earlier part of this century for the hope you held in the eighties for the hope you held in the seventies that somehow the better aspects of sixties rock would once again rear its crazy head.

Morgan Taylor can get a little too introspective irritating (with his vox and compositions) true, but even the softer numbers don't grate as much as they should perhaps because here in 2015 they sound as retrospectively refreshing as they did when this was released in 2002. Overall the group reminds me of the long-gone Pezband who were treading a similar post-Raspberries groove and got washed over in the tide of late-seventies triteness despite all of their (and Cary Baker's) best efforts. Surprisingly Midwest sounding, which don't quite figure since these guys are En Why See born and bred and in fact used to frequent CBGB plenty during that haunt's final half decade.

Too bad I can't tell you where to get this since their website has been taken down presumably LONG ago. Maybe a seek and ye shall find rah-rah should be in order. Go for it because you have done worse many a time.
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Various Artists-DUSTY LIMEHOUSE VALLEY CD-r burn (Bill Shute Enterprises)

This one doesn't tingle my taters the way previous Bill burns do, but I like it anyway so there! Starts off strong with a track by the Buckinghams which is actually good enough that it could have popped up on a NUGGETS-styled compilation of the very-early eighties and fit in snug-like, and the cover of the String-A-Longs' "Wheels" by some unknown Canadian outfit is just as cornball good as the original. The rest vacillates between fair 'nough and eh!, though if you're that bugs over early-sixties misses and country good tries you might like this. The little commercial jingle thingies Bill stuck here and there did help ooze those long-repressed feelings of single-digit doofdom so maybe I shouldn't be acting like the louse ingrate that I'm certainly coming off like!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

MAGAZINE REVIEW! FLASHBACK #6 (Winter 2014)

I once said that other'n UGLY THINGS I can't really osmose these new retro-rock magazines that seem to have all of the knowledge at hand but very little of the motion needed to get the facts and fancy across to us thick-skulled readers! FLASHBACK is different, and this latest ish is one more reason for you to not hermetically seal yourself into your fart-encrusted bedroom with enough fanzines, comic books, records and a subscription to one of those old tee-vee show substations to last you a lifetime. Or at least until you have to come out because the air in your room is getting a little too foul even for you.

Cover stars for this sixth issue are none other'n Sam Gopal of ESCALATOR fame, the same Sam Gopal who not only recorded for the infamous Stable label but had none other'n Lemmy Willis/Kilminster of Hawkwind/Motorhead fame in his ranks. As you'd hopefully expect this piece is pretty mind-bending and in-depth what with all the engrossing twists and turns to be found therein, and surprisingly enough there's a current photo of Mr. Gopal included in this article and boy does he look like Sammy Davis Jr.!

There are other pieces of great interest to those of a late-sixties mentality including those on Bill Fay (who I never heard of prior to picking this magazine up), TEENSET magazine (sorta like a bopper rag with a stronger social consciousness) and even an old Jimmy Page interview from FUSION magazine and they're all heavily mandatory in the reading department, along with the tons of record, book, Dee-Vee-Dee and whatnot writeups just begging you to separate a whole lotta hard-begged from your chained up wallet (that is, if you can afford to find these woosh-where-did-they-go reissues.

My own personal favorites this ish happen to be the article on the David which really tells all about this mysterious group that still captivates ya like all of those great sixties albums should, as well as the interview with none other than James Williamson of the Stooges who doesn't say much in the way of anything we haven't heard before, but oh the way he tells it! Really sends you back to that night at Max's Kansas City when Alice Cooper hadda rush ol' Iggy to the EMX which even Robert Plant wouldn't've done!

Kinda pricey true, but then again what else are you gonna be spending your moolah on these days, food and shelter? Definitely a magazine to contend with, and considering just how scarce good rock 'n roll reading has become these days it ain't like you have much choice between this 'un and my own scribblings, eh?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Well, here we are at the start of another week, and as I would suspect it's probably not gonna be that much different from any of the other weeks we've been experiencing these past three or so decades. No skin off my apple really, because I gotta admit that I kinda enjoy the nada-ness of everyday life (except for the work part natch!) especially when it comes to settling back to watch an old episode of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN or eating some dried squid snack I got while visiting an Asian grocery store in Pittsburgh. That's what I call high-living, and if you don't think so you can always go out and save the world, usually ruining it in the process as most do-gooders have these past hundred-some years. I'll just stay indoors and do my suburban slob duty which is a whole lot more CONSTRUCTIVE'n anything you peace corpse types would dare come up with I'll betcha! Now if I can only get some other ranch house ravers like myself together so maybe we could join a club where all we do is sit around, gobble greasy teenage fast foods, read old comic books, talk about all the fun we shoulda had inna old days and watch a surprise tee-vee fave that nobody remembers...it might not set the world on fire but think of the thrills we'll have accusing each other of cheating during a game of MONOPOLY!!!
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Anyway here are the reviews, a good batch if I do say so myself...all newies to mine ears and only two of 'em are gimmes which does make me kinda proud knowin' that I'm not the mooch that I sometimes make myself out to be. Personally I think I did a fantab job of it myself so if you hear some steady rhythm that's not a drum machine pounding away...it's just me patting myself on the back!


Roxy Music-THREE AND NINE CD bootleg (Virtuoso, Japan)

Hoohah! Remember when you were a teenbo boy and you not only hadda worry about sneaking your copy of COUNTRY LIFE into your record collection but into the bathroom when Mother Nature was tellin' ya it was rock clockin' time? Well here's a new Roxy Music Cee-Dee that'll bring back alla those horny memories not only with a front cover featuring more bare flesh for your thigh sighin' thrills, but other outtakes scattered about that'll really have you relivin' those strange days of yore when you hadda check the palms of your mitts to see if they needed a trim!

THREE AND NINE's a fantastico artyfact of mid-seventies Roxy that was recorded around the time us Amerigan nimnuls were just beginning to catch on despite the futile efforts of Greg Shaw and Alan Niestor. Live in Paris during November of '74 you can tell that Roxy are in fine form what with their promoting their latest effort to a typically appreciative Roxy crowd, and if you're one who thinks that they hit their post-Eno height on COUNTRY LIFE (like I do!) you'll appreciate this 'un all the more.

True the songs sound just like they do on the album and when they don't (like during Eddie Jobson's rather pedestrian violin solo on "If There Is Something ") you might be yawning more'n you should, but THREE AND NINE captures everything that was hotcha and exciting about Roxy Music when they were pumping out rather sexoid art rock that seemed to gather fans from most of the rock spectrum, even factions you'd never thought would agree on anything ever!

One good thing about SIX AND NINE's the sound quality which, although not soundboard by any stretch of the imagination, is rather crisp making me wonder if technology has somehow found a way to make those cruddy live shows of yore sound as good as any late-fifties hi-fi effort you can come up with. If so, please direct me to the nearest studio because I have more'n a few cassettes hangin' around that certainly could use a major sound beefup, and maybe some sorta release if there happens to be a market for live 8-Balls recordings.
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Bolder Damn-MOURNING LP (Guersson Spain, available via Forced Exposure)

Being in a particularly ravenous early-seventies hard rock mood I bought this 'un with the impression that Ft. Lauderdale's Bolder Damn would be a true Third Generation thunderer in the tradition of Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. All I got was mid-energy musings that reminded me of Grand Funk Railroad more'n anything rabid. Like the Funksters it ain't bad, but after listening to the vast array of various heavy competitors who were able to get their recordings out during the seventies Bolder Damn just don't measure up with their comparatively commercial (and thus watered down) approach. Don't get me wrong because this is a good album that does contain a few snatches of hard rock hysteria, but after listening to Cooper, Sabs, the Stooges and Dust it's just leftovers.
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Populare Mechanik-KOLLEKTION 03: POPULARE MECHANIK COMPILED BY HOLGER HILLER CD (Bureau B, available via Forced Exposure)

Populare Mechanik were Ton Steine Scherben founding member Wolfgang Seidel's early-eighties new wave band, and if you're of the thought that the one-time German radical was going all Rock Lobster Armagideon Time over us think again! Seidel not only borrows from the early electronic krautrock of Conrad Schnitzler's freeform Zodiac Club work of the late-sixties but various experiments of the new wave era both obtuse and not, making for a platter that you kinda get the feeling woulda gotten mucho space in OP's cassette culture column had this stuff only gotten out more than it had. Some of it is entertaining even to my jaded ears (sorta like cubist jazz) while other moments had me bored silly, but I get the feeling that this is one that'll really grown on me more'n those skin blebs the docs won't remove from my eyelids. One thing I'll say...if you were expecting the proto-punk neo-amateur approach of the first TSS album you'll be in for quite a short-skidding surprise!
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Derek Rogers-DEPTH/DETAIL OF PROCESSING CD-r burn (Kendra Steiner Editions)

This guy's been absent from the KSE imprint for quite some time so it's sure nice giving a listen to Derek Rogers' electronic scronk again (sure he has dozens of these things out but like, I prefer mine FREE!). Mesmerizing washing machine drone gives way to a tide of static and even a bit of mid-seventies Obscure Records chance operations sparseness, and there's even one track ("An Illusion, Albeit") that kinda sounds defective to these ears though in all probability it ain't. In all, quite engrossing, enveloping and perhaps even forward-looking. If you're a big fan of those reincarnated Faust recordings this will certainly light up your gaseous exhaust.
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Ed Blackwell-THE COMPLETE REMASTERED RECORDINGS ON BLACK SAINT & SOUL NOTE 8-CD set (Black Saint/Soul Note Italy, available via Forced Exposure)

The guy mighta been real hot stuff back when he was whoopin' it up with Ornette, but on these Black Saint platters Blackwell ain't really anything that would connect with me in that visceral, primal fashion. Even when performing with old hands like Karl Berger or David Murray as a leader or sideman, these albums just drip of same-old in a frighteningly staid way. Heck, I even gotta admit that the Old and New Dreams Ornette without Ornette stuff comes off stale which is something I never dreamed would have happened in a millyun years even if these reunion attempts are usually bust from the get-go. There's much better Blackwell to be heard, and unfortunately it ain't here!
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Various Artists-EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW SOUND CD (Feed The Mind, available via Forced Exposure)

Here's a reish (also available on plastic) that came out in the early eighties during the height of the underground six-oh reissue hubbub, and if you missed it the first time around don't feel too bad because I did as well! Of course, being a limited edition release and all it wasn't like you were gonna find EVERYWHERE CHAINSAW SOUND at your local cutout bin, but for those of us unlucky enough to miss out on it the first time here's another chance to snatch up a copy of an album that you probably would have appreciated a whole lot more back then but this is now and like, it ain't gonna hurt you to listen to the thing.

The original package was a sparse affair, but this reissue does the entire thing up much better with actual liner notes you can read while your personal favorite punk rockers spin away. The sound is rather mid-fi as if this was recorded off the original album, and to that I saw great! Because like hey, this is the way most suburban slobs heard the originals on their ranch house consoles and what makes you think you're better'n any of them anyhow?

Hot selection here...the PEBBLES well hadn't run dry by this time so there were still a whole slew of un-comped platters that were years away from reissue begging to be unleashed on a new punk rock generation. Names familiar to us reg'lars from the Electric Prunes (coming on pretty strong in one of their last gasps before Axlerod fired the whole lot of 'em!) to the Spokesmen (of "Dawn of Correction" fame), the Music Explosion and even Link Wray and the Raymen doing their Beatles swipe show up, as do various PEBBLES leftovers and a few comparatively obscuros who sound mighty powerful in this stew. It all makes for a pleasant oleo that holds up much stronger than many of those later on collections which, although far superior to the eighties drek that was being pushed at the time, still seemed like bottom of the barrel scrapings compared with the rush you got spinning those early PEBBLES and BOULDERS incessantly during the seventies-eighties cusp.

But man, it's always boffo playing those raw and alive singles by going nowhere acts with names like Ken and the Fourth Dimension and the Original Dukes who seemed to understand the all-important zeitgeist of the mid-sixties rock explosion even more'n the Beatles. Hard rush one/two-chord rock like this always has a special place in my collection, and although many wonks consider the mid-sixties the big stepping stone to even greater accomplishment in the latter portion of that decade I find what eventually happened pure denouement. Few late-sixties groups retained the energy, snot and downright onslaught of these early punk rockers and if you too wanna WEEP over what we had (music as pure adrenaline rush) and lost (acoustic front porch jams) then just give this 'un a spin and THINK DEEPLY.
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Various Artists-BIG CAT CAROLINA CRUISE CD-r burn (Bill)

Except for a few country and gospel diversions this 'un lays down a hefty early-sixties vibe that'll make you wanna hunker down for an evening of REAL McCOYS and McHALE'S NAVY-type programming before slipping into your Doctor Denton's for a nice slumber in your WAGON TRAIN bed. The non-teenage rock 'n roll stuff's boss from a swingin' holy roller via Freddie Branch to a truck-drivin ode to greenies from Danny Edwards, but the far off the charts singles here really made a wowzing impression on my still stuck in turdler psychological mode. From Ricki and the Alternates' "Angel Baby" swipe to Jack and the Jumpin' Jacks/Contrasts' 1961 popsters, this 'un is proof that even the less rock 'n rollin' music to come outta the pre-Beatles sixties was a whole lot more down-to-earth 'n kicking than what most snob rock revisionists would want you to believe. And for ya fudgie types there's even a single by a pre-fame Lou Christie here so don't say yer being ignored, you thilly things you!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MOOM PITCHER TRIPLE FEATURE! CALLING HOMICIDE, CHAIN OF EVIDENCE and FOOTSTEPS IN THE NIGHT starring Bill Elliott (Allied Artists, 1956-1957)

Here's the second and last volume of the Warner Archive collection featuring the final Wild Bill Elliott detective mooms made for the long-missed Allied Artists studios, the same stroonads who gave us both the Bowery Boys and Bomba! And like the first two in the series these crankouts have everything you like in those fifties films guaranteed to have made your tee-vee viewing all the more pleasurable, that is if these films were being aired on your local station back then (forget about now!) and you didn't have anything better to do that stay plopped in front of the boob tube on a nice day when you shoulda been outside riding your bike and doing alla that normil kid stuff like your parents wanted you to. But then again, what could be more normil'n watching mooms like these?

CALLING HOMICIDE's a good 'un where this nice looking gal is found mauled to death and, as usual, there are 'bout a few dozen people who would have liked to have done the doody including none other than Lyle Talbot as a lush who worked for the bitch at her modeling school. Of course there's more to it that mere hatred of the victim, something to do with a black market baby ring considering that them wuz the days when having a bastard was a shame-filled event unlike now when they're popping outta orifices faster'n blackheads offa my nose. Look out for longtime tee-vee/film regular James Best as a deputy as well as THREE STOOGES/BOWERY BOYS mainstay Edward Bernds not only directing but writing the screenplay.

CHAIN OF EVIDENCE stars an all grown up Jimmy Lydon as this seemingly innocuous hothead guy who gets sent to the work farm for beating up none other than Timothy Carey! When he gets out Carey's right there waiting for him ready to give Lydon his what-for to the point where the kid gets the memory knocked outta his skull. After awhile of drifting, he gets a job working for a wealthy businessman and takes the rap when the captain of industry gets 86'd by wifey's boyfriend. It's up to Doyle (with the help of none other'n Dabs Greer) to cure Lydon if only to get to the bottom of the case and they have to resort to some pretty outlandish ways to shock the guy back into realitysville which in many ways makes me wanna stay as long in etherland as I could possibly stand!

In FOOTSTEPS IN THE NIGHT, some guy with a gambling problem gets into a game of all night poker with none other Lt. Henderson from THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN himself Robert Shayne. Shane loses heavily and starts getting uppity, and when his partner returns from the kitchen with a nice cold 'un he finds Shayne dead onna floor!  What does the guy do??? What any normal BLOG TO COMM reader would, mainly run and hide!!! Of course with the heavy breath of the law exhaling down your neck that's nearly impossible, and considering that Doyle's a good cop type he's out to find who the real murderer is and the results he comes to, while seemingly as far fetched as my kiddoid plan to turn tooth powder into a nice minty drink, actually work showing that sometimes these long shots do pay beaucoup dividends!

All three are what I'd call top notch BTC-approved viewing, and I must admit that each 'n every one are what I would have preferred watching on the tee-vee these past three or four decades 'stead of the new 'n relevant quap that keeps getting force fed down our unrepentant provincial throats like so much Play Dough. However, I must admit that when I was watching these I was not fantasizing myself as being some young-ish workaday slob watching 'em on some UHF station late movie back 1962 way...this time I pretended I was the same guy watching 'em onna same station a good six years later on a yukky Sunday afternoon. Can't say that I haven't progressed since then, eh?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

As Shemp Howard once said, "How time flies!!! Only a few weeks back the entire tri-state area was covered in a thick layer of snow 'n ice that was causing more'n a few incidents of fenderbenders and bone breaks, and today alla that precipitation is gushing its way right into my very basement! Yes, when the sump pump starts working overtime and the yard has the texture of quicksand you know spring is just around the corner, and although I do dread the days of lawn cutting and less inside goofing off the feeling of walking around with my bare arms and legs showing does set off a certain...tingle inside me that's even worse'n when Chris Matthews sees Obama! Well, at least I'll have all of those rainy days to look forward to just like you did when you were a kid and felt so lucky that you could stay cooped up inside your cramped sitting room watching reruns all day 'stead of going out and playing with the other kids inna neighborhood who thought you were a queer because your mother dressed you up like Freddie Bartholomew.
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Please, somebody kick me in the
balls!
A sad bitta current events to relate to you---r.i.p. Irwin Hasen, not only the artist for the late-Golden Age GREEN LANTERN and JUSTICE SOCIETY titles at DC but the pencil man for that infamous comic strip of yesteryear entitled DONDI! Y'know, the particularly saccharine one about this dago kid with the gigundo ears who remembered World War II even forty years later and was so cutesy-wootsey you just wanted to beat the shit outta him! Never could stand DONDI, not only because ol' Don seemed like such a squeaky clean "role model" type that my mother obviously wanted ME to be like but because well, with the fambly cramming alla that wop kultur down my throat from day one to the point of no mas! I hadda take my ethnic stereotyping frustration out on something and why not this ineffectual comic strip kiddoid! Well, at least the story line from the late-sixties or so regarding a beatnik cousin who was heavily into pop art (with even an indirect reference to Warhol!) was striking enough that even Don Fellman remembered it, but if it wasn't for Hasen's work at DC and the fact that I wanted to have a good reason to rag on that comic strip for ages I probably wouldn't have even mentioned his passing at all!
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Well, on that particular note here's what you've all been waiting for these past seven earth-spins. To be all gosharootie about it, I personally believe that I picked a good batch of newies this time (some oldies too) and who knows, of the posts I've presented these first few months of 2015 this just might be the crowning achievement tip top toppiest of 'em all! And what's really goody-two-shoes about it all is that most of this booty was actually purchased by memeME! with my hard-begged, thus proving that I'm not the sycophantic gotta-have-this recordgrubber various malcontents have made me out to be. Anyhoo, since you've probably skipped down to the reviews awlready and aren't even READING this why don't I just STOP...

Alice Cooper-OLD SCHOOL 4-CD set and book (Alive)

Don't know how this 'un slipped outta my sight when it came out, but it did. Whaddeva, now I got it and boy am I a happy stroon because this Alice Cooper collection's the THING I've been waiting for for quite a long time! Or at least since the mid-eighties when I was wondering when a decent collection of classic Alice Cooper live shows, outtakes, rarities and other sundries would be given the royal treatment and make their way into not only the underground rock world, but my very own private and heavily fart-encrusted boudoir.

But come out it has, and I gotta say that this is one collection that does Alice proper and should send shivers of thrills to all of you once-teenage fans who grew up on Alice then puked to see what he had become once the late-seventies had turned this bonafeed hero into just another washed up rock hasbeen reduced to appearing on boring variety programs and MUPPET SHOWs just like the rest of the sudzy stars of the day.

But we ain't talking Alice the flimflammer but Alice the high energy rock maniac, the guy who like the best acts of the seventies took everything good there was about the sixties and rolled it up in one huge ball that seemed like the end-all regarding how far this rock 'n roll thing could logically go. Y'know, the snot-nosed arrogance of the Stones, the rampaging mania of the Yardbirds and the over-the-top danger of the Stooges (I could through the Doors and Seeds in there even though I don't dig the former and adore the latter) and frankly, what else did you want in your early-seventies listening pleasure anyway?

And so they get done up in a nice package once again proving that the powers that be might have a few smarts in 'em. The book portion will naturally knock you out, especially alla you olde tymers who were always miffed that those old and rare Alice group snaps from the mid-sixties never did make their way into the public arena. They're here, complete with family photo album pix of Alice with short suburban hair looking more like the denizen of a very late LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode back when Gilbert was sprouting up higher'n even Ward and Whitey hadn't even grown one inch during the show's entire run. Those early days are lovingly detailed as is the transition of the Earwigs/Spiders/Nazz to Alice proper as well as the group's heyday during the height of Alicemania when even your pre-teen cousin would snuggle SCHOOL'S OUT in between ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH and TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN (just make sure to hide the panties from mom!). And yeah, it's all here right up to that big breakup which had Alice going soft schmooze and the rest of the act fragmented beyond repair to the point where Glenn Buxton had become even more down on his luck'n most of the once-famous musicians and actors who were once a big deal but now...eh!

Best thing about this book is that it's all done up lovingly and with the proper care and rare group photos that any real Alice Cooper Band fan will appreciate, and while you're reading the book you'll (as if you didn't know) definitely want to listen to the disques enclosed therein. And what good platters they are what with the rarities and li'l surprises that it seemed only popped up on mid-seventies bootlegs that were put out by real fans and not a buncha knownothing cheap thrill hustlers.

Disque one features Alice during the early years of bitter struggle. Coulda been slightly better. Like, why only ONE track from the early, garage band Alice days when there are a whole slew of these sides making the rounds and for all I know the Nazz one had never been released legit-like even after all these years? And while I'm at it, the classic Yardbirds-driven Caravalles single side "Lovin' Just My Style" with Neal Smith on drums woulda sounded fine in this stew as well. Their omission is undoubtedly a big mystery adding perhaps the only real damper to this boffoid collection.

The early Alice Cooper proper rarities from those early and oft-loathed splatters really fit in well with a guy like myself who could never find those Straight-period releases anywhere back inna mid-eighties and hadda rely on cheap cassette copies to give 'em any appreciation. Hearing a clear version of the infamous "Nobody Likes Me" (best known from not only a paper record giveaway but numerous live Toronto Rock Festival live releases) was goody enough for me, but most striking is the early version of "Eighteen" done up right before Bob Ezrin shaped it into a downright punk rock classic that really shook up the AM dial for a few months way back when (in its original form its so chopped up that its a wonder it ever came out the way we've all known it to be lo these many years!). Heck, this disque even sports a few classic radio ads (it's amazing to see how the term "Third Generation" was being used at a time when hardly anybody outside of CREEM was aware of it!) that just might take you back to those days of listening to the radio in the car while making out, only you didn't quite realize that you were the only one in the ol' calaboose!

The second 'un centers on Alice the Big Hitmaking Freakshow and takes you through the group you knew from 16 right up until the bloody end when MUSCLE OF LOVE signaled the capsizing megashow that was somehow beginning to seem so quaint. It's got more fantastic radio ads that I never recall hearing, live tracks, pre-production demos, and even that session where those kids who sing on "School's Out" are being coached pop up here! The quality is mostly a-hokay even if some of it does sink a bit into slightly hissy tape Korneyphone quality. But at this point in time are you still that anal-retentive (I know I sure am, at least some of the time!).

After this comes an interview disc which is fun to listen to, entertaining and even informative even if a lot of the information blabbed can be read about in the book making one wonder "why bother?" Still more'n a few shards of insight are revealed, such as the fact that Alice himself considers the first two albums more or less Nazz releases and not "Alice Cooper" proper considering how LOVE IT TO DEATH was their true breakthrough. Still if you're not reading anything and wanna osmose some mid-seventies vibes re. one of the few big things that was still hotcha this is definitely worth an occasional spin.

Closing out the package's what I personally consider its crowning achievement, a live show from the KILLER tour which I sure wish woulda been the bootleg of the year had this come out 1972 way! Quality varies but so what, because it's the energy that we're after and if you want to hear the Cooper band right before they really began tearing up the charts (they still being an underground concern even this late inna game) this show's the one for ye! And since KILLER's my own fave Cooper effort (with the roots of everything from "serious" period Rocket From the Tombs to the Electric Eels evident within its soundwaves) maybe I can appreciate this wild side more'n you. But somehow I actually doubt it.

One that should get out a li'l more, and a great tombstone to all of the energy, effort and downright LUCK that made the early-seventies rock scene so good, at least when it got good that is!
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Jett Black-"Mademoiselle"/"You Make Everything Dirty" 45 rpm single (Fiddlers)

While we're on the subject of Alice Cooper it just might be mighty handy to bring these guys up. Like Alice Jett Black began in the wilds of Arizona and not only that but they also made the trek to Detroit to cash in on all of high energy action was happening. However, by this time they were reduced to playing covers and little but, though an article that appeared in the local CREEM magazine insert sometime during the mid-seventies made 'em out to be the most astute cover band around, tossing songs like "Waiting For My Man", "Queen Bitch" and a few Stooges thingies into the usual stew. Sounds like the kinda group you wished played in the school cafeteria Friday night 'stead of the ones the Art Club always happened to get, right?

After their stay inna city of motors Jett Black made their way to Connecticut where Alice and band were then holding court, and none other than Cooper guitarist Michael Bruce took 'em under his then-expansive wing producing a buncha sides that I don't think ever'll see the light of day unless Munster Records just happens to be reading this. There was a gig at the infamous Club 82 which earned Jett Black one of Fred Kirby's few sour writeups (he hated their negative stage banter) in the pages of VARIETY, and from then on I don't think the group's fortunes were as bright as some had thought they would be. The last reference I can find of 'em anywhere was on a '77 CBGB listing opening for the Dictators who were certainly garnering up a whole lot more success than Black, an act that was headin' down the crapper of busted rockism dreams becoming one of a million rock groups that coulda taken the world by storm if only.... Well, listening tastes were turning for the worse and with disco and light metal being the next big musical trends what use was there for rock 'n roll anyway? Whaddeva, the Dics/Black pairing certainly would have been a double bill to be front and center for if the group's sole single's any indication.

Hokay, the a-side isn't anything I'd call exemplary, pretty much falling into the standard post-Bad Company tuff stuff sweat 'n kerchiefs stylized moves that weren't anything special at the time. But "Mademoiselle"'s still a halfway-decent cooker that at least did the mid-seventies hard rock schtick better'n many local hairsprouters could. Much better's the flipster where lead singer Jett Jeffords and crew get into a more down 'n dirty groove almost emulating the Stooges circa. "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell" and coming off equally devious themselves as a result. Rather hotcha stuff fer a band that hadda play covers in barjoints to pay the bills only a few years earlier, and it's too bad that Jett Black hadda capsize the way they did because...well y'know if they ever did release an album it woulda been the cutout classic of 1979!

Coming to a BONEHEAD CRUNCHERS collection near you? Only time (and a wake up call to whoever puts those collections of seventies obscurities out) will tell. But like man, you better hope it's soon...
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Various Artists-HIGH VOLTAGE! GIANT STEPS & FLASHPOINTS IN 20th CENTURY EXPERIMENTAL AND ELECTRONIC SOUND 3-CD set  (Fantastic Voyage, England)

As I've mentioned many a time, I really dig these recent Cee-Dee collections of various easy-to-find archival digs that are gathered up and annotated via a certain (sub)genre that the particular piece just might happen to fall into. This time the tracks gathered about (by Kris Needs no less!) fall into the early avant garde (mostly of a classical variety) with other toonz that take certain ideas either consciously or unconsciously from these works tossed in. The resultant splat makes for a perhaps incongruous collection, but if you thought all along that the Stooges were playing a music more avant garde than anything Luciano Berio could come up with then man is this the collection for you!

Yeah, a lotta this has been heard by you "serious" beret and stale doritos types who've been practicing your patented precocious poses inna mirror for the past four decades, but Needs' natural abilities to mix and match 'em does make for about as good a listen as those legendary Scott Krauss platter sessions at the Plaza on Prospect back inna seventies where friends would plop themselves down while the original Pere Ubu drummer would spin early Grateful Dead (!) into African ritual making for a listening experience you'd never get outta Anastasia Pantsios! Thus we get the Joe Meek faves the Blue Men doing their electronic space rock pushed up against Olivier Messiaen working out on an Ondes Martenot before Edgard Varese makes a whole lotta orchestral thunder that Zappa shamelessly swiped while dribbling all over his mentor. It does make for a better free-form than some might admit, but nowadays nobody wants to admit anything so why should I give a fanabla anyway?

Hokay, maybe it is a stretch to include everything from Xenakis, Cage, Stockhausen, Babbitt and a whole slew of Frenchies you never heard of with the likes of Sun Ra, the Tornados, the Spotniks and Les Baxter, but like Lou Reed said during one of his more lucid moments rock 'n roll's a better avant garde than the avant garde, and maybe this li'l package proves he might have had a point. A slight point perhaps (after all, "Gesang Der Junglings" and "Turangalila-Symphonie" do pack as much as wallop as "Pushin' Too Hard"), but it's pretty funzy to listen to such seemingly disparate tracks gathered together coming out as a cohesive whole custom made to satisfy us cohesive holes. Heavy kudos to Needs and to Fantastic Voyage for glopping it all together and dishing it out to us ranch house kiddies who always deserved the best in high fidelity gunch!
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Shorty Rogers and his Giants-CLICKIN' WITH CLAX CD-r burn (originally on Atlantic, England)

The El Lay cool brigade plop back for more of that forward-looking music that seemed so experimental in1955 yet was reduced to PSA background music only a good ten years later. The group (including Jimmy Giuffre and Shelly Manne, who with Rogers released the avant-looking ten-inch LP THE THREE back '54 way) plays swift enough but there's plenty missing for fans of the even newer thing that was just popping up around the corner. For tension mongers like myself hold out for some of the more atonal-minded West Coast platters that have appeared o'er the years. BTW, the Bill Holman who shows up on tenor sax is probably not the same guy who used to draw SMOKEY STOVER which I will say does disappoint me a bit. Foo!
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Paul Flaherty & Randall Colbourne-IRONIC HAVOC CD-r burn (originally on Relative Pitch)

Maybe this downtown stuff doesn't have the same kinetic drive of either the sixties new thing expression or the seventies loft jazz movement, but the Flaherty/Colborne duo does play as good as free jazz splat as most anything you're gonna come straight up against these days. For most of you this is probably just more of that "heard it all before" nada but I gotta admit that it sure is swell that sixties/seventies sonic jazz explorations are still being bleated out even this late in the post-fun world game. If you're one who still thinks the best thing that happened to rock 'n roll was the incursion of various freedom moves inna sixties then hey, this one is probably just waiting for you so go get it!
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Various Artists-BIG NOISE FROM THE IN-CROWD CD-r burn (Bill)

More and more of those surprises that Bill Shute always has in store here...from some middle-eastern psychedelia that prepared me for the Indian buffet I was about to engage in to the beatnik bopsters called the Cecil Young Progressive Quartet creating some of that hotcha jazzbo stuff that I'm sure went real well with teenagers reading MAD comic books inna early-fifties. Some of this is really obscure like Sha Kane's hard rocker and Spaghetti Head updating the Bob Crosby classic "Big Noise From Winnetka", while Dick Hyman (he shoulda had an act with Beaver Cleaver!) does his version of "The In Crowd" for the same type of men who you used to see snuggled up to the bar chatting up gals when you were but a mere eight years of age. Highlights include Geater Davis (who, as I feared, was not Skeeter Davis under an alias) doing some surprisingly stirring soul movers in an age of creeping discoisms as well as the same Flamin' Groovies cuts you've been listening to for over thirtysome years but YOU don't mind, do ya!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

DVD REVIEW! THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER starring Mr. Harry Watson Jr. (in numerous whirls)

If Charlie Chaplin was the Beatles of silent film comedy then Harry Watson was definitely Randy Alvey and Green Fuz. On one end we got an act that began as interesting and innovative but eventually developed into something that became so big that even his/their worst moments, aspects and utterances were considered beyond sacred while on the other we got some rinkydink under-produced entity that hardly anybody knows about or remembers, but whose comparatively slim output continues to resonate in beautiful primitive pulsations even these many years later.

Harry Watson wasn't exactly a household name even back when these 1916-17 comedies were being produced, but given his career with Ringling Brothers and the Ziegfeld Follies he just might have been as good as all of the other fanablas who were trying to jump on the BIG SILENT MOOM PITCHER COMEDY BANDWAGON. Given these credentials, Watson seemed like just the type to get in on this big bux bonanza, and thanks to producer George Kleine he did appear in front of the camera for a number of one-reel shorts, the surviving ones of which appear on a brand new DVD collection of which I have been honored with a rather decent dub considering all of the restoration that hadda go into this thing.

Funny stuff here, though nothing that'll get you laughing as hard as the time your turdler nephew began asking all those sorta embarrassing genitalia questions during Thanksgiving Dinner. But funny enough what with the sitegag pratfalls and various predicaments that Suffer (a less pathetic tramp'n Chaplin ever was) goes through, what with the guy being taken through the usual patented silent moom rigmarole to varying results. Sometimes they work and others, eh!, but still it is nice to see some of the old moldies being trotted out once again like the infamous staircase that instantly becomes a sliding board or father-in-law moving in with the new wife.

Still there's a certain something that keeps these shorts from being the top notch comedy classics they coulda been. Maybe Watson just ain't as sympathetic a character as Lloyd Hamilton or the supporting actors as copasetic as Vernon Dent and Bud Jamieson.  For that matter the direction, while typical of the Sennett era of silent film, still seems comparatively primitive and more of the pre-BIRTH OF A NATION days. Maybe the word "staid" comes to mind, but I will say that next to some of the silent film comedy turdballs out there (ever see Larry Semon or Monte Banks?) Watson at least has a better handle on the whys and wherefores of delivering a funny gag, which come to think of it died out around the time true humor did once the hippoid generation got their mitts on the POWER and ruined everything.

If you're that interested in finding out for yerself, why not click here and be prepared to part with a nice portion of your precious kopecks. As the old saying goes you could do worse and you have, and what's best about the deal is that the music used sounds authentic and not a Boston Pops goo-fest the kind you hear on TCM whenever they run those pre-talkie schmoozers! 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Do you think that one of the craziest yet perhaps BRAVEST actions ever taken in a career move was when Steve Ditko upped and walked out on the pumping on all cylinders Marvel Comics Group in '66, and right after having drawn (and even plotted some of) the earliest and downright BEST Spider-Man stories ever? Not to mention his scribbling on the wildly esoteric comic capers of Doctor Strange, only to end up working in relative "obscurity" for DC as well as the less-renowned Charlton publishing house where at least the guy could get some of his philosophical hero messages across without ol' feet-of-clay himself Stan Lee tampering with the formula? And of course who could forget all of those Mr. A. and Avenging World fanzine/underground comics that really bummed out the bell bottomed readership of the late-sixties who were probably STILL getting high while staring endlessly at some old Doctor Strange panel that Ditko oh so lovingly delineated a good five or so years back!

I sure do---I mean here's a guy who was perhaps second only to Jack "King" Kirby as far as instantly recognizable comic book artists went, and right at the tip top HEIGHT of his powers he ups up and splits his most highest-profile gig in order to draw Blue Beetle and Creeper cartoons that I'd guess a hefty portion of the comic strip kiddoids out there really couldn't care one whit about. Sure he was about to give us those esoterically individualist Mr. A. sagas as well as the commercially friendly version known as the Question, but I kinda get the feeling that if Ditko had stuck it out with Marvel his popularity would have increased even more than it had during his late-fifties/mid-sixties sojurn there and alla them hippydippy types wouldn't have been turned off by the decidedly non-peacenlove "bummer, man" tone of those comics that Ditko eventually began churning out on his lonesome.

I haven't been paying attention to the Ditko/Robin Snyder titles as of late, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were a slew of new Ditko comic books released o'er the past five or so years. True the ravages of time have reduced Ditko's style to what more or less look like rough drafts and the stories are fractured to the point of near abstraction, but for a guy like myself who can still recall SPIDER-MAN lettercols relishing the original Ditko days of the title as well as the early-seventies fantasy reprints via WHERE CREATURES ROAM etc. and so forth, these tales still pack quite a wallop even for a jaded fanabla like myself. It's almost as if there's still some tangential connection to my young suburban slob days extant via these comics and that the adolescent ranch house jerk that I was CONTINUES to live on, at least through the work of this unheralded master who has been working in the comic book field for over sixty years which I believe has to be some sort of record in a biz that has been known to spew out even the most talented of artists once their style has become even slightly "passe" (or at least I get that impression sometimes).
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The MR. A. comic that appears on the left was to have come out (as the first of a revival which was also to have presented the character's origin story) way back '90 way, only some disagreement happened between Ditko and whoever was going to publish it so the series was put on hold. One story from the revived MR. A. where he's pitted against a murderer called the Knifer who offed the sons of the rich and successful did appear in one of the Ditko collections that had come out during the previous decade, but this is the first time in forty years that the infamous moral avenger has gotten his own title which is something I would have thought would have gotten a whole slew of Silver Age survivors in a big huzzah mood! Guess these olde tymey fans are either croaked or totally disgusted with the state of comics because hey, other'n a few rah-rahers out there all I'm hearing regarding the return of this important character are a buncha crickets.

However, I do get the feeling that many of those long-time comic book fans and followers might be disappointed in these. Gone are the fine, detailed artwork, fancy lettering and panel-packed pages that decorated many a fanzine of the past, and not only that but the stories aren't even as lovingly long-winded as they were during the late-sixties. Next to Ditko at his sixties best these may seem like total denouement to most. At least the Ditko spark that made those earlier self-produced sagas so appealing even to the hippiest of early-seventies longhairs is still intact, but unfortunately I don't think even they really care about those comics of yore all these years later.

There are two stories here. The first one's a fairly interesting moosh up dealing with the typical Ditko themes of corruption as well as social justice dollops via THE DAILY CRUSADER, the paper where Mr. A.'s secret identity Rex Grainge works as a decidedly non-collectively conscious reporter who has a guaranteed job as long as CRUSADER owner Mr. Reder is at the helm. (Continuity never was important in the MR. A. scheme of things---earlier sagas had it that the paper's editor, sort of a bleedheart J. Jonah Jameson, would lose control if Grainge were fired due to a stipulation in his late brother's will, while another one had the BIG boss of the entire paper/television conglomerate giving Grainge all the leeway he needed in order to work free despite such definitely anti-Grainge organizations as "The Committee to Protect Criminals From Justice".)

I had bigger hopes for the second one where Mr. A. deals with a villain called the Exploder---drawn at the height of the "trash art" controversy when the threat of government (read: National Endowment for the Arts) cutoffs for offensive (or as its defenders say "cutting edge") art were getting armchair liberal types all in a huff, I thought Ditko would have gone all out both barrels blasting in exposing the obvious chicanery and hypocrisy of the arts crowd who were merely trying to bum a free paycheck offa the same hardcore working people they insult and loathe. But he does play it comparatively reserved-here in a saga dealing with a rather Marvel-esque bad guy in an Iron Man-styled suit who goes around destroying the artwork of a realistic, man-at-his-best sculptor at the command of Messa Jubi, a chubby harridan art critic who not only believes in grotesque art that represents man as his "true self" but actually makes Andrew Dworkin look cuddly in comparison.

Past commentaries on modern art (such as one that actually popped into one of Ditko's Blue Beetle sagas) were way more potent---this one doesn't quite charge at'cha the way a MR. A. story of the seventies dealing with the same subject matter would have, but at least his etapoint commentaries regarding the average Joe Blow featured in the final panel where the news is switched off so's the viewers could watch some PBS documentary on "The Benevolent Dictatorship of the People's Utopian Republic" will still strike
 a raw nerve with some of the more, er, benighted knowitalls seen these days. Of course I like it, and of course I'm glad to see Mr. A. back in action after way too long an absence.
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The spate of titles with relatively BRAND NEW material might confuse the old timers even more, not only with the even baser art mentioned earlier but with the fragmented stories and even some characters who just don't quite fit into the Ditko hero/antihero antithesis he had been pushing for fortysome years already. Two of Ditko's new "heroes" come to mind, Madman and Miss Eerie. Both of these entities operate in what Ditko calls small, prosperous cities in the 1930s, one called Zane and the other Mizzen (I tend to think that Ditko was perhaps referring to his own thirties upbringing in Johnstown Pennsylvania but I do tend to speculate more than I perhaps should). But the fact that both of these rather grotesque beings are what Ditko would consider "heroes" (especially when his past good guys tended to be clean cut short haired well-doers who have been the butt of many a superhero spoof o'er the years) really is surprising considering how both look the standard Ditko badskis who would eventually come to a sad end especially after enduring a long Mr. A. lecture whilst they slip into the ether.

Madman's current situation ain't exactly the fault of his own. Mad Madder's a convicted jewel thief and murderer (claims innocence, something not exactly part and parcel to many a Ditko knave) who was somehow (not exactly explained) injected with a mystery drug which turns him into the crazed Madman who looks like one of Ditko's disheveled bums always mooching off the public teat. He does have spells of "normalcy" as they say but when the drug just happens to kick in causing uncontrollable pain Madder turns into a killing machine. Of course there are those who disagree and say that Madman actually ain't the hideous rampager he is made out to be, but we'll have to leave that up to plainclothes detectives I. Barge and J. Ogic to get to the bottom of this typically twisted one-direction-to-another Ditko mystery. One that comes in many parts too with Ditko teasing us ending his li'l installments with coy comments such as "Ooo, I may be too scared to continue this..."!

Miss Eerie and Madman look as if they would be the perfect date material, him with his bloat and unshaven face and she with that evil-looking smirk. This 'un is actually a young nice looking clean 'n wholesome type of female who transforms herself into the grotesque heroine whose powers are once again rather vague. Come to think of it sometimes the stories themselves get on a weird tangent almost to the point of vagueness but I've come to expect that. In fact such twists and turns that made other sags look like pretentious twaddle don't ruin any of these Ditko masterpieces one tiny bit. If corruption and an avenging power is your bag, you just can't beat this new entry into the costumed crimefighters brigade!
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Some old Ditko favorites pop up here/there in the mix of recent entries. Remember THE AVENGING WORLD, the series featuring a rather Political Cartoon-ish globe with a human body that ran in the pages of WITZEND?  Y'know, the one which really got the laid backs uptight with the decidedly anti-vibes that were extant in the tireless repetition of the "A IS A" mantra so commonly found in Ditko's personalist work? The ol' globe makes yet another re-appearance here, more or less aided/abetted by a new un-named superhero who works as a symbol of man/heroism at his/its best pretty much in the same way that Mr. A. would pop into a smattering of one-page broadsides throughout the late-sixties fanzine world. Also present is yet another new Ditko character called the Grey Negotiator, a weird costumed guy who looks like one of the teenage thugs in an old MR. A. (or better yet Ditko's old Charlton Kid character after a good walloping) who could perhaps be Ditko's only true antihero. Well maybe a "sorta bad guy but with some good making him a total roadkill" kind of creature who gets stuck inna middle of situations trying to mediate,  usually getting slaughtered mercilessly as a result.
***
Continuing on the Ditko juggernaut of ideas you just don't see in WENDY THE GOOD LITTLE WITCH are ONCE MORE and OH NO, NOT AGAIN. Of the latter, The Avenging World globe character makes yet another appearance and although the artwork ain't as crisp as it was back in those late-sixties sagas the philosophical intent remains pretty much the same. I will admit that Ditko seems to have toned down some of the rhet which ain't as knock you out with a sledgehammer as it had been in the past, but this will still shock more'n a few of the pampered pooches out there who you think had copped their entire philosophical outlook from Billy Jack films. Oh, and the second part of another mew MR. A. story appears making me wish I knew which comic book had part one!


ONCE MORE gets even more abstract as the steamroller of ideas flattens you silly, with a slew of one-page critiques featuring more split faced shows of contradiction as well as a tale of sorts featuring a Ditko monster with clubs for forearms (one labeled "Faith" and the other "Force") who meets up with that aforementioned  new Ditko hero and naturally gets vanquished like potrzebie. One issue that separates this Ditko title from the rest regards his tackling of a new sort of adversary that the man has dealt with before on occasion, mainly the comic book fans who whine on about Ditko not giving interviews and being reclusive, not to mention blab on about his views which they so obviously find morally repugnant as if they can actually crawl into Ditko's mind and suss out his intents and purposes without coloring them through the gauze of postmodern piousness. Sheesh, I can sure empathize with Ditko on that one, but I'll leave that subject for a future post!
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An even stranger entry into the Ditko self-produced archives is THE AVENGING MIND, a title which believe-it-or-leave-it contains mostly essays regarding various philosophical/cultural concerns rather than such ideas drawn out in a superhero or educational format. Ditko had been writing such missives for quite some time or at least since his "Violence, The Phony Issue" popped up in GUTS #5 way back '69 way, and if you were one who enjoyed the man's crafty dissecting and dismissing of the then-prevalent argument that pop culture causes the world's woes (y'know, the same frame of mind that had tee-vee stations editing BUGS BUNNY cartoons and newspapers dropping DICK TRACY due to the upswing in senseless violence during the late-sixties) you'll probably enjoy Ditko's various opines regarding everything from the destruction of cognitive thinking via groupmind to just who "created" SPIDER-MAN re. Jack Kirby's claim to have been the honest-to-golly originator of it all. (There's also a big ditto regarding Stan Lee and Dr. Strange which must prove that bad blood has been flowing from many a quarter for nigh on fifty years awlready, even if Lee seems to have nada but niceties to say about his former artist!)
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Do you remember Laszlo Toth, the crazed guy who went on a hammer rampage smashing up Michelangelo's Pieta back '72 way?  Didn't think so even though I do remember a political cartoon of the time where some concerned citizens were calling for stricter hammer control laws after the incident, but Ditko reminds us of the dread villain in his LASZLO' S HAMMER title, which come to think of it would have made a boffo name for one of those under-the-covers New York bands that used to play CBGB in the mid-seventies. In this 'un Ditko draws some interesting parallels between Toth's actions and the way some ruin an individual's creative juices by tampering with the original intent, usually making some quite different than what the originator had intended. Most of this reads like a combination AVENGING WORLD/HEADS display of views and counterviews which are naturally weighed heavily in Ditko's direction (but what else would you expect?). Some sour turds can be discerned regarding Ditko's own experiences in the comic biz (he thinking that maybe some of the bigwigs at the various companies he worked for didn't give some of his characters a fighting chance, even though he shoulda realized that the bottom line of moolah always rules 'cept when some trendy liberal view is being espoused), but the points that the guy makes are sure refreshing especially after being bombarded with candy-coated paradiddles of patented pablum custom-made for today's vacuous with-it types who, once you get down to it, are nothing but a buncha Maynard G. Krebses with rectal dysfunctions.
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I never got to read the entire run of STATIC which was presented in two installments back in the late-eighties, so you can bet that I was more'n glad that Snyder decided to release this "graphic novel" in one lumpen book rather'n split the thing up like he originally did way back when. This 'un's an equally potent wowzer as well, perhaps Ditko's last great effort in presenting his philosophical views within the frame of an extended story complete with all of the action, plot twists and head-scratching wonderment that made those old MR. A. and QUESTION stories so well respected even by readers who hated their messages back in the sixties and seventies. This morality tale (with loads of boffo ultra-violence tossed in for good measure) dealing with a superhero outfit whose powers might be used for mankind's benefit or its downfall for all we know is definitely Ditko at his best, and for the life of me I can't figure out why Charlton would have published these sagas in the first place, or at least the ones they did until they gave up the comic book business in the mid-eighties. But kudos to them because frankly, between these Ditko comics and DOCTOR GRAVES Charlton was perhaps the last company out there continuing the spirit of the Silver Age long after the Bronze era seemed to have been tarnished beyond recognition.

True the ongoing story can get quite confusing at times, and sometimes Ditko's personal opines might rub even someone like myself the wrong way (por ejemplo I just felt like taking the side of the unemployed workers even if they were being used as pawns by some of the more cagey wealth distributists around) but the ins-and-outs and plot twists that are extant should sate even the more self-consciously pious amongst us even if the standard reiteration of various Objectivist readymades'll snooze out those who've read early Ditko and heard it all before.

As for me well, I don't mind because hey, it sure reads a whole lot better'n alla that early-seventies hippie get along goo that the comic books were pumping out until even that became too embarrassingly obvious.
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If you're game on getting any or all (or even more if readily available) Ditko comics, just try the fellow mentioned on the left. Ford is one of the bigger Ditko fans to be found, and if you're looking for any rarities or readily available Ditko material you probably couldn't do any better. And in this world where high quality comic strip art is hard to come by and the greats of the past seem to be slipping into eternal obscurity well, it's sure great to know that guys like him are still around! Even if you're looking for original Ditko art he may just be the man!


Boy, that Ditko's got me down to a "T"!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

BOOK REVIEW! THE TATTOOED DRAGON MEETS THE WOLFMAN; LENNY KAYE'S SCIENCE FICTION FANZINES 1941-1970 (Boo Hooray, 2014)

You (you insignificant little buttplug you!) might think that a book featuring nothing but covers taken from Lenny Kaye's personal Sci-Fi fanzine collection might be rather twee in the idea department, but for a serious fan and follower of the original fanzine spirit such as myself (perhaps second only to Fredric Wertham if not Bhob Stewart) this is a book just to die for, sweetie! True these covers representing perhaps a good CHUNK of the various 'zines that the famed rock writer and Patti Smith guitarist had collected during his days in Science Fiction fandom might not chalk up much inna huzzah world for some, but if you too are still agog at the entire long-gone concept of the fanzine as a mode that cut around the chaff of mainstream dogma and got to the hardcore intent then you'll appreciate looking at these as much as I have. Who knows, you might get into this 'un the same way you used to get all agog reading Greg Shaw's reviews of the up-and-coming 'zines in his BOMP column, surprised as all heck that people back then were actually paying attention to the Stooges and New York Dolls back '73 way when you thought it was all Elton John and Cat Stevens!

Nice selection here too, reprinted in full color when necessary and at times even annotated for those of us who forgot that the entire concept of Dianetics was first spread within the fanzine realm or that one of the founders of NAMBLA (Walter Breen) was into Sci Fi fandom and was causing controversy with his presence in the field even then. The artwork extant is is often brilliant esp. for the no-account jagoffs who were creating these rags, and a good portion of 'em are so hotcha that you'll be begging to get an eyefulla just what the innards to these things were like even if you couldn't care one whit about the FIAWOL credo that was so prevalent in the sphere at the time. Sadly there's none of that to be espied here, so I suggest that if you are curious as to what was to have been found within the pages of FIENDETTA #4 you should check out the ebay auctions and try to bid as much as you can afford just so's you could find out for yourself and sate those lifetime pangs of wonderment!

It's also interesting to see just how---uh---"advanced" some of these fanzine types were as far back as the fifties, what with the presence of scantily clad or even nood (bullseyes included) gals popping up on covers! Not to mention ideas and concepts that might not have settled too well with normal people such as ourselves which only proves that the punkoids of the late-seventies weren't the first to create provocative fanzines. I get the feeling that many a teenage outer space aficionado was thinkin' up many an interesting place to stash his copy of SPACEWARP #66 so's the folks didn't get an eyefulla the beauteous babe onna cover, but at least the mag was a whole lot easier to hide than NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!

And for you longtime Kaye fans there's even some covers from his own publications including a number of "APAS", not to mention a "backwords" from Johan Kugelberg that tries to explain it all and as you'd already have guessed the resultant spew made for a more fun'n setting some lush on fire heap o' time! Hopefully such a project as this will be encouraging to others who want to preserve/recapture the fanzine spirit of yore...personally I wouldn't mind seeing a similar collection (with both cover and inside reprints) of the various MAD-inspired fanzines of the fifties and sixties such as NOPE, JACK HIGH and WILD not to mention one featuring various sixties and seventies home-produced rock reads that Dave Laing keeps sayin' he's gonna do even though I have about as much faith in him as I do Baby Huey. But for those of us who still swear by the power of the 'zine and continue to rate them much higher than the professional excursions that skirt around the real deal then man, you'll really love this one up and down the convention floor!