SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY IS DEAD---JELLO BIAFRA UNAVAILABLE FOR COMMENT.
Yeah, I am surprised too. Not by the fact that the last surviving Kennedy brother has died, but by the fact that nobody did it in for him through the skull or chest. I mean, I honestly thought there would have been some copycat criminal all these years on the gun for Ted, but when it came down to the end it was an extremely non-violent one. But although a violent end did not come to Ted, the premature death would only come just to the woman he would be driving around with which only means that the oft-mentioned "Kennedy Curse" works in some pretty strange ways.
With that happy note in mind, here are a few platters that have inspired me to at least tell you hungry reg'lars all about 'em if only to show you how boring and miserable one's life has become if he has to stoop so low as to hafta listen to this dross! Maybe you can learn a two or thing about 'em in the process...after all why should my agony go unrewarded?
***Sylvester and the Hot Band-BAZAAR LP (Blue Thumb)
THE DEADLY NIGHTSHADE LP (Phantom)
I'm pairin' both of these albums up for a number of what I would consider good enough reasons, or at least good enough using my superior standards of judging recordings whether they be by their covers or perhaps even the music enclosed therein. First off both of these platters were recorded by acts that one might consider to be "under-the-covers" as in way outside what was considered the "mainstream" at the times they were released (them mid-seventies late-Nixon/pre-Carter/Ford-era y'know days). Both of 'em were made by young and upstartin' types o' aggros as well who had what you might say an "alternative" kind of audience that wasn't quite being "represented" on the radio dial AM or FM, unless you were perhaps able to pick up WBAI in between some John Cage experiment and a buncha loonybins ranting on about the coming revolution. Both acts even played that watering-hole for the New Kultur Max's Kansas City which I guess would mean something to you readers who still hold your bound editions of THE NEW YORK ROCKER near and dear to your hearts. And probably most important, both Sylvester and the Nightshade were the kinda people who would be vying for the front cover spot on a three-dollar bill, the former an actual AIDS casualty if you need any more proof of the matter!
The first album up for scrutiny is by none other than Sylvester, the former Cockette who eventually battled it out with Donna Summer for the "Queen of Disco" throne in the late-seventies before succumbing to that dreaded disease right at the height of AIDS-chic, making me wonder if his passing was nothing but a smart career move of the utmost. However, somewhere in between all this Sylvester actually led his own little "Hot Band" which from what I've read (in an old ROCKTOBER of all places!) was an act that actually made a few ambisexual waves during those gender confused times! I wonder if the term "Hot Band" is code for gay, because during the mid-seventies famed deca-poet Emilio Cubiero (later of Hot Lunch, Wiseguy and the Cinema of Transgression) was performing with Edwin's Hot Little Band and everyone knows what a fag he is! Anyway, Sylvester and this Hot Band, despite the gay overtones and overtures for that matter, actually put out a nice li'l ol' homo of an album with BAZAAR, a disc that despite reeking seventies decadence and boogie smarm actually holds a lotta entertaining value, and even for a repressed middle-aged bubbling boil of a fatfarm baldie just like you!
Naturally I bought this album not only out of curiosity but to see if I could get a few good laffs outta it and show you just how oh-so-cutting and smart I can be writing this up, but even with the faux Tina Turner moves and patented cabaret appeal this thing can rock out when it wants to which is a surprise esp. for a future Queen of Disco type. Heck, I even gotta give credit to Sylvester and band for taking a walking piece of Sominex like James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and turning it into a particularly hot raver of a piece, and who'd'a thunk that I'd ever say that about anything related to the infamous heroin-schtick guy anyway!
A good portion of BAZAAR is actually kinda nice in a seventies post-nostalgia soul/rock sorta way, and Sylvester's interesting warble backed by an all-white funky rock group does make for a nice change of pace that doesn't necessarily make you wanna run and upchuck like so many similar-minded mid-seventies items can. Now I doubt that I'd ever wanna listen to this again and BAZAAR ain't exactly what you'd call a BLOG TO COMM high energy top spin, but playing at "rock critic" me has gotta say that even with the obv. nods to everyone from Diana Ross to Bessie Smith this sure didn't rot on the turntable like a whole load of those eighties "alternative rock" items that sped their way to my door did. And hey, I think I woulda gotten a kick outta seein' Sylvester and the HB performing live at the deca-beergarden of my choice! Just as long as I avoided the men's room...
As far as the Deadly Nightshade go, I actually recall this trio of hotshot feminist folksters getting some national attention via a prime time special that I vaguely recall had to do with the prospects of struggling artists making the Big Time. Definitely one of those early Reality Series tee-vee shows that obviously led to a whole slew of similar minded efforts in recent years. Don't recall how these three females fared (I think they flopped out first round), but I guess that would be expected from what BACKDOOR MAN called "a shit-kicking feminist band" or something to that effect (and don't get me wrong...they meant it in jest!). As you would expect, within a few years of this release the Nightshade eventually fizzled out to the point where they even ended up recording a disco version of the old MARY HARTMAN MARY HARTMAN theme song, and really, was there any real potential (commercial or otherwise) for a group whose entire reason for existing seemed to be as an arm of the MS. magazine editorial policy and nothing else???
MS. do get thanked on the back cover along with WBAI and all of the women of the world who have to suffer because they are women and men hate them for being their true selves blah blah retch, but I won't let that color my review of this. I will let the rotten music and unengaging performance color it, of course. It's not just that the music on this debut is bad, but it's some of the worst pastiches of "patented hipster jive watermark" sounds that I've heard in a long time, with the Nightshade not knowing whether they want to be country chicks, rocksters or just plain mad at the world. The lyric subject matter naturally brings the entire shebang down even a few more notches, it being the fodder that was oh-so-relevant during the early and middle portion of the seventies but seemed so bland and passe once women got their reproductive rights and equal pay and the feminist movement was pretty much revealed to be nothing but a buncha dykes on the hunt for unsuspecting fresh beaver.
You get country jive here and AM sudzy pop there with a little of what I guess is forties nostalgia at its most unbearable...I mean, these gals would've been kicked off PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION for being too obvious which is really saying something considering what an inbred Swedish hack Garrison Keillor is! Couple this slick processed cheese with some of Feminism's Greatest Cliches about how dreadful it is looking nice for your hubby (a song called "Nose Job", which in no way did I think was a cover of the MAD TWISTS ROCK 'N' ROLL fave) and marriage as a dead end and other fantasies from the fever dreams of Gloria Steinem and what have you got but a record that along with the Dory Previn songbook woulda made for a nice college workshop and nothing else. I mean, who else outside of the feminist sweatstains and sagging tits crowd would wanna buy this thing...Norman Lear???
The strangest thing about this Nightshade abomination is that, besides being one of the premier signings to the very short-lived Phantom record label (also home to Leslie West and his GREAT FATSBY album) is that the entire shebang was produced by none other than Felix Cavaliere of Rascals and subsequent floppy solo career fame! Now I've heard of race traitors, but sex traitors is something that I must admit comes to mind right about now, and for even daring to associate with the Nightshade I'm sure the one-time white soul boy has had his rocks chopped off and mounted on Bella Abzug's fireplace mantle a loooong time ago! So that's how he hits those high notes!
***TUNNELS WITH PERCY JONES CD (Buckyball, plentifully available via ebay auctions)
Naw, I didn't get this because I'm particularly a fan of the British new jazz (I'm not) nor because of group leader/bassist Jones' appearance with Phil Collins on those various Brand X albums (heard their first one ages ago and they didn't tingle me especially at the time when such tinglin' was ripe!) but because I used to see this group's name (with Jones of course featured as being ex-Brand X just so's someone would turn up to see 'em!) listed on a variety of late-eighties/early-nineties CBGB ads in the back pages of THE VILLAGE VOICE and figured that maybe they were yet another one of those spiffy yet unheard underground bands that have played that and many other local haunts since the mid-seventies. Naturally these Tunnels guys were no Manster or Toivo for that matter, but they were still a pretty enveloping, even engaging if uneven bunch that I guess could be just as obscuro interesting as the rest, even if Jones certainly had a pedigree that lasted way back to the mid-sixties and the likes of Scaffold and other Liverpudlian aggregates that seem about as far removed from lower Manhattan jazz rock as Dave Lang is from traditional sexual mores.
Jones leads an rather interesting and unique bunch in Tunnels, with a Van Manakas on standard "look how hot I can play!" jazz guitar, Fred Katz on drums and Marc Wagnon on midi vibes fillin' out the roster. That last slice of instrumentation is a peculiar piece of instrumental workmanship...if you would, imagine a synthesizer that is played like a vibraphone and can sound like either one for that matter. Actually the midi vibes play a big part in Tunnels, coloring the music and adding their own electronic sorta "ambiance" to the standard guitar/bass/drums structure. Even though I usually tend to hate the more moderne instruments to come out of the electronic realm ever since everything from kazoos to fluteaphones were being synthesized, I gotta admit I like these vibes esp. in the context of a group playing in the post-underground punkfunk scene in late-eighties New York where ya gotta admit a lotta worse things have happened.
Musically Tunnels much of the time seem to perform what I'd consider rather non-threatening, commercial and downright icky late-eighties jazz (the kind so bad that you heard it all over PBS), but right when you're just about to rip this one off of the laser launching pad Tunnels comes up with some hard and grating music that reminds me of what Material were able to do in the early-eighties, at least until Bill Laswell started to branch out into all corners of the jazz/funk spectrum. Maybe I like Tunnels because when they do stretch out they do so without offending my own personal (and some may say limited) musical ideals. Maybe Tunnels seem to be a ready-enough end-all as far as what New York avant-jazz-influenced underground rock was to have been. Maybe I'm just a bored doofus as usual and find these guys a handy enough group that breaks the boredom and acts as a good background for reading old PLASTIC MAN comics in the evening. My moolah is definitely on the latter.
Not that Tunnels are instantly-disposable jazzbos, since they sure know how to do the rock-cum-jazz thing a whole lot better'n a lotta similar-minded ozobs who cluttered the seventies on with works that may have seemed like stunning breakthroughs but came off like the most grandiose progressive rock of the day with a bitta fusion tossed in to please the DOWN BEAT gang. If this ever becomes a modern day cutout it will be worth the $2.99 you'll have to pay for it at the flea market of your choice. Until then, just latch onto a copy via ebay which seems to be flooded with this particular disc as well as other releases from Jones and crew who I guess are more than just another under-the-cover CBGB band like I thought if the reams of info on them via the internet (as well as the myriad asst. of videos via youtube) is any indication.