I don't mind sounding like a luddite one bit when I repeatedly lament the slow and lingering death of the vinyl record. For me, the record in all of its variations and incarnations (not only with the surprise packaging gatefold or otherwise but even colored vinyl and picture discs) represents the high-point of the musical artifact as being actual art, and I do mean art as something that affected you on a gut, perhaps intellectual on some levels work of beauty at a time and place when things like going to the record shop and browsing through all of those albums with the wild covers you didn't think you would ever own was part and parcel of any young turdball of a pathetic human being's rite of passage from ineffectual pre-pubescent slob to full-grown throbbing wad of angst and acne. Compact Discs may be "cool" if only to bring more of the music you've wanted to hear for years on end to your ears, but next to LPs and singles...forget it!!! I can't shop for CD's the way I could with vinyl, and after looking back at the GOLDEN AGE OF RECORD BINS when rock-as-art truly transcended just being mere product I KNOW that a huge big chomping part of me and my heritage has been thrown down the chute when the vinyl supply was replaced by CDs! And call me a sentimental ol' wimp but yeah, it does give me a big hulking LUMP in my throat when I think of all those great hours of searching through tons of vinyl looking for long-ignored obscurities and interesting import variations being nothing but memories of days which were more of a "best/worst of times" scenario than anything Chaz Dickens could come up with! Sniff blubber!!! (Excuse the extreme wordiness of this paragraph, but I do get overwhelmed at times!)
Anyway, this here's a report of my July 11th BLOG TO COMM listening party which features a number of bona-fide vinyl platters rescued from ebay auctions, Tim Ellison and even a flea market which I know that hardly anybody outside the three people who actually read this blog would want to care about but hey, maybe you can find a shard of something worthy in this batch of platters that just might light a candle in that fogged bean of yours. I should tell you that this is only a selection of vinylaties I've gotten hold of since the beginning of the year or so...some will be reviewed in the upcoming BLACK TO COMM whenever that may be, some (like the Harvest Heritage twofer of the first couple Kevin Ayers albums) were passed on because I reviewed CD variations on this blog relatively recently, while even more that I planned on spinning today (like the Lisa Burns album on MCA) will have to wait until I can find 'em! But for now settle back, kick up your pods and prepare to be bored out of your mind even more...
John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band-"Make Love to the End" one-sided flexi (bootleg)
This track remained a mystery for ages. I first read about the session from which I'm positive this track was taken from in one of those John Lennon memorial magazines that came out in the wake of his death, where a John Peel BBC recording featuring John, Yoko and some hairy primates who weren't either of 'em were let loose in the studios making a wild racket that seemed part and parcel to the avant garde noise the two were making at the time! Sounded like the ultimate Plastic Ono Band getdown meets THE HATHAWAYS to me, and for years I pondered just how these recordings might've come off thinking up all sorta strange tangents like I usually do; y'know, John and Yoko panting like wild beasts while the monkeys were creating feedback and banging on all sorts of items making a new music akin to the Godz in the middle of an anxiety attack! By the late-eighties or so, this flexi (sleeve mentioning Ringo Starr and Mal Evans but no chimpanzees as session mates!) popped up and naturally the track made it onto at least one Lennon CD boot, but as soon as it was released various "Beatle" experts were going on record calling it a fake! All of which added to the mystery even more...and you could bet that this thing was kinda high on the list as far as sonic obscurities I needed to hear, although after a time (even after I had bid on and won this thing via eBay) I wasn't exactly rushing to the turntable to get an earfull! Even I am shocked at my recent jadedness which is a 180-degree turnaround from my past obsessive/compulsive rockism...I really should do something about it!
So what this flexi entails is a fairly good-sounding recording featuring John laying down some acoustic guitar riff not that different from the folkie stuff he was doing at the bed-ins whilst singing one of those hootenanny singy-songy things prominently featuring the title, Yoko singing and hooting along as a piano is pounded seemingly along with the music, but it does get rather atonal as the song proceeds. Could this be Son of Cheta tinkling the ivories (amongst other things???) or perhaps Mal or Ringo, who might have the mental abilities to create such avant gardities??? Midway through, John and Yoko take time out to do their smoochy romance thing as the song re-starts with John strumming/singing, and Yoko seemingly panting and yammering about with some others who may be more of the sessioning simians for all we know! A strange one I'd stick on a bootleg of John and Yoko experimental hoo-hahs with some unreleased takes of "What's Your New Mary Jane" were I to do one. As for the naysayers. if that ain't John and Yoko in there then it's a pretty good impersonation of 'em, and maybe someone oughta give 'em credit for doing it in a totally believable way!
THE EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND-A BUNCH OF 45s LP (Harvest England)
One of the planned essays I have in store for the next BTC is a thingie on the Harvest label, the division of EMI/Capitol that's probably best known for its "progressive" image thanks to their #1 labelmates Pink Floyd, but there was a lot more to them than a varied assortment of obtuse synth-rock and later on such inanities as the Little River Band (whom I expressed interest in at the time solely because they were on Harvest and I thought they might have had that Harvest osmosis or something!!!). Naturally I was going to go into all that rot in the piece but I dunno...I mean, I'm not that sure there will even be a new issue, at least not in this modern rockism stratum of ours. But that's another story, and until I can get enough ideas, pix, stories, reviews and gumption to slap another of these things together maybe I'll just dole out to you three eager readers some tasty tidbits of what might be in store the next time you hop on over to the local shop to pick up your fresh copy, along with some denture cream and Geritol of course! (Believe me, it probably will take that long!!!)
Anyhoo, in the mid-seventies the Harvest label issued a whole slew of LPs on their classy budget Harvest Heritage imprint. Many of these were collections of a and b side non-LP tracks along with hits of varying stripes, some were reissues of early, by-then o.p. albums (like the first two EMI-era Pretty Things offerings), and a lot of these new releases weren't actually Harvest product but other EMI worthies that someone there thought would benefit from the Harvest association, like the Tomorrow album which now boasted an arty deco-y color cover similar to Harvest Heritage's repackaging of the first two Kevin Ayers discs, complete with Yes-ter Steve Howe's name in big bold letters in order to dupe pill-addled kids into thinking this was another progressive electronic-fest, I guess.
Fortunately the Edgar Broughton Band got the Harvest royal treatment with this neat-o collection of LP highlights and b-side treasures. Broughton and co. were perhaps the better of the early Harvest roster, the only thing there that really could lay claim to a late-sixties punk ethos akin to what the Deviants, Killing Floor and Stackwaddy were doing elsewhere which should be a surprise especially from a label that seemed to steer clear of primitivism and non-progressive concerns. True not all of their songs were exactly top-notch and could at times be downright folksy/woodsy, but they sure cut a nice path when they were doing everything from mixing Captain Beefheart and "Apache" and sounding like some 1962 British garage band suddenly transported ten years into the future benefitting from the weird gulcher shock. This LP captures the best, from their street rock-y snot rants which remind me of the Fugs without the Marxy intellect to the aforementioned halfway-there folkisms as well as the outright blast, like LP closer "Out Demons Out" where they take the Fugs' protest and turn it into a bonfide metallic rave that, like a lotta the krautrock and avant-progressions of the day, both the aerie art-rock types and proto-punkers of the time would have laid claim to as "their own." And something tells me that there might have been a lotta overlapping going on back then between the two camps, if you know what I mean!!!
(An interesting inside note, BLACK TO COMM CD cover boy and wrestling editor Imants Krumins tells me that he actually attended the same school as Broughton, and at the same time as well! It was 1964 and Krumins was a rosy-cheeked 12-year-old entering the hallowed halls of learning while Broughton was a bloodshot and not-so-sweet-16 getting tossed out on his heels for smoking, long hair and bad attitude. Which only goes to show you kids...just grow your hair long, smoke and have a bad attitude and YOU TOO could end up a SUCCESS like Broughton and not the downright professional nine-to-fiver Krumins turned out to be! Just kidding, Imants!)
THE WORLD OF DAVID BOWIE LP (Decca England)
Back when David Bowie was making it big with confused teenage boys who didn't know whether or not they "were," (but not with ME...in fact, in my circle we used to refer to the "man" as "David Blowme" which only goes to show you the ramptant pro-hetero feelings I exuded even then!) Bowie's old label was reissuing his wares in an attempt to make up for old losses which seemed natural for a lotta seventies successes back then. I remember the US version of these recordings which I believe came out in a two-LP set on either Deram or London...it had this garish pop-arty wraparound which looked as if the label had hired that guy who did the feh cover of THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (the one on Mercury you saw in cutout bins for ages) to illustrate the songs appearing on it kinda like on CHEAP THRILLS or a lotta those William Stout bootleg covers. There was this time my father took my sister and I to this Saturday morning sale at the Westinghouse plant where he worked, and amidst the display of cheapo Westinghouse radios and kitchen appliances that hardly lasted a year being sold at cheap prices that were still too high considering their quality was a table where some cutout records were on sale, the London reissue of pre-fame Bowie amongst them. I recall eyeballing and seriously considering buying it since the price was affordable for a kid of my stature and hey, I wanted to have records like all the "grownup" kids, but despite some inter-mind debate the platters remained in the bin...after all, the guy behind the table sellin' these wares looked like Archie Bunker and was giving me some angry and upset look as if I was contributing to the decline and downfall of the world as we know it (and maybe I was come to think of it!), and I did get the ol' creeps with ol' Archie leering like that so I put the thing down ne'er to hear the music within its grooves...
...until now, that is. This is the Decca import budget take on the same material minus a disc-worth I guess, and it was pretty easy-to-find at the time even appearing (along with Deep Purple's UK greatest hits collection and a variety of inexpensive overseas Stones collections like ROCK & ROLLING STONES) in department store record bins which usually stuck to the domestic product. Nice cover too, combining a Ziggy-period cover snap with budget consciousness (song titles on front, pix and listing of others in "The World Of..." series on the back) which charms the cockles of my heart reminding me of the true cheapness of rock & roll so rare these days. Unfortunately the music doesn't really thrill me, coming off more like a late-sixties harpsichord/orchestra rock-y thing with no real style or smash and a general blandness that makes the entire proceedings instantly forgettable. Only the "Hey Joe"-hooked "She's Got Medals" works, only because of the "Hey Joe" hooks mind you. And people talk about David Bowie "rescuing" Lou Reed's career...wasn't it the other way around, since Bowie's best moments were more or less Velvet Underground riffage filtered through his chameleon persona to varying effects!
THE PALEY BROTHERS & RAMONES-"Come On Let's Go"/"Magic Power" 45 (Sire)
Never did get around to buying the Paley Brothers album, but the 45s I got at least whet a bitta the ol' appetite. A-side features the Brother meeting Da Brudders (neat, eh???) on a Ritchie Valens classic that suits both camps fine, while flip's more of a seventies pop thing (w/o any Ramones involvement) that sounds like the better part of the AM-pop equation that used to get the folks at THE ROCK MARKETPLACE all hot 'n bothered along with Michael Brown and Sparks (it was produced by Earle Mankey). It doesn't exactly have me jumping up and down but I like it more than I like some of the wimpier takes on AM pop that were going on back then (y'know, songs about having sex in customized vans) which made a lotta unworthies rich while the Paleys hadda shake down bums for cab fare home!
LESTER BOWIE-Fast Last! LP (Muse)
Lester (no relation to David) Bowie's playing a lot looser on this '74 outing featuring a lotta the St. Louis BAG guys like Julius Hemphill, this at times even going more into a Human Arts Ensemble direction at least while they were doing their tributes to early-seventies Miles. It's interesting to note that "Lonely Woman" starts off almost exactly like the opening notes of Hemphill's REFLECTIONS album recorded a few years earlier. And if you've wanted to hear an avant take of "Hello Dolly," well, I don't think Louie Armstrong would approve but you might! While not always the all-out intense ball-of-nerves that the Art Ensemble of Chicago could be, it does manage to please with its variety. Best track by far, LP closer "F Troop Rides Again" which maybe shoulda been called "O'Rourke and Agarn Get Tortured by the Indians" or something like that. This features Bowie on trumpet while Philip Wilson, Jerome Cooper and Charles Bobo Shaw bang away on drums not quite creating a wall-of-racket akin to fellow Art Ensembler Roscoe Mitchell screeching with Cooper and Don Moye on the final side of WILDFLOWERS but it's nerveracking itself!
THE BLUES PROJECT-Live at the Cafe Au Go Go" LP (Verve-Forecast)
Never did cozy up to the idea of the Blues Project being actual sixties garage band PUNKS like I'm sure some of you figured they were...true, their "No Time Like the Right Time" track on NUGGETS, although good enough in a mid-sixties and just about EVERYTHING is top notch anyway fashion, still sounded like it was being played by folkies and jazz guys trying to get in on the rock & roll game. And okay, there really wasn't anything wrong with that at least until the artistic pretentions got the best of these musicians, but it still wasn't like the unmitigated joy I could get listening to Sky Saxon or Gerry Roslie belt their way through some deceptively simple two chord rockers sounding more like the kinda guys I wanted to be 'n not some uppercrust snobs, which is kinda the way I had the Blues Project figured. I mean, look at their credentials...Blood Sweat and Tears...JUDY COLLINS fercryinoutloud...it certainly wasn't like those punks who either continued on as punks throughout the seventies and eighties up until today mind you or at least ended up losing their minds enough that you could forgive the hippie excesses despite some still hot punk wailings from the likes of Sky and Roky!
So maybe I did have some trepedation over playing this one, a fifty-cent mint find obtained at a downtown Oil City flea market of all places! Anyway, any fear I might have harbored over this one soon disappeared after plunking down the needle and hearing the fine live sounds emanating from my cheapo speakers. Yeah it's "nicely performed" and it doesn't have the bared-wire intensity of the Hawks' still-garage-at-this-point playing on Bob Dylan's ROYAL ALBERT HALL boot, but at least the Spirit of '66, the idea that rock & roll can develop and evolve sans all the higher-minded, noble (hah!) aspects of "youth culture" still seemed to be in charge. Only the late-sixties punks knew enough of course, but in the mid-sixties the concepts of facial hair and Nehru Jackets and Philiosophy 101 hadn't quite had their grip on slot-car, Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids yet, and neither did the intellectual rockers get that discombobulated as well!
Of course it ain't a Sonics album...lead singer Tommy Flanders sounds like he's torn between wanting to be Jim Morrison or Steve Alaimo, and Jim Morrison wasn't even big then! The music seems too well-rehearsed and sans any fly specks or grit that made mid-sixties rock so engaging. Still, I can enjoy this if I get my mind into a 1966 groove, and sure it ain't as top echelon 1966 as a 1966-kinda guy like Greg Prevost would want it but it's a lot more palatable than things were going to get in a few years time. Squint your ears and the Blues Project can sound half-decent on "Back Door Man" and even on such folk-rock covers as "Catch the Wind" and "Violets of Dawn" which yeah, sounded a lot better when played by then-contemporary San Francisco bands but hey, they can't all be the Beau Brummels! Worth the fifty pennies you'll hafta plunk down at the flea market of your choice!
THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA-Showdown LP (Harvest England)
OK, no more Harvest discs after this one! (And I had a few planned too, really!) But as for the band, er, orchestra in question...believe me, most people think of ELO as being some bland and soppy mid-to-late-seventies pop act awash in strings, and while that may be the case some of the time and especially during their reign on the top 40 charts, at least during their early days (when Roy Wood fortunately kept Jeff Lynne from overdoing his Beatles-fixation) they had some spark of early-seventies progressive RESTRAINT that made their Harvest-period as true to the label's smart-pop credo (at least some of the time) as Kevin Ayers and fine enough that people along the lines of Greg Shaw, Alan Betrock and Crescenzo Capece were praising ELO to the proverbial rafters. Some of this is a good, practical application of rock with intellectual moves a la the Harvest-era Move numbers from whence the Orchestra sprang...in fact, I thought part of "From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)" sounded like the spoken interlude from Roxy Music's "The Bob (Medley)" while "Queen of the Hours" reminds me of what 1967 non-
CAN-Soon Over Babaluma LP (United Artists England)
Naw I ain't hearing this one for the first time...I've had SOON OVER BABALUMA for well over a decade but since it was on the pile I decided to give it a try and...hey, why not write about the thing since I don't think I ever did before, right? Oddly enough this is the first Can LP I can remember seeing in the import section of my fave record shop, along with such other Can offerings as MONSTER MOVIE, LIMITED EDITION (the one with the white mice crawling in and out of a doll house), and that one with yet another white mouse crawling on a Campbell soup can. Getting that bit of useless autobiographical jive outta my way all I gotta say is that this is Can at perhaps the end of their greatness right before they started getting into reggae and near-disco which might have suited the early-eighties UK dance rock crowd that came out of the new wave just ducky but did very little for me!
At least at this point Can were still riding the crest of their early-seventies accomplishments with a sound and vision that sounded "cool" despite the moves into more progressive territory (like many on the United Artists rosters from Amon Duul II and Hawkwind to Neu!, it seemed as if Can still paid homage to their sixties garage roots even this far down the line). Jazzier moments recall the sound of early-seventies Miles when he was devoting more time to his organ shreds (can you think of a better way to describe his playing?) which the late Robert Quine had repeatedly compared to the same avant-breaking stratum that the Velvets and Stooges had delved into only a few short years prior. I'm not sure what a lot of the Can fanatics or otherwise hanger on types may think, whether Can "lost it" when Malcolm Mooney left, when Damo Suzuki left, when Holger Czukay moved over to radios and gadgets or whatever, but for me it was this period of Can that did the last truly innovative, psyche-grabbing music that they could ever muster up. Listening to them years later only makes me wish I had the moolah (and smarts) to pick this and their other import goodies up at the time when they could have made a super impression on me (age fifteen!) rather'n a few years later when at first I didn't "get it" then fell like a ton of bricks! And one more thing...I gotta admit that I like Michael Karoli's violin playing a lot, though shouldn't that duty have been relegated to Irmin Schmidt? After all, he was the John Cale of the group!
Sunday, July 11, 2004