Saturday, February 23, 2013

The passing of art rock pioneer Kevin Ayers last Monday wasn't anything that came like a total surprise to me...I mean the guy was gettin' up there in years and what's an average rock 'n roller's lifespan anyway...twenty-seven? (It may have gone up to 34 in recent years but in 1971 if a rocker made it to thirty it was like pension time for him!) However, once again Ayers' death reminded me of the evil scourge of time and how we're all growing older and although I still envision myself as that pimply prepubescent runnin' around the house in stocking feet I'm now that very same old pudge of an aging baldoid fart who I remember seeing back when I was ten wonderin' just how the hell these blubberfarms were able to exist in the first place! Although Ayers never exactly was a household name especially here in Ameriga he certainly was the toast of the import bin set, what with his appearance on the debut (and for me the best) Soft Machine album not to mention a string of albums throughout the seventies that were recorded for the likes of Harvest and Island where he got to record with everyone from Syd Barrett to Nico and everybody thought he was so great for doing just that! His songs were whimsical, emotive, deep, sometimes hard and intense, but whatever they were Ayers seemed to have epitomized the 1969-1974 "Harvest sound" about as much as Barrett did and perhaps even more than labelmates Pink Floyd or the Move did which was no mere feat.

True Ayers' career was filled with more than a few songs that really didn't thrill anybody with a rock 'n roll set of dissonance, but even a track like "Falling In Love Again" from YES WE HAVE NO MANANAS seemed to fulfill some sorta English quirkiness quotient that was so important to many an artist over there during the early/mid-seventies days. That 'un was recorded right around the time Ayers' career seemed to be taking a downturn and he started putting out albums that I don't think I'd care to listen to in a millyun years, but as far as his earlier output goes well, who could deny that debut JOY OF A TOY was about as 60s/70s cusp maddening psychedelic as most anything else coming out o'er there at the time? Or how about WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING which not only had one of those great Harvest gatefold sleeves with the textured cover but the ever popular "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes" where Ayers gets to do his Lou Reed impression. And although many people seem to pass on this 'un, the JUNE 1, 1974 album is an occasional funtime spin for me where Ayers, who had temporarily switched over to Island Records, gets to perform with his faves on that label's roster not surprisingly enough trying to sound more Island than Harvest in the process. However when he does his old songs recorded for his previous and future label he comes off like a strange amalgamation, kind of like an automobile that is part Lincoln Continental and part Cadillac yet still running about as fast as the regular models.

I'd probably be lying if I said I was going to miss Ayers...after all, I've passed on a good portion of the records he has released  and haven't heard anything he's recorded from the late-seventies onward. But I sure will pay tribute to the Ayers who did all of those rather hotcha albums and single sides (most which were gathered on the budget collection ODD DITTIES) as well as helmed the original Soft Machine with that suave yet evil bass voice of his. I mean, it's the least I could do for a guy who provided me with at least some moments of musical merriment, and it's a whole lot more'n I'll ever do for any of those betrayers of the rock 'n roll idiom who pelted us with some of the worst inanities to ever get passed off as music these past thirty years of total rockist depression!
Awhile back, I published a piece mentioning how, thanks to the onslaught of rampant feminism and male emasculation, I much prefer the concept of "ladies" (petite and nice-smelling beings that are soft and lumpy) to that of "women" (a generic catch-all phrase meaning men with vaginas). For months (and given the stone silence I received regarding my pertinent opines) I felt as if I was the only person on the face of this planet who felt this way regarding what has happened to the dangerous sex, but it seems as if somebody else has the same sense of where things have gone wrong with the overall pulchritude and general sensibilities regarding the current state of females too! That's why I am linking his article here. A man's gotta beef up his opinions and core beliefs with those from fellow travelers no matter how crutch-y it may look, y'know!
Here's the brunt of what I've been dealing with auralwise this week. For a change, all of the platters and disques reviewed this week are newies at least to my collection, with some obtained via the sweat of my brow and others received thanks to none other than Bill Shute for which I am forever thankful (and no Bill, you are not getting my first born because frankly I doubt there will ever be one!). I've also been spinning some old forgotten faves that I haven't touched in awhile such as the Anthrax "HyProGlow"/"Got The Time" promotional CD on Elektra as well as MX-80's WE'RE AN AMERICAN BAND, and with an alarming regularity as well! Guess I'm into yet another one of my heavy metalloid phases, perhaps spurred on by a mention via the TROUSER PRESS website regarding MX-80's "post-metal" stature which I will admit has gotten my interests perked up with regards to hearing more groups in this genre such as Isis (the recent group, not the lezbo horn/forn bunch!) and perhaps Cult of Luna. I'm hoping that some of you readers are willing to clue me into any of these groups that, who knows, may even tickle my fancy! I sure could use a li'l ticklin' to break up the boredom around here, y'know, so "pookie pookie" away!

Can-LIVE IN HANNOVER LP (B13, Russian Federation)

It's so great living here inna 'teens, what with all of these rarer 'n tampons in Afghanistan Can live recordings finally being made available. And this 'un (from the usually reliable unless you can't rely on 'em B13 label) is no exception. Naw, this 'un ain't MONSTER MOVIE re-packaged for us dolts who thought we were really gettin' in on a good thing, but an actual live recording from the mid-seventies which features none other than "Magic" Michael Cousins fronting the group! You may have heard the stories about Magic Michael having been a member of Can for about a month before either he left or they shoved, but if you've wanted to hear him with these guys (on a number of classic EGE BAMYASI-themed romps) and wish they had at least laid something down on vinyl well, now's your chance.

After hearing Michael filling in the Suzuki role and rather credibly at that I kinda wonder why there was a parting between the ways. The guy does sing well and even in key, and you get the impression that Michael's stage antics would have been just as maddening as the guy he replaced were. I guess that the members of Can also had to deal with his "mind" which is probably why not only was their relationship so painfully brief, but those Michael had with the English Nirvana and Vertigo Records not to mention Nick Kent were as well. But sheesh, I do have to give credit to Magic Michael for returning to the fold at least for this one performance...after all if I were hired to front Can and got the bum's rush within the span of a few weeks I'd still be holding a deep grudge lo these many years later!

As with most all of these B13 releases, sound quality's really good (lifted offa FM!) and of course in keeping with the label's packaging scheme they slapped it in a clear plastic sleeve and on translucent vinyl. If you have the money and Forced Exposure (or ebay) has it ripe for pickin' I'd say yeah, get hold of one and worry about eating another day!
Kraftwerk-LIVE 1971 2-LP set (B 13, Russian Federation)

This is the same recording of the Ralf Hutter-less Kraftwerk with Neu! that you can pick up on-line for nada (along with the BEAT CLUB take of "Truckstop Gondolero," also available on the ORGANISATION reissue), but if you crave a vinylized version here is one for you. If you want to read my original writeup just click here but if not, just listen to this and marvel at the fact that the same brains that gave you this as well as those early, driving Kraftwerk albums closed out the decade by recording dance music that was so klutzy that even white kids with palsy could dance to 'em! But here it was like they really were punk rock, and just as punk as Iggy and Marc and all those other teenage throbhearts were as well!
The Styrenes-ESSENTIAL STYRENES VOLUME ONE 2-EP set (Mustard, available via Forced Exposure)

Yeah it's mostly old stuff that I assume you've owned for more than a few years (with only one newie in the batch), but the packaging (gatefold sleeve!) is boffo and you can stand to have dupes of these classy Styrene sides in your collection. I only have one beef with this particular package though, and that is I sure wish that head Styrene Paul Marotta would have reissued the spiffy "Radial Arm Saw"/"Just Waking" single here instead of these oft-heard if classic tracks. But I guess that's why they're going to have a "Volume Two" of this, I hope.
Greg "Stackhouse" Prevost-MISSISSIPPI MURDERER LP (Mean Disposition, Spain, available via Forced Esposure)

I must admit that I didn't quite know quite what to expect from Greg Prevost's latest...after all, the man has taken us on many a staggering musical trip through Sonics screams and Chocolate Watchband mysticism, Southern Californian surf raves and psychedelic Stonesianisms...but I decided to gamble my twelve bucks on this and boy am I glad! Glad because this ain't some cheap-o toss out whitebread phony guy with facial hair and leather jacket with Southside Johnny badges splattered all over but something that I can really osmose into not only now, but in a good twenty to thirty year's time before my mind snaps for all practical purposes!

It's more'n obvious that Prevost has "evolved" over the years and has dabbled in a variety of rock-related realms that would stagger an average chump such as I, but whatever the guy does and whoever he does it with you can bet that it a full-force realism to it that really puts alla them late-seventies white college students play the hard blues attempts I've come across to shame. Prevost and band rip through two sides of originals (with titles like "Death Rides With The Morning Sun," "Too Much Junk" and "Downstate New Yawk Blues") mixed with hoary (and perhaps even whore-y) old blues numbers written by Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson and perhaps a few more Johnsons we don't even know about) that comes off like the best 1971 Flamin' Groovies album recorded by the Rolling Stones in Loose Gravel's outhouse. And it's really a believable release as well, nothing like the patented tee-vee/radio blues takes we've been inundated with time after time which I must say turned me off of the form faster than you can say "Robert Cray rhymes with gay!"

I personally (as if that ever did matter) hear an early-seventies vibe to this which is probably why I've dropped the Groovies/Stones/Gravel comparisons, but who but Helen Keller could deny that this platter does have that raw groove to it that seemed to signify the Stones ca. STICKY FINGERS not to mention the entire Kama Sutra reason for the Groovies' entire being*. Prevost growls and snarls in the best post-Jagger filtered through Dave Aguilar's larynx way (maybe with a tad of Sky Saxon or perhaps even some Iggy thrown in) and not only that but the ol' fanabla plays guitar (and not just electric but acoustic and dobro) really snat like! Yeah, we always knew him as an out-front-there singer in the Jagger vein, but the man can really plunk a guit-box in a way that'd make most self-proclaimed hotshots blush! And coupled with the backing of drummer Zachary Koch and bass guitarist Alex Patrick (and a Keenan Bartlett on piano, selected tracks only) Prevost has made way for a front running in the SWEEPSTAKES OF 2013 with this wild messterpiece! I only wish that some mighty name in the business woulda written the liner notes to just so's people would notice it the same way they did when Muddy Waters lent pen to sing the praises of A SPOON FULL OF SEEDY BLUES!!!

And hey, I didn't even mention how Prevost's originals are literally as good as the covers showing a marked maturity in composition and execution of said musical forms (ecch!), or how you KNOW this is gonna be a real mover in the world of blues because all of the aforementioned whiteboy blooze choozers will probably LOATHE it, but whatever can be said only a mentally challenged idiot would deny that MISSISSIPPI MURDERER ain't the first exhilarating, life-reaffirming get up and shed your inhibitions album of the year! And if you don't like it then you can't be my pal...I mean, it's so good that Prevost could take a turdley Donovan number (mainly "Hey Gyp") and kick out jams galore with it, and even the Yardbirds couldn't do that on their LAST RAVE UP IN LA triple-header!

If I thought last week's collection of bizarroid obscurities courtesy Bill Shute was strange, I don't know what kind of words to use to describe this nutley crew! A rather incongruous mix. this 'un starts off with a not-so-ha ha Mike Nichols and Elaine May cut (sheesh, were they ever funny?), which is followed by a number by The Third Rail of NUGGETS fame, in turn followed by a Three Stooges Christmas single which is followed by... Loads of X-mas stuff on this 'un which makes me feel like a doof listenin' to it two months after the holiday, but I still gotta say that it was sure fun giving a listen to Howdy Doody and the whole Doodyville gang celebrate the season not to mention the long-forgotten holiday novelty trackage from the likes of everyone from Eartha Kitt to Lorne Greene! Neat enough to dredge up those kiddie holiday feelings, though why Bill just hadda stick the Gentrys' "Keep On Dancing" right before Jeanne Tanzy singing about wanting a dog for Christmas is a bigger mystery 'n that one holiday season where I woke up about three in the morning and nothing was there then viola...the room was filled with presents but a mere two hours later (and I still don't figure it out because the folks were obviously asleep the first time I peeked and well...I don't wanna ruin anything for you true believers who still happen to be out there!).
Anthony Braxton-WILLISAU (QUARTET) 1991 CD-R burn of a 4 disc set (originally on Hat Art, Switzerland)

Remember when Anthony Braxton was being primed by Arista Records to be the new John Coltrane? I sure do, with the man (who had been starving everywhere from Paris to Tokyo for the past six years) getting prime publicity in magazines even your mother reads not to mention major kudos from jazz snobs whom only a few years earlier were all aghast at this "new thing in jazz" which they thought was nothing more than jazz's answer to the new cacophony that had infested rock 'n roll (and of course they were right!). Braxton's back catalog was getting reissued, while recordings that nobody every knew about were suddenly popping up on labels like Inner City and Muse and you could even pick 'em up in your local National Record Mart, that's how easy to snatch up these things were!

By '80 or so it was all over, with the major labels cutting back drastically by cutting their free jazz labels and nobody in general really giving two hoots about free jazz even though it was the haute thing a good five years earlier. Thankfully the lack of major label backing (and I'm sure a big fat royalty check) didn't stop Braxton, and true over the years he's done a few things that seem rather uninspired if in fact insipid (like perform with a stand up comedian), but more often than not what I've at least heard of his post-Arista output was of interest, still keeping with his mix of the "New Black Music" with an avant garde classical sensibility that even had the John Cage types attuning their silence-prone ears to Braxton's metahonk!

WILLISAU was recorded a good ten-plus years after Braxton's fall from major scrutiny, and although none of his old AACM mates like Leroy Jenkins or Steve McCall are here to help him out the backing band is more than copasetic. Pianist Marilyn Crispell could be a stand in for Muhal Richard Abrams while percussionist Gerry Hemingway's marimba playing is almost as close to the free style as some of the lines Joseph Jarman was laying down in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Mark Dresser reminds me of longtime Braxton collaborator Dave Holland as well, so it ain't like Braxton's just messin' around with a buncha upstarts who wouldn't know his work from an Al DeMeola solo!

Overall the playing is fantab in that halfway point between the jazz and classical avant gardes, and even a few themes from those old Braxton albums pop up in case you were getting misty eyed nostalgic for the old days. And sometimes the playing is straight enough that if you know one of those people who hate the seventies avant stuff but still go for the earlier variety you could play it for them and then, after they beam approval and ask who it was, you could say that it was Braxton and watch the look on their face! I'm sure you'll get a good 'n hearty laff outta it, at least until they smack you one real good!
IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE, IT'S...BURGESS MEREDITH! CD-R (four tracks from 45s sent by Bill Shute)

The BATMAN craze of the mid-sixties was one that  I gotta admit really did affect me, and even though I never did get that Batmobile model that I wanted nor most any of the other Bat-items that were comin' out other'n some trading cards that I stapled all over my soon-to-be discarded bookbag I was more'n front and center for the program when it was airing twice a week on the same Bat-station that was airing THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN in the afternoons. I think that even in my still-undeveloped pea brain I could see a slight connection between the two, although by the time it all finally congealed and I was more'n anxious to watch both programs with total adolescent gusto they were both banished from local television screens in a move to seem to suggest "HEY KIDS, you don't want to watch these old superhero programs now, do you? How about feasting your eyes on something really meaningful, like BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN!"

Burgess Meredith was no stroon which is why he was willing to cash in on his BATMAN fame by recording a couple of singles bound to at least put a li'l whipped cream 'n cherry on the beauteous hot fudge sundae of a mint he was undoubtedly making at the time. The first of these has him reciting mooshy prose to a cheap backup of "Greensleeves" that I somehow get the feeling would have turned most mid-sixties people off like Raid yet might have appealed to your Aunt Petunia for all I know. The other one has Meredith doing his Penguin character talking about his dastardliness to yet another crank-out backing with gals chiming in "he's the Penguin" every so often. Funny, when Burt Ward did that single with the Mothers of Invention ("Boy Wonder, I Love You" backed with "Orange Colored Sky") it was like he wasn't allowed to mention the words "Batman" or "Robin" because National Periodical/DC would charge him $10,000 every time these words were uttered or something. Here Meredith gets away with the evil deed repeatedly though I wonder, perhaps DC did rush in and put this record on ice faster'n they did with Jan & Dean's BATMAN around the same time! It only goes to show you that you can be one of the nastiest comic book villains extant, but whatever you do don't screw around with National's lawyers!
Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra-COSMO EARTH FANTASY CD (Art Yard, available via Forced Exposure)

Here's another rarity from the avant garde's most mentally challenged (and if you read any bio of him you'd agree too!) practitioner consisting of even rarer those other rare Saturn sides coupled with some rehearsals that I don't think ever made it into the public realm. Loads of "strange strings" get plucked on the title track while some 1962 numbers show a more traditional bent. It all ends with yet another version of "Space is the Place" that turns into a massive preaching tirade by Ra with his followers chiming in their approval! I must be getting old, because I think I would have appreciated this 'un a lot more back when I was a teenbo 'stead of now considering all of the questionable philosophical quap that I discovered that Ra had disseminated throughout his rather wild ride lifetime. But I get that way sometimes.
*For some reason I'm also tempted to mention Faces during their period, but that's probably only because Prevost (along with many other proto-punk movers and shakers) were hot to trot on A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD among other entries in that group's catalog. Frankly I never paid that much attention to 'em myself (if only because I thought they were rather ikky!) but who knows, if I get hungry enough...

1 comment:

django said...

Perhaps I should have done a more complete Burgess Meredith cdr for you and sent his 1948 collaboration with John Cage, the soundtrack for a documentary film made by Burgess called WORKS OF CALDER...Burgess Meredith, talk about a renaissance man!