Various Artists-THE BABY M TRIAL VOLUMES ONE AND TWO cassettes (Sound of Pig, downloadable here)
Here's anudder skimpy weekend post brought on by most of my free time still being spent trying to shake off that cold that has settled inside my ear canals which isn't anything life threatening like you would have hoped but can still sap the energy outta someone who feels like Ondine coming down off a ten-day speed rampage. However, don't worry about these less-than-stellar posts being a steady condition here at BLOG TO COMM, for next week I hope to review a number of recent acquisitions including the contents of certain packages sent to BTC headquarters by such long-devoted readers as Weasel Walter and Dee Pop which sure look tastier than a kielbasa eating contest in Warsaw. But until then lemme recover a bit and present you with at least one bit of purloined (off the web) booty that I enjoyed and I know you will too (I should live so long!).
Anyway, those of you who were astute enough to tune into this blog a good month or so ago will remember a little aside that I wrote explaining the appearance of a new website linkup (that can be found on the left column on this very page) entitled ALIEN PLANETSCAPES FOUNDATION which is dedicated to the works of pioneering New York-area musician Doug Walker, a man who is probably best known to people involved in the "space rock" idiom as the leader of the group known as (what else?) Alien Planetscapes. They certainly were an act that has made quite a name in the electronic music genre o'er the past few decades (as even a few cursory looks inside an issue of SOUND CHOICE would tell you), and there's no need to drag on about exactly what I did write about the man and his works since you can read it all here if you so desire. And, as anyone who could feel the karmic vibrations emanating throughout that piece could tell you, what Walker has done for the electronic music cause since the seventies has (I guess) been rather monumental. I must admit that even for a guy such as I who is not exactly interested in space music (with visions of bad seventies excess rock and floating unicorns cluttering up my already bored-outta-the-mind with twenty minute moog solos psyche) I thought Walker's mix and match of the Berlin school of electronic rock with the even newer free jazz was something that would light my hindquarters up more than some of the usual "innovation" one gets to hear these days.
There's a ton of Walker-related music just awaiting your downloading capabilities on his site available for nada/nyet/nothing (which is a good bargain esp. in these cash-strapped days), and if I were you I'd start off by burning a copy of what was once a two-cassette set called THE BABY M TRIAL which is a fair but not all inclusive history of what Walker was doing not only during the early days of Alien Planetscapes, but of his days in a variety of seventies groups etc. that I guess were originally released on the Sound of Pig label in order to satiate the most rabid of Alien Planetscapes fans amongst us. I guess the seventies were fruitful times for Walker, who was either leading or performing with a variety of groups that have remained undocumented and under-the-counterculture for a pretty long time, and not only that but these recordings are pretty adventurous without succumbing to cliches sounding varied enough going back and forth between Walker's prog tendencies and his free jazz concerns resulting in some pretty tasty excursions which even I somehow missed out, but better late than never as I always tell my boss!
Now Alien Planetscapes, despite being an outlet for Walker's electronic music excursions, always seemed to sound like a different group from gig to recording to gig (perhaps due to the ever-changing roster), but here on these early takes there seems to be a strong garage band element to 'em, sorta sounding like ELECTRONIC MEDITATION-era Tangerine Dream and solo Klaus Schultze recording in Archie Bunker's basement in Queens with the very tape recorder he was talking into that day thought he saw a black Jesus Christ. Perhaps the occasional organ chord bursts are what prompted me to think so, but all I gotta say is that anyone who goes for smart early-eighties electronic rock w/o the smarm might cozy up to this a lot better than they would the typical Kajagoogoo stuff that was being dumped upon us all at that time. Going back even earlier into the fray is a late-seventies outfit called the Yeti Band who seemed to be more rooted in the seventies free/loft jazz scene that was petering out around this time (1979) complete with, besides Walker's own woodwind playing a number of saxophonists including Red Transistor auxiliary member Ken Simon. With all the punk-funk talk that was going in in En Why See at the time it's a wonder why these guys never caught on with the underground rock circuit. Two public performances are probably the reason why.
An even stranger aggregate that Walker not only belonged to but was the leader of was Third Sun, a group whom Walker referred to as "one of NYC's original Progressive Rock units when formed in 1971" who "had mutated (into) a sound not unlike VDGG playing the Art Ensemble of Chicago songbook" which does sound rather tasty even if these guys really do not sound like any progressive rock group I can think of outside of perhaps the krautrock idiom. If you wanna find out what they do sound like for yourself, two tracks appear on these tapes and frankly both remind me of a more fusionesque Art Ensemble with a reliance on electronic keyboards and of course Walker's own rather well-balanced reed and vibraphone playing. These guys, besides playing such well-respected jazz venues as Environ and Jazzmania also popped up on a few '76 CBGB bills which really doesn't seem that strange considering the vast array of fringe rock acts (Zobus with Zoogz Rift etc.) that were appearing on the En Why Scene at the time.
Unfortunately nothing by Master Radio Canaries which was yet another mid-seventies aggregate that Walker was involved with shows up here, but we do get one recording from '75 which features Walker on vibes and sax with fellow Canary Frank Pashke playing a wide array of percussion instruments as well as using his own voice to add emphatic tension to Walker's horn and vibes playing with a variety of screams and sobs. The results are akin to some of those duo recordings that have been coming out of the AACM stable for quite some time, sorta like one of those Joseph Jarman/Don Moye workouts that Lester Bangs used to laugh out loud at but I always thought were quite mesmerizing in their own nightmarish ways. I can only hope that the fellows who are responsible for this site get the message decide to post some Master Radio Canaries recordings more sooner than later!
Even the rest of THE BABY M TRIAL whether it be Walker playing along with Philadelphia's Cool and the Clones or one-shot Peirama won't have you reaching for the reject button because even though they were recorded live in the eighties and the eighties sucked hard they still have that long-forgotten hard-edge to 'em that you still could find even that late in the game if you only looked hard enough. 'n in all, these tapes (which handily burned onto four Cee-Dee-Ares for me) sure did make for a nice change of pace from the usual fun and games I so desire, and hey like I said if you wanna get hold of 'em you don't have to slam down a lotta hard-earned for some cheaply burned copies but can make them cheaply burned copies yerself for a lot less in cash! And considering some of the dross you DO have to pay for these days isn't it enlightening to know that some of the best pleasures in music can now be had for the price of a mere tea coaster?
***BOOTLEG OF THE WEEK: The Rolling Stones-SMOOTH (TMOQ)
I gotta say that, even after all of these years when I still am extremely ignorant about most of the (Golden Age of) "legitimate" Rolling Stones albums, I will occasionally pick up one or two of their, uh, clandestine releases featuring material that was never meant for public consumption. And today's case-in-point entitled SMOOTH is just one of 'em, sorta a "greatest hits" of the Stones' bootleg catalog featuring material that can be found on other then-just-as-easy-to-find TMOQ-pressed backdoor wares, probably issued just to grab some sucker money from the myriad assortment of teens just seeing a bootleg for the very first time. And, as you'd expect from a stagnant pond of a rock & roll fan such as I, SMOOTH still satisfies especially if you imagine yourself one of those pimple-encrusted teenagers who just plunked down $3.99 for this thing at the local clandestine head shop and are spinning it for the first time in your lonely suburban ranch house squat while the parents are away at a Lawrence Welk concert. Besides featuring tracks from their READY STEADY GO appearance in '67 plus that ED SULLIVAN one where Ed said he was gonna meet the boys in the dressing room after their Madison Square Garden show (!-probably to get some groupies, but don't tell Sylvia!) we get a side featuring a '72 blooze jam of Swiss origin and those Jean Luc Godard "Sympathy" rehearsals that've been imbedded into the brains of Stones fanatics ad nauseum. And as a relic of bootleg conquests past SMOOTH does have a bit of a charm (and very good sound), though for the more serious of you Stones bootleg buyers you'll find that next to those William Stout-delineated covers and such seventies wonders as SUMMER RERUNS it comes off more like another bootleg budget tossout for those of us who would buy anything and everything! But I like it if only for it capturing the Stones during one of their few primes and as a reminder of fun record shop bin hopping past that sorta dried up once the era of the Cee-Dee ruined everything for good!