Saturday, April 06, 2013

Maybe I should say a few words about the recent passing of film critic Roger Ebert considering how both he and I were pretty much in the same line of business, even though his forte was film and mine music and he was a big time critic and I a mere fan. Given my mixed feelings regarding the man and his work/persona with a special animosity directed towards his later years, I will admit that I was planning a piece that might have rivaled H. L. Mencken's infamous William Jennings Bryan obit. Maybe I will...we'll see how I'm feeling a few paragraphs from now after I really get rolling. Really, just because someone is dead doesn't mean that we have to say nothing but niceties about him which I know will be the case once I do the ol' 86-ing myself, but then again I could care less what lesser minds will say about me. I get the feeling that I ain't gonna be collecting any postmortem writeups in a scrap book, y'know.

Gotta admit that there are some honestly beneficial things that can be said about the famed film scribe, at least regarding what I perceived of his earlier years before he settled comfortably into snobbish upper-crust respectability. Coming up from humble fanzine beginnings in the late-fifties, Ebert did seem level-headed enough to the point that he, while writing for the University of Illinois student paper, defended none other than Revilo Oliver (not exactly a poster boy for protected political speech) after Oliver wrote his controversial articles regarding the JFK assassination. And could you think of any "established" college rag in the country that would take such a pointed stand in these days of metastasized reverse discrimination? Ebert's tastes in moom pitchers were admittedly rather all-encompassing to the point where he could freely (and without much put on high horse shame) fess up to liking everything from mainstream goo to low-budget crank outs even if he sometimes veered off straight into the realms of Judith Crist sophistacado (though said tastes also came close to those of Michael Weldon's from time to time, so why complain?). And hey, I used to actually love it when, on SNEAK PREVIEWS, he'd take the piss outta the more laid-back Gene Siskel who seemed to ooze sweaty sticky substances from his pores when experiencing melodramatic goo...I mean it was sure refreshing to see somebody stick up for the rough and tumble in an era when men were only starting to become extremely feminized to the point where you could see the concave cleft in their jockeys from time to time!

Yeah, but that was like uh, back in the seventies and eighties before people like Ebert, along with alla 'em comedians and news commentators who seemed so cutting edge and roaring against the bulwarks of The Establishment, turned out to be even BIGGER Establishment boosters'n any of us would have thought in the first place. Y'know, kinda like the way everybody though that George Carlin was the voice raving against alla that Big Business corruption and the Powers That Be, until we discovered that he was but a spokesman for the Big Boys who when you get down to it were really just as radical/amoral as Carlin. Kinda reminds me of this story David Brenner used to tell about these two brothers in Philadelphia who, although owning stores adjacent to each other, were bitter enemies and rivals for years competing and undercutting each other in every which way possible. Years later after both brothers had died it was discovered they were actually working together fooling all the locals and raking in the money because of their seemingly bitter rivalry! That's just how the likes of Ebert (along with all of those SNL/talk show host types) first presenting themselves as smash the state revolutionary types (cleaned up enough for network television viewing natch!) before they decided that BEING the state and loving their concept of Big Brother wasn't such a bad idea after all.

So Ebert the young upstart hipster, like the rest of his sycophantic generation, became just another variation on the socially aware and crusading Carrie Nation mode writing lame-brained screeds against any real or perceived enemy of "da people," taking on the likes of a variety of fluff commentators like Bill O'Reilly and of course those evil hoodoos known as The Tea Party with some of the most patronizing and smug "I know better than you" fashion straight outta the do-gooder uplifter mentalities of the early twentieth century. (Kinda makes me wanna know what he'd have thought of some of the more forceful rightists of the day from Justin Raimondo to John Derbyshire, but perhaps they would have been too far from the periphery of his ken.) It's enough to make you puke, and that's not only regarding the lofty attitude so inherent in those who belong to the beret and bidet crowd that Ebert ascribed to even if he wouldn't think so. But oh man, I haven't experienced this much  condescension since grade school!

Yeah Roger, you were good at one time but that's before you became a pussy whipped whelp of a human being who, after wandering around the rim of social sanctimony for years on end, finally fell into the toilet bowl and became a mewling sycophant for that Even NEWER World Order that's obliterating all that was good and just even as we speak. Yeah, another relic of what was good about tuning into PBS before that entire network along with you and your statist generation became nothing but one big back-patting self-congratulatory circle jerk. Big shit, for the last umpteen years of his life he looked like a ventriloquist dummy with a broken string. Readers, whatever you do, DON'T take the hot radical bait like he and so many of his ilk obviously least when the pendulum swings back us mid-Amerigan suburban slobs will have our day in the sun and we can toss all of these Eberts and unfunny comedians and patronizing ass-felchers they call politicians into the scrapheap of history along with Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, at least after we toss those assholes back in since it's so obvious they're now chicer 'n chic in today's upside down, goodness-loathing world! And until then, go watch a "video nasty" in his memory, I'm sure he would have hated the thought of you even doing so.
Not much to write about review-wise this weekn'd. In fact if you'll notice, all of the items up for reviewsies this week are taken from the Bill Shute collection of fine downloads that he sends my way for reasons known to he and he only. Sad to say, there just ain't that much good stuff being released as of late, and things have gotten to the point where although I can afford to purchase a whole slew of records 'n things that I only could have dreamed of back when I was a depression-era wage kid there just ain't anything that I am aware of being unleashed that I would care to plunk down a wad of hard earned for. Yeah, it's a far cry from thirty-plus years ago when I would have loved to have possessed at least three-fourths of the latest BOMP! catalog but LET'S FACE IT (again), rock 'n roll for all intent purposes is six-feet under and half-decayed by now. And while I'm at it so is avant garde jazz and all of those other boffo musics that made the 20th century so exciting. 'n yeah, all we're really doing now is just ruminating about it like yer pop did about the big bands in 1971, and you know how pathetic he looked back in them days of student unrest!

Really, it's gotten so bad on the musical front that the only order I've placed for any music since February has been for CD-R reissues of items I've had on cassette since the eighties and have wanted to have in digitized form for years. Somehow I get the feeling that I've hit the end of the road and there's nothing more new to hear, but then again when I least expect it some rarity finally hits my ears and gives me hope that maybe there is some life in this modern equivalent of grandpa's Model T. However when all's said and done I pretty much know how Alexander The Great felt when, after he realized there were no more worlds to conquer, all he could do was cry his eyes out.

Unless something drastic happens in the world of what used to be known as rock 'n roll, expect the same old for perhaps the next fifty years. Maybe by then something will spring from a bonafeed anti-establishment (and not a phony anti-estab that's merely a hand puppet of da big boys) that'll spin more'n a few minds, but something tells me that few of us will be around to enjoy it. But until then all you guys who are cranking out the energy (like Fadensonnen and Stephen Painter) keep doing so, and for all you archival types out there keep digging because I'm sure there are many unheralded acts of the past deserving of a second try here in 2013, and a trial they deserve because I've already sentenced most of today's mewls to death row and I really would like to hear something meaningful to my everyday life, even if it was recorded forty years back!


From the Golden Age of Cheapness come these quickie exploito covers that I guess ended up either on free giveaway records that only the poor kids or the ones with tightwad parents got to listen to. You know, remarkable (funhouse) mirror image versions of the hits usually recorded by studio acts with front names like Freddie and the Fanablas or The Young Stroonads. The real low-budget stuff that ties in with that Beatlemania country ripoff album I wrote up awhile back, only that one was a winner in a world of flops. Now this collection ranges from the pretty decent ("One Fine Day") to the halfway-there ("Day Tripper") to the downright ugsville ("Turn Turn Turn," which in this case should be called "Turd Turd Turd") and for a laff riot it's not too bad. If you remember those "just like the original hits" collections that used to run on UHF television throughout the seventies you'll get the idea of what's in store with these grade-z crankouts.

Don't laff...Telly Savalas went to #1 in England with his softly spoken rendition of Bread's "If." Of course the celebs who were tryin' to cash in on their fame and fortune with these single sides didn't fare quite as well, with David McCallum going laughibly over the emote meter and Anthony Quinn using his gruff grumble to talk over some already laid down musical tracks. Of course it ain't all that cheesy, with John Cleese's novelty 45 sprite enough to get you up and running (probably to the lavvy, but up and running enough) and the Goon Show guys trying to give it their best even if they sound kinda datedly dodgy. Oddly enough some reg'lar Top 40 faves were tossed in the heady mix as well as two sides of a Splinter (produced by George Harrison) single, which I believe is Bill's way of daring me to listen through this all the way.
Perry Robinson/Nana Vasconcelos/Badal Roy-KUNDALINI CD-R burn (originally on Improvising Artists)

Even an ignoramus such as I remember when Paul Bley started up the Improvising Artists label back in the late-seventies. That was a specialty jazz label which issued, along with various titles that escape me at the moment, an album of solo Sun Ra piano. This one has longtime free-clarinetist Perry Robinson performing with South American percussionist Nana Vasconcelos as well as Indian tabla player Badal Roy, and as you can gander the results are pretty much in an avant garde meets Third World vein. Basically Robinson playing in that standard cadence of his with rhythms popping all over the place, not quite inspirational or anything but more stirring than a lot of recent free jazz excursions that make me wonder where the inspiration all went, other'n up the participants involved's nostrils.
B. B. King-THE JUNGLE CD-R burn (originally on Kent)

As you may know blooze ain't exactly my #1 choice in pre-beddy bye slip into slumbers listening matters. I will give it a spin of course knowing that it is an important musical phenomenon that contributed to rock 'n roll as we used to know it 'n all, but sheesh if the mental image of loads of mustachioed mirror-shaded whiteguys with scuzzy hair giving substance abuse a bad name just don't pop into my head whenever I heard the form being abused o'er the past thirtysome years! At least these early B. B. King sides recorded in the fifties don't yet have the tinge of commercial smarm and are about as raw as the rest of the fifties brigade when it comes to raw-gut wrench. Hard-edge emote and sharp guitar lines even make me forget that the big band drags King down rather than punctuates his musical jabs.
Thelonius Monk-THE EARLY THELONIOUS MONK CD-R burn (originally on Moon Records, Italy)

The not-so-noted Italian bootleg label Moon somehow got hold of these early Monk live tracks which sound pretty snat considering the Flintstones quality of some of these early club recordings. This is the early, pre-bop Monk at the start of his career playing smooth enough aided 'n abetted by some equally well-known players along the lines of Roy Eldridge and Kenny Clarke. I know that most of you readers prefer your jazz in full-tilt free strata, but these romps through standards 'n such do show us the beginnings of things that were gonna go supernova within the span of a good fifteen years or so.
Curtis Hoback-HEY EVERYBODY CD-R burn (originally on Star- Club, Sweden)

Rockabilly, like da blooze, can muster up images of everything from early innovation to seventies/eighties copycat phonus balonuses, so when I do get to hear some popping on all cylinders examples of the form you can bet that my day feels a little bit brighter'n it would had all I had to listen to was J. Neo Marvin's Violent Femmes jackoffs. These '58-'65 sides by Curtis Hoback do fill the bill as I like to say, and not only because they're solid enough and typify the late-fifties pre-wimp rock style that epitomized the era at its height either! I like 'em because there ain't an ounce of hokum to be heard in the batch! If you like hard-edged tough 'n punky late-fifties rock (think Tony Conn, even a little Jack Starr) you'll be more'n apt to go for this juicy, crazed, outta left field rock 'n roll that goes to show just how far we've "devolved" since stuff like this was ruling the airwaves! (And hey, Hoback's "Lonely Weekend" is the Charlie Rich 'un, and even though Rich's take is tops 'n all Hoback does it up real smooth too and I can osmose to it even without the backing chorus!)
See you with yet another "don't get your hopes up" post mid-week, and until then remember the old adage, "do not be mellow, be CURMUDEONLY!"


John said...

The Ebert piece reminds me of the time I posted a comment a couple of years ago about how the latest Ebert photo on the Poynter website disturbed me and that I wished I hadn't seen it.
Another commenter attacked me on the site for what I considered my genuine feeling, and later attacked me at my own email address.
In the email, the guy said something like "I haven't forgotten what you wrote and I want to remind you that I'm a friend of Roger's and I'm going to tell him what you wrote."
Oh, brother!
I am an Ebert and Siskel fan and there are parts of your piece that I think are harsh, but overall, this is a gem of writing and a keeper.
I look forward to more of your posts.

Robert Cook said...

Hey, I have that Perry Robinson cd! I'd forgot I even had it! I liked it well enough to buy a couple other of his recordings, few as they seem to be. I'll hafta dig it out and give a listen to it afresh.