Saturday, February 09, 2008

Wizzard-MASTERS OF ROCK VOL. 11-SEE MY BABY JIVE LP (EMI-Electrola Harvest, Germany)

Do any of you Europeon readers remember those coming-at'cha-outta-nowhere "greatest hits" albums that the major labels in your land used to rush out (and at budget prices as well!) featuring hits and non-LP b-sides from some of the hottest artists to grace these companies' rosters? Acts who for the most part have just left said labels for greener pastures thus this milking of their back catalogs for all its worth? I sure do, in fact I can still recall seeing not only the import bins but even five and dime store record departments just brimming with such platters as ROCK AND ROLLING STONES and GIMME SHELTER (or whatever Stones collection Decca'd release just about every other month!) as well as the "Harvest Heritage" series where EMI would reissue a good hunk of their early-prog rock catalog in order to dupe a lotta unsuspecting Olde Country kiddos into thinking that the stuff Steve Howe and Greg Lake were dishing out in 1967 sounded exactly like the things they were doing ten years later! Unfortunately by the time these platters made it to shopping malls and "specialty" record shops Ameriga-wide they sure weren't bargain-priced anymore, in fact costing just as much as all those other import albums that were zooming well up to $7.98-per which certainly was disasterous on pocketbooks as lean as mine. Imagine how I felt just longingly eyeballing that Harvest Heritage twofa of the Pretty Things' SF SORROW/PARACHUTE package with the cool Hipgnosis cover knowing full well that I couldn't afford nohow the $12.98 price tag that was slapped on that one! Sheesh, I almost wanna buy a copy just to sate my bruised youthful feelings of not being able to latch paws upon this elusive treasure back when it really mattered, and maybe then I will be the complete man!

Wizzard's SEE MY BABY JIVE was just one of the many albums taken from EMI's pre-Harvest Heritage "Masters of Rock" series, and this 'un's from the German edition which featured a boffo 3-D relief design cover series that I think looks much hepper'n the cheapazoid tee-vee promo/live shots that the English edition of this series was using. And for being a "budget series" release ya gotta give credit to EMI for getting the best stuff and culling it into a collection that holds up well w/o any of the elpee flack that usually brings the actual group-sanctioned platters down to a middling-level energy affair.

Since I already had the Move CALIFORNIA MAN collection in my possession as well as the Electric Light Orchestra's own Harvest-vintage single hits/b-sides grouping entitled SHOWDOWN, I figured that maybe the Wizzard edition of this same series would fit twixt the two snugger than a bug crawling 'round in Amy Gelman's rug. After all, I remember seeing Wizzard albums being sold all over the place at the time and Roy Wood being treated as a modern-day rock genius by the press, and who could forget all of the hype surrounding this new band being fronted by not only one-half of the old Move/ELO leadership but a man who was actually asked by Col. Tom Parker himself to write a couple songs for Elvis Presley! (And how could I forget the week when he was to appear on DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT and the typicaly adenoyial announcer at channel 33 kept referring to "Roy Wood's Blizzard", perhaps anticipating the Dairy Queen frozen treat by a good five years!) For a kid who was discovering all sorts of rock & roll music Wizzard sure seemed something just begging to be shoved up my not-quite-yet-reamed-by-bad-music alley, and not only with the group's freakout makeup and looks but the use of such non-rock instruments as bagpipes how could a feller go wrong!

Unfortunately Wizzard's EDDY AND THE FALCONS-period appearance on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was hardly anything to brag about at least from the vantage point of my hazy memory (don't worry, if I want to refresh myself there's probably a youtube vid up at least for the next day), but that didn't stop me from buying an English import copy of WIZZARD'S BREW with the textured cover a short time later. Of course that didn't stop me from selling the thing shortly afterwards either...just couldn't lock up with a good portion of it which would figure since if anything Wizzard was not ELO only with horns 'stead of strings, but whaddidiknow anyway? I regretted the tradeoff a few years later, but that was probably because I felt that I coulda gotten more outta the thing had I only waited, penny-counting rockfan that I may be!

But here we are in 2008, and if you're still in on this story even after my incredibly long and boring autobiographical spew than goodie for you! So how do Wizzard hold up in my moderne-day rockism-parametered listening modus opporandi you wonder? Well, pretty good considering just what was laid down on this crank-out! The "hits" (at least over there) like the title track are swell enough in an early-seventies British pop sorta fashion, and although you should be warned that the ginchiness effect is well in place on more than a few numbers you really don't mind it on such tracks as "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" which wouldn't sound bad stuck next to an equally treacly slab of UK Christmas pomp like McCartney's "It's Christmastime". And I still gotta hand it to Wood and gang for being able to pull off the mix of sitar and big band jazz on "Rob Roy's Nightmare" which is something I'll bet I coulda fooled my own dad into admitting he dug in his own 1940s pop music way, at least until he saw what the guys in the band looked like!

And although I'm sure that most of Wood's post-mid-seventies career moves would be more of interest to your standard TROUSER PRESS fan, at least I can get some jollies outta this budget platter which still shows Wood in fine form long before he dropped off into late-seventies anonymity thanks to the punques in charge. Too bad that writing songs for Elvis (who probably was jazzed over Wood's deft impression of his singing style!) didn't pan out into bigger things...I mean, at least former bandmate Jeff Lynne got to hobnob with the surviving Beatles and there was actual talk about the former ELO head-by-default becoming a member of a reformed Fab Four for recording and performing purposes! (And yeah, I know Lynne was all over that "Threetles" stuff awhile back, but it wasn't like he was actually an up-front member even though I'm sure he wished in his heart-of-hearts he coulda been!) But I'll betcha by golly wow that none of that is fazin' Wood one bit...after all, he's probably still keeping busy with some sorta musical endeavor and maybe there's a CD-reissue of this very platter out there that's helping the man stay afloat financial-wise, and at this stage in the devolved rock & roll game what more could a guy ask for?


I dunno about you, but a lotta those oversized comic books of the seventies that were cluttering up the newsstands amidst the MADs and NATIONAL LAMPOONs really really didn't appeal to me, and that especially goes for the ones Marvel was pumping out throughout that decade with an alarming regularity. I remember brousing through the old SAVAGE TALES (with the self-appointed "M" rating) at the stands and thought that maybe the buxom broads found therein would look better if only they weren't trying so hard to strategically hide their various naughty bits behind arms, trees etc. And although the two issues of the late-sixties SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN attempt at giving Marvel's #1 hero an actual mag were pretty nifty in my book I really didn't care that much for the Hulk magazine even though it did take place in the early-sixties which were some of the best Hulkism years at least for my own blinkered tastes! But hey, not only did I find these mags way over-priced (a buck a pop!), but the stories weren't anything to shake a stick at either! And besides, I was getting the feeling that the entire comic book industry was taking a big nosedive with stories that were trying to be more "real" with better "art" and way too lurid storylines and plots for my own personal tastes, and considering just how much of a "Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kid" I was at the time all of this new sophistication in comic books seemed way too foreign to me. Gimme a SAD SACK over this junk anyday!

And you know what, but I was right, especially after reading some comics done long after I abandoned the form finding 'em all to be rather puerile and a far cry from those great "Imaginary Tales" where Superman and Lois would get married and raise a buncha superkids or those I guess not-so-imaginary ones where Superman's secret identity was exposed to one and all right there on the front cover! Man, those were the days!

So why did I get this issue of MARVEL PREVIEW with that way-too-lurid cover complete with the typically panicked gal in a torn dress and artistic style straight outta those sadistic Nazis torturing innocent wimmen mags you used to see all over the stands? Mainly because the character in question, none other than "Man-God", was originally known as "the Gladiator" in a novel written by onetime gadfly Philip Wylie and that 'un inspired a coupla Cleveland kiddies to create an even better variation on the form, none other than Superman! Sounds pretty inticing eh, and although I always fathomed Wylie to be at the most a dime-store Mencken if his book GENERATION OF VIPERS is any indication I guess that the guy was prolific enough not only to indirectly contribute to the creation of Superman but the short-lived television series CRUNCH AND DEZ (one of my mother's old time faves!) which came from a series that Wylie actually penned for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST way back when!

As for this Gladiator/Man-God character, the similarities between him and DC's mega-claim-to-fame are there, but not enough to have Wylie doing the lawsuit trick on National for a change. Frankly, this variation seems if anything a big simp, but I dunno if that's because of Roy Thomas' (usually) overemotional adaptation or perhaps the post-Kirbyesque stylings of Tony DeZuniga...who knows, maybe both of these things combined made such a potentially hot story just another late-seventies comic magazine read. Even a non-SciFi aficionado such as I could see that there was more than a little lost in the translation from early-thirties novel to late-seventies comics, and the usual inclusion of smarm and vulgarity only detracted from whatever overall energy this story could have delivered on. But still, for an acknowledged precursor to Superman I can see how a couple Cle teens got more'n a few ideas, and at least this saga served as a catalyst for something a lot greater as far as comicdom in general goes, eh?

And yeah, maybe I should be judging this next to the novel which I haven't even read, but life is kinda short (could be longer) and really it ain't like I have the time what with all the seventies fanzines out there just beggin' to be eyeballed! But I'm sure either way I'd be unimpressed even though the historical value behind this saga is overwhelming. But what I really wanna know is, did Marvel ever print the second part of this story where Gladiator/Man-God has what could be called a direct meeting with the Supreme One which results in our hero's very demise? Seems that nobody out there, at least onna web, has the correct answer which does bug me esp. in these days when answers to age-old questions can be found with the mere click of a key!

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