Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Muruga Booker/James Gurley-IT'S BIG HUGE LP (Qbico, Italy)

Former Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist James Gurley's death last December came as one of those hunh? kinda surprises, and it is a shame that more of you farts who claim an "allegiance" to rock & roll as the backdrop for your sordid lives didn't pay proper homage to the man's memory like you shoulda. Well, it's not too late, because the Italy-based Qbico label has managed to release what just might be this guitar great's final session recorded a measly month before he died on which he shares billing with some guy called Muruga Booker. In case you're wondering who he is, this Booker fellow not only played drums with Detroit's Spike Drivers at one time but David Peel and George Clinton so it ain't like somebody spotted him panhandling outside of the local K-Mart y'know! It's a pretty wild set too that will surprise people who are familiar with Gurley's stylings but probably didn't think that the old pooperoo still had it in him this late in his life.

I remember reading an interview with Big Brother from around 1984 where the interviewer mentioned how drastic they would have sounded if they had a synthesizer in their band. (Supposedly during their pre-Janis Joplin days they were running their gear through a synthesizer, which I think would have been an extremely drastic statement to have made in 1966 San Francisco even!) Well, if you were wondering exactly what Gurley would sound like in consort with one of those electronic monstrosities here's your chance, for a synthetic pulse seems to permeate this album amidst the great '67 drone rock and general psychotic heights that this music could sometimes reach when it wasn't dealing too much with the world of incense.

Gurley's guitar work shows that he never did lose it (so maybe those post-Janis Big Brother albums just might be worth picking up?) and with a calculated use of electronics and other exotica such as harp this album makes for a listening experience that reaches far beyond the usual cliches (fun as they are) into some pretty frightening terrain. Not-so-strangely enough some of this reminds me of what the Orkustra with Bobby Beausoliel were cooking up at the time (more on their latest exhumations in a future BLOG TO COMM) while the outright riff drone does have a slight similarity to various late-sixties rock experimentation that typified West Coastisms at least until the visions of the Old West sorta overtook more than a few local bands. Even the closing track with Muruga's wife fronting the group on a more structured rocker doesn't deter especially with the synth set to sound like a cheap portable organ!

Given how Gurley has been pretty much absent from the recording studio since his days with Big Brother (with a few where-are-they? releases here/there) this might be your only chance to hear him in a context where he's a featured player showing just what promise he might have showered upon us. Unfortunately for you (but not for me!) there were only 99 copies of this one pressed up (which is probably why Qbico didn't put too much money into any quality cover art!) and if you don't hurry up fast you might be outta luck. Volcanic Tongue had 'em last time I looked...howzbout pestering them to see if they can wing one your way lest you wait for whenever Qbico decides to release this as a Cee-Dee for a lot less smackers!

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