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.

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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!
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

3 comments:

diskojoe said...

The Cascades later appeared in a movie called "Catalina Caper" (1967) w/Little Richard, no less & did a Ray Davies song called "There's A New World Opening For Me"

Woody said...

"Miriam Linna's the one banging drums here in a way that would make Maureen Tucker sound like Ian Paice" - that's mint!

Anonymous said...

The Cascades' "Rhythm of the Rain" had Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine playing on it - not the band members.

Didn't know the Cascades covered "There's A New World Opening For Me" (the Kinks' version wouldn't see official release until 2008, although oft-bootlegged)- they also covered another Ray Davies song that the Kinks never did, "I Bet You Won't Stay". Wonder what the connection was?)

Speaking of CA pop-rock groups known for vocal harmonies with a Kinks connection, Chris, ever heard the Turtles' TURTLE SOUP album (the only production Ray Davies has ever done other than Kinks records or his own solo records?) "Hot Little Hands" is right up there with the Groovies or CCR at their most high energy rawkin' - you'd probably dig that album - Michael