Music Revelation Ensemble-NO WAVE CD (Moers Music)
Listen, I've got a load of new Cee-Dees and whatnot I could be reviewing here, but I won't. Not that I'm any sort of ingrate 'r anything, but at this nanosecond lemme just say that I don't particularly feel like writing about a batch of recordings that have either been handed down to me by various fans of this blog or purchased thanks to the fruits of my labor! Oh yeah, I'm grateful that I've got a bountiful enough collection of sonic scrapings of a wide supermarket variety ranging from old faves to snips you ain't heard yet and I can appreciate everything from the steel-string tones of John Fahey to the sonic disembowelment of Voivod, but when I get into a particular musical groove I want to stick with that same pattern and nary deviate from the form ('n not even one iota!). And that's one reason why I used to hate the old grind of reviewing albums for a vast array of music publications back inna eighties...y'see, I may have been Fed-X'd everything from the humblest of home-made gruel to the latest flash/crash/bash in amerindie alterntivistas which I'm sure woulda made the average music hound out there drool, but it really pained me to have to write up inna neat paragraph as to why I liked or hated the said disque in question even if I certainly wasn't in the mood to want to have any part of it! Like, maybe I'd get some interesting retro-garage band single from some schmucks out there in Podunk Iowa and it mighta been a great slab of six-oh squall and all, but if I wasn't up-front-'n-center for retro-punk activities it was sure hard for me to switch gears from whatever jag I was on (say, early heavy metal or mid-seventies Amerigan punk motifs) and "get into" what those Podunks were laying down on a single that probably wiped their bank accounts out in the process of recording and pressing the things! I probably gave a whole batch of worthies the bum's rush because of this (and maybe even vicey-versey!) but WHO CARES because my reviewing for hipster publications days are long gone anyway, and besides I'm sure that everyone who did get a bum rap from me has either done the most honorable thing such as slash their throats or (more probably) write little nasty things about my "tastes" whenever and wherever they can in order to "get some get back" this far down the line. Unfortunlately not enough people have gone the former route, and frankly, who knows how many J. Neo Marvins there are out there in alternativeland grumbling and plotting their next salvos against me any my self-made enterprise as we dare speak!
So I guess we'll have to wait a little while longer for the next round of Mike Stax-delivered goodies as well as some mailorder maulers I've received last month to make it to these pages, but until then I want to write about something that I really am enjoying to the utmost fullest in the here and now rather'n just another tossout that might sound good as is worthy of your time and effort, but I just "can't get into it" to be tres-seventies retro about it. In fact it's something that I've been playing almost every night for the past two weeks so you KNOW this is a true winner in the BLOG TO COMM annals of what is! Only once in awhile does a record (er, Cee-Dee!) like this strike at the core of my being, and getting on a one-disque-only monorail such as I am now kinda throws me back to my teenage days when I would make a ritual habit of playing everything from WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT to Bowie's LOW and even LIVE AT THE ROXY AND ELSEWHERE night after night because the music somehow nullified the negative energy and hostility of the days with its own brand of negativism, and if you quite don't understand this I'll bet you're probably one of those upstart snooty types who used to do their best to make my life miserable back during them old high school days. Y'know, like when I'd be at my locker swithcerooing books between the sixth and seventh periods during my freshman days 'n they'd make the announcements over the loudspeakers for sports tryouts, and you happened to walk by with the rest of the big kids and said real loud "Hey Chris, you gonna try out for the blow job team????" 'n of course everyone guffawed while I grumbled! (oooh my brused soul!)
Yes, what we need in this world is more civility and nicey-nice, but until then at least I got my books and my poetry to protect me, and maybe some Cee-Dees as well! Anyway, here's my current obsessive fave, the Music Revelation Ensemble's 1980 release of a disque that went by the title of none other than NO WAVE. Now considering how the New York-derived no wave movement was bigger than big (or so we wished!) back when this platter originally was recorded for the German avant garde label Moers Music, and also considering how two of this group's more famed members (James "Blood" Ulmer and Ronald Shannon Jackson) were rather popular on that very same New York scene (particularly at CBGB's) with their own bands at the very same time, who couldn't doubt that this platter would very easily snuggle up to the likes of VON LMO or even the king 'n queen of no wave James Chance and Lydia Lunch's various endeavors considering the massive atonal blur that these Music Revelators exuded. Anyway, in case you're wondering I already did a review of NO WAVE long ago (o'er five years in fact!) in the pages of BLACK TO COMM #24 which earned a hearty round of approval from Brad Kohler solely for the part where I said that the current useage of the no wave terms was "looser than Matthew Sheppard's sphincter," but in order to play it wild and keep my mind unfluttered all these years later I am NOT going to refer to that write-up in order to bolster this one or to make sure I don't contradict anything I said earlier or nuttin' like that. When you're blogging you gotta take it hard and nasty!
Anyway, the Music Revelation Ensemble were one of those avant-jazz/rock supergroups of the eighties that, along with Last Exit, Machine Gun and others I would like to know more about, straddled the furious boundaries between rock and the jazz avant garde, almost coming off as fusion version of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT in the process and that's no mere hyperbole! The Music Revelation Ensemble had much going for it from the presence of Ulmer, who was then riding high on the punk/funk/jazz circuit headlining shows at CBGB and gettin' precious front cover space in THE NEW YORK ROCKER to boot (and ya gotta admit that he was one guy who deserved it, unlike the reams of subpar alternative indie bands who would later gobble up a lotta the mag's reason for being). Drummer Jackson, who had spent the late-sixties playing on everything from Charles Tyler's bee-youtiful debut disque for ESP (another frequent spin in these parts!) as well as with Kings Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman (w/Ulmer joining Jackson in the Coleman group throughout the seventies!) was also getting notice on the En Why See hipster club circuit with his Decoding Society which not only featured some of the best players of the day (like Byard Lancaster) but future wonders such as Living Colour's own Vernon Reid who might've been a little more technical in his playing but still soared a mighty strong line whether playing in a jazz or rock vein.
Add of course saxophonist David Murray (who, as I recall saying in my original review taught James Chance a thing or two, and various google searches will dredge up some interesting Murray refs. courtesy Chance himself!) and electric bassist Amin Ali (whom I know nada about...I can't always be Chuck Eddy) and you have a superpower that shoulda rankled more feathers back in the days of old when kicks certainly were getting harder to find, but at least they left us this album (and more!) to listen to especially in these days when you feel like some old-time panhandler searching for that one nugget of prime musical listening pleasure inna stream of utter flotsam and derivative-hip buttspew.
I ain't gonna do an autopsy on the four tracks found herein, but lemme say that they're all top-notch powerful, complete with Jackson's manic drum-soloing that doesn't come off all "Hey look at me at this drum set playing an extended meaningful solo...WORSHIP ME!!!!" but total energy personified. Ulmer's playing ain't as bowl-you-over abstract as Sharrock's but it's still nerve-twisting enough to shock you out of your amerindie complacency. Angular and bluesy while being nasty, and fortunately far removed from the "standard" jazz guitar experience enough to give Al DiMeola the sonic laxative attack he's sorely needed for the past few decades.
Murray's sax playing isn't as all-out as Peter Brotzmann's nor is it as flesh-rending as the early Frank Lowe but it's suitable enough. I do find him more enjoyable than some of the other free players who never quite latched onto me such as Oliver Lake (although I really enjoyed that one Arista Freedom disque of his with one of those ne'er to be heard from again BAG guitarists playing some mighty angular lines). And as for the unknown-to-me Ali, its great hearing an electric bassist in a free jazz context NOT because he's playing a more rock-oriented instrument but because he seems right up-front and on top of (or maybe in back of) everything.
The sound can be huge and loud, or Delta blues gone New York decadent. "Time Table" sounds like an all-out blast that I kinda imagine one of Bruce Anderson's early pre-MX-80 Sound hard fusion groups sounded like, while "Big Tree" sounds like more of the same only with a Velvet Underground heartbeat to it. "Baby Talk" has this kiddie melody that's so outstandingly ridiculous yet so in-tune catchy that the major theme has been going through my head even while trying to cop some snooze during a particularly bad head cold last week which I'm still trying to shake off (shades of Patti Smith's "Kimberley" careening through Lester Bangs' dreams back in the waning days of 1975!) while Cee-Dee closer "Sound Check" is the group's no-bout-a-doubt-it "LA Blues" complete with the crashing intro, free-splat drum playing courtesy Jackson and jazz/blues chording from Ulmer, who sputters these spoken/sung lyrics complete with "thank you"'s, free verse the likes of "Peace, no war, no babies falling down" and other incoherent bits in both the native and German tongue! It crushes like nothing since the heyday of the underground revolt of the seventies when music like this (and more) was not just some young upstart form of expression but a revolt that had to be quelled. Or at least staved off until it shed any original meaning or power it may have originally had but that's another blogpost for another day.
Obsessive/compulsive impulse had me bidding on an Ornette Colemen 2-CD live set recorded in Italy '74 with both Ulmer and Jackson, but although I won the auction ebay pulled the thing AFTER it was all over for reasons not totally unknown to me. Other Music Revelation Ensemble and James Blood Ulmer recordings hopefully to be coming my way soon, as to which I'll keep YOU posted, unless I become obsessed over something else in the meantime that flutters my way, that is!
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