VICARIOUSNESS PART WHATEVER
Hiya, and how are you Western Pee-Yayers enjoying this warm weather we're having right now? Too bad it has to be dreary and overcast, but it's sure nice to wear sweatshorts around the house for the first time this year! Spring's only a few weeks away and it looks as if we're already getting a taste of May weather...now's all we need is a big thunderstorm to shake things up a bit. And with the trees still bare it's great looking out my bedroom window being able to see the wide panorama of lightning striking...beautiful especially if you're fantasizing that your enemies are the ones that are getting the pounding! Brings back memories of the old days when Sam would go nuts and knock everybody over at the sound of an extra-loud thunderclap!
Enough nostalgia...here's a buncha old/new/borrowed/blue items that have been occupying my time as of late. And (believe it or not) I know that you will find some worth (visceral or not) in this flotsam of featured goodies that'll enrich your low-budgeted lifestyle or my name isn't Dave Lang!
The Stranglers-THE EARLY YEARS CD (Newspeak England)
It'll probably come to no surprise to you that I never considered the Stranglers one of yer "upper echelon" (if there is such a thing) British late-seventies punk rock groups. It's not necessarily because they were a good half-generation older than the rest of the British punks who were so youth-conscious to the point of unmitigated ageism, nor was it the fact that they were more than a little too sex-mad for my decidedly non-prurient tastes (and they must've been even more libido-loving than Frank Zappa himself...after all, why else would they want to romp around with Cherry Vanilla in the pages of some "men's magazine"???)...maybe my disliking of the Stranglers could be summed up the same way Russell Desmond did in the pages of CAN'T BUY A THRILL #4 when he said that any punk group that would replace the Velvet Underground with the Doors as far as a basis went certainly was lacking more than a little SOMETHING...
Still I picked this one up perhaps for the same reason I just purchased such never-thrilled-me items as Siouxie and the Banshees' THE SCREAM...and that's in order to reassess my sense of punkism over a quarter-century down the line. And what a better way to do that than pick up this platter of pre-United Artists (or A&M inna US of Whoa)-era material that features the Stranglers in that nifty proto-punk setting that I seem to prefer more to the actual anarchy of it all. After all, there are a good portion of tracks here dating from the classic days of rumbling-under ('74/'75), and better to listen to this stuff in the context of Rocket From The Tombs rather than Devo.
Actually the '76 demos that start this disque off have a nice garage-y feel to 'em that does owe as much to a British sense of Velvetisms as opposed to the Doors-worship that soured the group for me, at least a bit (yes, there was a time when I was just as upfront and CENTER a fan of Jim Morrison and company as many of you blogsters out there...well, not that much). The October '76 live tracks that follow are closer to the Stranglers we all know thus no huge revelation here (plus the obvious audience-quality cassette sound makes this more or less for the diehards), although the '74 demos that follow are surprisingly well-crafted pop (such as on "Strange Little Girl" who remind me of some late-sixties pop-rock act whose name escapes me)...though the Doors-cum-Iggy blooze of the closing live track from '74, "Queen of the Streets" doesn't even deliver halfway. I'll take Celia and the Mutations over this anyday!
The Velvet Underground-OSTRICH/HILLTOP CD (Colosseum bootleg, probably of Italian heritage)
As with just about everything else going on within my musical parameters, I'm re-evaluating my opinions regarding the Doug Yule-period Velvet Underground. And yeah, I was one fellow who followed the usual partyline rant going on since day one (or at least the early-seventies) regarding just how much John Cale was the "real" leader of the Velvets whose lack of presence in the band's latterdays turned them from the bestest, ultimate rock/art statement into just a pretty good dance band. Well, I certainly still DO feel that the Velvets lost more'n a little of their beautiful spiritual soul when Cale departed from their ranks, but to say that the Doug Yule days weren't without their heights of total avant-punk bliss would be misconstrued. After re-reading and re-re-reading ALL YESTERDAY'S PARTIES (a book which has come to be for me what THE BIBLE is to Lucas McCain or THE RENE GUYON SOCIETY HANDBOOK is to Dave Lang) and Lou Reed's fantastic 10/69 interview reprinted therein (where he gets into a spaced discussion of the Velvets and their place within an avant-rock confine almost worthy of John Cale talking about changing weather with music three years earlier) or better yet the reviews of the group's Max's Kansas City residency which compare the 1970 model to the 1966 one with an even-more streamlined approach (not forgetting that great 5/70 Philly tape where Lou creates that beautiful feedback-loop sound on "Oh Sweet Nothin'", a song that had me crawling the walls and ready to slit my throat while a senior in high school and I even told one of my teachers and he looked at me like I was nuts)...all I gotta say is that although John Cale may have left the Velvet Underground the Velvet Underground never left him no matter how many disgruntled artrockers out there may think otherwise! (And not-so-oddly enough, Peter Laughner himself thought that the Yule period band was much better'n the original model, and only the beret and stale Doritos types liked the original Cale-period group because of the snazzy Warhol connection!)
Anyway, OSTRICH/HILLTOP is one of those Cee-Dee bootlegs I'm not supposed to like because someone else who is an enemy of me and my work gave it a glowing review awhile back. Well, I'll guess I'll have to swallow my pride the way said enemy swallows brown lumpy stuff because this is a dang-hot bootleg that I gotta admit satiates me as much as their classy Cale-period recordings, not to mention current spin-fave LOADED. In fact, this one thrills me even more than the official Quine tape set (which other'n the new material is beginning to leave me cold perhaps because modern applications of even ancient Velvetisms don't have the same appeal in an official context) with the newer arrangements of old faves not to mention the classic long "Sister Ray" capper where it really does sound like the instruments were wrecked at the end like Reed alluded to in that aforementioned interview. And not only that, but there's a bit of '66 Velvets snuck on at the end in order to make the beret and stale Doritos crowd happy as well!
Funkadelic-LIVE CD (Westbound)
I was spurred on to digging this recent classic out (which I reviewed in BLACK TO COMM #25) after reading a Funkadelic mention by Eddie Flowers on his site (which has recently been updated so's you can read a lotta new reviews regarding his faveraves which is fun even if he's writing about communist folkie turdburgers like Patrick Sky!) where the venerable fanzine trailblazer tells us about how some boss '69 Funkadelic television appearance that has popped up on YouTube (thanks to Tim Ellison for hipping me to this interesting though technically-flawed site) has recently been withdrawn to his (and my) chagrin. That mere mention (plus the neat pic Flowers posted of a Mohawked George Clinton taken from this cybercast) had me digging this boss live side out faster than you can say Process Church (or, in Clinton's case, should that be Processed Church???), and you can just THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS that I react to such spur-of-the-moment mentions with elegant ease.
I won't be a sissy and refer to the writeup of this disque I had previously done in order to just merely rehash that and tell you lumpen proles just how right I was upon first review. However, I do remember saying that it would take some time before ANYBODY could come out and say that this is an all-time classic live album. Well, three years after the publication of my latest masterpiece I can truly say (without any fear of reprisals) that FUNKADELIC LIVE definitely is up there in the TOP TEN LIVE ALBUMS OF ALL TIME category, perhaps ranking with or even surpassing the Seeds' own live offering which had placed along with METALLIC KO and SWEET SISTER RAY as live albums par excellence go. The music on FUNKADELIC LIVE is a great even flow through all sortsa hard funk personified filtered through the hot late-sixties apocalyptic white music of the Velvets and Stooges with an almost-unbearable intensity amidst the great wah guitar of Eddie Hazel and Bernie Worrell's classical keyboard work, not to mention Clinton's frightening front and center personification of the head preacher at the Church of the Final Judgement (or at least the head editor for that destruction issue of their mag that even had Ed Sanders heading for the nearest vomitorium). Magnificent high-energy strut that really would have turned heads and even stomachs had it been issued (as originally planned) way back in '69 rather than in '96!
Time-BEFORE THERE WAS... CD (Shadoks, try Forced Exposure or Volcanic Tongue)
There really are a lotta mysteries to life. Like, who was that nerk who got in line at the first local airing of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Distrophy Telethon with a buncha kids and started telling Barney Bean that he didn't have any money to donate but he felt that there was so much energy and drive out there that this disease was BOUND TO BE BEATEN SOON before leaving the podium and not without getting a dirty look from the famed kids show host! And who was it that snuck into the principal's office when nobody was there and started doing cha-cha-cha's over the intercom before slyly sneaking away??? But best, who was that living doll who posed for ash-can artist Robert Henri's infamous painting entitled "Figure in Motion" (see left), a pic that got a teenaged ME all hot and bothered upon first eyeballing back in my sophomoric high school days (and no, I'm not going to make any jokes about becoming a hardmore!) and the gal ain't even Japanese! And that's gotta say something considering my appreciation of women who wanna be women!
But the biggest mystery of them all's just gotta be...where does Shadoks Music dig up all these groups? Now, I'm not a big fan of ALL their tasty wares...only the ones that I've purchased that were plugged as having heavy early-Velvet Underground influences (which, as we know from the above review, stretches well into even later-Velvet Underground myth-making!) and that's exactly why I purchased this '67 upstate New York rarity that features electronic brainwave music pioneer David Rosenboom on drums, he a guy I knew about way back when...early 1975 in fact when I was doing a term paper on electronic music which earned me a dismal grade because Jillery typed up a whole slewwa words and names wrong (like "Sien Ra" instead of "Sun Ra"...and do you think I'll ever forgive her for that???).
Anyway, the Velvets influence isn't exactly that strong here...the use of harpsichord and lute would suggest a more classical rock approach (only on the piano-driven "At Shadow's Eye" do Time come close to a first-LP-era Velvets piano-as-percussion mode) but its still pretty grand for people like myself who still swoon to the Michael Brown/Left Banke style of artistic pose. Even the use of dulcimer doesn't turn this one into fag rock (even though Robert Somma classified Danny and the Juniors as such...what about Little Richard???), and although the energy coulda been tuned up a little I found this one about as good an approximation of what the Velvets had accomplished as far as influences go during their lifetime as much as on the other Velvets-hyped Shadoks releases (Parameter and Circulation), and I only hope that more mysteries are uncovered (and deepened) with future upheavals that are hopefully just around the corner.
The James Finn Quartet-GREAT SPIRIT CD (Not Two)
This was the act I nodded out on a few weeks back when I tuned in to see the Hanuman Sextet play their particularly unique brand of nova music at the CB's 313 Gallery, and in order to do penance for such a stupid thing (shoulda taken the Ny-Quil an hour later) I bought this CD. Good thing I try to make amends for such indiscretions, for (contrary to advance hype) this is NOT another whacko thinking he's John Coltrane playing the tenor sax through some hippydippy rose-colored reed, but strong-enough hard-nosed high-energy avant jazz not as hard as such post-Coltrane screamers as early Frank Lowe but pretty tasty in itself. It's hard for me to describe Finn's playing to anyone offhand and he doesn't engage in much (if any) free scronk, but it is angular enough for my tastes/pleasure, in fact more or less inward-turned intense which means although it ain't as searing as Roscoe Mitchell, there's enough power and suppression here to hit you hard just like an all-out basher like Mitchell does. Piano/string bass/drums back Finn well...pianist Deanna Wilkowski reminds me of Paul Bley while drummer Leon Lee Dorsey is free enough in the classic Elvin Jones (not quite Rashied Ali) style. If you've even claimed an affinity for the still-new thing you'll like this. If not I guess you are one of those nimnuls who'd trample over copies of BLACK TO COMM to get to back issues of SWELLSVILLE anyday!
BEETLE BAILEY ON PARADE (Tempo Books, 1972), BEETLE BAILEY-OPERATION GOOD TIMES (Charter, 1984)
I still like to pick up paperback collections of old comic strip faves once in awhile, even if I'm not too keen on said strip nowadays (and frankly, I find myself picking up a newspaper let alone reading the comics section with a frightening irregularity these days). Anyway, here are a coupla books I snatched up at the local antique mall out of curiousity if anything...BEETLE BAILEY ON PARADE collects some classic early-seventies strips including the introduction of Lt. Flap, the black combat officer whose debut during the height of tensed up race relations actually caused a lotta controversy including STARS AND STRIPES dropping the comic for the second time in their history. After 35 years the Flap strips run about 50/50, with a lotta good gags poking fun at race relations still hitting hard albeit there are a few dudsters that mighta seemed funny back then but are strictly grade-z yawnsville these days (like the one where allegedly-retarded soldier Zero deflates Flap's afro). OPERATION GOOD TIMES features various early-eighties strips, many of which have curvateous Miss Buxley (do any of you remember the proto-Miss Buxley who popped up in the early-sixties, albeit she was more or less a cutesy Mary Tyler Moore type without the overt sexuality) upfront and center (no, I don't mean that!) along with General Halftrack's abounding lust for her. Naturally these strips were done long before BEETLE creator Mort Walker succumbed to feminist demands to drop this funny (and admittedly risque) running gag and although there's nothing hot here like the stuff Walker would later sneak into the strip these comics are va-va-voom enough that they still have me rising to the occasion (no, I don't mean that either!). But seriously, all I gotta say is that if Walker really wanted to create more controversy in his strip he woulda had Flap going after Buxley! Well, that's what Don Fellman said, and I know that's his opinion but frankly I think that would be a little too much for the funnies, even these days!!!
Friday, March 10, 2006
VICARIOUSNESS PART WHATEVER