Sunday, May 29, 2005

CD REVIEWS!

Just clearing out some of the disques that've made their way to my door before the really important stuff makes its way here, whatever that may be...

Trad Gras Och Stenar-MORS MORS; GARDET 12.6.70 (Subliminal Sounds)

I must say that in all honesty I gotta feel sorry for them Swedes. Not only do they hafta live in a climate so frigid that when it hits fifty degrees Fahrenheit they declare a national holiday but these sauna-sitters are consistently getting pegged as being a buncha pervos along with their Norwegian and not-so-great Danish neighbors (and y'know, these scandies have for years been thought of as being sooooo "open-minded" about s-x and up-to-date enough to consider marriage a lasting relationship between a man and his bovine, plus I understand there are a lotta nervous kiddies over there who flinch at the thought of attending casting calls for certain "movies")! And to top all of that off these folk were for YEARS considered the ultimate dumbiods to hit these Amerigan shores at least until the Polish grabbed the torch from their frostbit paws! (Remnants of the "dumb Swede" syndrome could be felt for years on end and not only in forties flicks featuring El Brendel but even the funny pages, as anyone who can remember Mr. Svenson, the janitor who gave Mr. Weatherbee so much grief in the ARCHIE comic strips and books can attest to.) Besides, what can you make of a nation that has produced such an abject weenie of a "rock & roll" aficionado as one Hineylick Olausson??? So, let's just say that the Swedes might have what you'd call an image problem, but it's not like wopadagos such as I can talk!

But when it comes to that selfsame rock & roll, well Sweden has come up with a few winners and I'm not talking Bo Hansson and his LORD OF THE RINGS album either (which used to linger in the record section of the local library years on end...) or even Union Carbide Productions who seemed like some great hope back in the late-eighties yet lost my attention early on. I'm not even talking the Nomads who seemed like one of those rockets outta nowhere with a brilliant debut and then little to back itself up on. Maybe the Leather Nun count even though they, like their big influence Genesis P'Utrid, seemed more or less geared for shock value but as far as bands that you could say represent the best that Swedish rock of the past has given us there's always...

Drat, I just can't think of any bands to come outta that scandie nation I could rank against the best the rest of the world has to offer! Not even these Trad Gras Och Stenar guys, a bunch who throughout the past four or so years have risen to the top of hipster underground rock consciousness almost in the same fashion that THE MUSIC OF BULGARIA album was the "must-hear" in-crowd disc of 1965 everyone from Paul Simon to David Crosby was hailing as the innovative breakthrough of the ages. (Lester Bangs later on admitted to sharing the same sympathies in case you want me to inject a bit of underground credo into this mix.) Whatever, this Swede bunch did at least have some true hard-edged scronk on the ball back in 1967 when they were traipsing around as Parson Sound, an avant-rock batch that seemed to mix the best moments of British and San Franciscan psychedelia with a hunka Terry Riley added for good measure (and a 2-CD set exists to prove it!), but as the decade lingered on and the name began to change with every release (International Harvester, Harvester then Trad Gras...) the music went from brilliant shards of almost Amon Duul-ish thud-quality to post-denouement visions of the Swedish wilderness almost like their West Coast counterparts and their trek from space cadets to Old West jamming-on-the-front-porch freaks.

Actually there is some music of worth here with the extended riffage showing some remnants of a Riley influence, but for the most part I wouldn't recommend these guys even with their unique take on Rolling Stones chestnuts and extended rave instrumentals. They're nice but nice in that if you only hear it once that's good enough for you. Nothing special and nothing really punk as in what a lotta their compatriots were doing in Germany at the same time, and with money getting to be such a tight commodity nowadays it's not like you should be throwing it around on recordings that are good but not quite enveloping. Now, some mp3 clips I've heard via other endeavors sound a lot more promising and their other reissues just might fill the bill, but for now I'm going to stick with Parson Sound and toss these Trad Gras Och Stenar disques in the back of my collection with those Pharoah Sanders late-seventies schmoozeathons and various other platters I keep telling myself I'll dig out in play in a year or so's time, but never do get around to 'em anyway.

The Doors-OTHER VOICES; FULL CIRCLE

For some strange reason I decided to pick up this bogus-legality CD-R of the final two post-Morrison Doors albums. I dunno why...perhaps I had the same curiosity about them I had when I was a kid flipping through the record bins seeing these platters just wondering what they sounded like (as I did with most of the albums I'd chance upon back then), or maybe it was the same infatuation I had looking at the dead rabbit down the street that the neighborhood kids held a mock funeral for. Maybe it was reading that "Keeping Up With Youth" article by Pamela Swift that appeared in the local paper that said the Doors were doing a very good job without Jim Morrison and his "watch me drop my knickers" act (after all these years, that line still sticks in my mind!). Who knows, it could be the review of OTHER VOICES in THE ROLLING STONE BOOK OF PRETENTIOUS AND OVERWROUGHT RECORD REVIEWS (actually a great read for "the masters" but for little else) which compared "Tightrope Ride" to the Velvets and Them. Of course I got it because I'm just grasping at straws, looking for an interesting new/old musical hook to latch my psyche onto and this CD-R seemed like the closest thing possible. Boy, I'm getting desperate in my old age, ain't I?

Desperate enough that I actually plunked down hard-begged moolah on this stinker I woulda laughed at only five/ten/twenty years back. Really, this is a load of lackluster musical musings that only proves that while Jim Morrison was self-absorbed and narcissic and pretty much part and parcel to the whole post-hippie crackup PROBLEM, the Morrison-less Doors were merely the dirt being tossed on the Youth Culture grave. Only one worthie in the bunch, and that's the stable cover of "Good Rockin' Tonight" which at least echoes back to Morrison's early rockabilly roots even if he ain't around anymore (well, these guys hadda feast on something!). However, if you wanna hear mock Mexican-accented vocals singing about mosquitoes botherin' you to the point of not being able to eat your burrito sung by a buncha guys who may have looked daring with those winsome poses in 1967 but come off 100% silly in '72, this is the disque for you!

The Seeds-THE SEEDS/A WEB OF SOUND (GNP Crescendo)

There've been so many Seeds repackages over the years that it's hard to keep track of 'em, but this one (an original 1987 issue?) at least collects the first two classic Seeds platters on one silver dollar which suits me fine given this ain't just another collection of previously-released material tossed out at you with little regards for song selection or packaging. First disc's one of the all-time killer debuts not only featuring the hit "Pushin' Too Hard" but the rest of the legendary near-clashes and outright surprises like "No Escape," "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" and "Try To Understand" all done with the great Sky Saxon hiccuppy snarl. Nice but I still prefer followup A WEB OF SOUND not only for its darker image and daring for a "teenybopper" group dope and girls nudge-nudge, but for the 14:27 closer "Up In Her Room" which, as Lenny Kaye surmised, was more or less the result of a buncha guys riffing and building on a theme in a way that mirrored their Los Angeles punk rock lifestyles. Nothing wrong with that as opposed to the Velvet Underground developing and honing "Sister Ray" as an avant garde classical composer would have written a piece to be performed in concert, because since the finished product is so similar in many ways (as well as different in many others, but we won't go into that now!) its futile to argue. I'm sure you've owned these classics in a variety of forms for years now, but if not a good time to get ahold of 'em is always in the here and now!

Tony Conrad with Faust-OUTSIDE THE DREAM SYNDICATE 2-CD SET

Additional CD has those EP tracks that I missed out on back in the early-nineties plus the complete take of "From the Side of Woman and Mankind" which I assume is just another, longer version of "From the Side of Man and Womankind" proving these avant gardists have a strange sense of humor. Actually, these post-Lamonte Young drones make for fine background reading sounds or just plain adventures in sonic endurance, depending on how bad that throbbing in your head is. Interesting note...the first tape of this I ever got was via Philip Milstein of WHAT GOES ON/Pep Lester fame way back in 1984, the flipside of the tape resplendent with a recording of none other than another Milstein fave, the Lester "Roadhog" Moran LIVE FROM JOHNNY MACK BROWN HIGH SCHOOL album! Talk about a clash of civilizations!!!

Nico with John Cale-LIVE IN NEW YORK CBGB'S 2-CD SET

Do you ever get hold of a record or tape or CD or something along those lines only to end up losing it in the massive collection you've accumulated over the past few millenniums? If so, you and I have a similar problem (I still can't find my reissue of the Scott Morgan debut single I lost about five years ago!). Howevah, I am sometimes lucky enough to FIND said lost items such as this, a 2-CD bootleg of Nico and John Cale appearing at that famed New York eatery CBGB during the height of the avant-punk in 1979. Accompanied by the acoustic guitar of Ashra/Agitation Free member Lutz Ulbricht who at that time was the pillow plunge nearest and dearest to Nico's heart (and he was over 15 as well!), Nico's grande return to New York and in the middle of a New York renaissance of sorts was yet another much-needed boost to an already-soaring scene that would plunge within a few short years. Not only that, but from what I've heard these shows with Cale have been declared classic by more than a few people who tend to declare such shows classic so maybe that's another reason to latch onto these non-CD-R silver platters as soon as you can! Because of the place and time I can appreciate this set showing Cale at his most romantic and Nico at her gothest, and it's undoubtedly because I was alive and aware of this music, this scene and what it meant to more people than myself at the time that the pow'r still strikes me and not in some phony "nostalgic" way either! Sound quality's a little shaky (but improved by the CD digital format), the audience is high and rowdy (ie. some bozo asks Nico if she'd do an album with Patti Smith!) and although there are only two track from THE MARBLE INDEX that show up (def. highpoint in history of world, somewhere between the atom bomb and DOBIE GILLIS) I say it's worth paying the usual ripoff prices if you tend to go for this sorta sway like I do in months with the letter "r" innit.

An aside: Nico was rather active in New York during this period in time before she moved on to a more lucrative alternative/dark European mode in the eighties (recording a series of unexciting discs in the process), at one time even having a band with none other than new flavor of the week Cheetah Chrome that actually performed two gigs, one at "performance space" the Squat Theater and the other at none other than oldtimey Nico watering hole Max's Kansas City. You would've thunk that somebody out there'd've recorded these shows for posterity thinking that twenty-five years down the line (meaning NOW) somebody (me!) might like to hear such historically-meaningful sounds (and never mind "now"...I wanted to hear it real bad "then" as well!) but it looks as if nobody's come front and forward with any tapes, CDs, vinyl etc. for anyone's perusal. In fact, given that the opening act fot the Max's gig was none other than yet-another-flavor-of-the-week bunch (mainly Mission of Burma, a group who I have no use for given not only their proto-alternative image but the people in blogland who like them, with perhaps the exception of their backing Boston hero Dan Ireton for a Dredd Foole and the Din record) you'd think that maybe even they would have mentioned this grouping in a series of interviews but if so they've sure kept quiet with regards to sharing the bill with such a class act. Anyway, if someone wants to make a mint off my precious dinero all they hafta do is release a lotta those rotting tapes of seventies New York underground groups both known and not, and hopefully before it all crumbles to dust like too many other past gulcheral heights (silent movies come to mind) have o'er the years.

Suicide-ATTEMPTED: LIVE AT MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1980 CD

Whereas CBGB might have seemed like a trendy underground rock Bowery mission for self-proclaimed toughs once the mid-seventies fashionable cool led to late-seventies punk wavedom, Max's Kansas City seemed to remain the futuristic vision noteworthies such as Lillian Roxon hailed it as during the final moments of the previous decade when all the "underground" hadda bank itself on were the Velvet Underground and Stooges. Or at least that's the impression I got reading rock mags at the time...y'see, to me the Ramones and Blondie and their "ilk" were part of a more commercial punquey and perhaps less-enthralling underground camp while on the other hand the Max's groups were the ones developed from the sixties spiritual drive of the Velvets and Silver Apples with acts such Walter Steding, the Contortions and Pere Ubu presenting the same kinda visions one probably could have found in the same place ten years prior. Of course, this was before I discovered that the same lowbrows that played one club played the other and vicey-versey and that in fact those lowbrows were pretty good once I got off my preconditioned high-horse, but I guess that was just me as a kid, looking for signs and evidence and facts and nuances w/regards to trends, interpreting them all wrong most of the time (or so it seemed).

Anyhoo, this is yet another classic live platter from the infamous Suicide, a professionally recorded one to boot documenting a 1980 gig at Max's probably during the winter and at what I believe was their last appearance at that infamous dive (the Alan Vega Band would appear there well into their final summer if I'm not mistaken, at a time when the change in New York underground attitude was beginning to be noticed). And while that New York Rock was perhaps beginning to change from its early-seventies roots at this time so were Suicide...in some ways a lot of the dark energy and terror that soaked up their earlier recordings (at least the ones released to the public whether legally or not) is gone, yet these guys are a far way from some of the soft schmooze they were going to be dishing out at us once the late-eighties got into gear. And yeah, I know that Suicide's less-enthralling second album had just been released at the time and that the Revega duo were on their way to becoming well-groomed product for the tail end of the new wave experience, but this show (like a variety of live tapes of the day cluttering up my collection) still has some of the mad brain-twist and avant garde pounce that drew fans like flies only two years earlier. With a lotta the recent live exhumations fighting it out for your dollar it might be wise to put this one primo on your want list, though to be honest and all I wouldn't exactly rush out and buy it especially if you need the money for a Chinese Food fix or somethin'.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those post-Morrison Doors albums were always regarded pretty lowly. I could have warned you about them.

You might not want to admit it because it doesn't go with your east coast-centric weltaanschung which has also caused you to play down UK acts of the time (not to mention your dismissal of Love) but the Doors WITH Morrison were just as responsible for the whole underground rock phenomenon of the 70s as the VU were. This is by no means a denigration of the Velvets, one of my fave bands of all time - but I don't think there would have been a Stooges, a Patti Smith, a Suicide, etc. without the REAL Doors -i.e. with Morrison, as the other guys just didn't have the spirit on their own. (I will say, as much as you might hate to hear it, that John Densmore was a better drummer than Mo Tucker - Mo is my least fave aspect of the VU, and their only flaw imo)

Funny though - the Doors were one of those bands whose best periods were their early stuff AND their late stuff (I'm not counting the albums you reviewed, by later stuff I mean Morrison Hotel and LA Woman), while their middle period (The Soft Parade, even Waiting For The Sun) is their worst.

anyways - these are my thoughts, I don't mean to give you any crap or anything but I thought I'd let them be known. - Michael

Christopher said...
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Christopher said...

No crap at all even though I disagree with you about the Robbie Densmore vs. Maureen Tucker battle of the drums and maybe a few other minor points. As for Love, I liked most of what I've heard even though when I first heard them they didn't do a thing for me at all (too much of the patented Electra sound to soothe my garage-punk appetite?) and of course I know just how much the Doors had to do with a lotta underground rock both east and west coast as well as in the UK as well. I do tend to play it all down though, perhaps because of the inner bias you mentioned. Maybe not...all depends on the weather I guess! I will have to agree with the anti-Doors people on more counts though...I guess it could all be summed up by Russell Desmond in his putdown of the Stranglers when he said that punk based on the Doors did not satiate him as much as punk based on the Stooges. As for Densmore and Tucker, sure he could "play rings" around her, but her style was especially suited for the Velvets sound and attack a lot more than if they had a standard rock drummer. But as for those final two Doors platters...maybe I should have notified you first...

Christopher said...

Wait, that's John Densmore, right? And Robbie Krieger was the guitarist???