As you might have noticed from some of my earlier entries, I've been toying around with the new post title application that has been made available on the nifty "create a post" page that I use to peck these things out at you. You know, the ones which presents the title of said blog in a nice, professional fashion (and underlined to boot) 'stead of in large bold type like the way I have been printing 'em for the past few years. (Astute readers will notice an example of both fashions directly above at the opening of this very post!) If you must know I prefer just printing the title of the post with the enlarged bold type, but I gotta admit that this new method of presenting titles (which not only appear in orange lettering but takes you directly to a link in which the post in question pops up 'n nothing but) does have a bit of a professional look to it. And considering how un-professional this blog can get perhaps something accruing a bitta upscale styling would suit it just fine. If you wanna make your own opinions on this subject known feel free to do so...in fact, such a dialogue on whether I should go with the new or stick with the old just might be the kultural event of the year considering how comatose this blog has been o'er the past few months! (Frankly I'm leaning towards just doin' whatever I feel like when the urge arises or if the post would benefit from the new method...after all, this blog does reflect my own wishy-washy credo which I've been wallowing in my entire life!)
Now that we got the controversial portion of this blog outta the way here's just a little bit of what has been stimulating my stirrups this past week. Only one real "newie" in the batch (if you can call it that) passed by my ears which I gotta say is a rather depressing sign of just how stagnant the entire concept of rockism has become slowly but surely these past thirtysome years. Really, you'd think that here in the 'teens there'd be a serious attempt by independent labels or just plain ol' fans to make some of the better high energy material of the past (and even present!) available to the public at large, but as usual all of us true blue rockist fans have to rely on these days are the long-cherished items wallowing in our collections. Nothing wrong with that but sheesh, I could sure use some fresh blood injected into the standard playlist that sits comfortably by my li'l boom box on my bedroom! Until we hit the next great era of hotcha seventies reissues and exhumations its scouring the web for clues and hints regarding what will be the next great discovery, and of course revving up that ol' obsessive/compulsive disorder in each and every one of us wouldn't hurt one bit either!!!
Yeahyeahyeah I know....just how many versions of this album do you need in your collection, especially in these cash-strapped times? Well, I must say that I gotta hand it to the record companies for their uncanny abilities to sell old wine in new skins, and as you readers know that old wine sure goes down a whole lot better'n some of the new grog that's being pushed on us these days.
And as far as the new skins go, what a brilliant idea it was to re-package the infamous Quiet Sun album MAINSTREAM in a hard-covered book! And one that comes complete with a detailed group history, rare snaps, reviews from all of the major English weeklies and even a whole slew of rejection slips including a rather nasty one from Muff Winwood at Island, the label that would eventually release this platter if only because said company was now making bountiful moolah with group leader Phil Manzanara's new act Roxy Music and knew a good bandwagon to jump on when they saw it! Frankly, I would love to see some of my favorite albums repackaged this way from WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT to the entire Amon Duul I catalog if only to prove to myself that these platters were as important as I've always believed they were to the canon of rockist expression! And that maybe I wasn't such a doof to think that these and many other platters were the ultimate in teenage throb thrills while everyone else was more concerned with Starcastle and other affronts against the wild and woolly world of rock 'n roll!
|Bill MacCormick striking a particularly John Cale-ish pose.|
Could go on about the actual album and how it captures the entire import album spectrum of the time without the proggy excess or classical epiphanies (though one set of untrained ears heard the strains of YES in the grooves!), but I won't. Since I've already written this album up in the last issue of my own fateful fanzine I won't bother to repeat myself too much. However, I will add that the entire production is enhanced by the addition of some bonus tracks, some which have appeared on the Phil Manzanara solo album that came out on his Expression label a good decade or so back but you don't have to wade through the duffoid modern numbuhs to get to 'em. These early Quiet Sun demos tend to lean closer to the early-seventies modern English jazz sound (think Nucleus, Soft Machine and Caravan), and just might sound a little too primitive without the synthesizers and Eno's various "treatments". Still, it is an educational experience listening to the early versions of some of the well known MAINSTREAM trackage and studying their development o'er the passage of time which can be just as exhilarating to you as noting the development of various trackage from the Rocket From The Tombs to the Pere Ubu and Dead Boys days!
A def. must pick up even if you're one of those analesque types who still owns your original elpee with the "Jem" import sticker proudly emblazoned on the front. And considering how I as well as you still have that enthrallment regarding rock as a high energy force 'stead of background music to get laid to (considering how none of us would ever go for such unhealthy, perverted extracurricular activities) this new edition would be a most welcome addition to your collection. If this doesn't make its way to the top of the list for "Best reissue of 2012" then my mind is an even bigger sieve'n I originally gave it credit for being!
Here's an oldie courtesy Bob Forward that, through every fault of my own, got plunked right smack dab into the back of the box where I usually keep all of thos spins which, er, don't really excite the hell outta me one bit or perhap even downright reek! Good thing I found it because I'm really gettin' hard up for some new 'n invigorating music to spin this week, and although I have enough moolah to buy out the local FYE it ain't like there's anything there that I'd care to buy out! So it's the oldies from now on, and you must admit that all of these Eno tracks are mighty old you Methuseleh you!
Since most of this is from the latter-Eno-days back when even DOWN BEAT began recognizing him as a fellow traveler, I must admit that I find a good portion of AMBIVALENT COLLECTION about as exciting as talking to Marcel Marceau. Strangely enough I hadn't been "offended" by this enough to wanna rip the disque from the player mid-synthesizer blurb, but still if I didn't say that this was one of the least raucous, toe-tapping platters to grace my player in ages I'd be lying to ya worse'n if I said I liked Anastasia Pantsios.
At least the compilers had the good sense to tack on single sides "Seven Deadly Finns" (classic Eno!) and "Wimoweh" (the beginning of the snooze) on the ass end at a time when they weren't exactly easy to snatch up digitally. Naturally that doesn't mean that the other fifty minutes have anything extreme goin' for 'em! As a writer for BACK DOOR MAN once said (and it's always good to fall back on their 35-year-old musings!), "If being boring was a sin, Eno would go to hell. Genius my left nut!"
I am surprised that I let this 'un go for so long. I thought I reviewed this back during the early years of this blog but a thorough search came up nada so I guess I was (and I shudder to say it) wrong. Judging from the handwriting this probably isn't a Forward burn (I'm guessing Jon Behar?) but it's a fine dub of a platter whose original visage has somehow escaped me. And really, given how my Cleveland rock obsession was goin' on full tilt for years on end I am one person who could use the entire debut WMMS-FM "Coffeebreak Concert" from 1972 starring none other than Peter Laughner and his short-lived jellyroll music group the Original Wolverines!
Mind you, this was recorded in '72 around that time that Laughner was seriously considering foregoing the rock 'n roll route and sticking to his folk and blues repertoire if only because the r/r field seemed so decayed at the time. As Charlotte Pressler said, if it hadn't been for a copy of CREEM that chanced into his paws we might never have heard him in Rocket From The Tombs or Pere Ubu, and one could easily have seen the guy playing the Cleveland folk circuit a la Alex Bevan for years on end had fate twisted itself ever-so-slightly. But whatever Laughner did (at least musically) he did pretty snat-like, and this set is no exception.
Nice, relaxed atmosphere with Laughner chatting it up with some hippie chick hostess and rolling through a set of oldies and newies, even doing Little Feat's "Willin'" w/o comin' off like a singer/songwriter in the worst ROLLING STONE meaning of the term. Gotta hand it to the guy for being able to crank out music along these lines and still being able to get me to sit through an entire hour of it. That's pure talent, and it ain't because the guy was so universal in his tastes that he could listen to and enjoy the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen and Laura Nyro as well as the Stooges, Lou Reed and Roxy Music!
Personal highlights just hafta include that longtime weeper "Out on the Town"* which makes me feel as lonely as the schlep that Laughner is singing about meaning HE DOES A PRETTY GOOD JOB OF MAKING YOU WANNA SLIT YOUR THROAT! And while yer at it, the cover of "The Story of My Life" sounds a whole lot better'n anything Brad Kohler would lend ear to while downing a few at some strange bar on open mic night. And how could I forget "Fat City Jive" which was written by former Backdoor Man Terry Hartman, who's now romping across the plain in the Deadbeat Poets along with ex-Blue Ash/Dead Boys member Frank Secich and Infidel John Koury, a guy who I actually used to "hang out with" when I was a younger and even more mentally stunted idiot than I am now (and boy, what he can tell you about that!). Haven't heard a note of their music but hey, I know they have the bop in 'em! With a lineup like that they MUST!
Dunno if this is still available anywhere 'cept via download (if you search hard enuff!). But whatever, this un's a fine hour of the Laughner of late-night bedroom recordings and solo acoustic gigs, and like the guy himself this could bridge both the nostalgic hipsters and punkoids extant. Without any rousing choruses of "Kumbaya" either 'n that's gotta count for somethin'!
Considerin' how Doctors of Madness Cee-Dees seem to be rather unobtainable at this time this weirditie (again, from the back of the stack) did come in rather handy. Handy for what I don't know since I consider this act as some sorta missing link between the English art/prog/glam scene of Roxy Music and the fartzier moments of the late-seventies new wave, but I gotta say that I was enticed. Sure Richard Strange can get on my nerves after awhile and the absence of Urban Blitz's violin strips down the sound mightily, but at least the final strains of import bin excitement can be experienced w/relative ease and it ain't like I wanna rip this one from the laser launch pad in abject disgust. Good enough seventies ambience here that should bolster the illusions I maintain about the seventies being the last great age in rockism and don't believe anything else!!!
MYSTERY SOLVED (kinda sorta) DEPARTMENT: you all know 'bout my interest in finding out and somehow documenting a good portion of the more "obscure" groups to have fluttered to the En Why See clubs in the seventies and beyond even to the point where I might actually "reduce myself" by attempting to locate information on various acts whose modus operandi fall way outside the at-times limited scope that this blog roams about in. I do it not only to satisfy my own curiosity but for self-important HISTORICAL purposes...after all, if you want to know what underground rock was like in 1975 you have to look to 1970 for a li'l background, and you ain't gonna know where you're going if you haven't known where you've been already, or something like that. Besides, I might somehow be finding a new hook to sink my psyche into, although for the most part I don't think I'd ever find it in an act who draws their energies more from the likes of Emerson Lake and Palmer than they do Iggy and the Stooges.
Yeah, I know that my search usually ends up with recordings by the likes of the Movies who really don't fill the bill, but I get the feeling that the odds are with me that the next few "finds" just might have some sorta zest and zing to 'em that'll make 'em top turntable/tape/Cee-Dee-Are spins for quite some time. And surprisingly enough, the latest in my search for recorded rarities has come not from a rare cassette or obscure album, but from youtube itself which only makes me wonder what OTHER strange under-the-radar recordings might be lurking on that site, probably featuring nothing but the same shot of the obscure band starin' away at'cha as their sole studio effort careens outta the speakers and into your psyche...
It's not that I had great hopes for today's group in question who roamed about using the moniker Jatra...after all, their name conjures up memories of seventies Inner Karmic Eastern Mysticism that the underground funnies used to endlessly poke fun at, and the Fred Kirby review of a gig at the old Cafe Wha? mentioned a strong Mahavishnu Orchestra influence which didn't exactly have me exuding pangs o' lust the way a good Stooges ref would. But hey, considering how a whole buncha people from Ken Highland to some guy writing in an old ish of OP mentioned how strong a Mahavishnu influence the original MX-80 Sound exuded (and I LOVE those surviving tracks that popped up not only on the BLOOMINGTON I sampler but the instrumental collection DAS LOVE BOAT) plus the fact that a NEW YORK ROCKER scribe described personal En Why faves Manster as having drawn their energies equally from McLaughlin and company along with ol' Frank Z, maybe there was something in those esoteric fusionists' music that I was missing. Maybe not, but at least there were at least a couple of groups who could take the spiritual slosh of Mahavishnu and actually do something underground and interesting with it, and since I'm grasping at straws to get some electric voltage into my system at this time I'm gonna grasp at any straws that may be out there I'll tell ya!
Anyway the hook that Jatra stuck into me was due to the group's two night gig (12/27-28) at the 1975 CBGB Christmas Festival playing on a bill with the Kane Brothers Blues Band (featuring future Swans drummer Jonathan Kane...check out the Bros' "reunion" CD which is good hard urban white blues that doesn't sound hippified in the least), glamsters Somebody Good and Orchestra Luna. And since former Shirts lead vocalist Annie Golden said that there were a whole load of Mahavishnu-influenced groups playing CBGB during the '76/'77 season I guess that Jatra were but one of 'em, which kinda makes me wanna know who the others just happened to be outta curiosity if anything. Well, they sure looked the part what with their well-groomed John McLaughlin-styled short hair and white clothing which gives 'em the same look your average AV Club member attending a Save the Whales meeting might've had at the time, but I know you're asking...did Jatra transcend their pious planes and deliver on the jams being kicked out? Were Jatra yet another MX-80 Sound or Manster, only with a clean living slate? Am I really THAT desperate that I'd even bother fishing about for information on some fusion act that would probably only rate "* 1/2" in DOWN BEAT had an album actually been released way back in them bad ol' days? Whatta buncha stoopid questions!
Before I go on any further I must clarify things...the four Jatra tracks found on youtube (the first which can be espied above...said viewing will lead you to the other three) were actually recorded in '78 which makes me wonder what these guys were doing in the three years since their perhaps only CBGB appearance. And while I'm at it, I'm also wondering what happened to Jatra founder Omar Mesa, the Cuban guy who had left funksters Mandrill to form this group but is nowhere to be found on these recordings, not to mention one of the other members I recall reading about (a femme cellist) from the aforementioned VARIETY writeup! Seems that by the time these live numbers were recorded the act had been reduced to a quintet with two guitars, bassist, drummer and a soprano saxophonist, and as you all know I really loathe soprano saxophones so that didn't bode well for my chances of liking these guys. I mean geekoid spirituality might be one thing, but SOPRANO SAXOPHONE??? ech!
And frankly, I gotta say that any group who would perform a song whose melody was "created" by Sri Chinmoy is probably still upset that the Comet Kahoutek didn't usher in a thousand years of lotus petal peace 'n love! But to be totally upfront and honest about it (which is the last thing you would have ever expected from me), I actually though that Jatra had their moments of power and might even with those Indian-esque scales and karmik gooshiness just busting out all over. At least I found these numbers palatable once I got the images of seventies Whole Earth Catalog relevancy outta my mind and thought of it as driving enough jazz rock that, with a li'l testosterone pumped into it, coulda been MX-80 Sound or maybe even Von Lmo! Anyway I've posted the above for you to try, and if you think they're too spiritual for your jaded self (like I tend to do even during their more fiery moments) then so be it. If anything, Jatra prove that there was at least one group a Mahavishnu freak could go see if their karmic whooziz needed a li'l spiritual realignment and John McLaughlin just happened to be out of town. They also prove that Debbie Harry was certainly right when she surmised in the pages of NME that only about 40% or so of the groups that played CBGB were indeed punk rock 'n the rest were....er, stuff like this!
(And as you probably expected, this li'l writeup also served as a come on for people who might have info, tapes, snaps and whatnot of various En Why See rarities of the past that I wouldn't mind knowing about. So like, if you were in one of the many short-lived groups that wooshed by on the mid-seventies [and beyond] New York underground scene [and other scenes to be honest about it] and would like your act to be remembered by more'n yourself and the drummer's crotchety next door neighbor howzbout sending some info, recordings, and maybe even snaps my way? And if you do happen to be one of these people willing to impart some bonafeed rock history my way, please don't do that ol' cocktease act on me! I'm tiring of you so-called "supporters" who write in with emails and phone numbers willing to tell me all about the various obscuros you had contact with physically/socially/sexually for all I know, then leave me colder'n a buck-toothed bride at the altar...in other words, IF YOU AIN'T SERIOUS, DON'T WASTE YOUR [OR MY] TIME!!!! So be it, and for all of you TRUE BLUE fans willing to donate to the cause, what's keeping you??? [Other'n my personal address etc. which you can obtain from a linkup to a post for BLACK TO COMM back issues...see above...or by leaving your pertinent info as a comment which I will not publish for safety's sake 'n all that...])
*w/o the reference to the "Harbor Inn," that hangout where Laughner took the kid down to but the cops they wouldn't let him in... and the place where the Electric Eels would act fey in order to start up a good fight with some unsuspecting blue collar type!