I always get a kick getting a load of various European and other decidedly non-Amerigan peoples' views of the United States because on one hand they're so off-kilter yet on another they can see things about this nation that the reg'lars never would in a million years. True, Europeans have rather funhouse-mirror-distorted views of the States and the way we all exist here...like in Lindsay Hutton's case f'r example (he being one of the bigger Ameriganophiles I've had the pleasure of coming across...he even likes crappy current Amerigan tee-vee shows!), they're all agog over Ameriga and anything even remotely Amerigan to the point where they'll watch nothing but Amerigan tee-vee programs and actually think everyone over here drives around in Cadillacs and have swimming pools in their backyards. And we're all cowboys as well which strikes me funny because if you saw anyone dressed up as one of 'em in these parts he's probably standing in front of the Ho-Mo-Tel if you know what I mean. On the other hand some of these continental types can be of such a stridently Marxist air that they loathe the land and anyone who walks on it, much preferring the simple Worker's Paradise of the thirties-era Soviet Union (this opinion is also held by various people over here, usually expressed vividly on PBS documentaries and in high school history textbooks). I guess that's what you would expect from someone whose views on Ameriga were formed from old Ben Shahn paintings, but frankly I guess these Euros are entitled to their views no matter how "blinkered" they may be...it's almost as bad as my views of people in the maybe Great Britain who seem to get their jollies bashing in Irishmen then defend themselves with hefty references to their own proud culture.
The perhaps not-so-twisted takes of Amerigana that the Europeans at revel in is just one reason why I like to watch and/or read their own homespun spins on Amerigan kultur, and for an especially addled treat it's great seeing just how them furrners handle what I would call pretty unique Amerigan entertainment, most notably the good ol' western.
Gotta admit that I really do find it strange that westerns would ever have caught on one iota overseas. Really, why would anyone outside of the borders on the US of Whoa even be interested in such entertainment which if anything seem custom made for 1950s kids to watch on UHF channels on rained-out Saturday afternoons. But hey, the land of tea 'n strumpets was able to produce a series such as FOUR FEATHER FALLS (even if it was in Supermarionation!) and weren't both Adolf the H and Al Einstein fans of that one kraut western writer who name has slipped my mind (don't worry, I'm sure Mike Snider will remind me in the comments section)? Of course what follower of the European comic scene would even dare to forget Belgium's Morris and Goscinny, the pair who were able to create one of the biggest stars bred of the Amerigan West, none other than LUCKY LUKE?
Being a guy who faithfully re-reads TINTIN IN THE LAND OF THE SOVIETS every few months and still has the heavy duty love pangs for Yoko Tsuno, I felt it natural to get hold of some Lucky Luke books that were not only translated into English but being peddled via ebay. And hey, even with the standard Euro Marcinelle School style and naturally second-hand take on the Old West, I can really dig into these Lucky Lukes just the way I used to dive head first into those classic 25-cent 52-then-48 page DC comics which not only had an all-new story but the Golden Age classic that I was more or less geared up for. And, thankfully, these Lucky Luke books are pretty much void of any of the preachy and overwrought messages that are continually pounded into kids' grey matter these days to the point where the only hope I can find for the future of kids' television is for an animated MR. A series to counteract the years of Captain Planet and the rest of those bludgeoning neo-Communists that are in such hefty supply these days.
Of course they're great, and an alternately spoof/homage to the westerns of yore done by Belgians no less is such a bright idea that I'm surprised LUCKY LUKE hasn't accrued a bigger following on this side of the ocean. Clearly influenced by not only the imported Westerns that had been appearing in Europe for some time but by home-grown product, LUCKY LUKE's a guy who's a combination of the early Western stars (William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Ken Maynard) and the rash of 30s/40s stars who seemed to have a second life on television at least until the past ten years. Parody perhaps, but still with an air of realism and of course some actual western history tossed in even if Luke seems to have met up with more real life western figures than a standard run of RIFLEMAN and BONANZA reruns could come up with!
Mixing standard b-movie schtick with smart comedy and a homage to Old Hollywood as well...a spitting image W. C. Fields appears in WESTERN CIRCUS while the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, David Niven and even Serge Gainsbourg have made cameos...LUCKY LUKE does succeed with its typical continental flavor despite its definitely Amerigan setting. Still it is fun reading these stories where Luke tangles not only with his longtime adversaries the Dalton Brothers, but Calamity Jane and Jesse James, and I really could have seen a vast Amerigan market for these comics from the get-go since they sure do read better'n some of the n-th rate crankout westerns I've come across during my many moons of collecting. The artwork as I said is in that standard Olde World style, but even I detected a touch of classic-period Jack Davis in the decor and the way Goscinny draws backwoods kids. Wonder if this is intentional or not.
But once I get down to it, I find it hard to ignore the overpowering Euro flavor of LUCKY LUKE which I guess is to be expected but maybe dilutes the Amerigan nature of the stories somewhat. Perhaps it's the art or maybe even the at-times back-translation way the dialog reads, but LUCKY LUKE reminds me of something that is supposed to be Amerigan, come off Amerigan and even smell Amerigan, but there's something sideways-glancing strange about it. Sorta like the 1962 Zil...the famous Soviet limo had an Amerigan-looking grill and body and a sorta Amerigan sleekness that wouldn't've been outta place on the highways of the day, but there was just something about this vehicle that had all kinds of bells and sireens going off in your congested beanie until you realize that this particular auto was just one big Communist Plot!!! At times I kinda get that same feeling reading LUCKY LUKE but heck, it's sure great to read something that was born and bred of post-World War II entertainment value even if it really ain't of true blue breeding.
But LUCKY LUKE is still captivating enough as a more than valid form of fun late-night reading entertainment, and I sure wish that the earlier stories (with even better artwork not so much beholden to the patented mainland style) were readily enough available in English or even Sanscrit if I could get hold of 'em! And surprisingly enough the series is continuing despite the deaths of its creators, although I understand that the anti-tobacco bluenoses have succeeded in having Luke's ever-hanging cigarette replaced by a blade of grass, which even earned the praise of the World Health Organization! Maybe I ought to toss out all of my LUCKY LUKE books on the basis of that bit of disturbing information, but I refuse to have my enemies rule my tastes in comic reading yet!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Siddhartha-WELTSCHMERZ LP (Amber Soundroom, Germany)
Every once in awhile I like to "take a chance" as they say on a variety of albums by some of these long-forgotten European rock groups who never got a chance to make the big time. Naturally I seek these items out in order to obtain a variety of proto-punkial musings that I think would suit my own sense of high energy concerns, or perhaps I dish out the long green for some long-after-the-fact psychedelic osmosis that was common amongst these early-seventies bands, but most of the time I seem to get treated to a buncha dopeheaded krauts trying to be the next symphonic slam which certainly doesn't do my ears, let alone my wallet any good. On scant occasion I will come up with a few winners a la Ainigma or Mahogany Brain, but most of these under-the-covers independent disques come off more like Dom (the German, not Czech band) or a variety of other progressive pukesters whose names escape me at the moment.
Unfortunately, these Siddhartha guys do not have any shred of garageoid redemption in their attempts to run Triumvrat outta town no matter how 1983 punk rock the back cover of their sole album looks. You can easily imagine my displeasure when I spun this 'un imagining some sorta 1969 American punk transposed to 1975 Germany ideal embedded in the grooves, but all I got for my troubles was a load of glissandoing slickness that owed much more to the wretched excesses of "older brother" prog music than the liberating ideals of groups like Can or Hawkwind. Nothing captivating on this platter, which is so striving for typically Germanic precision that I hadda check my turntable to see if I was playing it at 45 rpm!
It would figure that a band named after the second worst book I hadda read in high school (first worst, A SEPARATE PEACE, third TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE) woulda been such a bum trip. I was hoping that Siddhartha woulda taken a bit more from that other Herman Hesse-influenced band Steppenwolf but I guess all mystically-tinged young minds do not run in the same stream of addled (un)consciousness.
***I'd apologize about the skimpiness of this weekend blogpost, but as John Wayne once said "Don't apologize, it's only a sign of weakness" so I won't. Still, nothing much is happening here to warrant one of my gangbuster weekend biggies, so make do with what little I have posted this time 'round. Hopefully the good rare stuff will make its way to my door more sooner'n later, and I do have that package of CD-Rs that Paul McGarry burned for me to go through, so it ain't exactly like I'll have to rely on digging through my massive collection for future fodder. But as for now, just suck a bit on the review above and be grateful that I even dare to exist!
But before I go, here's another bizzaroid example of the kind of strange underground rock cashing in that I thought you'd like to lay your orbs upon! I'm sure you remember a post I did about a year back regarding the current spate of phony concert posters usually for "legendary" gigs done either with show-specific details added or in a "new school" style unheard of during the time the specific concert was held. If not, click here for an example of a Velvet Underground concert at Max's Kansas City that very well probably didn't even happen at all, done up in a style that was unheard of back when the alleged concert was supposed to have taken place! Well, topping all of those past attempts at fooling the rock & roll rubes comes this newie, a metal sign advertising the appearance of the Ramones at the CBGB Summer Festival in 1975! Note the nouveau 1990's graphic styling, certainly nothing that would have been spotted anywhere thirtysome years back, as well as the plain unadulterated fact that the Ramones and only the Ramones (why not White Lightning?) are being hyped on this "repro" custom-made for the nearest flea market bin right next to all of those novelty anti dog pooping in your yard and Fearless Fosdick Wildroot Cream Oil signs that I'm sure Auntie Petunia's gonna will to you in twenny year's time. Nice idea there, but I think I'll wait for the glossy Plastic People of the Universe/DG 307/Umela Hmota 2 & 3 Gathering of the Underground concoction to make it out before I decide to part with any of the dinero!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 3:06 PM
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Thirteenth Floor Elevators-BULL OF THE WOODS LP (International Artists pirate of late-eighties vintage)
This review is dedicated to the memory of none other than Brad Kohler (well, at least I remember who he is!), who asked the musical question "howcum it seems like a whole buncha Mr. Knowitalls out there dump all over the Elevators' BULL OF THE WOODS album anyway?" Good question Mr. K, and although at the time the question was posed to me I didn't have a hefty-enough answer to toss his way I decided to do the right thing and latch onto my very own pirate copy of Roky and co.'s swan song in order to give an uppa-date opinion on it rather'n one of my fuzzy twenny-plus years back looksees (you can tell that this 'un ain't exactly on the BLOG TO COMM top forty hit parade). While I was at it, I thought I'd also clue the rest of you in on my ever-appreciated views regarding this hot pick to click that I'm sure you'll find more'n a hearty substitute for the myriad assortment of opines of a Christgau-esque nature that anyone with or without a cast-iron constitution would surely wanna do without.
I mean, what can I say about this platter other'n it is a unbridled wowzer, in fact a record which undoubtedly is a whole lot better than many of our fanzine brethren have made this tail-end psychedelic masterpiece out to be which really stymies me because alla those fanzine crankers of yore were for the most part RIGHT! Sure one could nit-pick about the reduced presence of our dear Mr. Erickson as well as the inclusion of horns on a couple tracks, but the fact that other members (most notably lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland) take on the lead warblings and some hornage is used (to a good effect mind ya) doesn't bother me one iota. Believe it or not, but hardly anything on BULL OF THE WOODS bugs me, and chop my head off if ya wanna but I gotta admit after all these years that next to their numero uno messterpiece EASTER EVERYWHERE this is probably my favorite Elevators album and neglecting it all these years is certainly a crime beyond redemption! Let's face it, the first album had too much of a disconnected demo feel to it and LIVE came off like the buncha leftovers strung together with some of the worst audience applause imaginable that it was. But BULL OF THE WOODS sounds perfect, like a nice slice of psychedelia recorded around the time when the American version of that movement was being subverted into hokey Old West myth making on one hand and heavy post-Jimi blooze on the other. And, if the critics say, this one was padded out with even more demos from the old days may I say that the Elevators sure had the knack to sound pretty 1968 in 1966, and considering the upheaval rock & roll went through in those two years that really is saying a lot more than Brother Jerry and the rest of the guys on the Marin County Apple Wine Farm ever could!
BULL OF THE WOODS is studious yet never takes itself too seriously, psychedelic yet doesn't use that as an excuse to either indulge in aerie faerie fluff or avant garde pose, and best of all rock & roll during a time when it seemed that the form was being abused by way too many recording artists who seemingly "tired" of the thing. Every cut is a gem, even the so-called tossaways like "Dr. Doom" and while (maybe not-so-obvious reference point) San Francisco was slowly beginning its slide around the time this one was released the Elevators retain all of the freshness and excitement that San Fran once stood for even after all of the acid damage on these guys' part! And it all ends with Roky's haunting hymn "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which oddly enough is credited to himself...always thought it was an Olde Tymey number very popular in the South but the way Roky does it with his haunting organ he sure makes it his own! If this one had gotten around a lot more than it did thanks to International Artists' limited distribution, maybe that Cold Sun CD I've been raving about wouldn't've come as such a surprise to any of us!
And listening to my obviously illegit copy on my cheapo nostalgia turntable with its poor pressing defects and overall fuzz even had me flashing back to what it woulda been like for some a-head playing it in a basement on an even cheaper portable player somewhere in the bowels of Texas 1969...with the strung out nerve frazzles fully in place! I know I couldn't ask for anything more from the Elevators, could I?, and maybe with the proper environmental stimuli you can experience it in its true form as well!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 3:02 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Tommy Moonlight and Chick Newman-"That Cigarette in Bed"/"Can't Get You Out Of My Head" 45-rpm single (Sayhey, available through the Hackamore Brick myspace page!)
Admit it, who'd'a thunk that Hackamore Brick woulda gotten back together in the here and now performing their seventies-fied folky rock this late in the post-rock game anyway? And while I'm at it, aren't you (the discriminatory [pun intended] BLOG TO COMM reader) quite surprised that the Brick (or at least co-leaders Tommy Moonlight and Chick Newman) had been playing together under various guises throughout the seventies and eighties and we didn't even know about it? Of course back in the day all we hadda go by were slight "hints" being tossed about here and there (like the '78 Max's Kansas City listing which mentioned that the group Moonlight was indeed "ex-Hackamore Brick"), but whatever the situation might be I'll bet you're as flabbergasted over alla this new HB information being crammed into your bean as I surely am! Sure can't wait for the UGLY THINGS lowdown that'll probably hit the 'stands 'round next spring.
Even crazier is the fact that Brick co-leaders Moonlight and Newman (under their own nom de's) recorded and released this very single back in '84, a time when I'm sure we all coulda used a lot more Hackamore Brick and a lot less Bryan Adams! This disc was made for the Austin Texas-based Sayhey label and the knowledge of its existence is truly a surprise especially for this hodad who was wondering whatever become of 'em ever since latching onto ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER back in '88. I'll bet that had one of those esoteric mail order businesses like Metro Music or Disques du Monde gotten hold of this they would have slapped an "ex-Hackamore Brick" description and sold out pronto, and at a great profit too which would figure considering the great respect that band has held for more than a few bargain bin hunters of the seventies and beyond. Too bad it took so long for the thing to reach us real fans, but better late'n never because for at least the more curious amongst us this surely is a platter that will help answer the musical question "what would Hackamore Brick had sounded like had they been together in the eighties?"
Moonlight takes front and center on the a-side, a dirty ditty called "That Cigarette in Bed" which would probably shock the new era bluenoses for the ciggie ref rather than the sordid tale of the gal Moonlight picked up at the laundromat and promptly bedded! Of course Mr. Moonlight is more turned on by the way the heroine lights up after the dirty deed (hope the sheets don't ignite!), and his story is set to a pretty sprightly pop-rocker that reminds me of a lotta local-release seventies pop records a la Startoon or the Marbles, albeit with eighties-styled synthesizers firmly in place throughout. The synths give this 'un the feeling of a lot of the better early-eighties smart pop groups like Velveteen, and even with those giddier electronic moments so akin to eighties rock fully in force I found myself actually liking this unlike I woulda even a good fifteen years back.
Flipster's Newman's turn, and on "Can't Get You Out of My Mind" the guy produces what sounds more like an attempt at a mid-eighties hit that you know was going to be buried under the weight of way too much of the bad sounds that typified the era. Not as good as the plug side, but nice enough in the way that some of those electronic rock numbers on the eighties CBGB RECORDED OFF THE BOARD discs were despite their own misguided attempts at commercialization. Good enough "under the covers" sorta mid-eighties self-produced musings true, albeit a bit more toned down than the a-side with the slightly more accessible melody coupled with the snat harmony vocals and of course electronic gadgetry spelling even more big ideas gone awry. But then again, I always believed that Moonlight was the rocker of the group and Newman the more "introspective" one, which would figure given how all the ballads on ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER were Newman's anyway.
I'll bet you're wondering just how you could get the chance to get yourselves a copy of this elusive wonder! Well, all you really have to do is go to the Hackamore Brick myspace page (see column at left) and ask them for a copy!!! While supplies last they'll send you one FREE no questions asked which is at least for penny-pinchers like me a dream come true! Howzat for a bargain in these chintzy days anyway? Do I hafta knock you over the head??? C'mon, what other opportunity are you gonna have to get yourselves a totally free record that ain't some cheapo publicity come-on ploy anyway? (And if you wanna hear the b-side first before you decide to take the "plunge", it's readily available on the Brick page!)
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:20 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
THE SOUTH SHALL GULP AGAIN!
Allow me to take time away from the usual musical obsessions of mine to blab on about an interesting beverage that I have discovered a few days ago during a quickie trip to Virginia. Or shall I say let me clue you all in to a drink that I finally had the opportunity to guzzle during my recent stay since I actually knew about CHEERWINE since the mid-eighties, a time in my life when various vending machines dispensing this rather provincial drink were espied about the tri-county area. Unfortunately by the time I decided to actually part with the overpriced vending machine prices and try some of this concoction (which I actually believed given its name was some sort of non-alcoholic wine cooler!) each and every Cheerwine machine I had seen, usually located at self-serve gasoline stations and laundromats, had vamoosed from the area leading me to believe that this drink was yet another failed biz venture doomed to eternal obscurity along with Shake-a-Puddin' and Snickerdoodles.
So you can believe my surprise when I found Cheerwine being available in a Pepsi machine at the motel in Staunton Virginny where I just happened to be staying! I guess there are second chances in life, and although I would have preferred another one at school (given I'd already know all the answers to my first grade tests!) or rejecting some of the "bright ideas" that elders were pretty much forcing down my throat I figure better try this stuff now or forever hold my burps, and thusly paid a gigundo $1.50 in order to give my torpid taste buds yet another tingly treat.
And y'know what, this Cheerwine stuff is pretty good. Basically a wild cherry soda, Cheerwine tastes little if anything like those off brand cherry pops (or even Nehi) that you remember from your childhood. Of course the label says that this drink also has "other natural flavors" in it so don't expect that overtly sugary-styled drink that got you all hopped up at during those long-gone family get-togethers. Cheerwine tastes pretty professional if that's the correct word for a soft drink, reminding me more of a Dr. Pepper without the cola. It has a nice, mature taste that isn't overbearing and in fact "goes down" (calm down, Dave!) rather smoothly without the pain of sugar afterburn down the trachea. The wikipedia entry for Cheerwine mentioned that this drink had more carbonation than the usual big-name soft drinks but I thought the bottle I drank in fact had less than usual, perhaps giving Cheerwine a look closer to a light sparkling wine hence the name! (According to wikipedia, the name of the drink came from its burgundy coloring.)
What's really cool about Cheerwine is that if you have kids who are always pestering you to have a swig of the adult beverage you're imbibing, you can always give them Cheerwine and they'll think they're drinking the real deal and leave you in peace as you get bombed outta your gourd! And like Shirley Temples and Freddie Bartholomews, Cheerwine can get your kids geared up for the days when they'll legally be able to scarf down all fermented brews without fear of legal reprisal! Use it as a LEARNING TOOL!!!
Good stuff this Cheerwine, and I really do wish they'd try to market it here in Western Pee-YAY again. Sure would make a good companion to a Chinese dinner or even an evening of tee-vee watching, although it is caffeinated so you may get jittery trying to fall asleep later on. But if you wanna stay up and peck out inane blogposts all night what better way to keep alert than a bottle or three of Cheerwine? Ahhh, I can just feel it swooshing down the gullet as we speak...wotta drink!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:09 AM
Sunday, October 12, 2008
WAYNE KRAMER'S GANG WAR FEATURING JOHNNY THUNDERS 7-inch EP (song titles: "New York City", "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys"/"Endless Party", "Just Because I'm White") (Venus Records)
Another one from the trough, this time featuring the short-lived team up of MC5 stalwart Wayne Kramer fresh outta the slammer with the always charming Johnny Thunders neatly in tow. By this time in their chequered careers they were playing the New York punk rock scene right at the exact same nanosecond when the seventies energy of groups like the Heartbreakers was slowly transforming into the eighties miasma of Madonna. A good bunch Gang War were as well, since not only were two of the uncrowned kings of post-garage/pre-punk standard bearing present and accounted for, but the rest of the group was fleshed out by a number of ex-Rationals which in fact made these guys pretty much a Detroit first generation band stuck smack dab inna middle of New York second generation rock & roll!
A lotta people dribbled shorts upon hearing about the formation of this band including not only myself but THE NEW YORK ROCKER, though even with all of the excitement and notoriety such a concept as Gang War would obviously ooze Johnny went back to his old habits and the band broke up faster than you can say "methadone clinic". Naturally the two former pals fumbled throughout the decade in a variety of groups both stellar and feh, but at the time Gang War seemed like perhaps the ultimo p-rock supergroup who just happened to pop up at one of the best times for rock music ever, or at least it seemed that way in my fevered little brain.
It sure was warm 'n toasty listening to this extended play of iffy legality again. Be forewarned, this is not the Zodiac Records release of demos nor is it the album-length bootleg that was flying around a good two decades back. Ss far as I can tell, this was released by the old Venus Records mailorder biz (or at least their name and address are on the sleeve), they being an organization that was noted for delivering the rarities back in the eighties at least until Midnight and Disques Du Monde sorta vamoosed 'em outta business. It's also on blue vinyl which is really awe-inspiring in case you were one of those guys who was dazzled by such wonderments back when the late-seventies colored vinyl craze came into being. (As for me, I coulda cared less but at least it got some of those great Stiff singles into the local shops and at prices I could afford.) But be forewarned...this EP does not contain any of the aforementioned demos but are tracks taken from a live recording from a Max's Kansas City gig which as usual captures all of that En Why See ambience you get from a lotta these Max's and CBGB live tapes that have been floating around ever since day numero uno!
Overall the performance is more Heartbreakers than MC5 but that's naturally OK considering this gig took place at Max's and not the Grande Ballroom. The sound quality is typical seventies-era portable cassette which doesn't bother me any, although I'm sure that a release of these tracks, or hopefully the entire gig on digital, would improve on the typical shortcomings as those bootleg Cee-Dees are wont to do. Song selection again reflects more of a Thunders bent with the Dolls' "Endless Party", the Stones' "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys" and Thunders' own "New York City" which rock on with the usual New York gutter abandon as is befitting such a fine upstanding young man as Thunders. Also appearing is that raucous rhythm and bloozer "Just Because I'm White (Why Do You Treat Me Like a N----r)" which got Mister Thunders into a little bit of hot water at the time but not as much as he woulda gotten into had he performed this particular ditty these overly conscious days! And people think I'm tasteless! (Oh yeah, Thunders was a gem, a humanitarian and one of the all around good people while I'm not fit to wipe his butt...I keep forgetting that!) And tasteless Gang War may be, but they sure knew how to deliver on a good rockin' promise unlike most musical acts are these very restrained, fear-inducing days.
One listen'll prove that Cherry Vanilla was wrong when she sang "New York City is a state of mind"...it was way more'n that especially if you were observing a thriving local music scene that was giving us no wave, avant garde fusion rock, post-Velvets innovation and Zantees-styled rockabilly. And one spin of Gang War will prove to you that not only were the punk rock underground seventies perhaps the most fertile time for rock & roll to flourish and develop, but that if you didn't have hate in your heart and Gang War on your turntable then you were NOWHERE. It's so slice-of-New York too that, if you listen even not-so-closely, you'll get to hear the famous yodelling music fan once again add his vocalese to the proceedings just like he did on a bunch of Suicide recordings that I wrote about a few months ago! Wonder where this chap is today anyway? I mean, if her were still around I'll bet he'd sure add a lot more fun to a typical amerindie gig than the actual music itself!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:42 AM
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
JUST A FEW THIS TIME...
The sap may run fast from the trees, but otherwise autumn usually tends to be a slowing down time here at BLOG TO COMM due to all of the leaf-raking, gutter-cleaning and screen-storing that goes during the tireless task of winterizing the place. I'll try to crank out the sausages for you, but don't complain if yours has a wee bit too much cereal in it.
Here are a trio of recent spins, two of them relatively new to mine ears whilst one's an oldie that I wrote about so long ago that the original review is undoubtedly way past its storage date. Hopefully something else of worth will wing its way to my inner brain for a weekend writeup, but until then I guess I will have to struggle to meet my deadline.
***Alan Licht and Aki Onda-EVERYDAYS CD (Family Vineyard)
I wasn't expecting much from this mainly because a lotta this new improvisation induces unbridled yawning outta me more'n anything. However, this particular release conjures up some pretty good memories of earlier Family Vineyard offerings from the likes of Bruce Anderson and Dale Sophiea with or without O-Type. Armed with only a guitar, electronics and a cassette recorder, the duo of Licht and Onda roam around whichever way they feel, sounding like a horror movie organ on one track then Indian drone raga the next, rarely boring you like many other dabblers in the form have to the point where you hadda tell yourself repeatedly that its "avant garde"...love it!!!!!!! Of course I coulda done without the retarded French voice or the patented feedback blurp on "Be Bop", but considering I was planning on trashing this 'un all the way to Fredonia and back I gotta 'fess up that I found a whole lot of it quite...palatable! Living proof that even the stodgiest (not sayin' these guys are) of music improvisers can release exciting sounds at least once in awhile.
***The Revolutionary Ensemble-VIETNAM CD (ESP/ZYX)
The first of this second-generation free jazz co-op's five albums, VIETNAM proves that the trio of Jenkins, Sirone and Cooper had even at this early stage in their existence gotten their interworkings together with a music led by Jenkins' driving violin buffeted by Sirone's powerful bass and Cooper's wide range of percussives. The three never let down on the intensity (unlike some Jenkins recordings from the post-Ensemble days have), and although VIETNAM eschews the AACM practice of those small instruments and African ritual chants that I always enjoyed the mix of the new loft jazz style and European classicism that also drew me to not only their music but the entire AACM sound can easily be sniffed out. For my money, keep an eye out for the group's only major label offering, THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC on Horizon/A&M where not only did the three get the royal treatment (high quality studio, fancy digipack sleeve complete with detailed liner notes...) but the music lurched at you even harder perhaps because of the upgrade in overall quality for a change! And if you're feeling cheap, you can get a free download of VIETNAM here, but don't let that stop you from seeking their other discs even if prohibitive prices may warrant you to tighten more than a few reigns in order to bid that elusive $64.96!
***Miles Davis-BLACK MAGUS 2 CD set (Columbia Legacy)
I grew up with the impression that Davis really wasn't the tops in jass sass after spinning ON THE CORNER during my formative music years, but despite the fact that the man could get over-exposed to the point where even CREEM was making disparaging remarks about his releasing albums every other month and that he could be a class ass t'boot I guess that Davis could make a few right moves despite his own miserable nature. And I also guess that now that he's been dead and buried for a good seventeen years and we don't have to worry about him strangling any white boys or Mick Jagger for that matter it's safe to listen to him without fear of emotional reprisal. As for this double-CD reish of one of Davis' mid-seventies twofa live sets, it's got enough of the deep funk groove true, but like CORNER fails to exactly set one off into total jazz consciousness like AGHARTA. Still, for an album that can coax mid-seventies memories of a pre-Return to Forever fusion w/high spirits, DARK MAGUS sure tickles uor cochlea better'n Mahavishnu and a load of other well-meaning yet off the map endeavors'd even dare attempt. And what a band! Even with iffy saxophonist Dave Liebman these guys can crank out a good drone with the spirited leads of Pete Cosey's guitar on top. Too bad Cosey remained pretty much under the radarscope for the rest of his career...I would've loved to've seen the guy make a re-appearance in the early-eighties or thereabouts, preferably at CBGB 'round the time when the new thing and the new rock were making enticing inroads onto each others' turfs thanks to the weird trailblazing of (ulp!) James Chance!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:46 AM
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Various Artists-MAD MIKE MONSTERS, A TRIBUTE TO MAD MIKE METROVICH VOLUMES ONE, TWO, AND THREE CDs (Norton)
Gee, was it only last week when I was musing that since I already heard that WFMU Mad Mike Radio Show with Miriam Linna I wouldn't have to dish out the bigguns to buy my own copy of these rock & roll mysteries that were being hyped that very night? Well, no sooner did I make my feelings known about my natural cheapskatedness that all three volumes of this set wound up on my doorstep gratis (praise be to Norton Records and the pow'rs behind it!), and although I didn't have to pay for 'em I sure do feel like some inner occult harmonic convergence o' mine is what made these platters magically pop into my life! I guess this proves that I don't know my own mystical strengths! Talk about kismet, and talk about what a wild ride these tea coasters have been for me these past few days!
I dunno if there are any nit-picky readers of BLOG TO COMM out there, but if so they'd probably pee all over this series of Mad Mike platters because a number of the tracks that show up here have been readily available on SCUM OF THE EARTH and a variety of other sixties garage/r&b samplers o'er the past few decades. Well, that's obviously true, and if you're a feller who needs to save space in your collection so's you can house all of your precious Ten East CDs I'd recommend that you not buy MAD MIKE MONSTERS. You wouldn't understand it anyway, but for people who live for the big beat and never fretted about how many copies of HERE ARE THE SONICS you have and in what configurations you'll appreciate this three-disque trip to the proverbial utmost.
These Cee-Dees'll prove to you just how free-form and whacked out mid-sixties teenage radio could get, and we're talkin' 'bout the AM band long before tight industry rules and regulations turned everything from music to tee-vee and "culture" in general into one big generic mark of fluff. And yeah, it might be hard for you to conceive of just how wild and open the general mass media could be, but in the beginning such things as local hits and radio shows with their own unique personality and flair could exist without the spectre of some "programming consultant" coming in and recommending immediate format changes and ultra-strict playlists like you see today. And taking advantage of such free and open-minded programming were different wildmen deejays across the fruity plain, amongst 'em being the likes of Pittsburgh's own Mad Mike, a guy who, as these platters will attest to, created his own high-energy playlists and skewered musical "aesthetics" by airing nothing but the same insane, pumped up low-fidelity anti-PC offensive rock & roll and rhythm & blues that fanzines like Norton's own KICKS have hyped for decades! What's more, Mike was aiming his radio program at a clientele that probably bathed in Vitalis t'boot, a market I'm sure most broadcasters would have avoided like a good many of you readers avoid wiping!
Looking back from a good fortysome year vantage point it's clear to see that Mike's whole trip was a lot more rockin' and relevant (to those oft-loathed mid-Amerigan teenage concerns) than a buncha folkies singing songs about freedom and such while acting like some of the most boring assholes to have hit the face of the earth! And who knows, but if it weren't for people like Mad Mike the world might have been brimming fulla Peace Corps volunteers 'stead of motorcycle gangs, so we sure have to be thankful to Mike fer SOMETHIN'!
Mad Mike Metrovich was one of the last of the real deal zonked out deejays, working outta Pittsburgh's WZUM where he discarded a whole lot more than the usual rules and regs w/regards to the entire biz and what was "proper" for radio at the time. While the bigger stations had their own local hits niche to rake in the cabbage with, Mike was playing the obscure rockers and local movers and shakers as if The Music Scene 1963-1967 didn't even exist, creating a local hub-bub in the process that had him ruling his own li'l kingdom of teenage fun and jamz for a good four years. In a world where soft schmooze could rub shoulders with protopunk screamers, Mike's show ditched the schmoozers and it rocked as if the British Invasion didn't even happen! His preferred sound was the same hard screeching vocal style of the early days of rock, and you can bet that more than a few obscurities would have graced WZUM's airwaves thanks to the open-minded Mr. Metrovich and his quest for tons of vinyl obscurities that probably would remain obscurities even to this day if it weren't for the hard work of the folks at Norton digging up the rarities and slapping 'em on this pretty ghostly trio!
And to add even more mystique to the legend, Mike never i.d.'d what he was playing either on the air or during his many live deejaying gigs leading to a whole lotta curious cats almost getting killed, amongst 'em none other than Mick Jagger and Keith Richard who once strayed too close to Mike's turntables during the first Rolling Stones appearance in Pittsburgh and almost got decapitated for their efforts. (Not surprisingly, the Stones' early r&b instro "Stoned" was a Mad Mike spin which must've been as far into the Brit Invasion as the guy got!) Such a strange programming move actually paid off since it kept the fans tuning in for more of the recs the other stations were ignoring! And it got the kids, the greasers, the suburbanites and the "cake-eaters" (which oddly enough was a local slur used against Catholics...) packed into the various teen spots where Mike could spin the records with the usual frolicsome teen results (like stabbings) accompanying the mutual glee.
The popularity of Mad Mike's show even led to the local National Record Mart chain issuing a series of Mad Mike albums collecting the "hits" (with only the spurious "names" of the songs listed on the sleeve!) which I believe I may have actually spotted at some local flea market bins back in the early-eighties. If I had only known what these albums were I would have snatched 'em up, but I suspect that those copies have been purchased long ago by some astute record fan or perhaps are in some landfill as we speak, as are all of those ? and the Mysterians and Yardbirds albums I also passed on because I was afraid to gamble the fifty cents to check them out! And they say Lindsay Hutton's people are tightwads!
But thankfully second chances now seem to be the norm for Norton has pretty much reshaped and remodeled those old MAD MIKE MOULDIES onto these shiny tea coasters, and what I had stupidly passed on during an uninformed youth can now be mine to have and to hold. Naturally each of these volumes is a gem, not only with the now-expected high quality sound and professionally-printed booklet, but the info-packed notes courtesy Miriam Linna really help put the proper rockism spin on the entire shebang. I dunno about you, but when I read Linna's various scribblings regarding teenage life in the sixties I feel like I'm some Noxema-laden twerp who's fortunate enough to have lived in the middle of one of the bestest times for teenagers EVER surrounded not only by the boffo music that Mike spun but by hours of wonderful television, fantastic films and other teenage amusements that seemed to fade away once fun gulcher turned "serious". Of course I probably would've been dead in a few years, but at the time I'll bet I'd've had a swinging ball liatening to Mad Mike in between indulging in Great Shakes and watching TELECOMICS!
And if you are concerned about too many dupes in your collection don't panic just because such now-obvious tracks as the Sonics' "Psycho" and Ronnie Cook and the Gaylords' "Goo Goo Muck" pop up in the mire, because for every well-known (at least amongst the BLOG TO COMM anti-intelligensia) tune you come across here there must be at least ten obscurities that'll remind you oldsters about the days when rock & roll radio was willing to take chances with the wild sounds and no prissy Parent's Groups were around to give them what for! Some of the loco hits that struck me upside the head include the Instrumentals' "Chop Suey Rock" (which I believe has appeared on another Norton-related platter, perhaps one of those BIG ITCH longplayers, but I'm not complainin'!), the Premieres' "Firewater" and the Del-Mars' "Snacky Poo" which I think wouldn't pass the Legion of Decency's sharp scrutinizing skills if they were out checkin' records 'stead of moom pitchers! Heck, even the "Red Rose Tea" ad with the Marquis Chimps, the 45 version where they doubled up the one-minute ad, ends up on volume two and still works wonders without the visuals in case you wanna slip this one into the ol' car player to impress some hot gal you just met! At least I coulda seen Jethro Bodine trying to woo some nonplussed curvaceous cutie with it and who knows, if life were more BLOG TO COMM-oriented maybe it woulda worked on one of those Kitty Kat Klub gals Jethro was trying to impress with his Sophisticated International Playboy moves!
Of course Miriam Linna's previously-mentioned booklet notes are extremely edjamacational (in a fun, affects you inna groin way!) making me wish to High Heavens that another issue of KICKS would make the scene sometime before I check into the Old Fanablas Nursing Home. In typical Linna style this bio of Mad Mike covers all of the bases from his youth and early record spinning days up through to the bitter end, and by the time the entire saga clocks out you kinda get the feeling that you too knew Mike personally enough to have tried to snatch one of his Archie comics labeled singles from his very grip. I was particularly wowzed about the time when Mike spun his records in my very own home town of Sharon Pee-YAY, flipping out Youngstown station WHOT-AM deejay (and dance show host on both WXTV and later WYTV!) Boots Bell because he was expecting a live band to appear! It's funny, but I and about a few thousand other local boobs knew Bell ever so slightly back when he was a local fixture on and off radio, and in fact the guy once gave me a ride somewhere which I thought was nice of him even if it weren't necessary! And I'll bet that if I knew about this particular story and brought it up to him, he would have stopped his VW Rabbit and promptly kicked me out on my ass! These local personalities could get touchy sometimes!
With MAD MIKE MONSTERS exuding quality on all fronts, of course its worth the filthy dinero to latch onto even if you can listen to the archived broadcast on WFMU! And maybe you should get it not just for the "rock history lesson" (though Linna's take on teenage fun and thrills past sure has got the ROLLING STONE version beat all hollow...Miss Linna is definitely the anti-Christgau!), but as an example of just how exciting youth and its "culture" for wont of a better term were back in the real sixties! Not the patented sixties of peace creep marches, racial unrest, rampant venereal disease and all those things VILLAGE VOICE types wax nostalgic over, but the one that presented to us hot television on all levels, drive ins and the lack of phony intellectuals going out of their way to tell you what a creep you are for listening to the Kingsmen! The real deal sixties which have sadly been yanked away from us thanks to a bunch of social planners and do-gooders who always pretended to know better than the rest of us and to them "better" always means Cat Stevens. Not that buying MAD MIKE MONSTERS is gonna change the social clime overnight, but latching onto 'em would certainly be a slap in the face to the likes of Jann Wenner and his ilk! And how often have you wanted to do just that?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:55 AM
Friday, October 03, 2008
CALVIN AND THE COLONEL
Friday night hasn't been the same around here since they canceled THE FLINTSTONES, but don't let that worry you for here's a long forgotten ('cept by myself!) series that'll make ya wanna snuggle in front of the tee-vee (or in the case the computer screen) in yer Doctor Dentins TONIGHT just like you did when you were a mere little pooper all revved up over the cartoons you'd be seeing come Saturday morning!
You might remember that I wrote about CALVIN AND THE COLONEL (which is, like I also said, not to be confused with McKEEVER AND THE COLONEL from a good year later) in one of the nineties issues of BLACK TO COMM (I forget which one offhand...probably the o.p. #22 or #23). You probably also figured that CALVIN AND THE COLONEL, for an ABC prime time cartoon from the sixties not produced by Hanna Barbara, would have been a rather successful attempt at least on aesthetic grounds to re-create AMOS 'N' ANDY with white Southern animals in place of Harlem blacks. But even with all of this going for them (after all, you'd figure that the oldsters nostalgic for radio days and the young whippersnappers were pretty much a guaranteed audience!) the show flopped, but despite whatever flaws it may have had (the typical tee-vee animation not being amongst 'em!) I find that the series holds up very well especially compared with the instant douse passing for programming today! (And did I mention that this show was produced by George Gobel's Gomalco who also gave us LEAVE IT TO BEAVER???)
So without further ado, here's an entire episode of CALVIN AND THE COLONEL complete with original commercials guaranteed to recapture those long-gone days of pre-sexualized childhoods and whompings in the tool-shed! And who knows, if ya kids are good I'll letcha stay up an extra half hour!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:37 PM
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Spin Age Blasters-AN INSTANT ATTRACTION EP (tracks being "Baby Cart at the River Styx", "Gates of Flesh"/"Rakes", "[In Your] Daddy's Car") (Fringe World)
I never would have figured Cleveland's Electric Eels to have influenced that many musical aggregations considering their sub-cult status on the underground rock scene, but given how time grows legends a scant few have inevitably popped up on the radar. I'm sure a few of you guys remember Akron's Crummy Fags, this pretty askew bunch from the late eighties led by a Randy Russell who released a number of limited edition cassettes I'm gonna hafta transfer onto solid disque one of these days, and I recall a one-off Electric Eels "tribute" playing in Cleveland that even had former Styrene Jamie Klimek singing mild hosannas. And maybe you would consider the Dead Boys to have an Eels influence after hearing the tales of how Stiv Bators would studiously eyeball Dave E's every stage twist and shudder. Perhaps there are more out there (Matt McManus' Sonars?), but lo and behold yet another bunch claiming an Eels influence has made their presence known, or at least they did a good decade back but considering how slow I am to latch onto such things it might as well have been yesterday. And it was!
Now I know that nineties-era underground records (and the groups that made 'em) really ain't that tops on my hit parade, and writing about 'em is probably just about as foreign to me as wiping your ass might be to some of you less-inclined. That might disqualify me from writing about these Spin Age Blasters in the first place, but mister/sister, this punk trio does have the Eels (anti) aesthetic down pat even though on-purpose low-fidelity and sub-garage recording techniques has been the rigor with many of these releases for quite some time, and given how it's all dead how can I ignore this plea?
Hot "power trio" line up, playing a sonic barrage that owes part to the Eels' mid-seventies rhythm-riff approach and another to early/mid-eighties underground sonic surge. Somehow Seattle's Dehumanizers' classic mid-eighties rantscreed "Kill Lou Guzzo" immediately came to mind, and if you loved that nice piece of punk primacy you'll probably drool buckets over this!
What makes this platter even more of a soo-prize is that these Spin Age Blasters don't hail from the pristine pastures of Northeast Ohio, but the needle-bitten Northwest of Portland, Oregon. True that place was a hotbed of hard rock at one point in time, but that was forty-five years back! Saying that the Portland of the Spin Age Blasters was the same as the one of Paul Revere and the Raiders would be stretching it quite a bit, but at least it's heartening to know that the city is not exactly the hippoid hotbed of depravity that many would want us to think of it as! And yeah, this one ain't exactly a top of the heap winner and nowhere in the same league as the inspiration, but how many true winners have you chanced upon since the early-eighties unless your name is ______________ and you still involuntarily move bowels upon the appearance of any "amerindie" pop slop that hits the ol' PO box!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 11:05 AM