SIGNAL TO NOISE #'s 44, 46 and 47 (magazine)
Y'know, even here in the late oh-oh's it's kinda funny when you think of all the on-line info on whaddeva subject imaginable that is available with the mere peck of a key, but even with computers all over the place and people meeting through internet and instant messages and all that fun stuff there's still plenty of all-important information out there that you can only get through the "old fashioned" way...newspapers, books, gossip and of course magazines like SIGNAL TO NOISE. I found three issues of this periodical in my mailbox only a week or so back, and since then these SIGNAL TO NOISEs have not only been my constant toidy/pre-beddy bye time reading material but a constant source of information that's keeping me glued to the best innovation past/present like nothing in recent memory. Getting these recent SIGNAL TO NOISEs reminds me of the time my mother, in an attempt to wize me up a bit so I wouldn't be too much of a cube, got me a subscription to DOWN BEAT thus opening my mind to things like the AACM and Ornette a lot earlier'n had I just waited for Bill Shute to tell me about all this avant garde noise years later when it would've made much less of that all-important personal impact!
For those of you (like I was) who aren't exactly inna know, SIGNAL TO NOISE is a mag that's devoted to "experimental and improvised music" but don't let that scare you anti-intellectuals off. Actually this mag covers a wide range of exciting musical vistas (I swiped that from Robert Christgau, neet hunh?) that pretty much overlap with BLOG TO COMM's own rather "horse-blindered" tastes so expact some of the swing in with the incomprehensible. Of course not everything in SIGNAL TO NOISE is gonna light a fire under my well-acne'd behind nor do all of the writers measure up to my own lofty standards of addled gonzoism (in fact, none of the writers measure up to any standards of addled gonzoism that I can discern), plus I STILL can't handle the whole glossy paper/fancy layout of these post-seventies professional magazoons one bit but it's sure neat to once again read about all of those mad free jazzers and improv artists from the past who are not only stil active but back inna day seemed like such forward-thinking fellows and, come to think of it, still stand as some sorta standard bearers especially in an age of rot like the one we still live in even after all these years.
Believe-you-me, there is a lot in these pages that probably won't interest you especially if you have been weaned on the current state of rock criticism thud, but if you're the kinda guy who was wondering what everyone from Roscoe Mitchell to Steve Reich (and other sixties soundscapaders you probably discovered around the same time I did) are up to these days then SIGNAL TO NOISE will come in more than handy. And yeah, if you're the kinda kiddo who also snapped up the first few Soft Machine albums at flea markets and have some curiousity regarding the latest appearance of Ornette Coleman (while the rest of the media, music and otherwise, seems to be blocking out this very important slice of news even harder than they try to ignore Ron Paul) then maybe this 'un is also just for thee. And even if the cover features don't exactly appeal to your own garage-bred sense of mid-Amerigan trash, there certainly will be something in everything from the record review section to even the ads that'll be dragging up memories of experimental bliss past faster than you can say Luciano Berio! Sheesh, maybe if you look hard enough you too will find something about those great free jazz players who were thrilling us all at the CBGB Lounge freeform shows before it all moved to Jimmy's a couple years back.
OK, if you're still not satisfied, just think of it as MOJO for the brainy kids in school, but you can understand it too. Anyway, a nice li'l surprise in my otherwise drab existence...d'ya think I should be nice and send 'em a few BLACK TO COMM back issues in exchange for these rags? I mean, perhaps the editors could use a laugh or two!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
MORE "THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS..."
Well, not rilly, but then again this wouldn't qualify as a "High Six" (or "High Four" as the case may be) either since the subject(s) at hand this go 'round ain't exactly whatcha'd call "favorite" things at least with regards to a nice 'n healthy BLOG TO COMM sense 'o propriety. Let's just say that today's toasty postie's gonna just be anudder summary of a few things that have crossed the eyes, ears, nose and maybe even throat of your usually bogged-down blogger and hey, since I hadda suffer (or OK, osmose pleasure) through these things why should I be alone in my weltschmerz????!!!!?!?!
***Pink Floyd-UMMAGUMMA 2-LP set (Harvest Germany)
Hokay I'll admit it...there was a time (age fifteen) when Pink Floyd were a pretty big, oft-played group in my life, in fact big enough that I actually owned more than one album by these guys which certainly must have meant something since I could barely afford ONE album by the groups I wanted to hear all those years back! Now I'm not necessarily talking about the fantab original version of the Floyd when the original space cadet Syd Barrett was at the helm helping to create an even newer music vocabulary for the late-sixties, but the group as it was best known for back in the early/mid-seventies heyday of progressive rock hysteria and PBS "Live at the Fillmore" specials and all that FM radio hoopla that continues to live on in various circles I want nothing to do with even to this day. Naturally as time passed on and my tastes became less sophisticated, there were other groups that became bigger game in my ever-expanding beanie to the point where the Floydian Pinkies were just another instantly-disposable bunch to me, but believe-it-or-not...there was a time when these Brits seemed like such an amazing rock music artyfact that I would gaze upon their albums inna record rack just wishing to heaven that I could own the whole buncha 'em and actually listen to the amazing sounds embedded into those grooves of pure joy and in the sanctity of my smelly bedroom to boot!
And of those plentiful Pink Floyd discs available just about anywhere across the tri-county area UMMAGUMMA stood out sorer'n any sore thumbs I might have chanced upon throughout my life! Not only did UMMAGUMMA have one of the stranger covers to grace the already-strange cover-laden record shops of the day (and how I used to love that rear shot where a coupla roadies were posed amidst the
group's equipment van and gear including trombone and vibraphone laid out in symmetrical glory on some road just waiting to be run over!), but the thing was a "specially-priced" two-album set that hey, even a relatively poor kid as I coulda saved the dinero up for within the span of a few weeks, if not days! And considering how this one got around back then (I even remember seeing a "rack jobber" 8-track version divided into two packages in many a flea market next to all those X-rated "Truck Stop" comedy tapes) how could this mid-teen turn down the opportunity to snatch this begging booty of a Pink Floydian excursion up for his very own anyway???
Well, naturally I did snatch up a copy, but only a cassette job ordered through the local National Record Mart which left off almost the entire live album portion, which I must admit did leave me a tad disappointed considering the whopping $5.98 I plunked down for this item. But thankfully the studio album where each Floyd member got half a side to "create" was left intact because I wanted to hear "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With a Pict" again after the local AM Top 40 station snuck that one in amidst the hits back when things would get a little outta hand even on those kinda stations and yeah, I remember listening to that tape over and over again in my bedroom with ear-plug from cheap-o cassette firmly in place just shuddering at that noisy garble which at the time seemed pretty over-the-top frightening and about as avant garde as one (or at least some pimple-encrusted fifteen-year-old) could imagine.
Of course that was then, but inna here/now how does UMMAGUMMA hold up either as a rock album, an experimental music excursion or just plain noise? I still dunno, but anyway, I gotta tell ya that I got this particular elpee copy (my second, the first a flea market Canadian pressing long-gone sometime in the late-seventies for who knows what reason) as a kraut import that I just happened to pick up in an old general store a decade or so back at a real neat steal price, complete with the "Gigi" cover and that great flimsy yet glossy sleeve that those importa always come in and since I was getting into late-sixties British proggies this week (see Soft Machine review last post) I figured this 'un would also fit in snugly with my sense of misguided whatziz so why not? And well, y'know given alla the outright noisecapading that has gone on in the 38 earthspins since (especially within a decade or so of UMMAGUMMA's plunk into the psychedelic sweepstakes) it ain't like the thing is as nerve-y a scaremonger as it was, and not even to any fifteen-year-old pimplefarms who might chance upon it these days at that! And the live disc really is nothing especially compared to the honest schizoid attack of the Syd Barrett-manned group...in fact, like just about every other Pink Floyd bootleg of the late-sixties/early-seventies strata that I've heard (and not many since this stuff ain't exactly the bailiwick I mighta thought it was way back when) the music is dullsville, even when compared with the group a mere year earlier when they were still feasibly coping with the loss of Barrett with some rather decent single sides. Said sides appear here in typically toned-down fashion to the point where "Axe" didn't even sound like that boffo single I recall, nor did those second-LP tracks come close to the still Syd-haunted Floyd making me wonder just how this group coulda stayed on-top for so long given the rather tiresome music they were releasing between their late-sixties height and mid-seventies revival. Face it, if DARK SIDE OF THE MOON wasn't such a hit (and comparatively better album to the point where a bonafide metallic punker like Jymn Parrett would apologizingly praise the thing in the pages of DENIM DELINQUENT) Floyd woulda been dead, buried and gone a long time ago and Rick Wright would have had to find his jollies outside of auto racing (and Dave Gilmour wouldn't have to contend with being another millionaire Marxist either!).
But that's the studio rec which is about the same in psychedelic nada as every other Floyd recording of the time legit or boot you can come up with...as for the "experimental" and "avant garde" disc which foistered such terror into my brain at the time, well, considering all of the "real" avant garde musings going on in England it wasn't like AMM, Derek Bailey, Lol Coxhill or any of the real practitioners of a new sound over in blighty were losing any beddy-bye time due to these popsters once again playing the John Cage game. But then again Pink Floyd's experimentalism always did seem like a strange college boy prank game next to the real non-jagoff music of the day...I mean, remember when Floyd were going to record some album featuring nothing but music made upon their kitchen table, with amplified rubber bands substituting for bass guitars and pots and pans for percussion, running up a huge bill in the process for what could have been done easily enough with the gear they already had? Sorta being too smart for their own good if you know what I mean. Well, this studio disc is pretty much the same thing only it makes up an entire platter and sells millions. If jerks like you or I did it nobody would bat an eye, but these guys do it and actually get major label contracts.
Still in order to be nicey-nice I gotta say that I do like the opening of "The Narrow Way" with its John Fahey lilt, though that sounded a lot better as "Baby Blue Shuffle in D Major" on a BBC session that has been bootlegged out the wazoo ever since. Ditto the BBC version of "Grantchester Meadows" which benefits from the usual low-fi bootleg quality. And listening to Roger Waters doing his Lindsay Hutton impressions at the end of "Pict" is worth a once-in-awhile hoot if you ask me. But if you'd ask me to trade my stack of Velvet Underground outtakes for anything the Pinks were up to anywhere after Barrett was given the ol' heave-ho I'd tell you to go jump in the toilet with the rest of the rock critics out there...I mean, this bigtime rock star avant garde game whether it be John Lennon doing the "Fontana Mix" trip on "Revolution 9" or Richard Wright's mellotron exercises and hammond shrieks on "Sisyphus" may have seemed like a serious attempt at some sorta higher-up snob status, but really how much more avant garde could rock get after "Telstar" let alone "Louie Louie" anyways?
***DENIM DELINQUENT #7, spring/summer 1976 issue (fanzine edited and published by Jymn Parrett)
Of course I mentioned DD editor Parrett in the above w/regards to his championing (albeit begrudgingly) of THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON in the pages of his fanzine, and given that I've actually dug this very issue (#7) outta the mire in order to inform myself regarding the It's All Meat album reviewed a few weeks back I must admit that I've been coming back to this and a lotta the other DENIM DELINQUENTs as of late not only to re-educate myself but for the pure pleasure of reading a rock & roll fanzine that doesn't make ya wanna search for the nearest hammock like way too much music coverage does in the here and now. I mean, it's sure great to (once again) read about all of those great (and not so) rock acts from back in the middle seventies without the usual high-falutin' talk-AT-you prose often seen in the slickoid glossies of today. Naw, editor Parrett and his various contributors were young and snot-nosed just like their readers, and they weren't going to go around describing groups as disparate as the Stooges, Kiss, Aerosmith and Pagliaro with a whole lotta Glade air freshener pseudo phony-hipster talk like the kind your hygiene teacher would lay down on you back in the day making you wanna toss your omlette in the process.
Anyway on the right is the front cover of #7, but don't let the cover come-on mentioning the likes of Joni Mitchell, Helen Reddy, Pheobe Snow, Cat Stevens and Bruce Springsteen lead you to think this is a mellow musical read (although when this ish was mentioned in BOMP's fanzine rundown they actually led unwary readers to believe that the Springsteen appearance was indeed TRUE!)...after all, the cover also states that DENIM DELINQUENT is also "The Handbook of Heavy Metal Thunder" and what kinda metal-related mag out there would dare feature the likes of Joni and Helen in their rag anyway? (And yeah, I know that Danny Sugarman's HEAVY METAL DIGEST not only ran a Cat Stevens ad but Sugarman mentioned liking the jerk, but that mag wasn't as metal as DD or as much as a whole slew of late-seventies fanzines out there only hinted at!) Number 7 was a nice little ish and I do mean little...digest sized even which is nice enough making the thing easy to fit in with the rest of your mini-fanzine collection (file between ROCK MAG and SATA [see below] for maximum space saving in any smart rockism-oriented household!), and not only did it feature a nice li'l article on the Kinks' SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE (and excuse me if this period of Kinkdom doesn't quite flash me, but at this time I used to find Ray Davies quite the...uh, rock star?) but tons of brief albeit great material crammed into its 32 shrunken pages. As for the contents of this fanzoonie swan song...
PAGES 2-3: has an article on EUROPE'S ONLY IGGY POP FANCLUB with neato drawing of Iggy and the "Iggy is Koming" patch you can get when joining up along with a snap of Iggy at the Cincinnati Pop Festival pointing his lame-glove'd finger at someone with a promise of a review of METALLIC KO for the next (never to be seen) issue just begging us to reserve our moolah for that promising ish; also appearing is a neato and positive writeup of the Smoke's now-infamous "My Friend Jack" single (also by Jymn) that was undoubtedly placed within this Stoogian context since it was given to the man by Pop Fan Club prez Harald. A nice enough review telling about how Jymn first heard this 'un on the radio back in '67 ultimately flipping proverbial lid o'er this then obscuro only to manage to tape the last minute or so of the thing playing it over and over in typical adolescent wonderment until the tape was eventually lost or stolen!And so it goes, the final issue of this rather important as far as the history of rock & roll fanzining goes mag which at least has gotten some post-life notoriety if a mention in wikipedia's fanzine entry is any indication. By the wya, there really was to have been a #8 though I dunno when or where it was to have been published (Parrett having skeedaddled for Texas by the time 1977 rolled around). I saw what was left of the proposed cover which was to have featured Ted Nugent (wearing a cowboy hat) amongst other things...hmmm, I guess that letter about some Nugent coverage really must have gone to Parrett's psyche, eh?
PAGE 4: Rough Trade, with a pic of Carolyn Pope w/cleavage showing and reports of their recording with Eddie Kramer producing. Someone scribbled "smouldering? frenetic? You gotta be kidding" atop this one.
PAGE 5: review of some classic mid/late-sixties Rolling Stones films (HYDE PARK, CHARLIE IS MY DARLING) that were showing on the midnight movie circuit in Ontario. Stuff that's about as common as age marks on my arms but were rarer than good songs on a Content Providers album back in the day.
PAGES 6-7: a review of the Groundhogs' SOLID LP by an Izzy "Pete" Sanchez who was really Parrett in disguise in order to make it look like there were more people writing for his rag. I'm gonna hafta (re)-listen to some of those old Groundhog recordings one of these days...
PAGES 8-9: Pagliaro. Other'n Les Chancelliers (Pagliaro's mid-sixties punk rock aggregate who were mighty powerful esp. for a buncha Canadiens!) I never really cozied up to this guy. But then again, all I've ever heard of his was this FM radio broadcast he did around '74 or so, and besides there always seemed to be other things more worthy of my undivided attention then and now... But Parrett really took objection to my dismissal of Pag in the article I did on DD way back in BLACK TO COMM #20 (hopeless o.p.) so maybe the guy is deserving of another chance on my part. Anyway, great article!
PAGES 10-11: "Patti Smith Eats It," a scathing putdown by Jymn regarding the shabby treatment he and co-conspirator Mark Jones got when Patti gave 'em the royal snub after a gig! Lenny Kaye gets the thumbs up for at least talking to the guys and sending 'em a postcard, but the ire Parrett has for Miz Smith is one that seems to have really resonated in his being to the point where he planned to publish an interview in his possession which was to have EXPOSED Patti as being some sorta snobbish rock star 'stead of the rock fan Jymn and presumably everyone else who followed the dame's career from her writing days on thought she was. Nice drawing of Patti in her HORSES post courtesy Parrett, complete with dollar signs where eyeballs should reside. Filling out page 11 is a review of Amos Poe's pre-BLANK GENERATION film NIGHT LUNCH which everyone seems to have forgotten even though it was pretty much a punky precursor to his more famous flick with even more famous stars packed in per frame than anyone could imagine!
PAGES 12-13: a piece on Canadian heavies (next to BTO???) Thundermug who were pretty big fanzine fodder at the time, at least until the punk rockers gave all these guys more of a reason to live. The recs are highly recommended by this heavy if you can only find 'em! Filling out 13's a small bit on the graphic makeup on the inside gatefold cover of the Stones' BLACK & BLUE!
PAGES 14-15: the first of a lotta stuff on DD faves Kiss, with some snaps swiped from a Japanese mag (complete with Japanese writing in order to class the thing up a bit) plus a review from an "Alien King" (aka CREEM's Jeffrey Morgan) on the recently-released KISS ALIVE which he calls "one of the most uncompromising LPs released since the Stooges' FUNHOUSE (which is the most uncompromising rock album ever recorded -- with the possible exception of METAL MACHINE MUSIC and don't let anyone ever tell you different!)." And it's good to see someone like Morgan/King drop the name of the MC5 in this one as well!
PAGES 16-17 the masthead more or less and a review of the Kinks' latest SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE. Also featuring a plug for Brian Hogg's latest BAM BALAAM Kinks special which is nice to know!
PAGES 18-19: Dee Daack (as Dee Luxe) on Rush's 2112, better known as that Ayn Rand-influenced concept album that I'll bet woulda been an added kick to the famed objectivist's failing health had she come in contact with this 'un! Still it's ultra-fine reading (in the best fanzine trad) even if you can't stand Rush and/or Rand.
PAGES 20-22: a live report of Kiss in Toronto with some nice snaps and most interestingly enough a mention of how the DD team, who had been corresponding with Gene Simmons (a guy who from all reports is a nice enough chap who not only used to do his own sci-fi/comic book fanzines but loved to read the mid-seventies rock ones including DD and BOMP!) were personally invited backstage by Simmons although his promo people had other ideas!
PAGE 23: Parrett as Sanchez on Black Sabbath and the head-strong lyricism of "Killing Yourself to Live" which "Sanchez" seems to take to heart even to the point where you think he too is going to take the song's lyrics to heart like those kids who actually offed themselves after one too many spins. I'm sure people expecting an issue #8 ne'er to show up probably thought the guy did!
PAGE 24: along with another Kiss snap the letters page, with a note from rock crit Alan Nicetor on Pheobe Snow (perhaps the reason for the front cover blurb?) as well as some guy saying that if the magazine was so heavy metal where was Ted Nugent! A fair question I take it even though once you get down to it Nugent was really about as metal as the Bay City Rollers and twice as cute!
PAGE 25: the It's All Meat review mentioned earlier, a pretty nice writeup on these Canadian flashes who thankfully have hit the reissue cycle more'n once (must search out their Hallucinations label CD with additional tracks!). Really, how could anyone ignore a band that mixes the Country Joe/Doors organ thing with "the metal electricity of the punk rockers that followed"??? Not I.
PAGES 26-27: it wouldn't be an issue of DENIM DELINQUENT without some Aerosmith, and these pages have nothing but them Bostonian rockers answering questions for a Japanese rock mag! Important info for you fans to lap up like birthdays, fave singers etc.!
PAGES 28-29: a neat article by future Barracuda/fanzine contributor par-overdrive Jeremy Gluck on "Louie Louie." Great dwelve into the psyche of this and other "three-chord rock" with yet another mention of FUNHOUSE making that two mentions in one fanzine in 1976, which must be a record of some sort. On the bottom half of page 27 is yet another letter from some guy mad at Jymn for his putdown of the post-Bubble Puppy Demian album in an earlier issue, with Parrett sorta half-heartedly admitting that "it's not such a bad album." (Personally I ain't heard Demian so I will stay outta the fray at least for now!)
PAGES 30-31: the back issues department (Stooges, MC5, Alice, Seeds, boots!), the rest of the Japanese Aerosmith article, and some potential rock lyrics courtesy Parrett that I don't think ever got set to music so if anyone out there is willing to take up the task...
***Kongress-1974-1977 cassette tape
Here's a tape that none other than Von Lmo (or at least his people) sent me back in 1993 when I was doing my infamous cover story on the metallic giant for BLACK TO COMM #21 (plenny left...please take the hint!), and it continues to be a proverbial doozy not only as an artyfact of what else was going on in New York at the time international media attention was being drawn towards the burgh, but just exactly where the heads of minds belonging to Otto von Ruggins, Von Lmo, Geofrey Krozier and perhaps Robert Crash or Lou Rone (who may or may not be on the tracks presented on this tape) were at the time. For the most part, at this point in rock & roll history Kongress sounded like a great late-sixties punk rock group perhaps with the same "metal electricity" that Jymn Parrett alluded to in the It's All Meat review mentioned above, only with the addition of a by-then archaic patchcord ARP synthesizer that I'm sure no authentic punk band coulda afforded back in '69 (although I'll betcha a whole buncha 'em woulda just loved having one in their spiffy basement aggregate!).
There's also the spectre of "heavy metal" in this version of Kongress, but not exactly the term as it became known as once people like Andy Secher at HIT PARADER began molding the music in their own image. More of a CREEM-styled heavy metal, which always seemed to be as different an animal from the more accepted form as Detroit heavy metal was from the same creature. Remember when groups like early Pere Ubu, MX-80 Sound, the Bizarros and even RADIO ETHIOPIA-period Patti Smith were constantly referred to as being heavy metal by the smarter rock crusaders amongst us? Well I now hope you can see just how much the punk and heavy metal spheres just overlapped at the time, although for some strange reason this obvious fact just seemed to woosh right over the heads of rock & roll maniacs worldwide to the point where heavy metal became synonymous with some flash progressive pop music and punk was just something those weird kids listened to. Feh!
Anyway, this tape contains a lotta hot stuff that really does sate the New York underground fiend in me. Sure a lotta Krozier's occult rants may seem either too silly or downright evil to a staunch moralist such as I, but as far as emitting an aura of energy he sure did a good job even without the Crowleyan histronics. (Peter Crowley, the Max's Kansas City booker and as far as I know no relation to the other Crowley once told me that if he had the dough he woulda made Krozier a star because the guy was real where we all knew Ozzy Osbourne was faking it!) With a sound and demeanor that seems part WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, Alice Cooper before the fall, Can (and a lotta the other more garage-bandy krautrock aggros of the day), Suicide, perhaps early-Sabbath, Arthur Brown and some late-sixties Australian garage band we've yet to hear, Kongress might have been able to hit it big on some level though I doubt it, mainly because the world was too mellowed out (and still is!) to appreciate the hard-edged thrust of what this group, and a few hundred like 'em, were up to on the stages of various decrepit clubs and in garages worldwide which really is a shame because y'know we're NEVER gonna get to hear all of this stuff in our lifetime and y'all know that this rockism fan sure wants to!
And yeah, a lotta this tape features some below-par dubbings with other sounds bleeding in and out, but a good hunk is pleasurable enough for my own rather indistinct tastes. Studio tracks heard might have been slated for their ne'er to be EP, and if they were this 'un counda ranked with the likes of Ubu and the Bizarros for class seventies underground Amerigan thud-rock that even the most nimnul of rock bloggers would count as an all-time fave! It is interesting to hear Krozier singing "I Survived" sounding a lot like Phil Mogg imitating Robert Plant giving this 'un an even more late-sixties punk edge to an already tranced-out number. And although the studio stuff here tends to be in tip top shape I gotta admit that the rehearsal tapes vary in quality, though I particularly liked this one number which had Krozier talking over this whining synth and marching bass/drums sound (no guitar) before the music turns into an early Soft Machine jazz organ piece before reverting to this synthroid moan that's supposed to represent the sun going down or something equally esoteric. The live at CBGB tracks recorded in '76 are entertaining enough as they have von Ruggins singing and sound remarkably looser than the studio takes still with more of a late-sixties feel to 'em in their own sorta gothic/teutonic/pagan way, said influence being easily heard on such tracks as "Space Savior" and "Berlin Merlins" with its way-obvious Cream/"Sunshine of Your Love" riffage that woulda made the punques revolt en masse only a good year later! (Just ask Lou Rone!!!)
Earlier material does show up here including two tracks recorded by Funeral of Art in London 1969 with future Kongressmen von Ruggins and Lmo being joined by Sal Maida on bass along with a singer who approximates the tortured vocalese of Krozier and a general sound owing more to Procol Harum during their oft-lauded SALTY DOG days (or so I'm told, never heard that one even though Gregg Turner listed it as one of his all-time faves back inna late-eighties CREEM). Also included is a six-minute excerpt of a show I originally believed was Kongress' debut (but later found out not so since von Ruggins had been using the name even earlier) with the duo of von Ruggins and Lmo creating an electronic wall of noise at CBGB in '74 opening for a neophyte Television! Armed with nothing but the old patchcord ARP and electric guitar, the duo create one of the noisiest sounds to have emanated from that fabled club stage at least until the advent of the same no wave movement both of these guys were part and parcel to went into full swing a few years later.
von Ruggins has been promising a Kongress retrospective for quite some time and frankly I think there is a market, albeit limited to the seventies proto-punk crowd, for such an endeavor. Here's hoping that one eventually does make it out our way because frankly, I could use a little more aggravating music in my life to save me from all of that corny moosh I an inundated with day in/out thanks to a whole slew of people who think they know exactly what I want to listen to, and don't mind shoving it down my throat! And with the aid of a boom box and perhaps some pharmecuticals (just kidding!), maybe I can do some throat-shoving back, eh?
***SATA (fanzine published by Bill Pearson circa 1958-1961)
My review of DENIM DELINQUENT above had me rushing back to these old fanzines that I had just recently won on ebay, not only because these mags shared roughly the same dimensional size as that rockzine mentioned earlier, but because there was sort of the same sense of amateur publishing bravado in both of these titles even though they were published a good fifteen years apart'n all. And although these non-rock fanzines ain't exactly that tops in my ranking as far as much-needed booty goes, I just can't help but marvel at the great detail, effort and all 'round ballziness these mags entail which many times surpasses a lotta things that came outta the rock fanzine idiom back in the seventies and eighties, or at least before the rock fanzine idiom sorta glossed its way outta existence ifyaknowwaddamean...
You might wanna call SATA a Sci Fi fanzine but that would be a bit off the mark. But then again a lotta the 'zineage that has popped up during those boffo late-fifties/early-sixties days were rather genzine-ish themselves with reports on everything from comic books to tee-vee and perhaps even a bitta rock & roll thrown in, so what would you call those rags anyway? SATA is kinda like that...edited by one Bill Pearson (who later helmed the infamous Wally Wood fanzine WITZEND in the late-sixties), SATA consists of everything from bizarroid short stories and comics to lameoid (and not so) attempts at creative writing and maybe even some science fiction moves, all wrapped up in a SF fanzine groove with illustrations galore, many of 'em featuring nekkid broads in full frontal glory (though on occasion I've noticed that a few nipples were excised perhaps due to an angry printer???). A heavy EC vibe hangs over SATA whether it be the general demeanor of the thing, or perhaps the rather Woodyish space gal on page nine of the 11/61 issue, or better yet the want list where amongst a whole slew of SF fanzine wares so desperately needed by Pearson a few "New Trend" titles convienently pop up. Whaddeva, it sure is nice reading these old fanzines (immaculately printed and showing the same more-carefully laidout fanzine look that one would see well into a good portion of the seventies pubs, DENIM DELINQUENT included) even if the issue-long comic story in #11 (January 1960) comes off like an EC tale with a happy ending (but is still pleasurable enough) and you just know the college kid intellecual attitude seen here would lead to a lotta bad crap once the sixties clocked out. But wha' the hey, what else could I say about a fanzine whose motto was nothing other than "People are no damn good!"?!?!?!?
***As the pig said, thaz all! Coming up in future postings are a few more goodies in store, including a review of some hotsy mag I received a few days back called SIGNAL TO NOISE that I'm sure you all will wanna tune in for. Until then, look before you leap (into any blog other than this 'un, that is!).
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:04 PM
Thursday, October 25, 2007
THE SOFT MACHINE 2-LP set (ABC/Command)
Going through my not-as-vast-as-I-wish-it-was elpee collection recently, I discovered that there were way too many albums innit that I have snatched up ever since I first started picking the things up at flea markets and the like o'er the years (starting in 1972 with the acquisition of the 77 SUNSET STRIP soundtrack for a mere ten cents!) that I just haven't had the time to play as of late. And by "as of late" I mean perhaps the past fifteen or even twenty years, this '82 flea market find being amongst the batch. I remember snatching this budget twofa of the first couple Soft Machine albs up at the once-spiffy Hartville Ohio flea market (a place which I must say built up my collection mightily back when the bulk of it consisted of such then o.p. rarities!) along with a copy of Sparks' KIMONO MY HOUSE, ignoring the reams of Roxy Music/Eno albums there as well as an original copy of the first Soft Machine with mangled gadget cover that would be worth a pretty penny in minty condition, and although I pretty much felt that the pickins were generally slim back then (but hey, I was hoping for original Red Krayola and Count Five albums to just come leapin' at me...boy wuz I let down!) little did any of us realize that the goings were gonna be a lot harder w/regards to any tidbits of musical mayhem once the years went on and all that was left in these once-bountiful flea market bins were the likes of THE VOICE OF FIRESTONE Christmas albums with Julie Andrews and more copies of SING ALONG WITH MITCH than your poor heart could stand!
And sooprize sooprize but alla them years later both of these early Soft Machine excursions held up even w/a BLOG TO COMM sense of aesthetic wonder firmly in place and no half-baked excuses to be made for the music's general "worthiness" in sight! And that's despite organist Mick Ratledge's tendency to get into a proto-Keith Emerson progressive rock solo on "Hope For Happiness" and Robert Wyatt's at-times annoying whine which, like sandpaper as a quickie substitute for toilet paper, you have to get used to. The debut remains the best from this early (1968) period despite the fact that pivotal member Kevin Ayers is pretty much kept in the background, though his presence on "We Did It Again" and "Why Are We Sleeping" do set the stage for the man's rather stellar (at least until the late-seventies) solo career. Too bad he bailed out before VOLUME TWO which still ain't no turdburger even though the lack of Ayers means that Wyatt's even more in the forefront which could become a pain if you tend to weary of this cripple commie's pataphysical moosh rather easily. Still, both albums do a pretty tasty balancing act twixt late-sixties English proggoid sounds and avant garde jazz, making Lillian Roxon's exclamations about how the UK popsters thought they were too jazz and the jazzbos too rock when in fact these guys were an avant garde jazz group in rock & roll clothing a lot more realistic than I'd ever give her credit for in a millyun years!
Those interested in more...check out some of the early live recordings legit or not if you can. Wait for a report from me on the early demos LP once I dig it out of my collection, while Wyatt lovers should be sure to pick up his early solo platters and Matching Mole with some trepidation but whatever you do, please ignore the guy's myriad assortment of interviews where he blabs about everything from America to music in general with a Marxist rose colored rear-view mirror firmly in place! I guess the guy and his Spanish revolutionary wife got the daughter they truly deserved!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:48 PM
Monday, October 22, 2007
MY LATEST ORDER FROM NORTON!
Back inna good ol' days (roughly 1979-1992), I used to cherish with glee a package of hard-earned recorded material and fanzine fodder that would get shipped my way thanks to an order I so eagerly placed with a variety of mailorder businesses that were more'n anxious to pilfer from the coffers of maladjusted kiddies nationwide even though many of 'em seemed to spurn the trammels of capitalism. Yes, I can still recall shipping off loot to the likes of Bomp, Rough Trade, Systematic, Disques Du Monde and even Midnight before some jerkoid employee of theirs gave me the telephonetic brushoff thus earning my eternal derision, and the bountiful booty that I received in exchange for money my father told me I was "pouring down a rathole" continues to color my already millyun-dollar collection all these years later...well, at least it was a better investment than some of the stocks dad got stuck with so all these years later I gotta say who was doing the real rathole pouring, eh? Looking back lo those many years its not hard to see that those were pretty exhilarating times (despite the very heavy personal probs I hadda struggle through) when discovering the music was just as all-enveloping as listening to it, when there were gems both old and new to explore out there in "indie rock" land (before that became the graveyard I thought it would never turn into considering how people were supposed to be a lot smarter than they were in the sixties!) and for the most part rock & roll wasn't this pallid, watered-down thin shadow of its former self but a true exploration of what was known as a "Universal Youth Language." Y'know, a musical Rosetta Stone which could trace its true beginnings way back to the proud and sublime workings of the Velvet Underground. Or maybe the Stooges or even Sky Saxon for that matter, but whatever I sure remember the unbridled joy I'd get opening up a boxfulla platters just beggin' to be spun while eyeballing some old long-unsold fanzines that were wallowing in the Bomp warehouse because nobody wanted to even know about 'em 'cept me! And you could bet dollars-to-doughboys that the evening was gonna be one sound-packed, info-crammin', parent-yellin' one-man party time when once again dear ol' me was gonna get a chance to resensify myself after a day of drudgery and general anti-life/human misery at the hands of just about everything and everyone out there in that mad, stinkin' world.
Of course nowadays I can't escape from the slime by merely playin' records (or Cee-Dees if you will) like I usedta and in fact a lotta the stress and nausea I experience these days comes at the hands of these very same music-mavens that I thought were my friends at one time, but nothing in the world can erase the happiness and joy I get whenever I open up a freshly-packed order of discs (and disques even!) sent my way courtesy of a variety of newer record-dealing businesses, Norton records being amongst the few I continue to do biz with. Now, guilt-riddled I must admit that I really don't order that many things from Norton even though I should...and who wouldn't want to buy and buy again from the likes of Billy Miller and Miriam Linna because not only is their service fast and courteous (esp. in this day and age when upstart entrepreneurs think they're doing you such a service that you must grovel at their footsies in abject appreciation), but they have such a great selection of recs for sale not only from their own label but from other fifties/sixties oriented specialists who seem to be about as obscure as you can get these days, and dealing with Norton is what we in the 21st Century would call "hassle free" if you get the drift. And not only that, but the team of Miller and Linna (no, not a seventies cop show but the brains behind the A-Bones!) are such neat-o people who have always been nice to even a low-rung fanzooner as I (while I've received so much guff n' stuff from way too many comparatively lower-echelon creeps emanating from the likes of San Francisco, Melbourne and other hell holes out there!) that sometimes I just have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming whenever I get such a nice letter from one or the other with whatever order is headin' my way! I've said it a hunnerd times before (and will say it a hunnerd times more at the risk of sounding tres-redundant) but Billy and Miriam have been like Big Brother and Big Sister to me, and whenever I get all discombobulated about all of the stuff I hadda go through (and CONTINUE to!) thanks to the likes of Jay and Dave (not to mention Gerard, Pat and their toady minions) all I have to do is remember all of the nice stuff that Mr. Miller and his better half did for me and maybe I don't feel like obliterating the human race as much as I usually do. But then again, Billy and Miriam know all about getting the shaft from people they trusted wholeheartedly, and although they got their justice (more or less) while I haven't I can sure understand and even (in the mooshiest sense!) feel for the two who have been called worse things in the heat of a greater hostility than I hope I will ever personally see. So all you people (names mentioned above and loads more) who get all bubbly and self-congratulating when some seventies punker of note emails you, just remember that I have Billy and Miriam in my corner and that's good enough for me!
Anyway, I just got this batch of singles (all on the Norton label) from the two this very morn...all were paid for by me myself and you-know-who (not a freebee inna batch...y'see, I can carry my own load and dish out the bux when need be...I'm no slouch even though I don't mind bein' one when the moment arises!) and listened to/written up in the afternoon, and although maybe I shoulda let these platters "soak in" in order to craft one of those deeply-fraught-with-meaning writeups you see in THE VILLAGE VOICE perhaps the immediacy of relaying to you all about these singles which always hit you right then-and-there (being quick fixes of musical pleasure lasting less than a few minutes a side) would be a lot better as far as my natural spontaneity on my part goes. And hey, maybe this post will egg you on to purchasing some or all of these wares but maybe not, but whaddeva I've seen my doody and I'm doing so let's just say the ball's in your court Billy Jean...
Bunker Hill-"Hide and Go Seek Pt. 1"/"Hide and Go Seek Pt. 2"
Remember back in the mid-eighties when those BACK FROM THE GRAVE elpees were comin' out and helping to spur on a sixties garage band revival on punk rock terms, or at least something to that effect? Well, my review of the boffo Vol. 4 of that series actually made it into the pages of either OP or OPTION or one of those rags I used to write for back in the day, and in that very review I mentioned rather tongue-up-cheeks-like that this very artist, the one known as Bunker Hill who was backed up by none other'n Link Wray and the Raymen, made Little Richard look like the ineffectual no-talent that he most certainly is! And if you don't think that off-that-cuff remark didn't earn my any unbridled ire at the hands of fifties rock & roll lovers world-wide, well then you're wronger than wtong (or Robert Christgau for that matter) can be! Actually, I gotta say that my (so called) temporary insanity was caused not only from Richard's rather tepid eighties comeback that left me colder than a dog's nose at a nudist colony, but his appearance on PHIL DONAHUE where the Little One schmoozed up to not only the host but an audience fulla limousine liberals (this being the pre-"latte" days) while playing a mushy gospel song for them as well! And don't tell me you'd think any differently if you were in my shoes having to put up with all that, you myopic leering insecure blogreader you!
Truth of the matter is I'll still take Hill over Little Richard even this late inna game, and sheesh, it's sure grand giving a listen to this long-gone obscurity which features the team of Hill and Wray in their only chart-crashing hit. What can I say other'n it's a great foot-stomper dance-floor shaker featuring, like followup b-side "Little Red Riding Hood" nothing but a steady drum beat with Hill barking out the rules of the game as Wray and band holler back. And it goes on for two sides as well to the point where yeah, I could see this one being an outta-left-field surprise hit in the early-sixties that I used to hear on car-radios as a wee little kid while my parents would act all disgusted, like there were a coupla dogs goin' at it out there or somethin'! Kinda sounds like one of those records my older cousin had in her collection that me and her brother would play at age three thinkin' it was so cool, only to once again slip on that scratchy copy of "Washington Square" and walk around the room to it over and over because we thought that's what the people on BANDSTAND did, we being preschoolers who couldn't comprehend things like the older folks but we wanted to play at grownups anyway. Kids, learn from me and take better care in your toddlin' musical tastes!
***The Dictators-16 Forever"/"Stay With Me"
It's about time these Dictator rarities saw the light of day, especially since they were swimming around on tape lists along with other Dics rarities (inc. the 1973 demos done by a pre-Handsome Dick Manitoba version of the band which I understand will get a proper release rather soon!) for well over a whopping quarter-century! But better late 'n never for you rabid Dickers and kudos def. must go to Mister Miller for pestering Adny Shernoff for years for the honor to release these sides until Shernoff eventually said "sure nuff!" (The blogster must get his little joke in here...) Taken from the classic BLOODBROTHERS era, "16"'s got Shernoff ticklin' the tonsils on yet another power-packed Dics winner that shoulda been released back then but wasn't because we all remember just how staid and frightened record company people were (and remain for that matter!), while the outtake of "Stay With Me" with a now-"HD" Manitoba up front sounds a lot better'n the official version making me wonder why this loft recording wasn't used 'stead of the not-that-much-better sounding cut that did made it! Whaddeva, it's top-rank Dictators here that even the scoffers will admit was a lot better'n the competition, with heavy metal power pop chords a la the MC5 or Eddie and the Hot Rods that woulda aroused more'n a few aficionados of the form in that CREEM/BACK DOOR MAN-sorta way had it only got around back then. But it didn't or else the Handsome One would have been making guest appearances on THAT SEVENTIES SHOW back when it was still on!
***Question Mark and the Mysterians-"Are You For Real?"/"I'll Be Back"
A nice surprise here's this pre-"96 Tears" demo side from the infamous Question Mark and his Mysterians which, although lacking in the rough-and-tumble punkiness of the better-known cuts this band offered up, shows the roots of it all with that great sorta Tex-Mex transplanted to Michigan style that the likes of Doug Sahm helped dish out when all seemed lost for Amerigan rock & roll. And really, what else could you say??? B-side seems a bit more Beatle-y slower'n the usual but it does suit me fine, as long as it stays on the flip!
***The Vikings-"I Need Your Lovin'"/"Such a Love"
Here's a disc I took a special interest in because these particular one-out-of-many Vikings came from none other than the small town of Champion Ohio, a place that ain't as close to the Cleveland Coast as Miriam Linna's liner notes would have you believe but a burgh located just north of Warren (in fact, Champion is best known as a "suburb" of that notable city!) which in itself is just north of Youngstown and believe me but that ain't anywhere near Cleveland even though you sure could pick the Cleveland stations up a lot clearer from Champion than you could ol' Sharon Pee-YAY! How should I know all this? Well, none other than Jillery herself lives in Champion and lemme tell you I've been there more times than you can count and it's a small farmboy kinda place with lots of old houses and vast fields and wild animals and things like that roaming about, not exactly the kinda place you'd expect a polka band to exist let alone a buncha punk rockers like the Vikings, who made this record (actually recorded in Youngstown) and vanished within the blink of an eye back in the middest of those middle sixties.
Nice Kinks jangle on the frontside with the early ('62/'63) Beatles getting the influence pickings on the flip, and it even comes on yellow see-through wax just in case you're nostalgic for those late-seventies Stiff singles you used to eyeball in the singles rack at shopping mall record haunts nationwide. Naturally I doubt that any of you reg'lar readers would care about such inanities as colored vinyl but it kinda looks nice in the anal-retentive collection, plus the sounds extant are fun enough in that great trashoid way that had me flocking to the same mailorder companies mentioned earlier in order to drool over a variety of listings for way-overpriced wares that we'd eventually latch onto once the market became saturated and prices went down. And funny thing about it, but a good fortysome years after this stuff was originally recorded and a good twenny after the big garage band reissue craze began in earnest the Vikings still sound fresh and alive just as they did the day this single was pressed up and sold at dances county-wide! I'm only saying this because some critics of the form out there seemed to tire of those same one/two-chord rompers rather early on and let this fact be known in their various writings o'er the years. Funny, but I never did get bored listening to these "primitive" hard-thunk single sides and (hopefully) never will no matter how long I live, which must only go to show you what a stick-inna-mud I am when it comes to rock & roll, right?
***Randy Alvey & The Green Fuz-"Green Fuz"/"There is a Land"
Here's one that Norton ished long ago but I'm only getting around to it now which sure must earn me some sorta award for procrastination, eh? Sounding a lot clearer'n on that very same PEBBLES VOL. 2 album you too first heard it, Randy and his Fuz sing their "come on" song from the bowels of Texas clanking away in typical teenage fashion while on the flip some guy named R. L. Hutchins or Christopher Hitchens for all I know talk sings this melodrama o'er a fifties r&b vamp that somehow deals with a mother who is going to die soon and an old man who is really Hutchins' father or something like that. True the lyricist for this should have taken a night school course in creative writing, but considering just how hard it is to follow some of these sixties punk platters (ever tried making sense of PEBBLES VOL. 3?) what else is new. Green vinyl makes the ownership experience more copasetic because once you get down to it, that five-year-old still getting all excited about learning his colors lives on deep inside my rather puffed exterior!
***The Figures of Light-"It's Lame"/"I Jes Wanna Go To Bed"
And finally for today's soiree into classic slabs of the past comes this all-umportant single side recorded by a group with the unlikely (at least for 1972) moniker the Figures of Light which reminds me more of the reams of post-Shadows of Knight influenced group names that came out in '66 more'n anything part and parcel to the early-seventies! And given these guys' pedigree I must say that it's strange that a group such as this should have evaded my radarscope for oh-so-long. I mean, not only were the Figures an early-seventies bunch heavily into the likes of the Velvet Underground and Stooges back when few people knew (or dared) to, but they had one of those all-important confrontational stage acts (mostly lifted from the Move, but I won't tell anyone!) customary to the likes of Alice Cooper, the Stooges, Kongress perhaps and other punk ravers of the day who hopefully will get their story told more sooner than later. And yeah, I gotta say that Billy Miller's remarks about how a tape of their debut live show back '70 way made "'Sister Ray' sound like 'MacArthur Park'" was enough to get my attention up like nothing written since Meltzer! It was just about as on-target in a Bill Tell sense as the time when Peter Laughner wrote that "the Electric Eels make the Stooges sound like the Carpenters" or even when Jymn Parrett once again in the pages of DENIM DELINQUENT mentioned that UFO's original guitarist Mick Bolton "makes Rock Asheton sound like Carlos Montoya"! Well, Miller's exclamation was powerful enough that when an original copy of this very single (100 copies pressed) came up for auction on ebay a few weeks ago I anxiously placed a bid, even though that $189.72 that I entered didn't stay tops for very long.
But hey, at least us po' folk can afford this reish complete with a cool pic sleeve (which I reprinted above nice and large because this is an important record and thus deserves the honor of more pixel-space!) and lemme tell you in a straightforwards BLOG TO COMM way that it's a real winner in an arena that shoulda been brimming with such primal underground rock acts but wasn't! Not too many people were making their own punk rock records back in '72 and even though there were more'n a fair share of such species roaming around it wasn't like local fame and fortune would warrant most groups issuing their own singles like they did back inna sixties. But the Figures of Light did just that, and although this ain't quite the heavy metal Detroit/WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT all-out throttle I thought it was gonna be given Miller's appraisal it sure is a great romp that'll zone you back to the late-seventies days of primitive self-released crunch! Perhaps this single's even a contender for "Best of '07" even though it came out last year but as you know, such things don't really mean anything in BLOG TO COMM-time because frankly, I always get these things more later'n sooner.
Actually if you told me the "It's Lame" single was a mid-sixties rarity that just popped up into the collector's consciousness I would believe you sans any eye-batting to be seen on my part! And even though (despite?) these sides being recorded in the studio where at least somebody behind the boards shoulda known better, this single has the same raw urgency of a homemade recording that one found not only on the Electric Eels' "Agitated" side but another such similar classic as Distorted Levels "Hey Mister" which continues to rank as an anal-retentive punk collector's item in boffo standing even after a good three decades of rumination. And the performance is crazed enough that one could easily have imagined a Figures of Light/Electric Eels bill at some forsaken high school gym back in the day, with the a-side coming off like a simple sixties riff that stops and starts repeatedly throughout the side, while "I Jes' Wanna Go To Bed" has this Bo Diddley beat (or is it Stooges circa "1969" or even Gizmos circa 1976?????) that woulda guaranteed the Figs a spot on the latest BACK FROM THE GRAVE back in '87 or whenever they finally wrapped up that series even though it was recorded way outside the usual sixties garage band scope. And yeah it ain't exactly what I thought it was gonna be that don't mean it's a slouch either. Definitely a group who deserves more exposure (and don't worry, these guys did a reunion gig with none other than Miriam Linna filling in the drum slot!) and hey Billy, if that live debut of theirs was so wild, how about releasing that and in the very near future as well! Maybe you can offer a double set with their first gig and their reunion coupled, though if you do please warn me in advance so I can take some nitroglycerine tablets in order to PREPARE myself for da thing!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:34 PM
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Before we get to the subject of today's hotcha disques in question, let me clue you in to a neato blog I only recently discovered and found so informative and entertaining (in that thrills and chills me to the quick of my unsated desires kinda way) that I actually found it right and proper to link the thing up on the left-hand column for all of you neophytes to take a gander at it and learn a two or thing about just exactly where you came from, and it wasn't the stork! Anyway this new-to-you blog's called The Third Banana and it's a doozy too which makes me wonder just how I coulda lived so long without it! The Third Banana's devoted to nothing but those crazy moom pitcher comedians of the past (talkin' H-wood's "Golden Age" and even before) that I and presumably you have gone gaga over for a good portion of your kiddie consciousness lifespan which continues to hold a soft spot in your head. Remember all of those boffo articles on such oft-neglected yet meaningful subjects as Educational Pictures and Leon Errol that I wrote about in my own fanzine way back in the maybe not-so-wild-and woolly early-nineties? Well, Third Banana deals in the same sorta chicanery only with a much deeper sense-of-obsession that's perhaps even more one-track than the usual compulsiveness seen in one of those old BLACK TO COMM pieces on whatever captured my fancy at the time! In fact, even the usually staid and generally nonplussed """""I""""" is so impressed by this power-oomphed blog that I'll even go out on my usual limb and tell you all that Third Banana is just the ticket to chase away the blooze usually associated with 21st century living chock fulla the usual pics, posters and Youtube clips that make these blogs more'n the spiritual successor to the same sense of fanzine wonderment that still lingers on somewhere out there in cyberspace! And you really gotta admire a blog that gives the all-out for one of the most out-there funnymen of recent memory, none other than the very same Joe Cook who I have been mentioning at the drop of a hat not only in my fanzoonie of yore but this very blogspot! You'll probably learn more about this guy in one sitting after romping through THE THIRD BANANA than you did during the past ninetysome years of your pathetic existence! When you're done reading today's entry into the wonderful world of BLOG TO COMM-dom, head straight for the banana!
And now on to Moby Grape. Wow (no pun intended), what a great band! It's funny, because I as well as I assume a good hefty portion of you readers, had these guys pegged as just another West Coast batch of country-rock hippies for quite a longer time than any of us could imagine. I probably know why I had these preconceptions crammed into my beanie by heart, and the fact that they were from San Francisco '67 with an ex-Airplane member in the ranks certainly didn't help with any "coolness" for wont of a better term quotient in my book. That along with the fact that way too many "experts" (TRANSLATION: older kids inna neighborhood) thought they were shucks. Of course, I wasn't too impressed myself when I caught THE SWEET RIDE on THE CBS FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE with Tony Franciosa and Bob Denver eyeballing a topless Jacqueline Bisset onna beach, but that must have been because of my disappointment of not seeing more of the famed lassie's assets ifyaknowaddamean... But thanks to the sage advice of such in-the-know types as Billy Miller and Jymn Parrett (not to mention faverave Edgar Breau) I decided to give these San Fran victims of overhype and overactive glands a chance and whaddya know, despite what Krazee Kenne Highland said this ain't some strange precursor to the Doobie Brothers (an' he meant that as a compliment...) but fine late-sixtes West Coast folk rock stuck somewhere between garage band and psychedelia. And what's even better about the whole shebang is that there's nary a shard of any of the excess or embarassment that would practically ruin the whole West Coast scene as it went from jangle to hack within the span of a good five years.
Debut platter MOBY GRAPE remains a class rock & roll epiphany ranking with such other efforts by Pink Floyd, the Red Crayola, Deviants and Velvet Underground as far as exemplary initial popouts of '67 go, and the thing's certainly a topper when compared with some of the doo-doo that did make it out that year. It's no real surprise that Lou Reed, during one of his customary West Coast putdowns of the time, felt it necessary to include Moby Grape as the exception to the rule (he later would lump Janis and Big Brother in with the Grape as SF's shining moment, no slouch he). After all, there was the same sense of urgency and chilled intensity on MOBY GRAPE that was also found on THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO...perhaps the Grape's debut ranks with FIFTH DIMENSION and early Love as the best application of East Coast street rock on West Coast terms. Whatever, this one's a sublime winner that only goes to show ya just how pallid other Californian groups like the Dead, Airplane and Doors were in comparison.
And it ain't hard to see why the Grape "worked" despite all of the major-league goofs that kept them from being the all-Umerigan band they coulda been at the time. The three-guitar lineup helped as well as the fact that there was really no clear leader in the band with everybody taking pretty much an equal share of the burden so to speak. And even though the serious SF denizens thought them unworthies (witness ROLLING STONE's willful ignorance of them at the time) it was the Grape, along with the Flamin' Groovies a few years later, who were the standard-bearers for a more refreshing West Coast style and attitude that should have made it big with the same midwest nobodies pimple-squeezing to this music, and considering how their sound resonated in bands such as Simply Saucer years afterwards only goes to show you just how WRONG the taste arbitors were way back when everybody should have known better.
Followup WOW still seems to annoy even the staunchest Grape fans and I can see why. But frankly, I find the use of horns and strings give these songs a good punch here and there plus the chipmunk/country music spoof "Funkytune" fits in rather spiffy if you ask me. Heck, finally getting to hear "Just Like Gene Autry (A Foxtrot)" at the correct speed complete with Arthur Godfrey's throwback intro was worth the wait. (By the way, didja know that during the recording of this track Godfrey and perennial lunatic Skip Spence got along swimmingly well, perhaps hecause of their shared love of general craziness and practical jokester knowhow? And to make matters even stranger in the Moby Grape annals of an already-bizarre career Godfrey was totally unaware of the twenties/thirties nostalgia craze that drove the Grape to write and record this song in the first place! He thought it interesting that some rock group was recording the same music he and a lotta other ukelele bums were doing back then and nothing more which I think is a lot cooler than the attitude my mother had which was that them smartaleck kids were MAKING FUN of their elders!) True WOW ain't as focused or (let's face it) as entertaining as the first 'un, but it sure ain't the swan dive into the turdbowl way too many people make it out to be. But then again I've yet to purchase GRAPE JAM (the original second platter with the Grape grooving along with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper guesting in the piano stool) which might just be the "teeter" to teeter-tot me into writing this period of the Grape's career off for good...after all, I thought that "Miller's Blues" where former Gerry Roslie bandmate Jerry Miller does his white blues impression the weakest thing on WOW but then again I get that way sometimes.
The bonus material is always a good go-getter esp. if you have this stuff already and need an excuse to toss another fifteen smackers down the rathole. It's nice to finally hear "The Sweet Ride" after all these years (I switched the movie off after I discovered it wasn't gonna be one of those funny Bob Denver vehicles I had imagined it was) and discover just what a powerful hard-rocker in the best SF tradition that number remains, plus that "audition" take of "Indifference" is what I would call a raver with a rawness that never did translate to finished product.
In the meanwhile (while I'm searching out reishes of MOBY GRAPE '69 and TRULY FINE CITIZEN) here are some Youtube Grapestomps that should give you a taste of what kinda jelly these guys could roll out. Dunno where the first one originates from but not only does it present two numbers from the debut smash (including the beautiful and enveloping "Sitting By The Window") but it contains some entertaining and typical-of-the-times camerawork and of course the obligatory dancing gal along with some high-larious commentary about how the Grape are bridging the "Generation Gap" and the urban/rural gap for that matter with their all-new and never-before-attempted country-rock sound!
The second clip is from THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW also from way back inna day, and although Bill Shute thinks that Merv was cool I think he was a pitiful creature next to Mike and his long-whacked out show which really knew how to mix and match the guests and juxtapose classic comedians and controversial figures without batting an eye! Anyway here's Mike introducing the Grape (and mishandling their name in the process!) from way back in the day when Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch were still getting apopleptic over anything not outside the realms of Jan Garber and Guy Lumbago!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:10 PM
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
MUSIC HATH ALARUMS TO DO SOMETHINGOROTHER...
...but right now I dunno what specifically. But until I remember what it exactly was that music is supposed to do for aging demi-hipsters like myself how about taking a gander at that clock (set at BTC-mean time) I had installed just to the left of this all-important missive o' mine which I gotta humbly say is really boffo, eh? Actually I decided to download the clock for my own benefit as I've been spending way too much time on this very blog (which is one of my faves if I do say so!) and often lose track of the time while re-reading my own way-beyond belief (in a positive, life-affirming sense) words when I should be out scouting the competition. Anyway, who sez that BLOG TO COMM ain't keeping up with the latest in kitchy gadgetry that is available with the mere flick of a mouse (at least after reading alla them heretofores and forwiths you have to agree to)???
The Moby Grape reviews'll hafta wait a bit since I want my opines re. the reish of their first couple to ruminate in the fertile valley of my imagination before committing anything to type, but until then here are a couple of jazzbo records I just got that you might have an interest in wanting to know more about. Maybe not, but if you've tuned into this blog inna first place it's my guess that you too have rather discriminating tastes for a wider array of musical sounds than the usual same old SST appreciations or "hot" amerindie picks to flop! Hey, why else would you rather read me spout off about a vast array of my current and not-so faves/acquisitions ranging from jazz and classical (with even a few folk sidesteps!) along with the rock (& roll) rather than "experiencing" so-and-so bleat on about the usual tired twaddle day in and day out! And even honest-to-gosh I's gotta admit that my general tastes have sprouted to and fro o'er the past quarter-century or so of my listening longevity...of course they ain't as all-encompassing as a Bill Shute's or Brian Doherty's but they're still pretty impressive enough to even knock ME for a loop once in awhile.
Anyhoo the first elpee up on the chopping block today's Jimmy Giuffre's TANGENTS IN JAZZ, the Affinity reissue that came out along with all of those other ones that this Charly offshoot clogged up the market with back in the early-eighties. No classy patented black background/white block lettering cover on this one, but at least Affinity did have the smarts to use the original Capitol snap from '56 complete with that Mary Ellen Bute-ish egg floating around in classic avant garde aplomb. And speaking of the avant garde, you do know that Giuffre was one of the leaders of that movement (not necessarily to be confused with "Third Stream" although I can see how some novices could be stymied) back in the fifties when the only ones who seemed to be tackling something new were Cecil Taylor, Charlie Mingus, Sun Ra and of course George Russell who pretty much helped splat the music into the ether with "A Bird in Igor's Yard" which was so shock of the new that it took a good twenty-five years for Capitol to get the nerve to release the thing! Of course I'm repeating myself, but for first-hand experience please grab hold of a copy of CROSSCURRENTS if only to see where you really come from music-wise!
Don't expect any Roscoe Mitchell-induced epiphanies here since Giuffre's still sorta tip-toeing 'round the white pre-bop West Coast cool while introducing a few nice li'l shards of future shock atonality here and there. And despite its rather "white"-sounding nature even a comparatively bleached person as I has to admit TANGENTS IN JAZZ is more'n just a good idea of where the avant garde was "stationed at" back in the mid-fifties. But still, even I must 'fess up to the fact that TANGENTS isn't necessarily the cathartic crunch I was hoping for. Definitely nothing near the total free chamber jazz that the early-sixties Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow would alienate Verve records and a lotta confused beatniks with let alone that great side he did with Shorty Rogers on the Shelly Manne-led THE THREE a good year or so before this sesh. (And if that record only got out more the reaction to Ornette five years later might've been a lot more sociable, dontcha think?) But as an archival stepping stone, this one is important. I find the mix of El Lay cool with some safe experimentation on the side a lot more satisfying than much of the then-contempo third stream sounds that Gunther Schuller was promulgating throughout the fifties and early-sixties.
An additional note...the group backing Giuffre on these sides is pretty in-tune with his mid-fifties musical vision. Most notable amongst these sidemen is trumpeter Jack Sheldon, a guy who is probably best known to you not only as the star of that short-lived mid-sixties serio-sitcom RUN BUDDY RUN (the one where an innocent kvetch is onna lam from the mob after overhearing some big league rubout plans in a steam room) but as part of the late-sixties DRAGNET stock company...I mean, who out there could forget the infamous dope-sniffing German Shepherd episode where an ultra-cool Sheldon's taunting the cops and their dog who's on the hunt for a little salami? Sheldon was also the bandleader on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW for a long time as well, with Merv usually tossing about a whole lot of jokes (at first rather tame but growing more lurid as time rolled on) about Sheldon's various booze/pooty-related indiscretions which I guess were things "of legend" as they say. Of course Sheldon, if he didn't want to keep his job, could've made great humorous hay over all the things MERV did last night as well!
A rec way more up my alley that I received only recently (though owned via tape thanks to Imants Krumins) is Francois Tusques' INTERCOMMUNAL MUSIC, a release on the infamous Shandar label (also home to Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and Lamonte Young) that for some odd reason I haven't seen reissued in any format even though it seems that the Shandar catalog is up for grabs these days. A shame, since INTERCOMMUNAL MUSIC is whatcha'd call a pretty vital offering in the realms of free jazzdom not only for its great lineup (Sunny Murray and Alan Silva are amongst the players) and gallic stoicism but because the thing is one big screaming blur of hard-edged honk and splatter that, when done in the right frame of addle, can become as pure a force of energy as anything committed to wax if not the pure air. And if that sounds like a load of twaddle you're right, but at least my inept description of the entire late-sixties/early-seventies cusp of fire music sure comes off a lot sweller'n the typical jazzoid sterility used to describe such beyond-words powerplay, and much better'n the hideous Glade air freshener/"Think of flamingos while you're playing" school of jazz nada that is a lot more prevalent than you'll ever admit.
The typically Europeon radical left bent of this 'un was pretty much consigned to the dumpster sometime around the fall of the Berlin Wall (but dontcha worry all you Che wannabes...I hear it's making a comeback! [oh goody!!!]), but even with songs bearing titles that loosely translate into "The Imperialist is a Paper Tiger" and "The Reactionary Forces" who can resist listening to this aural splurge that mostly features Tusques playing high-register piano as his compats create some of the best atonal jazz I've had the pleasure of hearing at least since the Art Ensemble twofer reviewed last month. And not only that, but Tusques even tries to take on Eddie Phillips, Jimmy Page and Fred Frith at their own game with some bowed guitar playing plus (at the beginning of side two, the reactionary forces track I told you about) our leader engages in some bowed saw play while cellist Silva and the two double bassists engage in something that could only be described as an update on the string quartet of yore sorta beamed 200 years into the future without barf bags! And the revolutionary bent continues all along to the final track on the platter "Portrait d'Erika Huggins" which is a tribute to the Black Panther chick pictured in power-fist salute on the back cover who, at the time of this recording, was being hassled to no end by "the pigs" over here in the comparatively backwards U. S. of Whoa. Y'see, Huggins was a pretty big figure in the Panthers power structure at the time, even though her main contribution to the cause was her ability to boil the water used to torture suspected snitch Alex Rackley. Well, at the time I'm sure it seemed like the haute thing to record a song dedicated to Huggins and hey, maybe it is a small step if any above Steve Lacy dedicating one of his albums to the Italian Red Army. And remember, like I said it's all coming back so maybe it's time for you to get a copy of this album to get all radically resensified to, at least until 2010 hits the boards and it all looks rather simpy once again.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:03 PM
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Just wanted to drop a quick line to direct you to this recently-discovered blogpost dealing with none other than the oft-praised (by me) Joe Cook where you can not only read about his tres-boffo short "Penny Wise" but actually see it! Now don't you think Cook's a lot funnier than all of the primetime network/cable shows of the past twentysome years combined, not to mention a few detestible blogs out there that shall remain nameless until the time comes?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:17 PM
Although I certainly have other recently-received fish to fry of both the analog and digital species (including the reissue of the first two Moby Grape elpees on Sundazed...y'see, after listening to the first 'un in its classic vinyl format I decided to step up in the world, do a little upgradin' in my collection and actually dished out for the first two and first two ONLY because I'm still afraid to give a listen to GRAPE JAM lest it ruin my opinion of the band for good and as far as I know MOBY GRAPE '69 ain't been reished or at least in this new Cee-Dee config) I thought I'd devote this particular post to the recent batch of Nipponese-oriented (hah!) underground rock & roll plats that have been headin' my way as of late. And as faithful readers of this blog probably already know by heart in their sleep frontwards and sideways, Japan is a pretty good hotbed of great underground rockism that even surprises a seen-it-all-before fogey like myself, with a whole slew of groups comin' outta the place highly reminiscent of none other than Les Rallizes Denudes, the band that pretty much started the whole Japan rock balla wax rollin' way back in 1967 when they, like Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano and Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show elsewhere on this sphere, decided to do the Velvet Underground thing in their own backyard thus setting the stage for the big upheaval in Third Generation Rock that would transpire throughout the seventies only to get milked to death later but let's not waste our time on musical abortions the likes of X-tal, today we be talkin' JAPAN!!!
If the Denudes gang are the ones who pretty much created the Japanese avant-punk scene back during the musical kerfuffle of the late-sixties it was bands like Up-Tight, Doodles and LSD March that took the ball into the endzone a good twenty-plus years after Mizutani Takashi and gang decided to give the Fugs and Country Joe the one-up on the politico front. Up-Tight as you know are honest-to-goodniz "acolytes" of the Denudes (with a Japanese-language Velvet Underground site to their name as well!) and their stripped-down power-trio sound lends credence to this fact even though their more recent outing left me so unimpressed that I haven't had the gumption to play it in the three years since it first graced my laser launching pad. And I'm afraid I'll have to say the same thing about LSD March as well...while their earlier endeavors from the turn of the piscean age continue to strike fear into psyched-out hearts world-wide (I still have a strong affinity for their live bootleg CD which, besides having a great audience-quality sound reminiscent of the best seventies tapes still floating around consists of nothing but the smashbang openings of what promise to be extraordinaire numbers that get cut off before they can develop into their full potential) their latest CONSTELLATION OF TRAGEDY (Alchemy, available through the regular sources) is rather subdued on both the energy and content fronts. From what I can tell head Marcher Shinsuke Michishita's ever-changing backing group has dwindled to drummer Ikuro Takahashi with Michishita handling not only his guitar but bass, theremin, musical box and harmonium giving this 'un a comparatively extreme introspective sound that, true, reminds one of the softer Denudes tracks that can be heard on a variety of releases both legit and not but at least those "ballads" were surrounded by some might potent fire music. Only one track approximating the classic hard Japanese psychedelic sound emerges (track four) and that one's a pretty good killer with its "Pablo Picasso" done John Cale-style beat, but the rest is kinda, er, effete to the point that it will surprise longtime Japan rock watchers expecting the second coming of heavy metal CREEM-style. Not the best place to start if you're new in the game, but lest you think this a total wipeout lemme say that if you squint your ears a bit this may sound something like a Japanese version of Skip Spence's OAR.
(And, although I usually don't complain in typical Robert Christgoo fashion, this disque only clocks in at 27 minutes and 22 whopping seconds which should qualify as a ripoff esp. in this age of the hour-long album, but considering how non-plussed I was with this particular side let's just consider it a blessing.)
With a name like Tsumentaikinomama it has to be good, right? Well, that's exactly what I was hoping after reading the hype accompanying the sale of this group's two platters which (once again) dribbed out the Velvet Underground/Les Rallizes Denudes comparisons. Well, unfortunately very little of both appear on their two platters that came out once again via Alchemy... frankly both of 'em sound way too clean and professional to come anywhere near the lofty standards of either group. If any comparisons are to be made let it be David Gilmour-period Pink Floyd somewhere near the time of those weird multi-colored kaleidoscope covers I used to look at with awe until I finally paid cash to hear 'em and was particularly underwhelmed. Miminokoto, who impressed me on the original NIGHT GALLERY sampler, also tended to weave into a Floydian groove that really irked me and it turns out that this bunch come way close to the same taproot of progressive nada. File under footnote.
Finally on today's rockalogue's Overhang Party, yet another group that gets the hefty Velvets/Rallizes comparisons and falls short, but at least these guys do a much better job at the invigorating noise than their other compats have. An apt description of this act would be the late Velvet Underground when these innovates were digging up the early roots on LOADED and thereabouts with interesting sidesteps into La Dusseldorf, John Cale (as solo star circa PARIS 1919) and Phil Specter even. Within the sixties-pop and avant garde fun and games are some interesting asides like a string quartet accompanying a particularly early-Velvets pouncer that after it's all over comes off someting like the Time CD that I reviewed sometime back complete with all of that avant garde noise that was part and parcel of every album to come out of the late-sixties! If David Keenan told me this was some lost 1967 album made by a buncha guys at some Nipponese university who wanted to do the new music/rock thing on their own terms I might just dish out the big buckskins to give the thing a whirl! A nice little outta-the-way surprise even if it was recorded over a decade ago but it sure tops the other Far Eastern freakouts that preceded it on today's journey into the Japanese mind.
More Asian astounders to follow hopefully soon, but until then here's one of those self-gratifying BLOG TO COMM playlists not only to pad this post out but to lord all over you peons in a "Ha, this is what I'm listening to dontcha wish you had alla these recordings in YOUR collection you effete little polyp you..." sorta way! Feel honored for once:
NOISETET OBSCURE CD-One of the things I really liked about tuning into those old CBGB cybercasts back inna maybe not-so-good-ol'-days was catching not the bigname acts that would traipse across the now-caved in stage but the up-and-comers and nobodies and general flybynights that would take their chance not only in the main dining area but on the stages of the smaller gallery and lounge areas convieniantly located next door. True there were a lotta duff acts and general nadas playing at the place (I remember once tuning into the gallery and coming across some solo gal singer who, although not offensive or especially irritating in a musical sense, had the unmitigated audacity to tell her gathered curiousity-seekers about the greatness of one Joni Mitchell!) but amidst the non-starters and what-was-that??? sorta acts to get booked at the place there were some gems, and Noisetet were but one. Playing mostly at the CBGB Lounge during the Sunday night Dee Pop-curated avant jazz series, Noisetet came off like an early-seventies jazz/fusion band with a load of mad electronic wizardry and a style that was all its own owing very little if anything to the Mahavishnu Orchestra/Return to Forever jumble that was putting jazz in the rock bins back in the day. (An aside: can anybody out there with a decent background on the subject tell me whether that first Return to Forever album with Dave Liebman on soprano sax is any good??? I've read reports of how it was nothing like the latterday band etc. and so forth, but before I dish out the hard-earned for a copy I'd like to hear from someone with some sturdy background knowledge if possible!) Noisetet's only CD isn't quite as good as the sounds this group unleashed at those CB Lounge gigs (complete with the "Sculpturemotion Project" doing what looked like the Grateful Dead dance o' ecstacy!) but it makes a fine sub for the live-in-the-air thing material that seems to have vanished into the ether! Hey Misters Silverman and Sebastian, how about releasing some of those shows on disc, just for li'l ol' me??? I sure could use some more resensifiers in my life, if you know wadda mean!
***Sonny Sharrock-MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO CD (Sunspots Italy)-
I remember way back inna mid-eighties when Bill Shute was telling me about this very album by then-obscure avant jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock and extolling its greatness to li'l ol' me and to the point where I just hadda hear the thing after Bill's exaulted discription which made it sound like the best thing to come out of the even-newer jazz scene of the late-sixties that was already over-the-top to begin with. Well, he being strapped for cash at the time said that he just might part with his very own copy of MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO if I presented him with a price copasetic with what he was willing to part with the exaulted gem for. Anyway, I believe I offered Bill like fifteen bucks max for the thing which turned out to be way off the reservation with regards to what Bill was thinking, which I guess was OK since not too soon after I found out that Wayside Music was selling the Affinity reissue (with the same white-on-black block lettering as the other Affinity reissues presented via my recent posts!) at only a few bucks per, so not only did I get hold of multiple copies to keep on hand it being so good, but I also saved myself a huge wad of money had I only accepted Bill's offer to pay thirtysome if not more for this class piece of avant rock that I'm positive Sharrock got nada for considering just how sheister the guys at Actuel could be!
Since those not-quite-halcyon days I managed to latch onto an official BYG-ish of this side as well as this very Cee-Dee that the Eyetalian Sunspots label put out during the great BYG reissue rush of the late '90s/early '00s complete with a shrunken-down mini-elpee sleeve reproducing the original in tinkertoy format. Naturally the three tracks enclosed remain what Paul McGarry's son called "music from purgatory"...heavy-duty guitar-led free jazz/rock that not only has that great turn-of-the-decade French jazz recording feel but leads the way for a lotta great seventies excursions on both the jazz and rock fronts. Sharrock has never been more wild or better, and although I like his other recordings from BLACK WOMAN and PARADISE to Material and Last Exit onanon, I find MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO the last word in what Sonny Sharrock was all about and will be remembered for in a hundred years long after all this blogosphere praise of him has been long forgotten and exiled into the general rot where it deserves to spend all of eternity!
***Can-MONSTER MOVIE CD (Spoon)-If I had only picked this up in the import bin at Musicland 'stead of Triumvrat way back in '75 my musical heritage would have been honed a lot more earlier...
***Jackalope-SALTIER THAN EVER (Challenge)-Another oft-mentioned fave from John Abercrombie and crew, this sounds a lot better'n the ECM-related records I've heard by this jazz-guitar figure and continues to make fine backdrop for my evening pre-beddy-bye hours. Kinda makes me wish I had the technical know-how to preserve those CBGB Lounge cybercasts I miss oh so dearly (how precious of moi!).
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:50 AM