Sunday, September 05, 2004

Stu Daye-FREE PARKING LP (Columbia)

Only one LP for today's listening experience, the (as far as I know) debut disc from heavy metal somethingorother Stu Daye entitled FREE PARKING. This one came out in 1976 amidst a deluge of similar-minded heavy metal offerings (many of which were produced by Jack Douglas, who also handles the metallic production chores here), and like many of these mid/late-seventies toss-outs (especially those on Columbia's "sister" label Epic) they either seemed to go nowhere or make it big, with their legacy being the fact that they clutter up way too many "classic rock" stations with some of the worst offal imaginable. My interest was somehow piqued by Daye perhaps because he was part of the budding New York Scene (on and off) for about six or so years, and yeah, I know a few of you "readers" get so offended over me writing about just about anyone who's had any slight involvement with the New York Scene and that's your problem like I said, but look at it this way...I'm a fan, I have an interest in this movement and I like studying, listening to and writing about the New York (and related) seventies groups, clubs, scenes and happenings and if that makes me an unhip (whatever that means) nerd I guess that's your stupid opinion which you better keep to yourself lest you look even more retarded than the dorks who populate the pages of these "rock" magazines I've unfortunately had the mis-pleasure to come across over the past few months.

So (to borrow a phrase) who is Stu Daye? Beats me, though I can tell you what I do know. Daye's a guy who's been around on that aforementioned-to-death scene since at least the mid-seventies as the leader of this NYC hard rock act called New Model Army (no apologies to English creep Oliver Cromwell or the lame-o band of the eighties either!). This New Model Army also contained one Christian Osbourne, the guy who played dobro so masterfully on the first side of Yoko Ono's incredible FLY album and who later led a nth-string CBGB band called Uneasy Sleeper, as well as bassist Mark Abel who later ended up in City Lights, another "most likely to" band on the early CBGB scene who actually got signed to Sire and released an album in 1975 (see BLACK TO COMM #25 for a review of this album that could have gone somewhere but failed on most accounts).

As for Daye, he somehow got signed to Columbia and released this direct-to-oblivion album using the standard session men of the day (Tony Levin, Steve Gadd, Rick Marrotta...). Remember, these were the pre-vinyl shortage/profit crash days when all of the majors were signing just about every tin-horn singer/songwriter and heavy metal band left and right (just take a look through some old music mags of the day and see just how many acts who couldn't get arrested these days were getting record deals with all the biggies), so a hard rock guy like Daye would just fit in with the mode of the music that the likes of Columbia was pumping out at the time.

Lessee, nice typically surreal mid-seventies cover (hunters shooting automobiles from the sky), plus with the Jack Douglas production who could go wrong? Well, actually nothing really goes wrong here, only there isn't much right going for it anyway. FREE PARKING is what you would call a standard, maybe even "good" mid-seventies hard rock album, but there isn't much to discern it from the rest of the pack which also might have had their moments and all, but don't you need more than just moments to make even a halfway-decent rock album?

Actually, there are some good quasi-high energy moments extant. Yeah, they're typically seventies hard rock ones mind you, but they still sound good enough to capture your attention maybe if you have even an inkling of affection for the hard rock form (which I don't profess, but I still have a liking for heavy metal when it's run through a variety of punky/avant garde filters). Maybe Daye's days on the New York Scene helped hone him towards a less macho/more rockism course but whatever, some of the higher points here sound like something that I'm sure would have make a hit with the punkier aspects of seventies musical fandom who were brave enough to mix their metal and garage in the pages of such esteemed pubs as RAW POWER, DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN.

Some of this even sounds like heavy metal Dylan, such as on "The Witness," a strange distortion/lie dealing with the relationship between Jesus and Judas told by someone who was waitering at The Last Supper which I'm sure would have theologians scratching their beans from here to eternity, had this disc only gone somewhere. Faring much better is the hard rock version of Paul Simon's "The Boxer" which transcends the original with sleighbells and crunchy power-chords coming off remarkably better than Honey Davis and his cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." (Davis was this Johnny Winter-esque guy who spent quite a few years on the NYC club circuit before moving to Los Angeles and making a slightly bigger name for himself.) But frankly, most of this disc is plain ol' hard rock without the zip and zam that made a few hard rock bands transcend their by-then stale stature and zoom into high energy vistas which is where all good hard rock should go. (But whaddya expect considering the downer groove that stoner teenage Ameriga was in at the time?) The Stooges, Dictators, even Patti Smith on the Douglas-manned RADIO ETHIOPIA made it up there, but unfortunately Stu Daye remained down here with the rest of us.

But what FREE PARKING mostly reminds me of are some of the more heavy metal tracks that ended up on that second Max's Kansas City album, the one that earned Max's owner Tommy Dean a lotta death threats from assorted punks worldwide for its inclusion of a variety of kinda mainstream acts. These tracks, by such New York nth-stringers as Lance and Grand Slam, were actually listenable and perhaps even downright pleasing, but they weren't anything of what the seventies underground rock brigades who cut their teeth on Velvets and Dolls albums were expecting. Not surprisingly, these tracks were also produced by Douglas, who must have set some sort of record for most heavy metal productions of 1976 with all of these post-Aerosmith goodies that he ejaculated faster than Lancaster PA pops out Amish!

As for Daye, the only other thing I can find out about him is that around 1980 he got a power trio together with drummer Corky Laing (of West, Bruce and Laing fame) called the Mix, who not only played a gig at CBGB but released a mini-album. Unfortunately for all involved that trip ended in a haze of white stuff which I guess put Daye's chances for mass acceptance on permanent hold, but for obscuro-minded hard rock aficionados I guess this offering sure helps out more than had Daye went unnoticed, which is what happened with way too many people on the various seventies rock scenes who might have done better or worse than Daye, though my guess is that they probably did pretty much the same.

12 comments:

Malcolm Smart said...

I don't know where Stu is now (2006), but about 10 years ago, I played a one-night only gig with him, a guitarist who was fabulous and Paul someone-or-other on drums. The gig was at Lauterbach's on Prospect Avenue in Brooklyn, and was a tough little set. Stu was crazy, in a genius kinda way - completely wrapped up in his music. Had no idea when he was playing a 2/4 bar, because it was all about feel. Great voice, fantastic songs, and a guitarist-friend of mine in the audience called it the in-your-face guitar show of the year.

So Stu - where are you? And where's Paul?

Malcolm Smart (bass)

Anonymous said...

In looking for a little bit of information on some of my favorite bands of the late 70's, I did a search on The Mix and came across this blog. I and my friends just out of high school in college in NYC, were fans of this little known band and saw them at least a dozen times in various places around NYC...the old Lone Star, CBGB's and Trax to name a few. Stu Daye was a great front man and the combination of everyone in the band, although maybe sometimes conflicted actually made for a pretty entertaining set...that quick 40 minute NYC set. A lot of times, the crowds were kinda thin but anyone who was there were pretty blown-away

I still have their album...the cover artwork close-up of Stu's hand bleeding over his guitar. (Obviously Townsend influenced but still he did it well) The album led-off with Van Morrison's Glad Tidings.

After they broke up and a number of years later, we saw Stu's name advertised to play a set at Kenny's Castaways...can't really remember much about it except it wasn't like The Mix. But he was still as you said that crazy-genius, great voice and great guitar player.

Klazinus said...

Kochte dit album 1976 en kant 1 vond ik best goed en kant 2 wat minder. Maar wat doet Stu nu eigenlijk en waar is hij?

Christopher said...

Yah, das vuss goot! Aus vharm up und zein ahs!

Malcolm Smart said...

A Stu sighting - he came to gig of mine a couple of months ago in NYC (Spring 2008). He looked great - healthy and happy. Now living in London. Has a couple of albums coming out soon. Can't wait to hear them. He's a fabulous song-writer and has been working with some quality players, so the albums are likely to be first-rate.

Anonymous said...

thanks for more news about Stu

I can't wait no longer to hear more about Stu's doing.

What did the other members of that band?

Klazinus

Anonymous said...

hey all...Chris Meredith here...keyboard player for the Mix. I know Stu is London..Corky Laing..still doing stuff with Lesie West and lives in Canada...David Grahm is in NYC i believe had a single hit tune a long while back but have no idea what he's been up to.. I live out on Nantucket MA..and still do alot of playing. It was a great band..but lots of personal issues was its demise hahah.

Anonymous said...

Whats the chance of getting the Mix tunes on the net somewhere?

Anonymous said...

i seem to recall stu daye playing as the leader of "stu daye's streethearts", but i can't remember if that was before or after "free parking"...

Anonymous said...

STU WHERE ARE YOU??????????

Anonymous said...

Stu is alive and well and a good friend. Still living in London, he performs as Reverend Swifty Lazar. Him and a guitar, still singing and writing great stuff. Still one of the "guys" catch the Reverend if you can.

Anonymous said...

I have the Free Parking album. We all hear things differently. I 'heard' a lot of original stuff on there that DIDN'T sound like the standard Classic Rock of the day. The song that always has stuck with me is "Foxes Owl", but just about everything on the first side is better than average. I don't think that one or the song Sushi, or most of the rest of it sounds generic at all. You've heard another song with lyrics like Foxes Owl? Where? Also some pretty cool whammy bar stuff on the end of that one.

The more that I mature, the more I explore home recording, the more I listen, the more I find in this record. Top notch artist, session men, and producer.

My own opinion is that the initial review above was a bit on the harsh side. I would recommend this one. Put the headphones on and see for yourself.