Saturday, December 26, 2009


Well how did you spend your Christmas Day anyway...all snuggled up by the fire singing songs written by long-deceased English choirmasters with bad teeth? Not me! I wasted it it like any other true day off goofing around the house watching old cartoons on tee-vee and reading my stack of HELP! back issues. Oh yeah, and listening to my huge backlog of music that's been wasting away here due to abject neglect on the part of your blogmeister. The recent Velvet Underground tomes for our time (which I am continuing to peer through even though both books have been well-digested within my psyche for quite some time) had me listening to (over and over) the July '65 rehearsal tape found on the PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE box set which, next to the LIVE AT THE WARHOL MUSEUM has become perhaps my fave-rave documentation of this group at their early primal best. Of course I am still sloshing through the recent FORCED EXPOSURE order which will probably keep me well and happy all through Janvier of next year. Well, it's sure a lot better than having to go out in the bad weather just so's you can act all nice and friendly towards Aunt Petunia whom you can't stand and never will!

But, trouper that I am, the Holiday Festivities are not keeping me from shirking my doody and forgoing my usual weekend blogpost! And for today let me concentrate on some of the highlights of my recent FE order, mainly a couple of recent issues from the much-heralded Norton label that have been preoccupying my time as of late. Yes, this is the same Norton label (as if you didn't know!) who brought you such wonderments as Hasil Adkins, Jack Starr, Esquerita and all of those Link Wray volumes that their KICKS magazine was enticing us with throughout the eighties and oddly enough, I must admit that their choices for recent musical upheavals are pretty strange for a company (and fanzine) that bravely stood against all that was trendy and downright kitchy-koo from the late-sixties onwards! I'm talkin' such releases featuring none other than the long-forgotten works of KIM FOWLEY and SUN RA of all people...I mean, who woulda believed it??? Kim Fowley, the man whose had his fingers in every hot trend (and hot blond) ever since the late-fifties of which many were certainly not Norton-approved, not forgetting the master of outer space free jazz brouhaha Sun Ra which reminds me of the time Norton head Billy Miller was putting down JD King in the pages of KICKS for liking Ornette Coleman!!!! Well, looks can be deceiving and these releases ain't whatcha'd call Norton pandering either to the SoCal beach bleach new wave gang nor the outer-spiral fringe jazz crowd either. Both stick to the Norton credo of GREAT MID-AMERIGAN HOTCHA TEENAGE ROCKIN' TEE-VEE WORSHIP JUNK FOOD AND BLACKHEADS fun and games, and without either Norton or these new releases around we'd all be the poorer you bet!

The Fowley pair of releases are ingeniously entitled ONE MAN'S GARBAGE and ANOTHER MAN'S GOLD and both feature rare and maybe 88not-so Fowley single sides and productions that range from the familiar (Althea and the Memories' "Worse Record Ever Made") to the mythical (Fowley with Mars Bonfire doing "Surf Pigs" which just might've had Fowley replacing Iggy in the '71-vintage Stooges!) and even if you have those Fowley LP rarities that came out in the nineties these would be worth the additional dinero to have and to hold (and to listen to!). Magical stuff both of these platters are, ranging from Jan and Dean swipes to protest songs with "Alley Oop" beats and INSTRUMENTAL MADNESS cheapniz intermingling with enough campy high school putdowns to make Frank Zappa blush. Consider it kinda like the maddest Moxie release of 1979 only sounding 1000 X better, and even if you are one of those kinda guys who actually met Fowley and came away with a taste in your mouth akin to the bottom of Dave Lang's underpants you just might (begrudgingly) enjoy these two volumes that I must admit sure remind me of the thrill I used to get ordering those early PEBBLES albums from Bomp! back when "the sixties" became, at least to me, much more than a bunch of rambling hippie memories being annotated in the "Random Notes" pages of ROLLING STONE.
The Sun Ra dig-ups aren't gonna be that much of a left-field surprise to anyone who owns the double-CD Evidence collection of Ra 45 rpm rarities, but they sure do expand on the original concept of that one even if there may be a handful of overlaps. Featuring rehearsal tapes along with the rare Saturn single sides (as well as a few niceties on Pink Cloud!), these three volumes of Ra at his Ra-est (geddit?) pretty much gather up his various fifties recordings done for a smattering of vocal groups and solo wannabes during the man's Chicago days when the work certainly seemed easier to get in the down and out clubs of the South Side. INTERPLANETARY MELODIES features the Cosmic Rays of "Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie" fame as well as the Nu Sounds, whose Christmas jingle re-appears here in case you missed out on that rare bootleg single the first time. Even Juanita Rogers, the lovestruck bronze gidget of "Teenager's Letter of Promise" shows up not only doing that tear-jerker but an acapella demo for all you fifties schmoozers to rub to! Disc closes out with Ra himself doing a home recording playing and singing something about "Tony's Wife", a more traditional offering if you can believe it!

THE SECOND STOP IS JUPITER has more of the Rays, Nu Sounds, Rogers and the rest of the vocal acts taken under the wing of Ra (as well as another Ra solo piano and vocal number recorded right as the "el" roars by), but for even more extraterrestrial treats try #3 in the series ROCKET SHIP ROCK which features nine count 'em tracks by the master of Muck Muck hisself Yochannon, a guy who you could consider a Screamin' Jay Hawkins orbiting Mars. Un-Nortonly, a few of these Yochannon tracks have backing by the Arkestra that clearly points towards their abstract free jazz days making for some pretty interesting results that go off halfway between obscure r&b mutterings and the early avant garde sounds that Ra and the rest of those Space Age freedom players were conjuring up at the time! Also of note on this disc are two takes of the Batcraze cash-in "I'm Gonna Unmask the Batman", one sung by a Lacy Gibson and the other by a short fellow going by the name of Ebah who later checked into an oven and turned it on full blast. Fittingly closing out this platter is some guy called Don (Dino) Dean and his "Space Stroll" which apparantly is the man singing over a radio broadcast of "Twine Time" by Alvin Cash with total disregard for the melody screeching forth from the Westinghouse. Of all of the Sun Ra-related single sides extant, this one has got to be the most, obscure, beyond-the-ken-of-human-comprehension and indecipherable of the lot! Naturally I love "Space Stroll" quite a bit!

After you've digested these three items you might want to get out your turntable and slap on Ra's Norton-only single entitled "I Am Strange"/"I Am An Instrument", a magnificent slice of Ra that few if any of us knew about even after thirtysome years of collecting his various on/off again available albums. Side one is pretty much autobiographical, yet another home recording (perhaps done the same time those various Cee-Dee-closing Ra sides were) with Ra playing some pretty abstract piano while discussing his own personal philosophy which I doubt anyone will be able to decipher for at least another hundred years (when gas huffing is legalized). On the flip he takes the point-of-view of an actual musical instrument on 1:46 of even stranger introspection to the accompaniment of what sounds like either a zither or the insides of his very own piano! I never thought I would say this in a millyun years but it is true...Norton has gone avant garde!
When you're done with the above fun and games you might want to give this li'l reissue a try. It may not have been prudent of me to buy this vinyl reissue of the Doug Snyder/Bob Thompson DAILY DANCE album since I already have two of 'em on Cee-Dee, but considering on how I missed out by just this much! getting an original album from The New Music Distribution Service a gulping thirty years back maybe I felt that I was making amends of sorts. Whatever, this new issue on the Canadian Cantor label is el fantastico not only because of the old-styled heavy vinyl and sturdy album cover, but because Cantor felt it proper to include a nice li'l informative booklet filled to the brim with some rare photos and of course various recollections from all involved and more. Of course you'll get plenty more info if you'd only dare to purchase issue #24 of my tres obscure fanzine, but until you get your order rolling in you'll just have to settle for this neat enclosure!

Cantor Records is a new label that, according to its website, plans to devote itself to reissuing various doo-wah classic rarities of the sixties and seventies, an ideal that sounds pretty tangy to me considering the number of such albums just waiting to be (re)discovered. Hopefully their future projects will be just as enticing, at least if this reissue is any indication and if you missed out on DAILY DANCE in any of its previous incarnations there's nothing holding you back at least at this time, is there shorty?
Before I dish out my year end wrap 'em up this Thursday I just might get at least one small entry in, just so's I'm not too overwhelmed with writing about all of the niceties that have graced my turntable and bedside cee-dee player between now and then. Anyway, keep an eye or three peeled for probably Tuesday, or maybe even Wednesday if I get lazy enough.

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