Fiction-NEVERENDING PARTY; A TRIBUTE TO THE VELVET UNDERGROUND CD (Globus International, Czech Republic)
Don't be dismayed, for this ain't gonna be one of those typical weekend gangbusters megareview writeup posts guaranteed to keep you on end for hours and hours unless I pad it up a bit (and I will!). It's not exactly my fault this post isn't as gigundo as they can come...I mean, I have been listening to the hot stuff as of late and enjoying every bit of it to the fullest as well, but unfortunately (for you) most if not all of the sounds I have been osmosing as of late have already been written about in depth on this blog and rather than bore you with yet another re-re-rehashing of something you can easily enough look up here yourself I thought I'd do the next big thing and write about something that has been moiling about in the ol' collection but I haven't touched upon in ages! What better way to give you a refreshing new outlook on an item of yore, even if I might have gabbed on about it during my former life as a fanzine editor! In fact, in picking out an item for review today I, in typical kiddie fashion straight outta first grade, merely closed my eyes and stuck my hand into a box of Cee-Dees and voila, out came a disque that even I haven't played for nigh on seven or eight years that I know even the most nascent of BLOG TO COMM fans would want to know about! And just to prove what an independent thinking kinda guy I am I'm not even gonna peek back into whatever issue of BLACK TO COMM I originally wrote this thingie up in just so's I can cover my buttocks up in case any wild discrepancies might arise 'twixt what I originally jotted down and what I am about to spake today! Howzat for foolhardy reckless abandon which would do in any lesser blogschpieler who dares to "play it safe"?????
But before we get to the meat and potatoes of today's writeup-in-question here's an announcement regarding yet another new linkup (see column at left) to a website you might have some interest in perusing. Alien Planetscapes Foundation is its name, and it is also the name (at least the first two words) of the En Why See-area space rock group that was led by one Doug Walker, a guy who I assume was a big wheel in whatever space rock scene there might have been in the city and its surrounding vistas at the time. Not being familiar with either Walker or the Planetscapes I must say that I was originally intrigued by a piece he wrote on Amerigan space rock that I chanced upon which, besides dropping the names of such national standbys as Chrome, Peter Laughner-era Pere Ubu and Von Lmo, mentioned such NYC-area groups Third Sun and Master Radio Canaries who had been treading both the avant garde jazz and CBGB circuits during the music-active year of 1976. Piqued by the piece (given my interest in even the more obscure yet deserving groups of the seventies underground) I emailed Walker asking for more information on these bands and surprisingly enough the man wrote me back. Walker was obliging as well, telling me that he was on the lookout for recordings of these groups and would certainly tip me off when the opportunity arose.
A year or so later I wrote back to Walker asking if he had any success obtaining any recordings only this time I did not receive any reply. Oddly enough for once in my life I did not take this as a typical mean-spirited slight like I do with every other slight in my already over-slighted life which turned out to be a good thing because only now have I found out that Walker had died since that fateful email and was not giving me the bum's rush like way too many people out there in benevolenceland have. I am positive that if he had lived Walker would have eagerly written me back regarding both of these groups perhaps dishing out some crucial information in the process, but for now I guess I'd just have to look elsewhere in my quest for information that you just can't get at your fingertips even in these days of instant satiation via your favorite computer.
Or can you? Let's just say that ALIEN PLANETSCAPES FOUNDATION clears up a lotta the questions I've had regarding these space rock groups while creating some new ones in the process. Well, there was one thing I found out after giving this one a good perusal, and that is Walker, not being just merely a fanatical onlooker on the space rock scene in New York, was actually involved with both Third Sun and the Master Radio Canaries to some capacity albeit he was probably more or less just a loose fixture with the latter, their brief description making them out to be perhaps one of the more fringe-y concepts to have graced any New York stage in the mid-seventies or beyond for that matter. (It's funny, but the listing I have for a Master Radio Canaries show at Max's Kansas City from August of '76 has 'em billed with Boston pop rockers the Walnut Band and heavy metalloids Guardian amongst others which probably made for the most incongruous gig at that club since Kongress and Suicide shared a bill with Chicago power poppers Pezband!) Walker seemed to have a more stable fixture with Third Sun, a group that he described as sounding like "Van Der Graaf Generator playing the Art Ensemble of Chicago songbook" which sure sounds like a mouth-watering experience especially for a guy who was raised on descriptive rock group comparisons such as these and still tends to fall for 'em despite should having "known better" ages back.
It's no big surprise that Walker was also the prime mover behind the more recent aggregation Alien Planetscapes whom I guess had quite a publicized and notable career in the space rock milieu, and for a guy who didn't pay attention to this stuff probably thinking of bad seventies symphonic rock groups out the wazoo I gotta say that I was impressed mightily with what I heard from the many Planetscape samples available on this site. Far from the fru fru-ness of a Genesis or Gentle Giant, Alien Planetscapes were a brash mix of drone rock with the heavy electronic buzz mixed with a good portion of avant garde jazz thanks to Walker's vibraphone, sax and flute playing. The results are engaging enough, at time reminiscent of such eighties wonders like F/i (a great group even though I would never buy any of their current wares considering the jerkoff label they are now involved with) and at others like the long-MIA Noisetet Obscure whom I believe petered out around the same time the CBGB Lounge free jazz shows sorta went the way of the bustle, the Edsel and microwave shakes. Even more impressive were Third Sun, who appear numerous times on a couple cassette releases of various early Walker bands (no Master Radio Canaries unfortunately) that were self-released in the seventies. Recorded live at such avant hangouts as the Brook and Environs, Third Sun certainly live up to Walker's descriptions of a free jazz/prog merger in a good way w/o the dippy trammels of what progressive rock was and doth wrought for years to come. Imagine a mad Hawkwind/krautrock fest with some of the best loft jazz players of the day joining in and you'll get an idea of what Third Sun sound like. An interesting aside: at the time these Third Sun gigs were played (1976) the group boasted none other than future Los Microwaves member David Javelosa in its ranks.
As soon as I can figure out how to download and burn these dad-blamed mp3s and whatnot I'm gonna cook me up a mess of Walker/Alien Planetscapes recordings for my own personal night-time pre-beddy bye usage, but until I do I'm gonna just settle back and osmose myself into Walker and this Alien Planetscapes site as long as my li'l ol' interstellar mind will take me.
Oh, now back to Fiction! Remember a few years back when Jay Hinman was ragging on me because (amongst other things) I was championing the likes of Von Lmo and the Plastic People of the Universe, people who Hinman deemed too one-dimensional and paper thin for his own "mature" tastes which include such acts as XYX, Sic Alps and Tilly and the Wall? Well, that would beat all considering how Von Lmo's majestic return to the performing world in the early-nineties was one of the greatest comebacks since Nixon and that the Plastic People were a group to be admired, facing a greater threat to their well being than any of the sissy rock acts (and their sycophants) in San Francisco living in the lap of socially lax decadence ever will. And really, what kind of a HEATHEN would dare sully the image of either act especially considering the vast amounts of high energy jamz both have kicked out over the past X years back when such people as Mr. H were probably still sucking thumb (amongst other things?) to Joe Jackson albums!
Well, I will say one thing about the Plastic People of the Universe, and that is this Czech underground rock group might have created some vital energetic psychopunk spew during their early days which even had Robert Christgau oozing Pere Ubu comparisons, but just like every other crucial seventies rock act as soon as time crept on and the dreaded eighties arrived the quality of their music just didn't measure up to them past accomplishments! Let's face it, those latterday albums like MIDNIGHT MOUSE are quite dispensable, and even if the revamped band going under the name Pulnoc had a certain verve about 'em they were still too latterday slick to appeal to the fans of the legendary EGON BONDY album like myself. And while the Plastic People of the seventies seemed to be geared towards the same level of Velvet Underground homage and energy as just about every other righteous group of the day, by the nineties that Velvetism had, along with almost everyone else's, faded into a new morass that made most of these variations on the original form sound rather pallid especially compared with the feral energy that not only the Velvets, but any dozen late-sixties groups influenced by their drone, could have cranked outta any suburban garage during the day.
Fiction unfortunately fall into the same chasm with this tribute, which has all of the sullen ennui of the nineties Velvets appreciators and none of the high energy of the seventies form. Led by former Plastic People bassist Milan Hlavsa, Fiction might mean well with their covers of choice Velvets favorites but just like every other Velvets cover since what...1980 or so their tenth-generation appreciation seems to have lost a lot in the transition. Not only with the glossy sound quality which certainly does not help the music but the performance in general which has the same flyspeck-free cleanliness and freckle-faced "aw shucks" feeling as just about every other kid who got in on the game twennyfive years after the fact and thinks that modern rock music began with that folkie cover of "Sweet Jane" he heard at some freak hootenanny last year. I mean, how many silky-smooth covers of "Femme Fatale" have you heard these past few decades, all sounding the same with that quasi-lounge female vocal and perhaps the right amount of processed cheese digitalis to make this one a cooker on whatever is left of the College Radio market? Do we need any more??? I mean, isn't one J. Neo Marvin bad enough?????
Funny, I kinda remembered that I did like this 'un back inna day, but listening to it now just made me feel even queasier than I did the time I decided to wash two dill pickles down with a can of Cream Ale. Maybe I am just getting older, too old enough to remember that fresh young world with all its musical promise that drove me to fanzines and phone pestering just about anyone within sight back when this music really seemed to speak to me in an everyday, suburban slob way? Maybe not, but if the sound of Fiction is supposed to be where Velvetisms stood in the nineties and beyond, then just gimme an old copy of ARCHETYPES with its sub-sputum pressing and call me an old reactionary! It might make me look retrogarde now, but a thousand years from now I'm sure I'll look a whole lot more sane than any of you!
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Fiction-NEVERENDING PARTY; A TRIBUTE TO THE VELVET UNDERGROUND CD (Globus International, Czech Republic)
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
ARCHIE SHEPP-PITCHIN CAN CD-R burn (America, France)
Here's another Bill Shute burn I plucked outta the pile only last week, a super-rarity from the short-lived America label that I assume existed only to document (and rip off) expatriate Amerigan jazzmen who had flocked to Paris in the v. late sixties in order to avoid that seemingly terminal obscurity they were receiving at home. Dunno how well they did o'er there, but at least there are more than a few albums extant giving us stay-at-homers a good idea of just what kind of sounds these free players were making at a time when avant garde jazz, with just about everything else of an avant design, was making its way outta the stuffy clubs and into the stuffy bedrooms of open-minded kiddoes who just gotta've heard this stuff esp. after all the rant and rave people like Lester Bangs was doing about the form back inna day.
Dunno if it's available on Cee-Dee yet, but whether or not it is there ain't no excuse not to snatch this 'un up at just about any inflated price it might be going. And dontcha worry because PITCHIN CAN ain't the gospel/blues choose of Shepp's early-seventies Impulse output but a wild ride featuring the once-reknowned tenor man in his best ju ju mode backed by the top crop of the Parisian expat jazz community inc. most of the talents who appeared w/Shepp (in lead or backup mode himself) on a vast array of those BYG releases that got more than a few of the underground rock genteels of the eighties/nineties salivating from here to Studio Saravah and back. Amongst the familiar faces...Clifford Thornton, Bobby Few, Alan Shorter, Lester Bowie, Sunny Murray, Noah Howard, Leroy Jenkins and Dave Burrell. Also appearing is the duo of Chicago Beau and Julio Finn who added a whole lotta pathos with their harmonica duet on Shepp's BLASE as well as the Art Ensemble of Chicago's CERTAIN BLACKS. Beau does some vocalising here that sounds like he got his 'nads stuck in a wine press while I guess Finn plays some more of that blues harmonica which for the life of me I can't make out from the rest of the high energy soundstew here, but then again I had quite a hard time trying to find Leroy Jenkin's viola as well so let's just chalk that up to typical iffy euro studio standards.
"Uhuru (Dawn of Freedom)" is one massive side-long-plus workout not that dissimilar to a load of concurrent BYG offerings (the works of Alan Silva and Frank Wright come to mind) wile the title track (with an apostrophe after "Pitchin"!) is a hot urban repeato riff number that sorta borders on MC5 jazzrock stylings and Shepp's early Impulse recordings which should suit anyone who likes the way Shepp'd go from hard-play to heavy streetsmart groove within the course of a few minutes. Either way this one's a hot cooker of a disc that offers up 100% speedo fuel energetic bliss esp. for those of us in on the SECRET for longer than any of us could imagine and we crave moremoreMORE! Who knows, maybe this could be latched onto for a steal via some ebay auction or even at set sale price. Maybe you know Shute personally and can mooch a burn offa him! Who knows...if I were you I wouldn't need a hint to at least have a few vivid dreams about owning this.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:29 AM
Saturday, February 21, 2009
TIRESOME WEEKEND UPDATE
Yes, despite anemia, writer's block, lethargy and gale-force winds emanating from my backside due to an overindulgence in sugar-free candies (Brad Kohler and Don Fellman have noticed growing rectal-oriented concerns not only on the blog but in my everyday conversation...have you???), I continue to soldier on to give you what I hope will be a halfway decent weekend post that might enlighten a few of you dear readers...to do WHAT I do not know, but enlighten you it will. I must apologize for my generally dour mood but it has been rather mediocre around here as of late with nothing totally inspiring crossing my eyeballs or earlobes for that matter, so for the most part I've had to dig into my eons-old archive of fanzines/books/music to help lift me outta whatever Winter doldrums/ennui I've been thrust into as of these past few days. Even then I haven't totally been successful...por ejemplo the recently-arrived volume of PLASTIC MAN reprints that I have been reading thanks to a revived interest in the old Quality Comics line (eventually to be absorbed by DC) just didn't light my buns like I had hoped it would, though at least the arrival of a number of old ROCK SCENEs (see below) have. Which is why I am writing about the latter and not the former today, but hopefully once I get outta my not-so-grand funk I'll be able to "get back into the swing of things" the same way a twelve-year-old boy gets into a recently found cache of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICs with pix of hula gals.
Before I ramble on with the rest of today's proceedings, let me clue you in to a nice li'l website I discovered recently. JUNK SHOP GLAM (se link up @ left) is the name of this obsessive site which is dedicated to a lotta the same glam rock weirdies that people like Robin Wills of PUREPOP fame have been plugging for quite a long time, and for a guy who kinda grew up thinking that, like Charlotte Pressler once said, glam was more or less like a fart at a formal dinner (there I go again with the rectal remarks!) and nothing much to get all hot and nostalgic about, I've finally discovered that the glam slam bams that were coming out of England at the time were pretty much up to my rock & roll standards of snuff if not at-times downright knockabout. And, like the Stoogies, Electric Eels and sundry others over here inna US of Wha'? many of these bands paved the way for the onslaught of crankout cheapazoid aggregations in the late-seventies making that era so exciting especially in the face of such kultural turds as John Travolta and Melissa Manchester. If PUREPOP or Johan Kugelberg's own glam rundown in the latest UGLY THINGS ain't enough to satiate your savage boobies, give these guys a try. Of course, after scrolling down the page and finding a whole buncha writing having to do with KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS I was kinda having second thoughts about adding this 'un to my list of recommended sites...I mean, Krishna????? Well, if Che Guevara can make a comeback I guess anyone can.
Enuff o' the free plugs 'n onto the meat:
***SLAPP HAPPY-SORT OF CD (Voiceprint Japan)
Here's one that brings back memories...maybe some no so pleasant memories but memories nonetheless of the 1982-1986 rock & roll season back when it seemed as if alla those great seventies rock kicks that I never did wash outta my system were getting harder to find and I certainly was the poorer for it. Anyway what drove me to pick this "rock in opposition" album up, and at a time when most any form of what would have been considered "progressive" or "Import Bin" music was a strict no-no, was a come on via THE NEW MUSIC DISTRIBUTION SERVICE catalog (the edition which had the Soviet Realism-styled painting of a couple of Young Pioneers, probably used to express solidarity with the Sandalistas) which pegged SORT OF as having a distinct Velvet Underground flavor about it. I don't recall exactly what it said since said catalog got dumped in one of my many bedroom cleanup purges o'er the years (perhaps some of you still have it and could forward me the exact quote) but during a time when Velvetisms in rock were slowly but surely degenerating into pallid suburban mewls I needed to get my fix any way I could and in the strongest doses imaginable which is why I promptly sent for SORT OF amongst a bevy of hot underground rock and jazz wares that would probably cost me quadruple the money I poured down a rat hole for 'em back during those rather misspent years. And y'know what? I was let down, in fact way down hoping to have latched onto another WHITE LIGHT WHITE HEAT and getting what I considered a fluffy Euro arty-fru fru platter in its stead. Really, if I wanted to hear the Velvets filtered through artistic sentimentality and uppercrust-class consciousness there were tons of amerindie singles to choose from at the time, and at a lesser cost at that!
Shows what a stoop I coulda been, because a long time after this purchase a Mr. Jon B of Bumfink California actually wrote in to BTC central to tell me so saying that elpee opener "Just a Conversation" (or was it side two opener "Blue Flower"?) was perhaps one of the best usages of the Velvets template in 1972, a year where very few acts were acknowledging any sort of Velvetisms in any way/shape/form which was really saying something. Fine enough impetus to thusly grab my copy of SORT OF I must say, and spin it I did pretty much agreeing with the man even if the platter lacked what I considered the pure mid-Amerigan punkitude of a Hackamore Brick or especially Mirrors. And as time lurches on and we've seen way too many superficial and sewing-thread-thin applications of the Velvet Underground "influence" under the guise of alternative and just plain midclass precocious stylings, these early VU piss-takes and downright homages seem to have even more relevance and meaning now that onetime rarities like Mahogany Brain are now readily available and I can finally see that all of those claims about the Velvets being the most influential group of the seventies weren't just wishful thinking at the hands of a load of frustrated rockcrit wannabes who seemed to speak for all of us frustrated rockism weirdos, at least way back when.
So it's 2009 and while I'm not gonna go out on a limb and say that you NEED this album, I will say that it sure pleases a lot better than it had especially after being hit with the ravages of time and loads of bad music being passed off as "innovation". Thankfully a good portion of SORT OF does sound like an attempt at the Great Amerigan Rock Album seventies-style perhaps thanks to Peter Blegvad's uberwrought singing while Dagmar Krause sounds better'n she did on those later Lotte Lenya imitations she was doing. Anthony Moore fits into the overall Slapp Happy mode as well even if I think that "I Got Evil" sounds like Herman Munster's rendition of "The Foot Bone's Connected to the Leg Bone" but I guess it seemed like an OK idea when he was recording it. At times SORT OF sounds Velvets by way of early Roxy Music, at others by Faust which would obv. figure considering their involvement, and although it doesn't quite hit the higher echelons of pure rock & roll pleasure the way I hoped it would I sure find myself spinning this 'un a good twice nightly. And I rarely do anything like that especially since I'm trying to cram as many different styles of soundscapading into my brain before it all goes down via the Next Great Purge. A nice surprise, especially when the band suddenly skips back ten years into English instrumental rock on the title track which I'll bet startled more than a few space heads back inna day!
***ROCK SCENE MAGAZINE (newstand rag circa 1973-1982)
Here's another one of those mags that I used to peruse at the racks back when I barely had a few dimes to rub together and a trip to the local shopping mall with at least five bucks in my hands could get me a couple cut outs and a roll of Certs, not to mention a lotta edjamacational time leering at alla those import albums that I couldn't afford no matter how many pennies I was able to scrape up from between the davenport cushions. But it was always fun to get an eyefulla this particular periodical amidst the CREEMs and CRAWDADDYs that were calling out for my hard-begged, and looking back from a good thirty-year-plus vantage point I can just see how special and high energy the seventies really were despite the presence of boring hippoid singer/songwriters and disco because ROCK SCENE really knew how to present the concept of rock music (as this high-energy force in our otherwise drab lives) for even the pimpliest of mid-Amerigan blubberbutts just begging to appear in some upcoming photo spread with the likes of David, Lenny and Cyrinda.
Jeff Jarema's long-gone HERE 'TIS fanzine had an excellent rundown on ROCK SCENE (complete with a Lisa Robinson interview!) in one of his final issues back in the distant nineties but until you can latch onto that at least bear w/my heartfelt passion re. the wonders of this oft-tossed about rag (see CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS for Crescenzo Capece's acrid denunciation). Believe-you-me, ROCK SCENE was a real doozy to lend orbs to back in those depression-era wages days for not only did it feature loads of pix of those groups that most of the big name publications seemed to lend patronizing off-time to (ROLLING STONE obv. comes to mind), but it made these young up-and-comers out to be just as big as stars as the real life hitmakers whose photos got to rub shoulders with the likes of these brash upstarts in ROCK SCENE's overtly-biodegradable pages. It also presented rock & roll not as this communal spiritual reawakening to some of the more baser emotions in man (like wallowing in mud and seeing God in every scam artist perusing the sidewalks of Haight-Ashbury) but as this sleek teenage-decadent suburban brat decade-long party that was going on at CBGB or Max's or wherever your new fave band was recording their debut album soon to hit the racks and bargain bins at your fave local record hole. Real teenage stuff, or at least teenage as in this honest ideal and not the school/homework/extracurricular activities life that parents push upon their progeny because they think it's "healthy" when the healthiest thing these kids coulda done was form some band that made a racket to put "Sister Ray" to shame!
I sometimes get overwrought about things like this, perhaps because I spent my teenage years looking up to the prime movers of music rather than try to be one no matter how much ridicule might have been bestowed upon me for doing so. But enough of that...the reason I like these ROCK SCENEs is because they represent everything I like about the seventies from those hot new and exciting bands (who at the time seemed like one of the highest, most noble concepts to be bestowed upon the music listenership of this world) to the club scenes they worked and the energy they gave us with their latest forty minutes of prime popping power. To some the seventies will always be a decade of bland music and tiresome gulcher, but for me it represents an era of television in its second Golden Age, movies that were pretty bared-wire and rock & roll music that seemed to be teetering on the edge of some precipice just waiting to tumble over into infinity, the ultimate extent of the promise the Velvets gave way too many of us back in the sixties come to fruition. And, like the best fanzines of the time and the thousands of punk records that existed even before the punk name became part of the vocab, ROCK SCENE documented it in the brightest, fullest way possible.
True you get the usual bigstar plugs and whatziz that you got elsewhere and continue to get in a wide array of glossy egostroke mags, but at least when you see someone like Dame Elton John backstage at some ritzy gig there was a good chance that ROCK SCENE perennials Patti Smith or Cyrinda Fox (not to mention chief brains behind it all Richard and Lisa Robinson) were lurking about somewhere. And that's good enough for me because there's no other way you'd get me to look at that flitzy goon's face other'n if Patti was in the shot! But hey, what better way for us peons to get a taste of the bigtime than watching the guys in Kiss at some party chumming it up with Lenny Kaye, or the (usedta be New York) Dolls celebrating the bicentennial at Max's live onstage with...Mick Ronson?
One of the more "informative" portions of ROCK SCENE was their new band section where up and comers just barely out of their knotty pine basements would send their snaps to the mag in the hope of getting some national attention and maybe that elusive recording contract! Dunno how many of the groups who did get their mugs printed in this section actually got a call from Clive Davis himself in request of a demo tape, but you kinda get the feeling that those hefty bearded guys from the wastelands of Ameriga who lucked out and got into the pages of this mag were just anticipating that all-important phone call just any second now! Naturally I like reading this portion of the mag to get a look at the bands more up my alley who got their fifteen minutes, and perhaps a few more as time went by. The Harlots of 42nd Street got not just one but TWO snaps in the new bands section (as did at least one spinoff, Lollipop), while Frankenstein and the Dead Boys (the pre-bass guitar quartet version) got the double treatment as well. As for a top fave such as Crime...well, they got their snap in there as well with a caption that tells us that they come off a lot like the Tubes! A lotta those groups whose monikers you used to see on old CBGB and Max's listings also pop up frequently, and not surprisingly enough they all looked average runna-the-mill which I guess proves that some groups weren't on the lookout for the outrage, which is good in its own way! Heck, I even recall seeing a snap of no wave obscurities the Communists who sported Amish girl turned punkette Iolsa Hatt as their vocalist (she later of Kongress before Marilyn took over the vocal spot), and it seems as if even Byron Coley and Thurston Moore weren't aware of this bit of info when they were doing their no wave book so you can expect to come across some real obscuros if you peruse even one lowly issue of this rag!
Unfortunately by the time the rowdy seventies had well crept over into the timid eighties it was easy to see that the party was over, and with once-innovative groups either disbanding, going into hiding or hitting the big time with generally subpar sputum perhaps a magazine like ROCK SCENE would have been an anachronism. That's probably the only reason the mag went kaput around the same time that Max's Kansas City folded and Lester Bangs deep-sixed himself giving credence to the concept of "era's end". Funny, I coulda used a mag like ROCK SCENE tremendously during those rather pallid times, only I coulda used an actual music scene conduit to the continuation of such a publication which is why it was perhaps best for the thing to fall by the wayside the way it did lest they cater to the generally squeaky-clean, rock-video-bred music that era is known for. But in other ways it really was too bad that such a good over-the-counter periodical got the ax while horrid reads like the execrable ROLLING STONE continue on and on to corrupt impressionable dunces, but worse things have happened in this once wild and woolly world of rock & roll and the fact that it hasn't all fallen into the ocean must serve as some sorta testament to the form's ultimate staying power, no matter how weak that may seem at times.
So if you wanna know what rock & roll was really about just latch onto a buncha old issues of ROCK SCENE and CREEM pre-'76 issues as well as just about any good fanzines from the era you can find, and I'm sure you'll get a different view of just what r/r meant to more than just a few teenage maniacs out there than you would reading any issue of STONE or its myriad assortment of imitators. And if ya go broke buying up all the recordings these groups put out don't come crying to me...I'm still trying to figure out a way to categorize my entire magazine/book collection in order to gain easy access in case I need to find out something regarding Savage Rose at the drop of a hat!
***THE RED CRAYOLA-PARABLE OF ARABLE LAND/GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA AND ALL WHO SAIL WITH IT two-on-one CD (Charly UK)
A recent review of GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA AND ALL WHO SAIL WITH IT on the RISING STORM blog had me digging out my copy of that longtime "minimalist" fave, which in this case had been coupled with the group's debut International Artists album which is no slouch itself. Naturally (for sure, absolutely, without question) both of these albums are so ingrained into the canon of underground rockism that writing about them yet again would merely be beating a dead lang into the ground, but a word to the wise should suffice when I tell you that you might wanna opt out for the Spalax reissues of both disques separately considering the rather dull sound quality (sounds like they got their "masters" straight off some late-seventies Radar reissues which sounded positively better than this 'un) plus the fact that the first album was truncated from here to Bizoo and back in order to fit both albums on one platter. I don't have that much more hope for the domestic Collectables two-on-one either. If someone out there can tell me whether or not it's worth the import prices to get the Spalax digipacks or not please let me know in the comment box provided, because both of these proto-whatever psychopunk platters are deserving of more than just another slapdash reissue that sounds about as clear as a cheap cassette job dating back to 1980!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 3:03 PM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
CHARLES MINGUS SEXTET WITH ERIC DOLPHY-CORNELL 1964 2-CD SET (Blue Note)
's far as I'm concerned the jury's still out w/regards to what my deep-down testifyin' opinion of this famed avant-bassist will ultimately be. I mean uh yeah, I can't deny the talent and the heavy-duty powerful emotion the man put into his music and more than a few albums that are pretty much mandatory must-gets for those of you who are swayed by the ideals of postwar jazz, but hearin' things about the guy's ability to milk the unbridled white-guilt tearjerking outta his mostly upclass college student listenership is one that I must say ranks with the worst examples of just how low some of these jazzmen-of-color will go in order to manipulate their listenership, who by buying into the venom and angst of their heroes are attempting to assuage any vestiges of past wrongdoings either real or imagined from their sorry lives. Sheesh, from what I've heard about BENEATH THE UNDERDOG, Mingus knew how to play overwrought white people better than his own bass pretty much in the same way you used to see unrepentant liberals like Bill Moyers and Phil Donahue interview seemingly likable and intelligent En Why See street kids who really knew how to bend these guys (without these supposedly intelligent commentators even realizing it) with their charm and youthful idealism, right before going out to commit even more heinous crimes always to the surprise of these esteemed commentators.
Since I never actually read BENEATH THE UNDERDOG nor have I seen the 1964 documentary I shant comment any further, but I will blab on about this relatively easy to snatch up double disc collection of the Mingus sextet caught live at Cornell University March 18, '64 with the great Eric Dolphy back in the fold proceeding to propel the band straight outta their fifties small-jazz aggro roots into the free-play sixties with all the ease in the world. Sound quality is kinda so-so (buried vocals and between-song patter) and the performance ain't always that hot ("Fables of Faubus" sounded better in the Candix context) but for the early avant garde jazz style that at that time seemed to be getting overrun by the hotter new thing of Coleman and Ayler this can't be beat at any price. With the band swinging from Ellington to Dolphy's free play, the mood is strictly pre-revolution here and it does quite suit me especially in its early-sixties adventuresome way. Fave track's "Meditations" (not the Coltrane classic) which starts off disque #2, a kinda lively pseudo-classical "Third Stream"-ish romp that thankfully doesn't stoop to any MJQ appeals to snobbism in the listener. And the best thing about this offering is you don't have to be a guilt-riddled white liberal to like it, and frankly I don't think it would help one bit to be one either no matter how many sit ins or protests the students of Cornell (and elsewhere) attended during that campus-charged year of 1964!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 5:58 PM
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I WUV 'OO, 'OO WUV ME?
Happy VD y'all, and just because I love each and every one of you reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers soooooooooo much I decided to go ahead and post my usual weekend writeup rather than not post one I guess. And that means write, edit and publish a thought-out, informative and entertaining blogpost DESPITE any personal problems that might be digging away at yr humble blogger's physical and/or emotional state which at some times can become a regular Herculean task in typical Jerry Lewis-speak. And rilly, at this point in time the ol' personal problems have been piling up on me at a rate to make Job seem like a rather well-off runna the mill kinda guy because y'see, throughout the day I have been suffering from diarrhea (congratulate me...NO SKIDMARKS!) as well as aching joints and a severe case of the shivvers but still I move forward in order to make the you devout BLOGschpielers TO COMM a little bit happier in your otherwise mundane existences with my generally more uplifting than Penelope Playtex opines of just about everyone and everything that passes my jaded lobes. So gulp down the Immodium AD and ibuprofen shall I, and despite the call for physical and mental rest I will pursue a true to form weekend post for all you lovers out there. Sheesh, the things I go through should only happen to Dave Lang!
***SENSE OF WONDER #12 fanzine dated 1972 (published by Bill Schelly and Hamster Press)
I dunno if the correlation would really be that accurate, but Bill Schelly is to comic book fandom what Sam Moskowitz is to Sci Fi and Byron Coley to rock & roll. Well, at least Schelly emerged from the swamp of poorly-churned out mid-sixties crudzines to produce SENSE OF WONDER, a brilliant high quality fanzine that continues to rank amongst the best of the comic book-oriented 'zines that were cluttering the sixties and early portion of the seventies, and to show his appreciation for the entire genre and what it doth wrought for him (mainly some quickly dashed hopes regarding breaking into the professional medium) the man even put together a number of great comic fanzine histories, two dealing with the whys and wherefores of comic fandom and the other reprinting some of the "amateur" stories that more or less came and went back in the day showing us obsessive music aficionados that we weren't the first to rake leaves and sell plasma so's we could have the ability to put our fantasies and hatescreeds to print just like the big guys used to do (and still do, but who's reading?)!
I believe this issue (#12) was SENSE OF WONDER's last since the '72 date is pointing towards the death of the original fandom era when comic book reading and collecting for all practical purposes became a mainstream endeavor with more than a few professional pubs doing what these kiddoes had pretty much created o'er the past decade or so. Still if this is the mag's swan song it's a pretty good 'un indeed, with a style and outlook that rivals the rest of the "prozines" of the day and loads more information on your favorite artists (in this case Jack Kirby and Will Eisner) that you can find with the mere click of a mouse nowadays but back then comic maniacs hadda get hold of it any way they could!
Unfortunately there are hardly any comic stories like the kind that loads of budding artists were publishing in their daddy-xeroxed wares at the time in #12, but we do get some interesting tidbits like an article on Yarmak, the Australian Tarzan whom I bet got one Mr. L**g to clock rocks in the outhouse until the cows came home (he gazing lovingly upon the visage of Yarmak, not the curvaceous cutie this jungle bum just rescued!). Well-researched indeed, and the fact that Schelly devoted his final ish to a comic character that's pretty well unknown above the equator is living proof that the guy was willing to take more than a few chances not putting a recognizable cartoon fave up onna front so's he could sell out his 1000 copies within a minute. Kinda reminds me of when I would slap people like Jamie Klimek and Simply Saucer on the cover of my own crudzine wonder...and take forever to sell off a measly 350-press run because you dolts were too busy reading these half-baked post-fanzine glossies to care about the real underground honest-to-Meltzer thing!
The rest of SENSE OF WONDER #12 is also hotcha top notch wowzer, not only for the boffo Kirby and Eisner pieces but because of such surprises as a WANTED FOR CONTEMPT OF COMICS: DR. FREDRIC WERTHAM mini-poster that (even if not enlarged to hippie poster dimensions) woulda adorned the wall of any comic maniac's stinky bedroom rather snazz-like. (The irony about this poster is that, after Wertham had been in contact and eventually praised the comic book fanzine idiom in his overview of the genre entitled THE WORLD OF FANZINES, Schelly softened his views of the man somewhat calling him "a well meaning liberal" as if we didn't know that already!) And hey, given how this issue also featured that Kirby article someone even decided to honor the occasion by drawing a topless pic of Big Barda from the old Mr. Miracle comic in classic Kirby style and I'm sure that woulda had more'n a few fans of Kirby's DC Fourth World titles running for the vaseline and a towel! Who sez that fanzines didn't serve an important purpose especially for fourteen-year-old aficionados of the form?
The original comic book story by a Joseph Wehrle was way too surreal for my tastes (reminded me of just about any other fanzine comic book offering found in just about every other fanzine of the day in its early-seventies wordless expression...and just because it's done for a fanzine doesn't mean it's necessarily worthy of your time as a perusal through any late-eighties FLIPSIDE can tell you!) but overall SENSE OF WONDER #12 was a fitting farewell to a title that still reverberates somewhere within the remnants of sixties comic book fandom. If you can, try to latch onto Schelly's mid/late-nineties fanzine history books including his own bio entitled what else but SENSE OF WONDER where he gets to dish out the lowdown regarding various fan and pro movers and shakers he had come across throughout his years on the 'zine circuit, including such notables as the irascible Don Thompson, Steve Ditko and of course Fredric Wertham.
***Quicksilver Messenger Service-LIVE AT THE AVALON BALLROOM, SAN FRANCISCO, 9TH SEPTEMBER 1966 CD; LIVE AT THE AVALON BALLROOM, SAN FRANCISCO, 25TH OCTOBER 1966 CD; LIVE AT THE FILMORE BALLROOM, SAN FRANCISCO, 4TH FEBRUARY 1967 2-CD set (Voiceprint)
The consensus, or at least what Gene Sculatti says, is that Quicksilver Messenger Service were much better live than their Capitol studio albums would lead us to believe, and also that the band was way past their prime when they got signed a good year after the major label rush to sign just about anything with a San Francisco name tag on it. Well, at least that's what Sculatti said, and really who can disagree with a man who probably had more knowledge and true appreciation of what San Francisco was all about long before the laid back rot began to overtake the state sometime in the early-seventies? Sculatti has, on many occasions, gone on to compare the energy levels of prime Quicksilver to that of the MC5's and if you don't think a recommendation like that would at least get this staunchly anti-hippie man of means to SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE then you certainly haven't been reading the right blog for the past four-and-three-quarter years! Either that or I'm so hard up for high energy jamz these days that I'll try to find 'em anywhere I can, including the heart of freakazoid San Francisco.
These three offerings sure do present a nice slice of QMS as they were during the height of SF psychedelia before the eventual mellowing out of the entire scene, showing that perhaps they could've been as hot a high energy contender in the annals of rock as the Detroit bands. Still heavily settled in the mid-sixties more garage band frame of mind at this time, Quicksilver actually had more in common music-wise with the slowly-dying San Francisco punk scene than they did with the likes of the Airplane and Dead even if a good portion of their covers such as "Smokestack Lightning" and "Codeine" were more or less associated with the more psychedelic bands appearing on the ballroom scene. (BTW, does anyone have any information on the pre-Charlatans Androids, a group that could have been one of the more out-there examples of what avant rock could have meant, and as early as 1964 as well!) The performances are exploratory enough but not self-conscious or boring, and even when Quicksilver gets into their extended rave ups you don't always feel like taking a dump while the guitarists work out their onstage fantasies. Primitive and tribal enough for the times (their and ours), though you kinda get the idea that Quicksilver would be buried under a load of subpar sputum once the sixties were to role on to a cataclysmic end. And in many ways, they were.
One interesting aside, at the beginning of the September 9th CD a radio ad for a Family Dog show boasts none other than the Shadows of Knight's romping "Gospel Zone" as background music! Considering how I'd have thought that the denizens of SF would have considered the Shadows of Knight pure bubblegum kidstuff, I gotta marvel at the sight of these two storm fronts colliding, something you know would never had happened once SF turned into the bastion of Wennerland where all superficial "trash" was to have been abandoned.
***Marion Brown-LE TEMPS FOU CD-R (Polydor)
Finally on today's soiree is yet another Bill Shute burn, this rarity recorded during famed avant-saxist Marion Brown's European jaunt which resulted in quite a few upstanding albs that seem to hold up just as well as all those other expatriate free jazz disques that seemed like rumors to us Amerigans only a few years back. Leading one of those standard mix o' Amerigan and Euro players (Steve McCall and Ambrose Jackson amongst the former, Gunter Hampel and Barre Phillips amongst the latter), the results of this "original soundtrack" to some movie that's probably indecipherable to everyone but French intellectuals are exemplary free scronk as you've come to know from Brown which is perhaps even bettered by the presence of people like Hampel on vibes and bass clarinet adding a certain savvy to an already nerve-bent sound. Even better than his Impulse sides, LE TEMPS FOU stands along with way too many to count similar affairs as one reason that people like Wayne McGuire used to call it "nova music". And whatever you do, don't miss "Boat Rock" which reminds me not only of the Contortions during their rule of the New York rock scene but some of the arty-funk that was being made in the wake of James Chance's punk spasms! Spazz enough to make you wanna go out and get a pompadour, a tuxedo and all the heroin you can stand...I mean, how lower Manhattan 1980 can you get?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:00 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The call to mass suicide has been temporarily put on hold, for I have, er, more pressing matters to engage in. First off is the announcement of the recent sighting after a good year of MIA-dom by none other than longtime "serious rock critic" (for what that's worth!) Tim Ellison, who has finally returned to the fold with not one but two new blogs, one of which (THE KYNGE'S MUSIC), is listed on the grande roster of BTC-approved reading on the left. (The other blog is opera-related, though from what I can discern I think my own opera-loving mudder wouldn't be able to make hide nor hair of the thing.) Welcome back to the wonderful world of blogging Tim, and I hope that everything is going swimmingly lest you pull the plug on these new 'uns like you did with MUSIC CHAMBER.
And with that, on to a couple of reviews I was able to "whip up" to sate your musical appetite. Bon appetit!
***INTRODUCING BURTON GREENE CD-R (Columbia)
Here's a rarity that I don't even recall eyeballing during my days of avid used bin hopping throughout Cle Hts. from the late-seventies through the early-nineties. And believe-you-moi, this one is so rare that a legit Cee-Dee reissue is probably asking for way too much even in these over-digitized days (hadda rely on a freebee given to me by one Bill Shute, a name that rings a bell somewhat), and as far as actually finding a pic of the sleeve somewhere on the web to use for this blog (the "sleeve" Bill sent with the disque being too small and light to reproduce) well, good luck finding it which is why I hadda rely on a familiar snap from Greene's first ESP album to use in its stead. And even though this 'un originally came out on Columbia I kinda doubt that anyone at their Legacy reissuing department even knows this exists in the first place and besides, I can't see Sundazed handling INTRODUCING BURTON GREENE like they would some old Paul Revere or Byrds offering!
Which is all too bad (for you) unless you have an original or know someone who can burn a Cee-Dee for ya (don't look at me, pongo) because INTRODUCING BURTON GREENE is that good of an obscure late-sixties freedom platter and a real winner especially for a label such as Columbia who wasn't that much on top of the free jazz slagheap as they were with the classical "Music Of Our Time" stuff that used to drive my father to fits back in the way-distant mid-seventies.
Good ESP-derived lineup here too not only with familiar faces Steve Tintweiss and Shelly Rusten on bass and drums rspctvly but Byard Lancaster, a man def. worthy of more than the shallow accolades he has received over the years, not only handling alto sax but trumpet in a fine enough free manner to satisfy any of you superficialists who only "got into" free jazz because of all the name dropping yer fave rock stars gave to such innovators as Ornette and Sun Ra thus upping their stock a few thousand %.
Playing doesn't even take effort to "tone down" for major label consumption and in many ways INTRODUCING... could have been an ESP offering 'stead of brewed from the loins of Mitch Miller's label. It's that grand esp. when you get to the point where Greene starts chanting in some unknown tongue on "Nirvana Vibrations" or better yet switches to electric harpsichord reminding one of Sun Ra at his late-sixties incoherent best (Greene also tackles moog in an early application of it in the jazz medium, and in fact if you can find any usage of it in jazz before this please lemme know!). Naturally the Tintweiss/Rusten "rhythm" (for wont of a better word) section in more'n just plain "sympathetic" with Greene's still after all these years cutting-edge stylings, and Lancaster once again shows why he's perhaps one of the better (still)-living free players on the boards, at least when he is performing in the avant style. Kinda makes me wish he woulda been able to make that trip to the CBGB Lounge for that "freestyle" gig I tuned in for quite a few years back!
I dunno why Columbia's nixing any reish of this one when they had the smarts to issue things like Jimmy Giuffre's FREE FALL which ain't any flea market bin stuffer itself, but maybe if we wait long enough and the message finally sinks in that the late-sixties free thing continues to live (at least in the hearts of high energy madmen like ourselves) we might be seeing this 'un snuggled in somewhere between the Herbie Mann's and Al DeMeola's at the fru-fru high-society coffeehouse bookstore located at your nearest mall sometime soon! It would be worth checking out the online auctions for this one lest we have to tangle with some gourmet coffee fanatic whose looking for the ultimate Michael Hedges compilation and a copy of THE NEW YORK TIMES to sip his mocha to!
***Caroline Peyton-MOCK UP; INTUITION CD's (Asterisk, available through Forced Exposure)
Only reason I bought this cute hippy-chick's first album MOCK UP from '72 was because of Bruce Anderson's guitar solo on "Lor el iii" which lent some boss underground credo to an otherwise strictly lady o' the canyon type of platter. Unfortunately for me (and presumably you), "Lor el iii" was left off this Cee-Dee reissue for who knows what reason, unless it's due to end up on some MX-80-related compilation hopefully to worm its way into our hearts more sooner than later.
Otherwise this songstress really doesn't live up to any special BLOG TO COMM-recommended ideals, that is if you follow such a credo to begin with and who tuning into this blog doesn't (or so I ass-sume). MOCK UP attempts to be a rather concise encapsulation of various fringe-y West Coast stylings (Joni Mitchell comes mostly to mind) with a spot of avant garde a la Tim Buckley ca. STARSAILOR and Yoko Ono all done up in the confines of midwest college town Bloomington Indiana, which from I gather was itself trying to be Berkeley Midwest. INTUITION is reaching for the more laid-back (if you can imagine that!) mid-seventies El Lay Scene stylings with a sound that wouldn't've sounded outta place on the Asylum label as it went straight from the factory right into your nearest cut-out bin for $1.99. Nothing that I would expect any of you reg'lar readers to seek out (even if the cover of MOCK UP looks straight out of a late-eighties SST Records catalog), and now I can understand Bruce Anderson's exclamation in the MX-80 interview in FE when he said "oh, you've heard those albums" in a rather sheepish manner.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:09 AM
Saturday, February 07, 2009
AIN'T NO CURE FOR THE WINTERTIME BLUES, 'CEPT FOR BLOG TO COMM IF YOU'RE THAT HARD UP!
Before we begin with today's festivities I think it would be wise (or at least "nice") for me to go on record noting the recent passing on one Mr. Erick Purkhiser a.k.a. Mr. Lux Interior, perennial frontman for the long-lived and infamous shocka-/punka-/rockabilly aggregation known as the Cramps. Given that we're only into February and this year has already claimed the life of Ron Asheton of Stooges fame, I must admit that I do get the sneakin' suspicion that 2009 might just end up being one big hunkin' humongous year for bigtime celebrity deaths. Perhaps I will be wrong, but if things keep on going this bad 2009 could end up being the worst for such demises since 1977, a year which claimed the lives of Bing, Elvis, Chaplin, Bolan, and worst of all Laughner. Given all that maybe I should 'fess up to the fact that I'm not that startled by Mr. Interior's passing as some of you may be...after all, he was one guy who I thought would have gone to that big haunted house in the sky a lot sooner than he did (and I remember the rumor about him actually dying back in the mid-eighties flying around what used to be known as the fanzine circuit), but I guess this watermark in punk rock history only proves that we're all getting older whether we want to be or not and probably crotchitier for that matter as well! But sheesh, I didn't think he was that old (62 [!], an age which for me still conjures up images of white-haired potbellied baldies with big hanging jowls looking more like Sir Cedric Hardwicke than anything even remotely rock & roll!)...after all, while eyeballing those pics of him performing like a mad ghoulardi back in the late-seventies I woulda pegged him to be an actual teenage werewolf, not a post-thirty man of the world!
Just because I'm that sort of a goof, in "honor" of Mr. I's passing I twirled my favorite Cramps record in his memory, kinda like a private prayer of sorts. It was none other than a bootleg single of "Hurricane Fighter Plane" backed with "I'm Cramped", both sides recorded live at Max's Kansas City in January of '77 right in the middle of the big winter storm/freezeout that I remember closed down more than a few schools and even businesses giving me even more time to spin records in the privacy of my own knotty pine rec room. Miriam Linna's the one banging drums here in a way that would make Maureen Tucker sound like Ian Paice and the quality is pretty Flinstones-esque as the sleeve notes mention, but the mad swirl and total New York underground rock verve is firmly in place as the Cramps romp through these sides in a way that would have you envision a buncha suburban teenagers on anybackporch USA and you can do it too, only it'll sound about as half-baked and as one-dimensional as all of those horrid amerindie singles that were being pushed on you throughout the late-eighties and nineties for that matter.
By the way, huge kudos should be given to Peter Crowley and Max's Kansas City for bolstering the Cramps' career at a time when nobody else really seemed to care. Y'see, when the group debuted at CBGB in November of '76 they didn't pass the audition but Crowley (who used to snoop around at CBGB on audition nights in order to scrape up some talent for his club) found them suitable enough to become regular performers at Max's, usually sharing the bill with such stalwarts as Suicide, the Brats, Lollipop and Jango Edwards. It wasn't until a good six or so months later after the Cramps made a moniker for themselves that Hilly eventually let 'em return to the CBGB stage, so we should all personally thank Crowley (via his myspace page) for giving the Cramps the boost their career needed lest they floundered about like way too many groups that have been cluttering up the En Why Scene way back in the day when these kinda acts really mattered to acne-riddled ranch house kids like ourselves.
***The music situation here has perked up a bit thanks to a recent Forced Exposure order making its way to my abode, which really was bad timing on my part since I just got into "rediscovering" some long-forgotten faves such as the Ornette Coleman BEAUTY IS A RARE THING box set on Atlantic/Rhino so now it seems like my brain is being overloaded with all kinds of music to the point where if I don't let up my head'll swell even more than The Leader's from the old HULK comics. But still I soldier on, and in order to at least attempt to present for you one of my traditional weekend mega-posts where I clue you hopeless ones in on what is worthy of thine ears I thought I'd blab on about some of the newer items, worthy or not, that have graced my lobes since we last met. And if I have inspired at least one wretch out there to at least give a listen to one of the highly recommended wares mentioned therein, I surely did a pretty lousy job! Awww, go read Jay Hinman if you want "clear" and "concise" reportage regarding all of the hot to trot "underground" records of the past year, you unworthies you!
***The Cascades-RHYTHM OF THE RAIN CD (Collectables)
Dunno about you, but I'd like to go on record saying that 1963 was a pretty good year for pop radio even though the standard consensus seems to be otherwise. For some, the entire early-sixties were a musical/social desert which the budding revolutionaries amongst us hadda wade through while waiting for a world of love, peace, and bargain store bell bottoms. Of course these spiritual and mental nimnuls couldn't have been further from the truth, as '63 was packed with enough good, energetic music being played on the radio for real teenagers who would be buying Seeds and Stones albums in only a few years time. Besides the Beach Boys and the instrumental surf hits of the year, there were girl groups, early Four Seasons (who I gotta admit I like enough before their Italianisms got the best of 'em) and Ray Charles tearin' up the charts not to mention some nice non-rockin' yet pleasant enough ear treats like "Deep Purple", plus the strains of "Telstar" were still echoing forth from late-'62 so don't go 'round sayin' that it was all "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Blowin' In The Wind" (a song that used to give us seventh-grade kids the chuckles in music class and the teacher didn't know why us guys were emphasizing the word "blowin'"!).
And what about the Cascades' "Rhythm of the Rain" which I gotta admit was a nice enough ditty that fit in with the rest of '63's top rock spinsters. Hokay it was no "Wipe Out", but it was nice enough in its own nerdy way plus I must admit to you that for years I thought the Cascades were cool enough because they also played their own instruments thus predating the mid-sixties group initiative that helped make those years a lot more fun for kids tuning into the tee-vee tube to see guys with long hair playing cool looking gear! I dunno about you, but when I hear "Rhythm of the Rain" I'm immediately transported back to the days when kids were more concerned with model cars, watching fun stuff like OUTER LIMITS and TWILIGHT ZONE, and generally being goof off record-spinning comic book reading little consumers which is a whole lot better'n them growing up almost overnight and wanting to save the world from the evils of the same people who gave us comic books, model cars and tee-vee!
However as I expected RHYTHM OF THE RAIN was only a one-hit album filled with tracks that really don't measure up to the hit version. I was hoping for a few rockers, but at the best these guys conjure up the image of an early-sixties Association (figures both were on Valiant Records!) with their harmonies though without the El Lay folk rock stylings that made Imants Krumins become one of the few British Islers to listen to these guys even during the onslaught of hard English sounds. I wasn't hoping for much more, but at least I got the idea. In some ways the Cascades were more or less a rock & roll group version of the early-sixties teen idol acts that I must admit were a detriment to that particular era's overall image, but in some ways they were better perhaps because they emphasized the idea of the rock group over the pre-fashioned star which was in high favor before the Beatles helped usher in Rock Generation II. Too bad they couldn't produce more quality sounds like the Tornadoes or any of the instrumental surf acts that were topping the charts in that transitional year.
Interesting note, a post-Wailers Kent Morrill ended up in the Cascades not too soon after his own group deep-sixed, making me wonder if he persuaded his new bandmates to cover some Wailer classics like perhaps "Out of Our Tree" which really woulda spiced up the group's act, and perhaps overall image. Well, considering how Morrill went the sensitive singer/songwriter solo route during the early-seventies I kinda doubt it, but it woulda been an interesting footnote in the annals of rock & roll if somehow the Cascades had re-emerged as a high energy garage-styled band, eh?
***THE UNDERGROUND FAILURE CD (Black Light, available via Forced Exposure)
Here's a disque of Swedish origin that had been touted as being kinda Velvets/Fugsy with a load of Dylan tossed in, but all I could discern were more hippie doodlings from some outhouse jam session down on the farm. I know that the Swedes aren't as "laid back" as many people believe them to be...the Nomads are a good example of high energy Swedish-bred rock & roll...but these Underground Failure guys sound like they would rather be in Marin County gulping down the Boone's Farm rather'n kicking out any jamz one could think of. For the BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN crowd only.
***Gunter Hampel-THE 8TH OF JULY 1969 LP (Flying Dutchman)
I've been a fan of Hampel (or as much of a fan as I can be for a guy who only owns about six of his albums) for a rather long time, but I gotta admit that it's sure been harder than heck to get hold of the man's vast array of vinyl and digital wares. Heck, even though the guy has his own website from which you can order various items both old and new, just try getting a response from whomever's running the thing regarding what's available and for how much! Well, at least I can rely on those old Birth label releases I was able to scarf up for mere bags of shells back in the eighties to listen to as well as this particular disc that actually came out on Flying Dutchman back inna day, a platter that not only boasts of having Nat Hentoff liner notes but actually served as an inspiration for the legendary Titfield Thunderbolt and what other free jazz album was able to inspire such a proto-punkial scene as the one down Richmond way anyway?
Nice glossy gatefold cover too and some pretty hot players besides Hampel are to be found, including his wife Jeanne Lee making some of the more epiglottial vocalese to have ever been heard on record (at least up to date) as well as Anthony Braxton whose contrabass clarinet solo has to be the strangest I've heard with even more breath than Ian Anderson would dare put into his flute. Braxton's AACM pardner Steve McCall also shows up on drums while Willem Breuker plays it particularly feral although he unfortunately left his hurdy-gurdy at home. Topping it all off is Arjen Gorter who doubles on standard "string" bass and bass guitar. Of course leading the entire shebang is Hampel who only dabbles on vibes and bass clarinet on this session, but he sure has the smarts to sound like an exploding toy piano or gasping viper most of the time.
The mood of the record shifts and swerves from violent to calm, at times with Lee recalling Nico on "It Was a Pleasure Then" (!) before heading into high holler territory as the group can sway and swerve which chucking the past 100 years of jazz restrictions out the window. In all a marvy example of the Euro/Amerigan bridge in free playing, and it's not hard to see how the Thunderbolt guys coulda swiped a whole lotta ideas from this 'un, a rec certainly due a reissue though seek and ye shall find, perhaps via ebay.
***Solidarity Unit, Inc.-RED, BLACK AND GREEN LP (Eremite)
While you might have to do some digging to get hold of the above free jazz classic, fortunately this reissue can be had for a mere pittance if you hurry up and order it via the group's label, or maybe even through Forced Exposure like I did. One of the first records to come outta the St. Louis BAG scene, this pre-Human Arts Ensemble platter features perennial HAE member Charles "Bobo" Shaw leading a ten-piece group through some mighty rough terrain recorded live on the night that Jimi Hendrix choked his way to eternity. From the sound of it these guys were pretty miffed about it because what you get on this disc is almost (or maybe even over) an hour of total fury that not only features BAG mainstay Oliver Lake on sax and flute but guitarist Richard Martin (the same guy who put so much oomph into Lake's NTU: POINT FROM WHICH CREATION BEGINS on Arista/Freedom) taking out his frustrations in his playing coming off like a cross between Sonny Sharrock and Doug Snyder on the DAILY DANCE album trying to remove each other's guitars firmly lodged upsides each other's rectums. Sound quality is strictly dungeon and if anyone can stomach the communist liner notes calling for the "death of the kapitalist/individual" they obviously haven't been reading their Mr. A, but frankly I found the entire experience pretty earth-shattering in a way the best free/avant jazz has always been. Too bad many free excursions sound like a trip to the tea parlor nowadays, because what we can sure use is the low-fi, feral sound that the BAG and AACM amongst others used to excel in to the point of panic overload. Why Arista/Freedom didn't release this one in the mid-seventies while they were reissuing the early HAE albums I'll never know, but it is a must-have, perhaps even a contender for best jazz rec of the year even if it is only February.
***Gonna spill the beans w/regards to some of the other wonders from my recent FE order in the next post (hopefully midweek lest laziness sets in) and perhaps add a comment or two regarding something especially pertinent and meaningful too all of us in these uncertain and perhaps even frightening times. Of course whatever I do say about these times will probably induce within some of you more impressionable readers the will to mass suicide, so until then keep cool and remember to do your best lemming bit whenever I give the go ahead for you to take that great big leap!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:36 PM
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Deep Purple-FIREBALL CD (EMI Australia)
Okay, it has been a slow week. But (as usual) that isn't going to stop me from presenting for you (the discerning BLOG TO COMM reader) yet another bout of pontificating on an album I'm sure you wouldn't wanna be caught dead listening to lest all your "hip" friends give you the excommunication treatment for even being in the mere "presence" of such utter trash. Ifyaknowaddamean...
I got FIREBALL as part of a Deep Purple box set that starts with IN ROCK and goes on up through their late-seventies post-Blackmore turdsters which I certainly did not appreciate (I woulda preferred a box set starting with SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE up through MACHINE HEAD so at least so I could get the opportunity to hear such neglected [and probably for a good reason!] albums such as CONCERTO FOR GROUP AND ORCHESTRA which always did sink way 'neath my radarscope). But I guess I'll settle on getting what I can get, and considering all of the raves that people like Lester Bangs and Mike Saunders were making about how much Deep Purple were "the British MC5" on such albums as IN ROCK and this wonder I guess I'd just better find out for myself about these disques any which way I can!
If you think I'm that "hard up" that I have to check out some cruddy old Deep Purple albums to get at least a faux MC5 kick you're absolutely right! But check out FIREBALL I did and what did I get but a tad bit of disappointment in finding out that this 'un isn't exactly the Brit Isles answer to KICK OUT THE JAMS. It doesn't even sound as metallically-inclined as previous album IN ROCK which is the one the serious early-seventies HM mongers love to take the Five comparisons with, and that is cause for even more consternation in these parts considering how much I could use a high energy fix in these days of sullen doldrums! FIREBALL is in fact kinda mid-tempo metal, not "heavy" in the standard sense and overall what we would probably call supermarket box boy music custom-made for the seventies sopors and acne crowd. Only that would be an insult to the pockmarked ones who used to go for this music whole hog, and ya gotta feel sorry for a class that Chuck Eddy had so much empathy for. Nothing here really stands out from the usual showoff metallic riffage (which isn't a bad thing mind you), and I gotta admit that my usually sieve-like brain retained very little of whatever energy or verve FIREBALL exuded even after a grand total of three spins, not successively of course.
But amidst the bigtime hard rock meanderings I found at least a few moments of interest starting on side two, using old vinyl technoterminology. "The Mule" was a good enough dirger that some wags might feel like drawing up "Lucky Man" comparisons with (thanks to the synthesizer solo), but I felt it more or less had elements that the Sweet would eventually use for their hotcha opus "Sweet FA" a few years down the line. Followup "Fools" was also an attention-grabber even with some of those patented "look how cool we are" riffs tossed in. But two tracks don't exactly make entire albums, and the Sweet were really the ones who could draw up those Detroit rock comparisons (see the review of BLOCKBUSTER in where-else-but CREEM) without making the critic in question looking like a total nimnul even if that critic was Billy Altman. As for Deep Purple, they were better off covering Joe South and Neil Diamond before getting into the really heavy mode, and maybe I should finally give Episode Six a try as well. Now if I can only wrangle up one of those cheapo Scepter Records albums with the generic gold record cover that you used to see all over the place back in the day...
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:54 AM