Thursday, August 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! THE MIDNIGHT COLLECTION - PT. 4 -FROM THE PAGES OF SMASH COMICS (Classic Comics Library, 2016)

Hey it's the last MIDNIGHT volume and guess what!?!?!? Jack Cole is back and although I do like Paul Gustavson's work and all it's sure nice seeing Cole once again penciling his creation and writing the stories in his inimitable crazed style! If you like the way PLASTIC MAN turned out during the postwar years with those slinky and sexy gals as well as creepy villains who look like THREE STOOGES rejects you'll really like this 'un! This one is so true to the PLASTIC MAN credo of nutty if viscous storylines that even (none other than) Woozy Winks makes a cameo in one saga! 

Not only that but the reproduction is a whole lot better'n the previous volume which is sure a sight for my sore orbs! Unfortunately there is one major flub, mainly that one of the stories has its last two pages reversed which did add up to some late night mental confusion on my part, but other'n that this one is a pretty hot document of MIDNIGHT's final days, which were pretty doozy-filled in that inimitable PLASTIC MAN style!

Sure it's sad to see this series come to an end, but as with the EC library and various other comic reprint endeavors I'm sure glad that I got to read the entire run of this, something which would have only been a wild dream (the kind you don't have to change your underwear after) that I never thought I would have had the opportunity to experience during my early-teenbo comic book gobbling days. As the old moom pitcher line goes, maybe I can now rest a little easier knowing that I've been able to experience these comics en toto even if those missing pages from volume 3 did screw up the fulfillment a bit. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! KILL A DRAGON starring Jack Palance, Fernando Lamas and Aldo Ray (1967)!!!


Producer Aubrey Schenck had a very good run of B-movies from the mid-1940’s through the early 1970’s. He knew what qualities were exploitable, what phrases would push the buttons of potential ticket-buyers, which actors possessed name value and worked inexpensively yet had that certain something which could make relatively flat dialogue come alive, what fads in popular culture were still semi-hot, and most importantly how to make a film inexpensively. He was around in the 1940’s when one could make films based on the fame of radio stars (such as IT’S A JOKE SON and THE FAT MAN) and still working in the 1970’s when Filipino T&A horror films ruled the drive-ins. He knew that there was an audience out there (people like me) who would automatically go see a film with a title like HOT CARS, or WAR PAINT or UNDERCOVER GIRL or UNTAMED YOUTH or BIG HOUSE U.S.A. or VOODOO ISLAND or ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, or BOP GIRL GOES CALYPSO or FRANKENSTEIN 1970, or SHIELD FOR MURDER, or THREE BAD SISTERS with no questions asked. He was old enough to have worked with people like Wallace Ford and Mack Sennett yet around long enough to give Tom Selleck his first starring role! He probably would have been a great guy to have a beer with!


In the mid-1960’s there were many second-string spy and international crime films following, at fifty paces, in the footsteps of James Bond. Matt Helm films with Dean Martin and European-made spy films with American actors were playing regularly and successfully at the drive-ins and small-town theaters which were the bread and butter of the independent producer such as Schenck, and KILL A DRAGON seems to be his attempt to cash in on that market. One wonders whether Schenck either knew about or had met legendary offshore producer Harry Alan Towers, as KILL A DRAGON could easily be a Towers production and follows his formula (seen in films such as CODE 7, VICTIM 5 with Lex Barker): a few name stars who are either workaholics or down on their luck, a colorful third-world setting where the film could be made cheaply with a lot of location shooting and thus fewer sets to be constructed, and an exploitable title which vaguely fits into some popular film genre of the day. We have all that and more with the 1967 United Artists release KILL A DRAGON.

The basic plot is that a large amount of nitroglycerin was left on a sunken ship, and by the laws of maritime salvage, after a certain period, it’s available to whoever can claim it first. A local businessman from a small island off Hong Kong and his crew have claimed it and salvaged it, but local organized crime lord Fernando Lamas has other ideas and threatens the community unless he gets the cargo. They then turn to adventurer-for-hire Jack Palance (first seen bedding a woman, reminding you of the James Bond/Matt Helm roots) to assist them against Lamas for a cut of the cargo’s value. After accepting the job, Palance then turns to Aldo Ray for assistance, and Ray is kind of the comic relief in the film, playing a local tour guide who is clued in to pretty much everything that’s happening in the area. Of course, no one plays a tough guy better than Jack Palance (the man was originally a boxer and also he was the understudy for Marlon Brando in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, and then took over the role when Brando moved on to films), but this film also has a witty, sarcastic edge, and Palance handles that well too. The inimitable Fernando Lamas barks orders and threatens the locals convincingly, always with a touch of class of course, and he dresses in outfits that look like he’s going to guest star on the Dean Martin Show when he finishes his crime-boss chores for the day. His and Palance’s characters have a long mutual history, being on various sides of past conflicts, sometimes together, sometimes against each other, so there’s a nice tension and camaraderie between the two of them. Aldo Ray probably made RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP right after this, and while he may be remembered today for guest appearances in z-grade films of the 70’s and 80’s, the man is a fine actor who was a major star at one time, and even in the lowest budget indie slasher film or whatever, he retained his gravitas (it’s a shame that Fred Olen Ray’s adaptation of THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN with Aldo Ray in the Lon Chaney, Jr. role was never completed).. He might have been phoning it in, but in the manner of a true professional who CAN phone it in and still be effective. His scenes help to lighten the tone between the more intense sequences, and he even appears in drag in a scene I can’t begin to describe. An action film with light touches seems to build up goodwill in the audience in a way that leads the audience to forgive the film’s faults. That I’m not focusing on the film’s flaws is a testament to Aldo Ray’s entertaining performance.

One of the film’s strong points is the location shooting. Many of the indoor scenes seem to be shot in existing buildings, leading to the occasional room tone in the medium shots. However, this is more than compensated for by the interesting visuals and the large local supporting cast of Hong Kong people.

If you take away the scenes of Palance bedding women (there’s a running joke about him “celebrating his birthday” each time he’s involved with a rendezvous, in one scene telling Lamas that he’s had two birthdays that week!), this plot could have come right out of a western, with Aldo Ray filling the Smiley Burnette role, and with cattle being rustled or water rights being threatened. It matters little. Genre films do not require original plots....give Eugene O’Neill a call if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s all about atmosphere, and a good pace, and interesting location shooting, and actors like Palance, Lamas, and Ray chewing the scenery in such a way that the person in the back row of the drive-in and with a cracked speaker attached to their car window will not just know exactly what’s going on but also pick up on the tone of the character’s sarcasm and machismo. While Palance and Lamas play the material relatively straight, they do hoke it up enough to remind you that this is a movie with generic good guys and bad guys, not some serious exploration of someone’s psyche. Producer Schenck had worked previously with talents such as Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Mamie Van Doren, all of whom were expert at fleshing out a hackneyed script with their larger-than-life presence, and KILL A DRAGON’s three stars do that quite well. If the viewer left the theater feeling satisfied, it’s largely due to their presence (and the location photography).

The one flaw of the film that can’t be explained away that easily is the sloppiness of the fight scenes, always a sign of a quick production which lacks the time to choreograph fight movements, but that’s never been a problem for me. Remember, these films were made before VHS and DVD’s and cable boxes that record films. By the time you notice how sloppy the fight scene is done, it’s over and you’ve moved on and forget it. It’s not like today where you can stop the DVD and watch the scene again to verify how sloppy it was. Pre-1980’s film-makers understood that and took advantage of it. Despite the Asian setting, there is not really any martial arts action in the film, just fist-fights and chases and brawls and explosions,

Maybe because of the foreign setting, this film reminds me somewhat of the Euro-spy genre. Occasionally I feel like I’m watching one of the German ‘Kommissar X’ films, which were set in various exotic locales, and of course, as mentioned above, it also has the flavor of a Harry Alan Towers production. In fact, it would make a great double-bill with Towers’ Asian-set FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS, which came out the same year.

Speaking of double bills, United Artists released this on the same bill as the amazing NAVAJO JOE starring Burt Reynolds, a totally over-the-top Euro-western which is one my all time fave spaghetti westerns. Just imagine for a moment that you are some poor overworked guy (and I’m guessing this double bill would have had a largely male audience) at the end of a grueling week, looking forward to veg-ing out on Friday night at a rural drive-in or some small-town theater whose heyday had been 25 years previous and still had posters on the wall from old Roy Rogers and Johnny Mack Brown films. Imagine how satisfying these films would have been in that context. Charismatic leading men like Burt Reynolds and Jack Palance, colorful villains, interesting foreign location filming, wild musical scores (KILL A DRAGON has an odd mod-lounge theme song that works the word “psychedelic” into it, which somehow fits the odd, screwloose, everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach of the film), good pacing.....why, these films had everything the B-movie action film fan would want!

KILL A DRAGON was not meant to be analyzed; it was meant to be disposable action entertainment which left a pleasing taste in the mouth and which made a profit for its makers so they could deliver something else six months later which would also make a profit, and the genre-film perpetual motion machine would keep cranking them out. Something which would pay Jack Palance’s mortgage until he could get his next meaty role in an “A” picture. There’s not one pretentious or artsy millisecond in this film. Like a good pulp action story or a paperback original crime novel or a 1961 garage-band rock-and-roll instrumental 45, it exists in its own world and satisfies the same need as an ice cold beer after mowing the lawn in 100-degree weather. Enjoy it, savor it while you’re consuming it, and move on. Jack Palance, Fernando Lamas, and Aldo Ray were professionals who could read the phone book and be entertaining. That’s what they did for a living, and they did it well. That’s why they are stars and most of us are not. A dollar admission for KILL A DRAGON in 1967 was a dollar well spent. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

ANOTHER CASSETTE CAGA LISTENING SESSION!

I was looking through some boxes in my room and like well, I came across some long-stashed away tapes that I had pretty much neglected o'er these past years and thought hey, why not if only for a much needed change from the same old same old do nothing but reviews of old cassettes I ain't tetched in years! People have been complaining about the lack of originality in this blog anyway, and given my current mental straits this might just be the most original I can get until I can cook up yet another "Yum Yum Eat 'Em Up" so like, quit yer gripin' at least once in yer life. Anyway, listening to these tapes was sorta like re-connecting with old friends, and since I don't have any flesh and blood friends to get back in touch with these tapes will do me just fine!

Mirrors-SWEET ROCKNROLL 

Ninety minutes of practices plus the lunchtime gig at Fat Glen's on the campus of Cleveland State University during the summer of 1974.

Rehearsals got that beautifully distorted clatter probably due to some cheap cassette player/tape and deafening volume which actually gives these numbers a decidedly biting effect that is lacking from most recordings made by many of the so-called Velvets aficionados of the form. The Fat Glens show sounds like it was recorded in a concrete bunker which it was, and it has the infamous version of Captain Lockheed's "Ejection" as well as the Troggs' "Too Much of a Good Thing".  After that comes more rehearsal material sounding better 'n the original batch, complete with what sounds like a drummerless if five minute version of "Sweet Rocknroll" (with Marotta on electric piano---it barely sounds as if he's playing a violin on "Venus in Furs" but he might), "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and even more Velvets stuff, plus a tender original called "Why Must You Be All Alone" and the instrumental "Van Der Walls" which, with vocals, became the Electric Eels' "Flapping Jets".

Now if I were the crafty type I'd bootleg this 'un in a minute, but thankfully I am not. Still someone out there (like the guy I got this 'un from) should take the hint.
***
Frank Zappa-MYSTERY DISC

These tracks have probably been bootlegged on a variety of vinyl and disque formats before or even since this cassette was circulating back in the eighties. Whatever, MYSTERY DISC (or in this case, "cassette") is still a good slab of early Zappa material done up before and during the Mothers of Invention days, complete with some rather nifty surprises like those classic tracks from the Zappa/Beefheart radio broadcast without their at-times pithy voiceovers. The early version of "Plastic People" live at that show they did with Lenny Bruce from the Fillmore 1965 (not too sure about that date) features the original quintet with Elliot Ingber before he got kicked outta the band because his guitar prowess was showing Zappa up. And true all of the humor and satire comes off so staid and phony intellectual these jaded times, but just think about how funny this was when you were young and upsprouting and those early memories with just come RUSHING back!
***
Bruce Anderson-BRUTALITY III: OAKLAND : BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Quadruped)

Unlike the above two, an actual legit cassette and not a slap together done up for undoubtedly nefarious reasons. Overtracked guitars play a symphony of convoluted terror that really defied a whole lotta description amongst the young up 'n comers of the late-seventies (during y'know, the age of the "anti" guitar solo), but if you like the "angular" lines of say, Zappa not to mention WHITE LIGHT-period Reed you might just let this one sink into your being a little longer than you usually would. Yet another one from one of the better ax-grinders of the late-strata rock era before it all went down.
***
Room 101-O.P.D. SEPTEMBER 1984 (101 Records)

Mark Hanley's pre-/co-existent Sister Ray band really headed off into total energy levels making me wonder...why did the lumpen music listening popular ignore this fiery storm? (Of course you and I know why---STOOPIDITY!!!!!) Hanley's leads might not quite approach a say, John McLaughlinesque level but they sure fit the steady bass/drums drive swell, and overall you could call this music heavy metal in the old CREEM fashion given the snide slides into various Ron Ashetonesque maneuvers. But whatever, these tracks burst forth in their low-fidelity glory and if you were wondering what else was going on in Youngstown during the eighties other than dismal bar bands and shameless AOR worship well, you can't do any better than this!
***
Hawkwind-1999 PARTY 3-21-74

Dunno anything about the Cee-Dee this was taken from but man, it's another pretty hotcha Hawkwind show that really gets you up and moving especially with an extended version of "Brainstorm" that I swear has some additional stanzas added. Sound quality is almost legit release worthy, and the performance is high energy over-the-top which makes you wonder exactly just how did these guys garner such a large following in the US of Whoa considering just how down-homey laid back everybody seemed to be getting during those post-Vietnam times. To fill the cassette out a couple of Motorhead tracks were added including a rip-roaring version of "Train Kept a' Rollin'" which once again makes me wonder exactly why THOSE guys were so popular in an era which for the most part eschewed high energy jamz for low-voltage pap passing as metallic thunder!
***
EUROCK 1

Mighta mentioned this one in these "pages" before, but then again I mighta NOT! Archie Patterson of EUROCK fame once had some sorta college type of class (no credits as far as I can tell) where he lectured those smart enough to take his course about the birth and growth of European underground/"progressive" rock. These classes were taped and briefly made available though Patterson's Eurock distribution services and me, being ever so curious about this kinda music, decided to snatch up the first and first only volume up because hey, why not! Of course nothing that is mentioned here's heretofore unknown knowledge that'll flip your mind but it's nice being re-educated so-to-speak, plus the musical excerpts from Amon Duul II, Can and Embryo sound perfectly fine especially in this context. If only your college class cassette recordings sounded this exciting!
***
THIRD WORLD WAR/THIRD WORLD WAR 2 (tapes of recordings originally released on Fly Records)

Often touted as being every bit the hard-gunch rockers that the MC5 and Pink Fairies were, I never felt Third World War to have been any great shakes especially in the company of those high energy monsters. Re-listening to their albums have reinforced my belief in this. Doug Sheppard's review of a reissue of the debut platter in the pages of the latest UGLY THINGS pretty much said it all about this act that had a hard rock approach and hip radical attitude but just didn't go as far as anyone with a sense of rockism would have wished. More lost potential but you might be able to find a few moments of innovation here if you strain your ears hard enough.
***

Human Arts Ensemble-LIVE Vols. 1 & 2 (originally on Circle Records, Holland)

Jazz fest trio settings with Charlie "Bobo" Shaw the only constant. On the first one Luther Thomas blows Ayleresque while John Linberg manages  to play even freer'n Shaw, while on the second Joseph Bowie's trombone manages to cop some strangely trumpet-esque moves while guitarist James Emery manages to not only reach Sharrockesque levels but sound strangely like a moog in spots! Each set also contains a version of  the lilting "Concere Natashiah" which I would assume is the ensemble's theme song. From what I can tell all of these Circle releases (recorded at the same series of gigs from what I can tell) are worth latching onto, and maybe someday they will be made available again to a public just begging for such entertaining music. But then again maybe someday I'll win a bazillion dollars so who am I kidding?
***
VULGAR BROWN

This Robert Forward offering begins with the contents of a one-sided LP featuring some guy called Timmy Vulgar who plays synths and other funzie noisemakers. He sings like a grizzled midaged malcontent (which should appeal to me for some unknown reason) doing a one-man band Hawkwind sorta thing, or is that one-man band Metal Urbain? Whaddeva the results are strange enough to get my curiosity up if just a tad, but not enough to get me googlin' this guy because hey, I am a lazy fanabla. Filling out the tape's some James Brown bound to get me hopped up even if my animated corpse might want to be otherwise snoozed out.
***
Jr. Grenadier-WHAT IS A KISS

A few reviews above I tackled one of MX-80 Sound member Bruce Anderson's solo tapes. Here's one from MX-80 frontman Rich Stim a.k.a. Jr. Grenadier doing a decidedly eighties new wave thing that for once doesn't conjure up retch-filled memories of that rather hairy decade. Assisted by Anderson, MX-80 drummer Dave Mahoney and Stim's own wife Angel Ross, Jr. shows that his musical might can be directed towards melodic pop rock as much as it was the heavy rock of MX-80, and dang it if most of these numbers are the kinda toe-tappers I sure wish eighties radio was filled with 'stead of the Madonna gunk that it was. While we're on the subject, does anyone out there have tapes of Poetraphonics (another Stim/Ross/Mahoney side project) they're willing to burn for me? Never could latch onto any of those despite at least one request directly to the source.
***
Milk/Andy Gerome Band

Short 'n sweet collection of  under-the-counter Cleveland pop, losers in a scene where the Raspberries and Circus were the winners. Well, "losers" ain't exactly the word since these tracks are pure winners as far as fans of the form should be concerned. The Milk tracks are unique as they represent the group's only studio recordings AND the fact that group leader Brian Kinchey/Sands does not sing lead...on the "Getting To Know You"/"Whistle a Happy Tune" medley he actually mimed to the song in the studio as he did live and hey, listening to this again after all these years I sure wish I included this 'un on the Cee-Dee that appeared with BLACK TO COMM #22 because it sure sounds like a great glam pop killer deserving of more exposure. (And you can hear it if you get the Denny Carleton collection available as a download from CD Baby!) "Alice" does appear on the BTC Cee-Dee as well as the Carleton collection, and any way you can get it is fine with me because it's another wild Clepop stomper with Move moves that you kinda get the feeling Anastasia Pantsios woulda trampled over to get to the latest Journey. Too bad it didn't get out then, but what else is new?

After Milk, guitarist Al Globekar was in Circus during their final days then in Bon Voyage with ex-Milk drummer Dave Alexy and Circus guitarist Mick Sabol before all three were in the Andy Gerome Band. Yet another Cleveland power pop act who didn't get anywhere near the notoriety they should have, at least a single (as well as WMMS-FM broadcast) survive and all are worth looking into. With a decidedly commercial tinge, the music isn't sickeningly overtly macho like most of the big local band of the day were, and one could only wish that "Radio" (pretty much in the same theme as Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio" yet attuned to the early-seventies Clepop set of ears) and "Tell Me You Love Me" have that slow drive pop sound that sounds like the logical extension of early Beatles through a baroque Raspberries. Unfortunately it was 1980 and like, only Cheap Trick could get away with it so bye bye Andy Gerome Band. Hopefully more will surface but I wouldn't hold my bladder until it does lest there be a mess.
***
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Rocket From the Tombs/Paragon/Left End-AGORA 5/7/73

That ain't the correct date...the guy who dubbed this for me shoulda put 1975 on the cassette shell 'stead of the erroneous year stated above. But whatever...I guess this is a selection of the actual broadcast from that fateful evening containing not only those Rocket tracks we've heard for years (sound quality being quite so-so heavy on the bass guitar!) but the rest of the bill including the long-lived Paragon who do clunky Hendrix guitar lines but manage to create a few interesting moves when you're not noticing. However the guy who sings lead does the worst Hendrix impression I've ever had the displeasure of hearing...he sounds more like Rollo from SANFORD AND SON than the choked up one thus reducing the effect to mere posture. Let's just say that with Hendrix imitators such as these Randy Hanson has nothing to worry about. As for Left End, they sound good enough in this particular company even with the overt boogie though no great shakes since none of the carnage and violence they were noted for translates to pure sound. Still better'n nothing, but you shoulda been there when they let out the rats! I guess it was a "Night of Heavy Music" as the ads said, though frankly what was that horrid bitta pop prog that the guy who taped this stuck at the end?!?!?!?
***
Friction-EARTH BY APRIL FALL 1976

No cover for this 'un because there just ain't any, but the music which is included is sure fine by me! The original Friction with Peter Laughner on guitar, vocals and harmonica, Anton Fier on drums and Tony Maimone on bass guitar (and some gal doing special guest vocals on "Summertime") live at a restaurant called Earth By April during October of 1976...my cyster ate there once and said it was a nice li'l ethnic Greek-y kinda spot, and it would be strange for such a place as this to host a band such as Friction but I think it was a party so I can see why at least this time.

Unfortunately too many covers appear in these sets which I guess proved all of those stories about Laughner's queasiness regarding the performance of his originals. That's too bad because hey, he had plenty which would have fit in with Friction's overall underground-y vision. The choice of covers is good though with loads of Velvet Underground as you would guess, Television's "Prove It" and a myriad assortment of sixties faves that are given that seventies deca-rock feeling that still lingers on in choice recordings and forgotten fanzines.

One perhaps unintentionally funny part on the recording is the part where Laughner dedicates "What Goes On" to Jamie Klimek or "George Money" in this case because you know just how much Jamie and a whole buncha the Mirrors/Styrenes contingent hated the Prospect Ave. Plaza crowd. And with the brouhaha about Craig Bell joining Rocket From the Tombs and Laughner writing Klimek that note about how it was unfair to act like Bell was going over to the enemy and all well, it does show you that Laughner had a side to him that was perhaps more conciliatory that I ever would be!

Closing out side one is a version of "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" that really surprises me since it sounds somewhere between the Rocket and Ubu versions, and not only that but it is arrange quite differently. No synth that I can discern yet the arrangement is sparse compared with the take we all know. Maybe it's an embryonic workout version? Who knows...
***
MAD DADDY IN CLEVELAND

Last up for today're these airchecks from '58 and '59 respectively featuring Pete Myers, the "Mad Daddy" who was so freaked out that his horror show on WJW was cancelled mid-program due to outraged delinquents and pornographers phoning in to complain about Myers' unsettling nature. On these late-fifties programs Myers proves just why he was such a talent with his verbal jive flippin' and boppin' all over the place complete with reverb effects guaranteed to flip out even the most jaded listener. The selection of sounds to be heard are handy as well giving us an idea of just what the top tunes of the day were like, and given just how much Andre Williams has been praised to the hilt ever since his comeback in the nineties it's quite a surprise to hear his "Greasy Chicken" getting airplay considering just how obscure I thought the guy woulda been even back in them days. And Myers is such a talent doing his hip horror routine that he could even make the 1968 Top Forty sounds come off grand...I'd even listen to Donovan just to get to a sample of Myers' boppin' routine, and hardly anything else would be able to make me do that!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

TEE-VEE SHOW REVIEW! AMOS BURKE, SECRET AGENT (1965) starring Gene Barry!!!

's funny, but although I can remember BURKE'S LAW being blasted on our tee-vee during them good ol' turdler years in no way do I recall  this 1965 version of the series which was obviously a failed if noble attempt to rescue it from a swift cancellation! I guess most people out there don't remember this 17-episode swan song in which Gene Barry's millionaire cop vamped into a secret agent because I sure ain't heard any of the old tee-vee fans I grew up with gabbin' about this 'un the way they did TWILIGHT ZONE and other firmly etched into the suburban slob mindset shows that continue to resonate even this far down the long creaky line.

And judging from these two episodes courtesy of who else but Bill Shute. we now know what we were all missing because way too many tee-vee viewers were undoubtedly tuning into CBS instead of ABC and watching...THE DANNY KAYE SHOW??!?!?!?!?!?!? As you'd expect it's all pretty much down pat secret agent fare closer to MATT HELM than THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., complete with the Mister Big character running the show as well as the whacked out badskis and of course some hotcha femme to kiss and maybe even turn in per episode. Not that many transistorized gadgets to be seen other'n some Dick Tracy-type watch but let's be thankful this one wasn't too spy gimmick obvious.

First episode has Burke heading off to a Polynesian island in order to find and drag back an AWOL scientist but coming up against this Midget of Indian heritage called Dr. Sin who seems to have a strong psychological grasp on the guests at his resort-styled HQ. The second one is even battier what with this world peace advocate's plans to end war by spreading LSD by gas exhaust fumes into the air turning everybody into carefree clutzes who don't even mind when they see someone murdered! Probably one of the better critiques of the early anti-war moo-ment seen in quite awhile, even if they hadda cop out and give a slight thumbs up to the protest generation inna last scene.

And yeah, this is GOOD STUFF that could be as ridiculous as U.N.C.L.E. but again in a fun camp way, with loads of hotcha gals to ogle, evil badboys to hiss and of course Gene Barry as a guy who isn't fazed by anything even when staring down the barrel of a gun! Loads of cheap scares, hideous torture and enough fights that would have made the Concerned Mothers of Ameriga faint because their adolescent boys were watching this instead of LITTLE WOMEN and with all those horrible murders out there...no wonder they went after Bugs Bunny with a vengeance!

'n well, you'd probably wanna spend your times watching DANNY KAYE, right? Sheesh, wotta buncha pantywaists I have for readers!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Nice week I had there (dunno about you), and no I won't bore you with a buncha off-the-top-of-my-shiny-head ramblings about everything from the current kulturkampf to politics or foodsies and whatnot. No, I'll just bore you with these reviews! Haw, fooled you there for a minute, didn't I?

As usual, thanks to Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and nobody else.


Birge Gorge-AVANT TOUTE LP (Souffle Continu France, available via Forced Exposure)

These mid-seventies electronic albums really do hit a certain atonal chord with me, perhaps because it was around the time them albums such as this one were recorded I was doing that term paper on the exact same subject (though not necessarily limited to the mid-seventies) with that famed misspelling I have still not forgive my cyster for typing. And I gotta say that these French electronic albums do have a certain swerve to 'em I like even if the specter of progressive snootism does tend to permeate, if only a tad bit but permeate nonetheless. Birge Gorge are different---well, kinda/sorta---but that difference is what counts. Total abandon music here with seventies analog synth crashing up again avant garde free guitar making for some pretty exciting works that sound like European rock/jazz/classical modes taken to their perhaps illogical extreme. Cathartic sounds here that you kinda wish Eno woulda gotten Island to sign up at the time considering just what a spokesman he was for continental clatter such as this.

Souffle Continu is one label you should get out and support for your French under-the-underground jollies with not only platters by Heldon to their name but Mahongany Brain's and Red Noise's Futura-era offerings as well. And if anyone from the label just happens to read this...howzbout some Dagon while yer at it!
***
Baba Yaga-COLLAGE CD-r burn (originally on Alemania, Germany)

Ingo Werner of My Solid Ground fame is part (actually one-half) of this obscure krautrock group, but don't expect COLLAGE to sound like a strange mating of Pink Floyd and 1971 Stooges. This project from Baba Yaga is a strange one to digest in your brain, at first sounding like an electronic storm before turning into Indian sitar twangs then piano workouts on similar themes before settling into Soft Machine territory. At first I thought it was George Harrison wondering whether to record WONDERWALL MUSIC or ELECTRONIC SOUND then doing both simultaneously, but subsequently I found this to be a strange throwback to that Eastern Consciousness hype which was still going strong at the time (1974) done up with a load of interesting twists and turns added in. Not bad even if at times it comes off like the kinda music some nefarious cultmeister would haved pushed on his brain-dead disciples in order to induce karmik konsciousness.
***
THE GODZ CD-r burn (originally on Millennium Records)

Sounding better than I remember from way back in the not-so good ol' days, the Godz play a form of tough guy pose rock on this debut platter that at times surpasses the cock rock style from whence the entire genre they sprang built its rep on. In part this does pull through on the metal meter, though the haughty lead vocal routine was done better by David Johansen during his old Dolls days while the band itself's mid-level hard rock charge pales next to say, Von Lmo. Thankfully the final results ain't as gag-inducing as a good portion of that horrid late-seventies metal which was fighting it out with the Godz for precious AOR time. IMPORTANT NOTE!-it is my duty as a rock scriber to tell you that these Godz are not the same Godz who recorded a number of freaky psychedelic excursions for ESP-disk in the late-sixties, a fact which I get the idea from after reading just about every review of this album I've read must be mentioned lest confusion reign re. the less knowledgeable amongst us.
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Lionel Barrymore-RIP VAN WINKLE CD-r burn (originally on MGM)

I know that Barrymore should be on my perennial hate list for acting in that moom pitcher slopper IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but then again so was Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and I sure haven't stopped watching his stuff even if he was an out of control hothead! Ahhh, this kiddie record narrated by the great  actor really does dredge up them afternoon nap time memories what with the orchestral backing and the neat story about the nice if lackadaisical Van Winkle meeting up with a buncha gnomes inna mountains and taking a twenty year nap for his troubles. Listening to records like this sure would do the kids of today a whole lot of good (as long as they're fortified with loads of LITTLE RASCALS and THREE STOOGES shorts) and who knows, if this nefarious plan works the suburban slob generation from whence I sprang might just rise again!
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Tennessee Ernie Ford-ROCK CITY BOOGIE CD-r burn (originally on Proper Records)

Bless my little ol' peen-pickin' heart, but these Tennessee Ernie Ford recordings from his early days of fame (before he got on I LOVE LUCY and had a variety of tee-vee shows all culminating in HEE HAW appearances) do get the ol' juices flowin' like I knew they would. The country world would eventually turn its collective back on Ernie's swing country stompers but at one time these sides represented just what country music meant, at least to those rural royals who were buyin' this stuff up no matter how much they were being scorned by the upper crust snooties out there.

Did I ever tell you that we used to tune into Ford's ABC daily show when I was a mere turdler with me specifically remembering the time when Charley Weaver was a guest and the two duetted on the old classic "Shine On Harvest Moon"? Well, this was the first time I heard the song and I was really puzzled by the part which went "January, February, June or July"!  I wondered where the missing "March, April and May" were and from then on when anyone would sing this song in my presence I demanded they include the missing months! Anal retentiveness must start at an early age, y'know.
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HOOTCH CD-r burn

The mid-seventies were a rather late for psychedelia to be flourishing unless you were Hawkwind or the Pink Fairies and could deliver on transmuting the original thrust into contemporary realms, and these Wisconsians do manage to succeed on only a few tracks like the spidery "Arabian Style". But they really flop on the funk ("African Boogie") and sometimes the psych noodling meanders more than inspires or whatever it is that psychedelic music is supposed to do. And that's with or without the additional stimulants I'll bet a few of you reg'lar readers habitually indulge in. Low budget studio sound helps out tremendously, but otherwise the only trip I got outta this one was when I stumbled on the throw rug tryin' to get to the box to change disques, impatient me!
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Jonathan Richman-ISHKODE! ISHKODE! CD-r burn (originally on Blue Arrow)

Hokay, so I don't pay as close attention to Jonathan Richman as anyone should (or so I'm told), but this 'un (his latest) does dredge up many a buried seventies memory of why I went for Velvet Underground and Patti Smith albums at a time when my interests most certainly lied elsewhere. Speaking of Velvets, ISHKODE! X2 is perhaps the closest he's come to them since his paen to his precursors on the I JONATHAN platter of yore, while the music lends to an early VU intensity filtered through third LP acoustics (and on recent listen I find that oft-neglected spinner every bit the gruff intense offering its predecessor was) that reminds me more of early wonderment than latterday disappointment. At times the early-sixties vibe has me wishing I heard this during my younger days, and if "Mother I Give You My Soul" isn't one of the loneliest album closers since "Elegy to Lenny Bruce" then I don't know what is! Even the accordion on "Longtemps" had me thinking a whole lot more'n 'ALLO 'ALLO. Fits in more with my idea of rock 'n roll as vision-driven energy than all of the final years of AM/FM rock as a universal pimplefarm stoner mentality music put together!
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Various Artists-HIGH-HEEL SHARKSKIN SWITCHBLADE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Standard yeah, good definitely collection that starts off with some of that great clunky '59/'60 instrumental rock that I really like (I sure wanna know more about the Monzels of "Sharkskin" fame) before Bill gets his opportunity to slip in some of that country obscurity stuff that he most certainly loves. The Maros are kinda pedestrian if passable romping through "Johnny B. Goode" and "High Heeled Sneakers", and if you like those late-sixties Grateful Dead versions of these songs you'll probably like them too. Dunno what to make of Loos Foos and the Fiberglass Cornflake but they ain't as cornballus as their name what with "Bless Me Father" (a rock 'n roll confession!) and "I Think I Got You" (both organ-dominated garage band unto psych pop), while Vigor Fisher sounds like yet another one of those early-sixties Johnny Rivers wannabes who fell flat on their faces like you thought they woulda (no fault of their own of course!). A good slice of something, and if you can identify exactly what it is a good slice OF you get your choice of whatever available back issue of my crudzine you want! Just kidding!!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! ARIZONA MAHONEY (1936) starring Buster Crabbe, Robert Cummings and Joe Cook!!!

Given the comparative lack of Joe Cook material available on the silver screen it's sure great being able to see whatever you can get of him! And for a guy who only did two feature length films (as well as a smattering of shorts for Educational Pictures) it's like you gotta see what you CAN of Joe Cook, because that's all you're gonna get so be thankful for that!

As in RAIN OR SHINE,  Cook plays the owner of a floundering circus...however, the setting's now in the ol' Wild West with Cook riding an elephant into town pulling a cart containing only one circus member played by a rather young Robert Cummings. Meanwhile a young lass has arrived on the stagecoah to take over an inherited cattle ranch only the moocows have all been rustled away, and it's up to none other'n Buster Crabbe playing one of those sorta bad guys who are good to see that they're gotten back 'n gotten back GOOD!!!

In all of the honesty that I can manage to muster up I gotta say that maybe this 'un ain't the best vehicle for Cook's (timeworn descriptor warning) "surreal" humor, what with the whole seriocomedy nature of the film and the not-that-hot scenes which are supposed to display Cook's out-there talents but just don't gag ya like they should (maybe it's the dark tee-vee print?). Buster Crabbe is fine as the stagecoach robber turned good guy, while Cummings is just too ikky playing the aw gosh-it ex-clown who falls flat for the new gal and ends up getting a job in the local general store that just happens to be run by the local rustler.

Still way better'n a good hunk of the slag that pops up as "entertainment" these sucky days, but for those who want to see Cook at his unadulterated comedic best try the Educational shorts he did just before this 'un, which I'm sure some enterprising "grey area" dealer onna web is willing to part with for but a mere sum which you BETTER cough up (hack!) if you know what's good for your sense of depraved yuck ups.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Yeah I know I gotta start this blogpost off by sayin' somethin' other'n "Sheesh, what a boring week it was!", so I will. But man was it yet another dudster in a long line of 'em (so I didn't). Barring any personal fambly things that you could care less about the last seven were rather Quindlanesque in their sameness, and telling you about whatever did transpire would be akin to you telling me all about your latest GILLIGAN'S ISLAND sex fantasy that I thought we all got over once we hit the age of twelve!

So howz'bout some polly-tix hmmmmmmmm? Gotta say that the thought of a Hillary presidency is enough to make me want to move...NOT to Canuckistan like alla those chic Amerigan entertainers claim they wanna do if Donald Trump gets in, but to the former Soviet Union which at least has a leader who is really concerned about the locals more than he is about everybody else. Too bad I can't write in Putin this November, though doing so would certainly be a better "protest vote" that pulling the Gus Hall lever was for many a year (or so the Communists kept telling us). Naturally Hillary's uber-corrupt nature never did matter to her fans as if she really was sneakier'n the usual pol, but sheesh, the mere thought of her as leader of the kinda/sorta free world should be enough to send menopausal pharmaceutical stocks clear through the roof. And hey, it's not that I loathe the female sex (well, not that much), but it ain't like Hillary's got the same focused foresight nor the sense of duty that a real femme role model like Marine Le Pen most certainly does. Heck, at this point I'd even settle for Bernie Sanders in drag!

I gotta say that I like Trump if ONLY because he wrecked the Republican neocon establishment and got a whole buncha commentators on the right all apoplectic over his definitely meteoric rise, but do I think he's gonna build that wall? Do we really need to build it because hey, there are pole vaulters out there. Of course at this point in time just about anything would be better'n Hillary and her status quo crony capitalist/socialism, but then again that choice these days might even include Elmer Fudd that's how badski things have become! Still a whole lotta people that I kinda agree with think that Trump's the best thing to happen to politics in years and like, why should I think for myself?

The Greens? Didn't even know they still existed. The Libertarians??? What a buncha jokes. I'm getting tired of these guys who were once called Republicans who liked to smoke dope but are now Democrats who don't like paying taxes. Gary Johnson and William Weld (who I understand was part of the Boston Velvet Underground cadre which included Jonathan Richman, Wayne McGuire and Donna Summer!) are the biggest insults to a movement that once boasted the likes of Murray Rothbard, Justin Raimondo and Ron Paul, and they can all go swim in the septic tank of libertine ideas posing as deep political thought with the rest of those neo-hippies (no insult to hippies intended) who may be a-greyin' like you and me but still hold their Dead Kennedys albums close to their ever ragin' hearts.

So where does all of this leave me you might ask. Well, at this point (and I do see it as a point of no return), it's ALT RIGHT and nothin' but! Chew on that one for awhile, Sunshine!
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It happened a few weeks back or so, but sayonara to JACK DAVIS, the last of the original MAD magazine staff to leave the premises and perhaps the most successful of the bunch what with all of those moom pitcher posters and TEE VEE GUIDE covers he did from the seventies on. Considering just how omnipresent the guy's art was during my growing up years this really is a grave loss and speaking of graves,
who can ignore all of those boffo and at times gut-churning EC horror comics he made his name with! Think I'll grab one of my A MAD LOOK AT OLD MOVIES paperbacks and honor him in a way that would be most fitting to a suburban slob ranch house kiddie such as myself. Alfred would understand.
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Well, as you expected, here are this week's music raves. Hope you dig 'em even if the pickins are slim, but frankly there just ain't that much comin' out that really tingles me these days so I gotta get what I get 'n all that gettin'! If you wanna see a better batch of items up for review in these pages, why not send something of yours you'd like to get publicized or better yet pester your fave underground label to dig up some hefty archival platters that we can all enjoy because hey, rock as we knew it is deader'n Elvis and like, I sure could use more of the REAL stuff these pithy-like days! So without further whatever...


Equipe 84-ID CD (RPM England)

These wopadagos had it all from a cool name to a big rep in Italy as well as being name-checked in the Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano insert booklet, and that doesn't even count the story where Gerard Malanga was hanging out with them and wrote Lou Reed to ask if they could record "Heroin"! Turns out that all these guys really were wuz just a local market bunch who basically took the big overseas hits and guineafied 'em for the pastafazool crowd, usually losing a whole bunch of fun and energy in the translation! If these guys were "thee" drug band of the day you kinda get the idea that the only thing they were mainlining was tomato sauce! Limp neo-prog pop here with a whole lotta that classico schmaltz that permeated the pop scene in all of Europe, with little if any of the fun and jamz that I would have expected from a group such as this!
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ELLERY QUEEN'S MINUTE MYSTERIES VOLUME ONE!

I wrote up a batch of these a few weeks back and discovered this 'un on top of the pile f'r once! Yes, it's more of those quickie radio filler "can you match wits with..." shows that, according to Bill Shute's liner notes, actually ran in some markets well into the early eighties! Some of these are easier than your sister (like the one where somebody is selling a piano that arrived in Jamestown Colony in 1607 when we all know that the modern day version of the thang wasn't invented until a good century later) while others will twist the brain a bit given there's some strange obscuro reason for whatever happened and you never knew that certain roads lead in certain directions etc. and so forth. But whatever these radio whodunnits do in one minute what alla them tee-vee shows do in an hour, and I know you can put your time to better use listening to one of these 'stead of sitting through a whole buncha those, right?
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DOCTOR MARIGOLD'S PRESCRIPTION CD-r burn (originally on Alshire)

There must've been countless quickie English albums comin' out from the mid-to-late-sixties, and it wouldn't be that strange considering just how much big bux bonanzas that British Invasion music had over here that even the more obscure groups would get a release. Doctor Marigold's Prescription were but one of 'em, and although they didn't exactly get a big label gig at least this li'l spinner was picked up by the Alshire (formerly Somerset) label, best known for all of those 101 Strings albums your Aunt Flabby still has stocked in her console. It's not a bad record really, with the opening cover of "Sweet Cherry Wine" setting the tone for some rather pop-oriented sounds that once again seemed geared towards those gals in school who were going from Barbie to boobies within the wink of an eye. Not recommended for you hardcore BLOG TO COMM readers, but if you were a gal growin' up inna late-sixties with Ohio Express albums galore and a poster with a unicorn and rainbow in your room well...you might just wanna re-live those slumber party days of yore even if you can't find your vibrator!
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THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM CD-r burn

Given that one of the few tee-vee shows I tune into these days is THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM it's sure great listening to these old shows which continue to be funny well into the new millennium while more recent "comedy fare" flops about upon impact. Show number one's a gusset buster dealing with Jack and Mary's trip to a football game complete with appearances by not only Frank Nelson but Frank Fontaine doing a variation on his Crazy Guggenheim character later to be seen on Jackie Gleason's AMERICAN SCENE MAGAZINE. The second one has Jack torturing Don Wilson into signing his new contract as well as muscling in on a FORD THEATER RADIO program starring Claudette Colbert and Vincent Price! Har hars galore are to be found here, and if you can't find anything to chortle over in these programs may I call you Elizabeth Simpson?
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The Champs-THE LATER SINGLES CD-r burn (originally on Ace Records, England)

I never thought that the Champs were whatcha'd call a top notch kinda late-fifties instrumental group. Rilly, next to the likes of the Raymen and Rock-A-Teens they were kinda fiz. But then again since I sometimes find fiz to be a pretty good commodity in music (take the String-A-Longs f'rinstance) maybe I can enjoy the Champs even if the specter of Seals and Crofts continues to dwell in my mind all these years later.

Actually it's fairly good if at time slick and overproduced pre-moptop rock that can get on your nerves but by the time yer ready to bean the boom box with a can of refried beans the band plows into a pretty hotcha and driving number that keeps you buoyant enough to digest those late-fifties grooves a whole lot more. Features the kinda/sorta "hit" "Experiment in Terror" which later became the theme to the Chilly Billy horror moom pitcher show on Channel 11 in Pittsburgh.
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Paul Bley-TURNS CD-r burn (originally on Savoy Jazz)

If you liked Bley's ESP albums from the same stratum you'll probably go stroonad over this side featuring Sun Ra sideman John Gilmore, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian. Typical of the mid-sixties new thing before it really went into orbit TURNS is par for the atonal course, though I gotta complain about yet another version of "Ida Lupino" showing up here as if there weren't any other songs that Bley coulda stuck on his albums. (Ditto for "Ictus" which somehow doesn't "get" to me that much.)  Maybe he hadda re-re-record the thing for some strange occult reason everybody but I know about, and it really isn't that bad of a toe tapper once you get into Gilmore's sax extrapolations. Maybe he was being paid by the former Mrs. Hayward/Duff to keep her name in the spotlight even though she was directing GILLIGAN'S ISLAND episodes 'n all. Whatever, another good if oft-overlooked (by me) platter that might get a few more spins before being filed away until next time...
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The B-G System-FUNNY LOVE AFFAIR CD-r burn (originally on Ex-Libris, Switzerland)

You may think that alla that continental rock that was comin' outta the late-sixties was over-the-top freakarama fa fa fanabla, but a good portion of it was undoubtely middle of the road moosh that was aimed at the Europeon version of those girls you knew in eighth grade who liked to press leaves inside pages of old books. (Equipe 84 is living proof of that!) B-G System ain't exactly one of those kinda acts, but they sure do a good job of trying to be a teenybop act that can still put out some interesting rock moves. The retro thirties moves of "Je Baille" do come off like the Swiss counterpart of "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "Winchester Cathedral" without the orchestral pomp, but the rock bounce is still evident. Somewhat. And although most all of the numbers are good in their own overproduced pop ways there really isn't anything here that grabs you by the nerve endings and makes you wanna run down the street screaming at the top of your lungs. In the long run these guys shoulda stuck to making cheese and left the rockin' to the krauts.
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Various Artists-MEAN STORMY SHOUT CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Gotta admit that a really huge portion of the soul jazz that Bill snuck on this platter is doing rather little for me. Maybe I should pick these spinners out more carefully 'stead of whatever's onna toppa the pile, but right now it's like I could use my jazz a little more AACM-ish, ifyaknowaddamean.

Pretty standard mid-energy (at best) neo-funk (at best) sounds that very rarely stirred up any soul in me, and frankly I thought the whole thing as nothing but incidental music used for commercials on local late-sixties tee-vee, Only King Curtis covering "Honky Tonk" seems to break through the monotony but hey, even "James Brown's Boogaloo" falls short of the target (the target being full throttled total eruption music) and I for one feel like the last hour I spent listening to this music has taken one humongous chunk outta my life that could have been put to better use plucking chickens.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1975-1978 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics, 2010)

Well, I think I discovered just when PEANUTS began its grand slide into the comic strip tank from whence it never crawled out. Well, it was still pumping enough good comic thrill spasms in the mid-seventies such as in the storyline where Snoopy, Marcie and Peppermint Patty get trapped on a wiggly waterbed while Pep's house is robbed, not to mention the one where Charlie Brown's failed hero Joe Schlabotnick coaches some sub-minors team called the Waffletown Syrups and gets fired after signaling a squeeze play with nobody on base, but as the decade approached its grisly end the strip seems to reflect Charles Schulz's own malaise as much as it did the world's.

Hanging out on the golf course and tennis court ain't really a bad thing to do if you're into things like that but sheesh, characters like Molly Volley, Eudora and Crybaby Boobie never were whatcha'd call top notch PEANUTS characters who stuck inside your kiddoid comic strip psyche the way that Pig Pen or even personal favorite "5" (who gets pictured on the above sleeve even if the guy hardly appeared in the strip after 1966) did.

Yeah I can still ooze a bit of enjoyment outta these late-seventies stories a whole lot more than I thought I could, but otherwise I found these comics mirroring my own late-seventies adrift in the culture shock that perhaps toughened me up even if I hadda discard a lotta my youthful enthusiasm in the process. Well, it was 1978/9 when everything from tee-vee to radio and people in general were so blanded out to the point where all of those nuclear accidents seemed like a welcome relief, so maybe I shouldn't have expected much more. But still, comparing a classic 50s/60s PEANUTS strip to some of these is kinda like comparing 1955 Elvis with the model that checked out a good twenny-two years later...it's the same product but man, what a change!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Y'know, these deaths just keep on coming faster than you can say TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, and with the very recent passings of not only Alan Vega but Billy Name now we find out that this week (actually the previous week considering this is getting posted on Sunday) none other than the legendary Sandy Pearlman has passed through them pearly gates. Sure he was only a producer and like, not the main star of the entire rock 'n roll shebang, but his moniker has been attached to way too many rock names like the Blue Oyster Cult, Dictators, Pavlov's Dog, the Clash etc. and so forth for one not to ignore him. And yeah, if his personage did not pop up in the rock realm I'm sure all of the groups he did produce would still be here, but maybe just MAYBE his expertise inna biz is what drove them (well, at least BOC) to the fame and fortune they inevitably accrued. And hey, did you ever get your pic snapped with not only Handsome Dick Manitoba and Adny Shernoff but Lou Albano and the Valiant Brothers and.or have it printed in the pages of KICKS magazine??? Case closed and don't let anyone tell you different!
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These weeks have been getting slower and duller'n usual for my tastes...at least there's a downpour outside which is breaking up the monotony somewhat even if it lacks the violence and fear-frought tension of those storms that used to get me screamin' meemee when I was but a mere turdler. But still I know how to make the best of a rather fanabla situation what with all of the rock mags (and old issues of HELP! and MAD) as well as boffo listening material cluttering up the old abode. Its hard trying to keep up my perpetual adolescent sense of suburban slobism as the years roll by but at least, with the aid of such stimuli, I can still ooze some of that ten-year-old mentality ranch house living fun and jamz in a world which for the most part frowns upon such base bourgeois behavior. And if it weren't for the likes of Bill Shute and Guerssen Records the f 'n j wouldn't be comin' at me as fast as they are! So after all is said 'n done don't curse me, curse them!



TEN YEARS AFTER (DELUXE EDITION) 2-CD set (Deram Germany)

There are are few fine fanablas out there who have tried to make the case that Ten Years After were a top notch example of British punk rock, or at least punk rock of a decidedly pre-Sex Pistols variety. Some of these fanablas are just plain wrong, but I still find this repackaging of the group's debut platter a whole lot more exhilarating than some of the music I heard by the later, more FM friendly band that appeared at Woodstock who come to think of it weren't that bad either. Thankfully this debut is still rooted in the British Invasion-era of English blooze music so it ain't as offensive as a lotta those those fringe jacket types fuzztoning Willie Dixon all over the place were, and not only that but on the first of these two discs its presented in both stereo and mono for all of you obsessive types who are so anal retentive that you know exactly how many wipes its gonna take!

The second disque has the group's boffo non-LP single which really shoulda done a whole lot more'n it did (the ringing phone on "The Sound" keeps getting me up to answer the real thing which must mean something other'n that I am very uptight!) as well as some BBC radio sessions that are not from the original source but we can't be too picky these days. In all these tracks compliment the legit music more'n one would have guessed, and as far as guessing goes I never woulda thought at one time that I would ever cozy up to this band considering the fact that these English blooze acts can wear thin after awhile.

By the way, did you know that the group got their name from an English tabloid headline dealing with the Suez Canal Crisis ten years after the fact? Sheesh, I always thought that "Ten Years After" meant ten years after the original rock 'n roll push, like in 1956 we had Elvis Presley and now we have Ten Years After! Well, it would make more sense to your typical twelve-year-old record shop scourer who at the time didn't even know what the Suez Canal Crisis was!
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Cosmists-ONTOLOGICAL PRINTING CD (cosmists.bandcamp.com)

Some of these avant garde improvisational music acts"gets" me, some of them don't. Cosmists are definitely in the former group as they play a nice minimal free jazz-inspired sound that reminds me of those mid/late-seventies Art Ensemble of Chicago side projects that were coming out with an amazing regularity at the time. Not that Collette McCaslin comes off like Lester Bowie (at times she does believe-it-or-not!), but the use of percussion and a wavering theremin do recall some of the wilder AACM moments in past history and if you remain a fan of those indecipherable to most people under-the-counter jazz platters of the past as well as the whole improv groove that's been goin' on for quite some time you just might want to snatch this li'l outta-the-way offering up because hey, what else is there these days that can really set your soul on fire?
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Crystalauger-TERRANAUT CD (Guerssen, Spain)

I didn't know that the other TERRANAUT Cee-Dees flying around out there were illegit, but Guerssen did this classic self-produced mid-seventies teenage album up pretty snat if I do say so myself. Sure coulda used Jeremy Cargill's booklet notes which are unobtainable on the web, but still this platter is a great collection of home-made local rock (recorded in Singapore by a buncha Amerigan expats!) that sounds so beautifully teenage inept that you woulda thought it was done by those jerks down the street who used to congregate in the knotty pine basement much to the neighbors' chagrin. If you're still under the impression that the Circulation album reviewed a few weeks back was a pretty hotcha affair then TERRANAUT just might be the atomic chaser.
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ZINGERS FROM THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES CD-r burn (originally on Event)

A good portion of my kid-era tee-vee viewing time was taken up by watching THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, and considering just how long this show has been off the air (not counting various revivals that either didn't make it to the local tee-vee markets or were just so depressing in spirit that they just hadda be ignored) you can just bet that I was more'n anxious to take a li'l trip back in time'n relive those funtime memories of an otherwise drab childhood existence. It's sure good lending ear to people who were really funny making cracks that were a whole lot more witty than the entire Bill Maher oeuvre, and believe it or not but only NOW do I discover that a whole lotta those jokes that I sure didn't get back when I was ten were down and out dirty! But they were a fun dirty, more like BEETLE BAILEY or Carson so that was OK I guess. As the Amish would say, give this one a spin and remind yourself of what funny IS!!!
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Various Artists-ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK RECORDING---YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT CD-r burn (originally on Columbia)

While we're on the subject of back when I was a kid, there was a copy of the original YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT book that was setting on the tee-vee stand directly under the set where I watched all of those HOLLYWOOD SQUARES programs mentioned earlier, and for years I thought that the moom pitcher of the same name was actually an adaptation of this very book! Only in recent times did I discover that YAWYE was a hipster "mondo" film consisting of various vignettes crammed together for bizarro youth market appeal. This soundtrack gives a good idea of what that moom was probably like, mixing mostly dull interludes with songs of varying degrees all done up in a late-sixties cool sorta fashion that your budding protest kiddie woulda just dug at least before hitting the real thing via Zappa or the Fish.

Personal faves include (believe it or not) the Peter Yarrow numbers which made me forget some of the singer/songwriter gunk he made his career with, John Simon's "My Name is Jack" (a bouncy sorta kid song that had a nice underlying sinister appeal to it) and of course the two Tiny Tim tracks which eventually got him on LAUGH IN, one being a version of the Ronettes fave "Be My Baby" and the other a duet of the Sonny and Cher classic "I Got You Babe" done with Eleanor Baruchian of the Cake. The rest you can take or leave, though Paul Butterfield did tend to lend a certain snarl to it all
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Mike Pacheco-BONGO DATE CD-r burn (originally on Tampa)

Bongo bongo bongo I don't wanna leave the Congo! That's what I thought was gonna be on this album that features the famed hand drums courtesy of some guy named Mike Pacheco who I gotta admit I never heard of before, or after for that matter. Either that or a whole lotta South Seas kinda exotica that conjures up images of sexy island gals walking around topless, and with big suckable juggins too! I wuz wrong on both counts, for BONGO DATE is nothing but solo bongo beats that sound custom made for the coffee house in the farthest reaches of your "Hey Beat Mon" mind. You can just see the smoke in the air and the beardo guy with the shades and beret (maybe even some stale doritos!) beating away in one of those basement hangouts that used to pop up on old detective shows. This platter might even make good backdrop for your own hip poetry...at your next shindig just spin BONGO DATE while you let loose with the free form. Okay, right from the top..."MILK, MILK, LEMONADE..."
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The Sandells-SCRAMBLER CD-r burn (originally on World Pacific Records)

Nice enough though not tough or anything like that surf rock which eventually turned up on the ENDLESS SUMMER soundtrack. Not as gutsy as most of the other Californian (or land locked even!) surf groups of the day, but still bubbling under enough to conjure up all of those great surf rock feelings of old that sorta got washed away around the time Jimi hadda make his "You'll never hear....surf music....again" comment and suddenly it wasn't such hot stuff anymore. A pretty good example of what the West Coast teen experience meant to a whole lot of us, at least until the whole scene sorta vanished into thin air and years of revival gigs.
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Various Artists-WRANGLER RASCAL PLANET ROSSI CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

In the last/not least department comes this 47-minute sampler that as usual defies description, other'n that it has a good hunk of French music in spots and some under-the-equator rarities in others. And a few little "surprises" like two tracks by the infamous Testors and an act called the Corporation who I woulda sworn woulda been an Association swipe but do a pretty good version of the late-sixties pop thing quite removed from the famous hit group's nice if at times sweet sunshine folkdom. The French stuff is pretty good especially the versions of "Papa Oom Mow Mow" and "Martian Hop" (here called "Le Martien"), while the Antipodean platters by the likes of the La De Da's and Masters Apprentices surely filled the WHO PUT THE BOMP! bill ifyaknowaddamean. (Were the Elois from Down Under??? Too lazy to google 'em to find out.) The (Irish) Rascals were surprisingly entertaining doing that Irish jig rock thing that the Pogues later made a mint with (albeit the Rascals do it slicker) while the country twang and lounge schmooze had me reaching for a martini, and I don't even drink adult booze (well, not much!). And I'll bet your Saturday evening was better???
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Looks like the rain finally stopped and I just might be seeing just a li'l bitta sun on the horizon...sheee-yucks! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

SPECIAL GUEST REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE!!! HARDLY WORKING starring JERRY LEWIS!!!! (1981)

(EDITOR'S NOTE!-we [who am I kidding---"""""I"""""] at BLOG TO COMM are [am] glad to grace our [my] pixillated pages with the writings of none other than BILL SHUTE, the same Bill of INNER MYSTIQUE and Kendra Steiner Editions fame who out of the goodness of his heart decided to give this boffo [best of the year?] review to this blog 'stead of to some creep out there who most certainly doesn't deserve it! As you can guess we/I are/am totally gracious that he did just that because hey, we/I know good and punch-packing writing when it bops itself into our/my buttocks! Hope you enjoy this classic piece of film critique of a definitely non-Pauline Kaelesque nature just as much as we/I did putting it to type, editing the format, emboldening titles etc.!)

Forgetting for a moment the as-yet-unreleased THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, made circa 1972, HARDLY WORKING was Jerry Lewis’s first starring vehicle for almost ten years when it was released, his previous film being 1970’s WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT. During that period, though, Lewis was far from forgotten. His old movies played constantly on television, and he hosted the yearly Muscular Dystrophy telethon every Labor Day. He certainly had a devoted following, and I certainly considered myself a fan....although I did not take it to the level of a guy I worked with in the mid-70’s who owned one of the early video tape recorders and who recorded the entire MD telethon each year, and then would watch it over and over until the next one to get his fix of Jerry!

By the late 70’s, although Lewis was universally known, his days of starring in major films for major studios were over, so he sought to put together an independent “comeback” film, find financing, and get the film made. That film was HARDLY WORKING. It was shot in Florida in 1979 and into 1980. Supposedly, production came to a halt once or twice because the funds ran out. It was released in Europe in 1980 and did very well. This led 20th Century Fox to pick it up in 1981 for American distribution, but (unfortunately) with 20 minutes cut. (I had a friend from Austria in 1981 who had just moved to the US, and she had seen the full European version theatrically before coming here!)  I saw it with a packed house in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1981 and the crowd loved it, as did  I. After a draining work week, this was exactly the kind of entertainment that the average person in 1981 needed. The reviews were not good, but who expected them to be? What was important was that it was Lewis at his purest. It belonged on the same shelf as films such as THE BELLBOY and THE BIG MOUTH (yes, and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR too).

I recently re-watched my grey market DVD of HARDLY WORKING (it’s never been legitimately reissued on DVD, alas) and thought I’d share a few observations with you BTC readers.

The plot is essentially that Jerry, who is a clown for a small regional circus, loses his job when the bank forecloses on the circus and closes it down. He’s forced to go live with his sister and her jerk of a husband, and he gets a series of jobs where he keeps messing up until finally he gets a job at the post office which he’s able to keep for a while....and he finds romance. I won’t give away the ending.
 
Here are some observations about HARDLY WORKING.

When I originally saw the film, my first and immediate impression was that it looked like a regionally made film. Not just the Florida location shooting, but the amateurish room tone in the sound recording in a number of scenes, the use of real locations to avoid building sets, etc. It had the look of something made by William Grefe or Herschell Gordon Lewis....it looked like a slapstick comedy made by people who made southern drive-in films. Have you ever had the experience of watching a major star in some low-budget regional film or some straight-to-video feature? Henry Fonda in THE GREAT SMOKEY ROADBLOCK comes to mind or Tim Holt in Herschell Lewis’s THAT STUFF’LL KILL YA! There’s something off-putting about seeing someone you’re used to seeing in major studio productions put into a VERY different setting, and that’s the way Jerry Lewis appears in this Florida-helmed production.

Next, it plays like a series of Educational or Columbia comedy shorts, the kind Chris and I love and have championed for decades. This is PURE comedy. When you see a display of tires or a bottle of milk or a washing machine, you just KNOW it is going to be used for a slapstick set-up, and this film is all about slapstick set-ups. Each job Lewis gets becomes one or two set-ups, and then when he gets the job at the post office, it’s one set-up after another. Although there is a romantic sub-plot which takes up some screen-time later in the film, Lewis wisely never strays too far from the pratfalls.

In a two-reel comedy short, often times the two reels are only peripherally related to each other. Sometimes the entire first reel sets up the second, or the first and second reel  present different situations, united mostly by the buffoonery of the star. That’s what is going on here.

Speaking of comedy shorts, I’m reminded most of the comedy shorts that Harry Langdon and Buster Keaton made at Educational Pictures in the mid-30s. As with Lewis, they were no longer starring in their own features and were reduced to doing low-budget films where they re-worked some of their old routines and even got to work with some of their old colleagues, also now in reduced circumstances. Many of the routines in HARDLY WORKING are re-works of older Lewis set-pieces, and he brings back people like Susan Oliver, Harold J. Stone, Billy Barty, and Buddy Lester who’d worked with him in the glory days. HARDLY WORKING is not, however, really like the Columbia shorts of Keaton and Langdon, where they were shoehorned into the Columbia formula (funny as those shorts may be) and under the control of Jules White. Educational seemed to give Langdon and Keaton a free hand, as long as they stayed within budget. As Lewis directed this, co-wrote it, and has his stamp on every frame, it’s very much a Lewis creation, just in reduced circumstances...and on location in Florida.

The first thing many people mention about the film is the in-your-face product placement. Brad Kohler, who saw HARDLY WORKING at a drive-in when it came out, remembered little about the film when I asked him recently, but mentioned that at the time for him it was the first film where product placement called attention to itself. Hey, if that’s what it takes to get the film made, I’m all for it! Lewis clearly takes advantage of it for comic effect, essentially rubbing the audience’s nose in the name-brand products. For instance, the scene in the post office with the Dunkin Donuts on the boss’s desk, or the scene where after a long day, Lewis’s character wants a beer, and the Budweiser Clydesdales come waltzing around the corner and the musical score switches to a variation of the old “When you say Budweiser” commercial jingle that anyone in the audience would know. I wouldn’t be surprised if the US Postal Service was hit up for some kind of “promotional consideration” to help with the budget, in addition to providing the uniforms, postal jeeps, and mailrooms we see in the film’s middle section.

There’s also an interesting and jarring mix between the very realistic and the surreal in this film. Lewis clearly (as you can also notice in THE BELLBOY) had some painful employment experiences as a young person, and he’s working them out of his system in this film. That really made an impact on me when I saw the film originally----I remember thinking that I understood why European critics would praise Lewis for his skewering of capitalism or his depiction of the society of the spectacle or whatever. Anyone who has ever had a sadistic a-hole boss or worked a sh*tty job will know that Lewis has too, and he knows what it’s like. What’s odd though is that these sections of realism are mixed with surrealist flights such as the Goodyear blimp (product placement again!) sequences, or the rabbit invasion, or the Clydesdales coming out of the blue. Maybe this is some kind of comment on how a surreal imagination is one way to daydream and lose yourself while working a crappy job (it’s always worked for me!), or maybe Lewis is just the kind of man who’ll do ANYTHING for a laugh.. In any event, I feel that this mixture works, and worked for the audience I saw this with, who howled at every scene in the film.

With today’s jaded post-modern ironic stance, it’s refreshing to see the old-fashioned sentimentalism in this film. There are a number of almost tear-jerking sequences that show, once again, how well Lewis knows how to play an audience.

When this film was cut for American release, one thing was added: a short pre-credit montage of lightning-fast clips from Lewis’s earlier films, set to the rhythm of his old “typewriter” routine. This was a brilliant touch. Not only did it remind audiences of the day of Jerry’s comic greatness, it also reminded the children in the audience what a great funnyman this was and set the tone for the movie. My two year old grandson could watch this prologue and howl at it and KNOW what he was in for with the rest of the movie. When I saw HARDLY WORKING theatrically, the audience applauded wildly at the end of the montage (it ends with a segue into the clown character in the present-day plot, then fades, and then the credits begin)--in fact, some stood up and applauded during the pause after the montage and before the credits. There was still a lot of love for Jerry Lewis and his films when HW opened in 1981. The film did well on its US release, but Hollywood must have sensed that such success was a one-shot happening. When Lewis followed this up with another independently made pure visual comedy film----CRACKING UP (aka SMORGASBORD)----a few years later, a film that was more slickly made and even more purely physical comedy (and would appeal to any Lewis fan), it did not even get a US theatrical release (though again, it did well overseas). Lewis did not try again after that.CRACKING UP has such long physical comedy sequences, often with no dialogue, it seemed to be a homage to Jerry’s silent comedy heroes. Unfortunately, the silent film revival had not yet started in 1983, and one had to catch the film in the middle of the night on cable TV, and if you wanted a copy, you needed to tape it off the air at 3 a.m. (as I did).

Lewis still makes the news today in 2016. Every once in a while, you’ll hear about some controversy regarding some politically incorrect statement or joke Lewis makes in some backwater place he’s doing a show or overseas. As if anyone would expect (or want) him to do otherwise! And THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED makes the news anytime ten more seconds of it are found. And surveys of showbiz history still show the clips of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’s awkward “reunion” on a mid-70s MD telethon. Lewis is in that unfortunate area of show business where he is almost universally known, but his actual work is not that well known. While THE NUTTY PROFESSOR is well-known, largely through a horrible re-make with Eddie Murphy, how many people have been talking about THE BIG MOUTH or THE BELL BOY or THE PATSY or THE FAMILY JEWELS recently, outside of whatever small Lewis cult may exist on the internet? Unfortunately, not many....but then physical comedy never gets any respect. The late great Jim Varney wound up having his films going straight-to-video near the end of the run of his “Ernest” films. Larry The Cable Guy did a few hilarious films in a kind of redneck Bowery Boys vein, but those never gained much traction and he moved permanently to the greener pastures of live comedy shows and Pixar voice work. That’s the way it is...

We always hear about one group or the other talking about feeling unrepresented on the screen. For those of us who feel like OUR identities are best represented on screen by the clueless Shemp Howard or Larry Fine, or the grinning but out-of-it persona of Billy Benedict in a Bowery Boys movie (or Jerry Lewis), times are not good at the cinema. Whatever his flaws may be, I’m thankful that Jerry Lewis devoted his life to physical comedy. There’s a large body of work out there for future generations to enjoy....and HARDLY WORKING is a prime example. Of course, I’d love to have this get the Criterion treatment with the alternate release versions, commentary tracks, etc., but that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I did get the chance once to talk briefly with one of the stars of this film, the wonderful Deanna Lund, who is his romantic interest in the film and  the daughter of his boss at the post office, the gruff and hilarious Harold J. Stone. Ms. Lund is well-known for her work in the cult TV show LAND OF THE GIANTS and has many film and television credits, including successful runs on daytime dramas such as ONE LIFE TO LIVE and GENERAL HOSPITAL. She was appearing as a guest on a local radio talk-show in southwest Virginia, where I was living at the time (mid-to-late 80s). I don’t remember now what prompted her appearance on the show....was she appearing on stage in the area? shooting a film in the area? had she written a book?.....but she was on there, and I called in and told her how much I’d enjoyed her in HARDLY WORKING. She was gracious and charming as ever...and thanked me and said that she liked the film and that she’d been given a good role and was grateful to Jerry for that. Unfortunately, her work with Lewis was not why they had her on that radio show, so the host quickly moved her on to another subject....and I was no longer on the air. Still, I’m glad I got to tell Ms. Lund how much I enjoyed her in the film. If I could ever meet Jerry Lewis, I’d like to tell him how much I like it too. Lewis has kind of written it off in the past, saying that he was ill during its making and was in the midst of many difficult life situations at the time (he’d had to declare bankruptcy during this period) and was thus somewhat distracted. Perhaps, but Lewis is an old-fashioned professional. He could get the news that a family member died and still go out on stage and knock ‘em dead and no one would know anything was amiss. That’s the generation of performer Jerry Lewis was from. We will not see his kind again, unfortunately....