FEELING BOXED IN? THEN TRY SOME OF THESE BOX SETS!
Yeah, I'm not too proud of that not-so-hipster come-on myself and true, they can't all be witty gems more attuned to this blog's self-proclaimed devotion to the "high energy" stratum of rock & roll, but it would be great if at least ONE of these post titles had a bitta the old vim, vigor and oomph needed to match my entire reason-for-being! But the lack of ability on my part to think up snappy and/or pithy titles for these missives is not what we're here to gab about today...right now I'm more/less interested in cluing you in on a coupla box sets that just might get your rabble roused when it comes to the more brain-frying musical matters that one can come in contact with especially in these truly bleary times (now celebrating a hefty QUARTER-CENTURY of post-energy non-jamz going down), and if YOU TOO (like me) spent a huge portion of the eighties huddled in your own personal bunker looking for the light at the end of a particularly long tunnel (glancing back with rose-colored rear view mirrors at all of the good stuff the seventies doth wrought that you didn't have the money or smarts to snatch up BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE) then maybe these disques'll lurch you outta yer current doldrums...after all, we never really did get outta that tunnel, mind you!
Anyway, as anyone keeping their eyes on the underground music scene (and their pocketbooks) can tell you, there's been a pretty nice assortment of box sets featuring acts both bigtime and obscure coming out wirh alarming regularity ever since the advent ot anal-retentive/obsessive collecting trends began in earnest back in the eighties, and you don't have to nudge me too much in order to blab on about my favorite Les Rallizes Denudes box sets featuring items that'll probably be recycled on future sets for years to come. But I don't wanna talk about the Denudes guys today...instead let me blab on about these two nice li'l sets that've graced my laser launch pad as of late because, for once in my life I'd like to try'n keep a little big current.
And speaking of "nice sets" who could forget Niagara and her Destroy All Monsters! Yeah. I know that kinda remark'll have a whole slew of Women's Libbers pounding down the doors of BLOG TO COMM central demanding this Male Chauvinist Pig to be luau'd, but then again alla them dames are nothing but a buncha Flatty Pattys who couldn't get a date if someone tied a bone around their necks and set 'em loose in the dog pound! As for Niagara...sheesh, why didn't they have gals like her back in High School (at least those who would talk to me) but whadevva, the famed songstress from Destroy All Monsters/Dark Carnival and her brood can once again be heard in all their high energy glory on this brand-spanking-new HOT BOX six-disc set (available through Niagara Detroit) and it's worth your while (and welfare check) to dish out the seventy-plus it's gonna cost to procure this because no matter how you slice the thing it is a doozy. Now I gotta admit that I was a rather big follower of the Detroit/Ann Arbor high-energy sound back in the middle portion of the eighties and in fact you could say that it was this very same Detroit scene (along with its Australian brethren) that inspired me to get off my then not-as-fat and pitted butt and do my own fanzine which at the time was heavily devoted to a good portion of high-energy Detroit-styled rock groups both old and new. Thus you can bet your bottom buckskin that the appearance of a set like this really does get me all hot 'n bothered even if the thing did arrive into my life a good twenny-three years too late! And it's a good 'un too...coulda been better, but I'll tell y'all about that later.
Alongsides such post-Sinclair wonders as Rocket From the Tombs, Umela Hmota and Radio Birdman, Destroy All Monsters were one of many groups in the seventies who were helping to keep the late-sixties Michigan Rock flame alive. They certainly were a refreshing switch from the same-old same-old at the time, a nice change from the at-times cloying direction that gnu wave music was not only heading towards but deeply embedded in even though a dolt like myself really couldn't see it until 1981 set it but that's another sick saga. True they had the heavyweight Detroit sound goin' for 'em thanks to the likes of Ron Asheton and Michael Davis in their ranks, but it certainly was chanteuse Niagara who made the entire show worthwhile with her striking stage presence that I'm positive made a whole load of the eighties "women in rock" tough gal schtick look positively wilted in comparison (I mean, if Pat Benetar was supposed to be some sorta role model for an aggressive new female in rock as the likes of Anastasia Pantsios were hypeing her as, then Phyllis Schafley had nothing to worry about!). And what's best about it is that it didn't matter that Niagara couldn't "sing" either! I mean, sure she coulda taken a few lessons from Madame Du Warble, but like the "Granite Lady" in that infamous Plastic Man adventure all she really hadda do was be up there to make Destroy All Monsters the success they were with her pulchritude which, coupled with ear-blasting heavy metal (the real kind) sure came off a lot better'n not only the latest "introspective" clean cut "new music" band fresh from the assembly line but way too many of those hard rock "I'm my own bitch" metal women who tried way too hard and got way too little for it. Destroy All Monsters were the real kahuna even though the entire rock listening public was too brain-damaged from way too much "Album Oriented Rock" to rub two braincells together to notice!
Needless to say...HOT BOX is thee wowzer...disc one has the single sides and some more ne'er before heard rarities although the thing is inexplicably missing the infamous studio version of "Spruce Goose" (the complete sordid saga behind that song which probably tops the f-wordin' spew found in the NATIONAL LAMPOON's Lennon spoofer "Magical Misery Tour" can be found in part two of the Ron Asheton interview which popped up in the now o.p. BLACK TO COMM #15). If you wanna hear it bad enough it does appear on the Fan Club CD of DAM single sides, and while I'm at it, it woulda been great if that Cary Loren rarity of an EP was stuck on here as well (y'know, the one with "Assassination Photograph" and that bee-youtiful Virgil Finlay sleeve I actually reprinted way back in ish #21 because it looked so boss!) but I guess we can't have everything as Mom used to say. The second one's got a live show which is typical audience quality ('n I've heard better inc. an FM broadcast from Delaware or Maryland or somewhere like that which shoulda gotten snagged on here somewhere) but at least it's got that boss cover of Robert Calvert's "The Right Stuff" that always seems to get my blood boiling in a hefty early-seventies fit of power surge! Still, I got the feeling that Asheton's maddening electric leads and the general heavy jamz woulda upset a few punques out there back inna day of "no guitar solos"...heck I even remember playing the aforementioned DAM live broadcast while Jillery was in the room and this avowed Moody Blues fan actually CHASTIZED me saying "that's ACID ROCK!!!!!"
The rest of this collection features material from Niagara's Dark Carnival days in the equally-dark nineties when she, along with Asheton and a varying array of backing bozos inc. Greasy Carlisi from the old Sirius Trixon group and at times Cheetah Gene O'Connor of Rocket From the Tombs helped to keep the Detroit fires burning a little more...'n maybe they do sound a bit slick here and recording techniques have improved to the point where some of the "edge" of the music is gone, but I like the material her enough, or at least a lot more'n I like what I've heard of most recent Detroit revival material which seems to fall limp once placed upon the laser launching pad. OK, the studio disque (which originally came out back in the day although I was too tapped out to get my hands on it---that and the fact that I was told it was a dog anyway) wasn't quite what I was expecting with its lucid lack of true energetic inspiration, but the live tracks capture the Carnival in its total state of kinetic frenzy making it more or less the only true heir to the 1967 Grande Ballroom putsch extant. Cigarettes have sexed up Niagara's voice by this time so her sultriness has only been enhanced, and the backing group is every bit the equal of the old Monsters or just about any other post-Detroit aggregate that had been playing this planet twixt the fall of the Sinclair empire and the birth of the new punk era. 'n let me tell you, at times the hair on my back was standin' on end...well, I should say where there should be hair it was standin' but it was great to flash back to 1985 pretendin' I was flashing back to 1969 listenin' to this hard mash that never did seem to infect the general rock clime either then or now because...frankly it was too GOOD!!!
Oh yeah, the final disc is actually a DVD of the Dark Carnival show at the Rob Tyner Memorial gig back in '92, taken from a VCR tape and plopped right onto a DVD-R burn(!---I guess they were trying to cut costs, though if your system rejects these dubbed disques I guess caveat is the word!). The recording ain't that long and it's not like it was professionally edited, but at least it's a two-camera job and you get to see a lotta hot shots of Niagara singing as she strips down to bra and meows out the familiar Monsters and Stooges songs for you while rolling around onstage Ig-like getting the rather nineties-looking ninnies in the audience all hot and bothered! (Some nice shots of bouncers tossing a few over-rambunctious patrons back into the audience too!) Now if I were one of those picky rock critics you've seen too much of lo these many years I'd yammer and stammer about the all around tackiness of the whole affair but hey, I gotta admit that I like tackiness about as much as the next suburban brat raised on way too many viewings of entire film reels being run upside down and backwards on local tee-vee so what do aesthetics have to do with ANYTHING anyway???
Other'n a couple inserts there ain't the detailed historical notes that we're always begging for and I wouldn't've minded some of those other rarities previously mentioned but hey, I am a thankful li'l bastid! Stick it next to your Ecstatic Peace collection for a real hum-dinger of a Detroit art experience that's probably the best spurt of artistic creativity in that burgh since a car was torn apart at a Velvet Underground gig way back in '67!
And while we're talking about Detroit '67 I should also mention to you that it was also the year when the MC5 had practically sprung up from the nether-regions of small-change garage band-dom to the Big Time with their patented avant-rock sound, a style which pretty much overtook the Detroit/Ann Arbor (nay, the entire Michigan scene!) to the point where the coolest thing any upstart band could do was "imitate" the Five which I guess would have been the smartest thing for a band'd undertake on either an artistic or financial level. And it was during that year that the MC5 actually shared a gig with none other'n Sun Ra which included a jam between the two titans, a tape of which I'm sure is decaying somewhere in former manager John Sinclair's abode probably due to their ex-mentor's Marxist credo! (Well, I'm not exactly sure why these recordings remain hidden from "the people" but I remember reading a letter in a ROLLING STONE after the famed MC5 cover story where some reader mentions the tapes of the band playing with various Detroit avant garde jazzbos and I'd sure love to hear alla that stuff as much as you would!) Anyway, what better way to segue into Sun Ra than from the wilds of Detroit with this three-disque set that actually came out on the Freedom label in Germany, a surprise because I never knew that Sun Ra had anything issued on that famous avant label (for if they did, you woulda thunk that Arista's reissue that stuff here inna U. S. of Whoa when they got the Amerigan rights to that label back '75 way!). Well, I guess that most if not all of this has previously been issued on the Freedom-related Black Lion in Germany (and if I'm not mistaken [in fact, I'm POSITIVE], but wasn't "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" originally rollicking around under the title PICTURES OF INFINITY???), but even so I never knew about these disques which just goes to show you how much I've been paying attention!
But since I am not what one would call a Sun Ra expert I can't tell you much more about these disques other'n I think I have a whole lot of this material on vinyl in different forms and on different albums, but as to that I'm not 100% sure of it as well. Heck, if you wanna know for yourself bad enough, get hold of Robert L. Campbell's THE EARTHLY RECORDINGS OF SUN RA for the entire scoop...I don't have it but it seems like just the kinda thing that any real Sun Ra maniac would wanna have on hand. But I guess that I'm not maniac enough so I don't own a copy but whatever, Campbell did the liners for the "Spaceways" portion of this set and he did a pretty nice job of it, not only giving a nice little history of the clavioline, that weird proto-synthesizer used not only by Ra but the likes of the Tornados ("Telstar"), Beatles ("Baby You're a Rich Man"), Amon Duul II ("Surrounded by the Stars") and a whole load of rock snobs in those mysterioso early prog rock days!
A good enough collection (with "Spaceways" and "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" focusing on the late-sixties En Why See days and "Calling Planet Earth" live Dansk '71) that sorta nudges in on Ra and band at their uncontested height in astral jazz projectiveness. Naturally they don't compete with such downright classics as COSMIC TONES FOR MENTAL THERAPY or the BYG-sides, but they stand on their own with the ESP platters (and come to think of it, how many other avant garde jazz greats were able to record for all three of the big avant jazz labels of the sixties and seventies? Other'n Paul Bley, I can't think of any offhand!) No matter what, it's all worth the purchase even if you think you have most of this stuff in your abode already because I'm sure something here is gonna be midding. My fave of the trio is the "Calling Planet Earth" live set which seems to get closer to the astral mindwarp utter insanity of what we've known and loved as primo Ra than the other two, which ain't no slouches themselves!
ALSO HEARD: Hawkwind live Birmingham Icymetric Playground 12/2/71. Now, that may really be 2/12/71 because this was rec'd in England where the month and year are switched 'round unlike in Ameriga, but whenever this was laid onto tape it sure is a nice slice of early Hawkwind with none other than Twink from the Pink Fairies playing the drums on some proto-versions of such Hawkwind faves as "Born To Go" and "Spirit of the Age" six years before its appearance on the groundbreaking QUARK STRANGENESS AND CHARM (actually, this is a spoken version backed by electronic flange, but it's nice to hear those eerie words spoken anyway!). A good slab of early-seventies psychedelic musings, and what's remarkable about it all is that these tunes were laid down at a time when the entire psych scene seemed to have tumbled into a sick mass of either Wild West flashback or prog rock slop! Tape ends with a slightly different take of "Brainstorm" from '72 which'll certainly turn the heads of all budding Hawkwind maniacs worldwide! In case you care, this recording was sent to me about a decade ago by one Larry Boyd, an old BLACK TO COMM hanger-on who seems to have vanished from the face of this earth after going into the hospital for some serious work (he was messed up physically and internally t'boot) and whom I fear has since died...Larry, if you're alive and reading this, how about dropping me a line and putting my mind at ease???
Saturday, April 28, 2007
FEELING BOXED IN? THEN TRY SOME OF THESE BOX SETS!