Sunday, May 24, 2009

RECESSION NO, OBSESSION YES!

Yes, even I am feeling the pinch, and it's not from the crab lice infesting my eyebrows either! But still I soldier on, trying to make the best out of a miserable situation by perhaps purchasing an interesting item here and there, finding some old unplayed offering in the collection to give its initial spin and just basically trying to get on even with the lack of basics that I'm sure we all have to put up with these sorry days. And by "basics" I'm not talking about the long green (which I can always use more of, but have enough to survive on), but the lack of high energy sounds and even writings coming from ALL directions! Until we hit the mother lode of hot recordings and classic rockscribe reads I guess I'll just have to be digging into my by now ancient collection and reliving past rockism glories which I guess are better than no glories at all.

I'm sure some of your readers are tuning in to get a taste of some of the other aspects of my, er, "personal life" and not "just" which records I have been playing and which old fanzines I dug outta the strata. In order to stave off madness I shall admit that I have been digging through loads of the less-heard amongst my collection as well as spinning some old faves that sorta got shoved to the back of the bus. Of course the wonderful CD-R's that Bill Shute and Paul McGarry have sent are helping to make my life a little more pleasant than it otherwise would be. However, I should admit that I tried listening to that John Ylvisaker COOL-LIVIN disque that Bill sent, though about two tracks into the thing I was just muttering to myself why I was listening to this when I could've been spinning the Figures of Light (another recent top-play) or Mirrors. Maybe when I'm not in that much of a "strange music" mood perhaps? What purports to be the top spin of the week would definitely be the LOST HOLY GRAILS CD-R, a fine collection of previously-circulated efforts from the likes of Moby Grape, the Stooges, Can, MC5 the pre-Sabbath Mythology as well as the Velvet Underground etc. and so forth that sounds like it would have made for a fine backdrop for an intense herbology session at Mirrors' practice space on Storer Ave. Hearing the Grape proving that San Francisco was much more than the Dead and 'plane on "Evil Hoodoo" before Pink Floyd with Syd rip into "One in a Million" can be one of the most life-reaffirming experiences one can have even fortysome years after the fact!

As far as reading matter goes, the stack of PLASTIC MAN and SPIRIT DC reprints continue to astound, amaze and other hackneyed ejaculations you can think of making me want to pretty much scour the entire Quality Comics line for not only more of their stories but those of Midnight, the Clock and other guys whose main fashion statement seems to have been mixing masks and forties three-piece suits. Of course the good old fanzines like BIG STAR and the old THE NEXT BIG THINGs are around, fortunately to reminds me of what hot obsessive rock & roll writing was like in the days before Eddy. And in other things, my fave local restaurant the Cookery is closing down after thirty years of faithful service! I guess after the original owner (old friend of the folks who operated a number of eateries since the fifties) died a few years back and the family took it over the usual problems began mounting up. I personally thought that some of the quality was lost since the owner's death (like the time they were passing off what looked like deli meat for their turkey dinners) but not that much and they were still getting the customers, but between the new management and a Golden Corral all you can eat restaurant opening up across the street I guess things were shall we say too much for the new management to handle. Still I am sad to see it go, especially after the memories I had of eating there with the folks after Christmas shopping in 1986 thinking about going home to play all of the new BYG reissues I had just received not to mention my holiday fave THE MARBLE INDEX. Man, I don't know if I'll ever wolf down a chicken-fried steak again!

While you're crying over my gastronomical misfortunes to be, how about reading (and appreciating) these reviews I managed to churn out since last Wednesday. I would try to make you feel even more guilty about the way you treat me by saying that I put a whole lotta effort, sweat, stamina and maybe some skidded underwear into these writeups, but as usual I would be lying. Awwww, read 'em and maybe you'll learn something (like how inarticulate I can really be when I put my mind to it!).

***
Albert Earl Crabtree/Cold Steel-METAL IN THE 1ST DEGREE CD (available via. CD Baby)

Do you remember when heavy metal either as a style, a fashion or even a vague concept had about as much true rockist value as Guy Lombardo? Mebbe you're too young, but I sure recall them days roughly from 1973 onwards when heavy metal seemed to have lost whatever dank atonal depressing crank it once had and almost overnight turned into boring (mindless I can take, even appreciate) sub rock sputum. Well, at least I remember the reams of dud metallic rompers that FM radio used to dump on me thinking that I was somehow its #1 target audience, which come to think of it just might have been the most backhanded insult to have ever been tossed my way! But let's face it, by the late-seventies heavy metal seemed to have become a big joke, a music that was once loud and obnoxious, attuned to the teenage grief mindset and best of all perhaps the only outlet for non-hippie youth expression and here it was 1978 and all of a sudden metal was the national sponsor for teenage Quaalude nation...wow, wotta achievement!

Of course I was only looking at the superficial, commercialized aspects of the metal equation since there still were plenty of metallic acts out there in nowheresland that still put forth with a loud barrage even in the face of Kiss going balladeer. What's even more surprising is that this metal underground scene seemed to be taking place on punk turf, or at least these groups were more or less performing in clubs mostly frequented by the purveyors of the post-Velvet Underground generation. And at time when original rock & roll music acts were finally given a safe harbor in a music biz that seemed attuned to cover/tribute bands and some of the most one-dimensional quap that continues to embarrass me (as a living and puking denizen of high energy standards) even though they might put a smile on Chuck Eddy's face.

The metallic approach on punk territory wasn't anything new mind you. Remember, the whole MC5/Stooges scene and attitude (called proto-punk by music wags way after the fact) was getting the "Detroit heavy metal" tag even though a good portion of metallicus proper really wasn't paying attention no matter how hard Anastasia Pantsios was praising the "Z-rock" format back in the eighties. Then of course there was MX-80 Sound who were also getting a heavy jazz rock rep slapped on 'em, though that seemed to make very little sense once their second album OUT OF THE TUNNEL knocked for a loop an unsuspecting underground market back around '80. There were other surprises here and there, like Rocket From the Tombs (playing a "heavy metal night" on WMMS with Hendrix cover band Paragon and Youngstown crazyguys Left End) and Philadelphia's the Reds as well as a number of New York bands who, although unrecorded, at least had hot word-of-mouth publicity that made 'em seem like the next logical step in metaldom even though hardly any of 'em dared to stray outside their New York City environs. Perhaps you heard of some of 'em; Von Lmo, Sorcerers, Junior Birdmen and today's case-in-point Cold Steel.

I saw Cold Steel's name on a Max's Kansas City listing way back when and figured they must've been some studded leather greasy long hair guys Peter Crowley kinda felt sorry for. Well, ain't that how the Cramps got started, and besides these guys hadda play somewhere other'n the Great Guildersleeves so why not Max's? Almost thirty years later who'd believe that a Cee-Dee of 1980-vintage recordings originally recorded under the tutelage of Marshall Chess beneath Studio 54 would ever seen the light of day! But here they are and better now than a thousand years from now when boring college students have to do dissertations on late-twentieth century rock obscurities because although this 1980-vintage album has arrived three decades too late, at least I can still get some hard jollies outta it as a slice of just-pre-capitulation New York Rock than I can, say, some of the more pressing on rockcrit mind acts of the time like ESG por ejemplo.

Cold Steel were a perhaps not-so standard "power trio" led by former Magic Tramp (during their late-Eric Emerson period) guitarist Albert Crabtree. The rest of the group is not mentioned, nor is the guest musician who added some nice complimentary synthesizer work here and there. And amazingly enough, Cold Steel, despite their cutting edge of metal moniker, were not really that hard of a metallic group like I would have expected from an act that had me thinking hefty Motorhead refs! At times they sound more like a standard hard-pop group that you would have seen at Max's and CBGB for the previous five or so years. At first listen you might categorize Cold Steel in with some of the harder rocking punk groups of the era like the Dictators or early Tuff Darts, but I guess if people could categorize the New York Dolls and Sadistic Mika Band as heavy metal back in the day these guys woulda fit in even more so.

Performance-wise you can't go wrong, not with Crabtree's smooth guitar stylings that remind me of Lou Rone even though Crabtree is not "alone" on this outing, and Crabtree's singing fits in snugly with the general hard rock stylings as well coming off kinda like Adny Shernoff's with a tiny bit of Andy Devinitis for warble effect. Playing is professional without being obnoxious even when the music and lyrics are getting in that patented cock rock position #69 cliche with refs to vanilla wafers and fish, and in many ways Cold Steel have a whole lot more in common with Stu Daye and his various ventures (some of which have been mentioned on this blog) than they would with anything else going on in a New York or metallic sense elsewhere, and if you liked Daye's hard-pop excursions via his various outlets you'll probably get a huge hunkerin' kick outta Cold Steel.

So whaddya know, a nice outta left field surprise that I never thought I would experience in this life or even the next one where I come back as a slug (a step up I might add). I guess I could end this review by saying that I only hope that a release such as this spurs on some of those other metal-on-punk-turf acts like Junior Birdman and Sorcerers (check out their guitarist on ebay if you wanna track him down for tapes...he goes under the name Sonray 66) to dig out some of their past endeavors for present enjoyment. Of course that would be wishful thunk, but I guess if acts like Just Water and the Miamis could be releasing their decades-old recordings this far down the line why not hope for something like a complete Sorcerers exhumation complete with their showstopping cover of "Brainstorm"? In this electron-saturated age we need it!
***
Can-OPENER LP (Sunset, England)

Bought this one for purely one-dimensional nostalgic reasons because I remember seeing it in the minuscule import bin at the old Musicland in the Eastwood Mall back during the spring of '75, and since I had only about a year or so earlier read a Can ref. in NEWSWEEK of all places the name and cover pic immediately snapped out at me. I know that 99.99999...% of this personal drivel I toss out atcha means nada to a sane person, but it sure brings back exciting record-hunting memories for me plus I gotta fill up space somehow so why not with my revelations regarding my various high energy epiphanies eh?

Anyway, the list of Mirrors refs on their Myspace page (see linkup at left) had me digging into this budget-y collection of early/mid-seventies Can tracks featuring a good selection from EGE BAMYASI and SOON OVER BABALUMA as well as FUTURE DAYS programmed in such a fashion that you don't care that this was just another tossout at the ever-growing kraut continuum of the day. The lack of material from SOUNDTRACKS and TAGO MAGO does deter a slight bit, but between the neat stark if standard mid-seventies cover and the selection of music I find OPENER a good enough budget collection that woulda adorned the collection of any true proto-punk maniac of the day rather swimmingly!
***
THE LAUGHING DOGS LP (Columbia)

I wasn't expecting that much considering how these guys were one of the "lesser" groups on the infamous LIVE AT CBGB'S double-header, but danged if the Laughing Dogs just didn't have just the right sense of seventies pop moves on their two cuts, plus the fact that they ended up backing a just-post Dolenz/Jones/Boyce/Hart Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones on the carnival circuit did add up to mucho fun brownie points. Amidst all of this hoopla the Laughing Dogs did manage to record two albums for Columbia, this being the first which not-so-surprisingly enough sports some pretty good late-seventies pop rock moves...y'know, the kinda stuff that got buried under the weight of disco and some of the most abysmal puke passing for "rock & roll" ever to get laid down and passed off for youth kultur or whatever it passed for by that time. Of course there was an extremely slim chance that a group like this would ever "make it", but then again I'm sure all of those reviews looked hip in their mothers' scrap books!

Mostly good hard-pop with great harmony vocals and even a few stabs at the New York punk ideal ("I Need a Million") thrown in, with only a few nod offs here and there. You could do worse, and perhaps I will when I seek out some of the other nth-string New York groups who got to release albums (the Movies come to mind), but this one does satisfy me in a way sorta like a lighter New York-y SHAKE SOME ACTION would, if you get my drift.
***
The Unrelated Segments-THE STORY OF MY LIFE 10-inch 45 rpm (Sundazed)

Dunno how this '03 reissue managed to slip to the back of the collection but it did, and I'm sure glad that I "rescued" this from a fate worse than being cut out. Finally a collection of this Detroit group's single sides which I know you already have thanks to the eighties Eva reissue, but they do sound "nicer" here and besides you even get a previously-unreleased instrumental backing track, if you're the kinda guy who goes for instrumental backing tracks. Not only that, but Jeff Jarema's liner notes are very informative making me wonder why he's been in hiding so long...I do hope he got paid something for 'em because if anyone should be getting money for what they write it should be people like Jarema and not that goon with the music column in yer local paper! Whaddeva, this is indispensable for fans of the Detroit high energy rock sound and if it weren't for them there might not have been a Stooges or MC5 blahblahblah you know the rest of the story so even bother reading these blogs unless you just got popped outta mom's belly and you're diggin' it for the first time???
***
BOOTLEG OF THE WEEK!: The Rolling Stones-WELCOME TO NEW YORK (TMOQ)

Do any of you older readers remember when the Stones toured the US of Whoa back during the summer of '72 and got a whole lotta bigtime publicity which perhaps sealed the fate of rock & roll as a fully-accepted mainstream concern? Well, those of you oldtimers who probably remember all of those deep and fraught-with-everything Stones puff pieces in the pages of TIME and THE WEEKLY READER will wanna snatch up this or any of the various other recordings of their Madison Square Garden show from that epochal tour. If I do recall what I did read about this show, wasn't it where Mick celebrated his 29th birthday with a cake and on-stage food-fight? That ain't on here but "Jumping Jack" and the "Rambler" are, and although I don't cozy up to this part of the Stones' point-in-time as I do their earlier material it wasn't like I was yankin' this off the turntable mid-spin like I would with ELTON JOHN'S CAMPFIRE WEENIE ROAST AND OTHER HOMOPHILIAC TALES. Good enough mid-level show, nothing more or less.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Hey Chris,
I was just blasting the Fantastic Dee-Jays album (the Eva vinyl reissue from 25 years ago) and thought of you!
As for John Ylvisaker's COOL-LIVIN, you have to be in the right mood for that. The day will come (I hope)...and when it does, you'll be amazed...
I was in NYC last week and saw Warhol's film HORSE (1965) at the Museum of Modern Art--was THAT an experience!!!

Bill S.