March 9, 1974...a pretty good time for rockism if you ask me even if there was still a whole lotta crap out there inna music world to wade through in that quest for the real squeal. And as you'd expect, NME was still on a roll after the acquisition of both Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray with the former contributing not only a particularly wired Lou Reed interview (the one which was probably the reason Lou wanted to lock himself in a room with Kent and beat the heck outta him!) but a gigundo review of the latest Todd Rundgren platter (TODD) that reads really swell even though I doubt I'd want to pick that album up even if you bit me. Not only that but there's yet another interview Kent conducted appearing in these pages, this one with none other than Dr. John who's obviously a fellow who had a hard time staying awake if Kent's comments are to be believed! Let's just say that its the little things in life like these pieces that make it easier to endure all of the harsh realities like work, arguments, constipation...
Charles Shaar Murray's submissions can't be denied either, even if he gets to do his 1000th Led Zeppelin piece which probably doesn't differ (that much) from the other 999 but I'll read just about anything the guy wrote 'cept maybe his article in the OZ "Schoolkids" issue. Murray also gets to review pub rock legends Chilli Willi live at the Marquee and not much else which is too bad since it seems as if it was his and Kent's scribblings which were keeping the paper afloat even if the rest of the coverage via the likes of Roy Carr and Tony Stewart wasn't anything to sneeze at. But hey, are you really that interested in reading yet another Jimmy Savile profile especially after all of the bad news that came out about him after his own 86-ing a few years back (and he seemed like such a nice guy too!)??? Me neither, but it does serve its purpose well...I think.
Biggest surprises---none other than Mick Farren's very first piece for the paper, a fannish yet concise feature on none other than STAR TREK which at the time was just beginning to leap outta syndicated rerun limbo and into that stellar universe of spinoff movies, television series and flea markets fulla broken toy gadgets. Also heavily noteworthy are the contribs of none other'n Chrissie Hynd (still sans "e") who gets to review the rising up the charts Alvin Stardust album as well as a live performance by none other than Magma (!!!) where she gets to prove to us lumpen dolts that she knew who Coltrane and Elvin Jones were long before we did! Like I said the lady shoulda stayed with the NME 'stead of trotting off for the greener pastures of rock stardom because hey, her musical career certainly didn't produce any startling gems of brilliance the way Farren's, Lester Bangs', Lenny Kaye's or a few dozen more scribes turned tunesmiths' most certainly had!
If only I could keep the thrill I got reading this 'un going full-tilt then maybe I wouldn't need ibogaine injections. Whatever, it does put to rest the notion that the early/mid-seventies were such a dungheap that we hadda rely on Donny Osmond singles to lift us out of our decidedly anti-rock doldrums!
***OK now, back to the present. Although I often scoff at the dribble that passes for rock critiquing or fandom or what-have-ya these days, I will say that there are still a number of good rock scribes engaging in what I would call intelligent and cohesive writing. Other than me, there are the denizens of certain blogs who still crank it out with an attitude that comes off as if it were still 1979 and it's a case of you vs. the rest of the world, and of course there are the few remaining fanzines (and their creators) that one woulda thought had keeled over for good once the eighties/nineties-era of these self-produced rants eventually petered out in the age of internet.
DAGGER is but one of those surviving fanzines that, remarkably enough, is not only still pumping it out on all cylinders but doing a pretty durn good job of it as well. The latest issue (#46) ain't as big as previous all-outs and editor Tim Hinely has returned to a layout similar to his mag's earlier endeavors, but the writing's just as etapoint as ever and even an eighties-hater such as myself can slip in real smoothly to such features as Tim's interview with former Death of Samantha leader John Petkovic and a piece on the Go-Betweens' Grant McLennan, something which might have registered some deeply held rockist stirrings in my soul had I only heard the group in the first place!
Only two pages of reviews (in fact, only TEN pages of mag!) but hey, ten pages of high energy rock writing like this sure beats a whole internet fulla the sons and daughters of the Christgau-bred dorks who still think they are making a concise and important statement detailing for you the various larval stages of Courtney Love's crab lice. Check the link on the left for a copy, that is if you're one reader who would so dare venture out from the safe confines of this sainted yet "horse-blindered" blog to read something with a different shall we say..."perspective".
***Wellwellwell...the past week sure went by fast now, didn't it? Time for another rundown of what I have been listening to and what I think about it put into language you just might be able to understand. As you can see, there's not much in the way of writeups again but it ain't for lack of trying. Actually I have been listening to a load a goodies when the opportunity arises, only a lotta of the things I am spinning are old favorites which I've noticed go down a whole lot smoother at beddy bye time than a new offering which often stimulates and agitates my back brain to the point where I'm up until three in the morning trying to think up new synonyms for dungheap. I've got at least one interesting change o' pace planned that I just might unleash on you the week after if not next week, but until then you'll just have to suffer through the goodies I have lined up for you THIS time...
High Rise-PSYCHOBOMB; DISPERSION CDs (PSF Japan)
When a dribble of info regarding the new generation of Japanese psychedelic rock began hitting our shores in the late-eighties, High Rise were among the first acts to get the hi-ho hosannas in the pages of all the hipper than you'll ever be fanzines and "alternative weeklies" out there in Notice Me land. I remember, because I was a guy who was always on the lookout for a new group or musical movement to sink my claws into, and the hype popping up about the group made 'em out to be the biggest hard growl heard since the likes of Motorhead! Only this wasn't some sorta new wave of heavy metal shuck that didn't seem that much different from the lame metal groups permeating the late-seventies, but a psychedelic rock group that took that over-used term and injected a good hunkerin' load of freshness into it. And hey, maybe what we all needed back the was a fresh dose of lysergic music to save us from all of that antiseptic quap that the eighties were well known for!
From all respectable reports High Rise were beyond heavy metal, a total assault on the senses unheard of since Blue Cheer just happened to kill some stray dog that wandered into the Avalon by the sheer force of their volume. Of course that's something which always seems to affect dogs more than humans considering all of those brain-churning frequencies they're subjected to, but from what I've heard there were many humans who were adversely affected by the overload as well.
Still can't find that early High Rise album which remains lodged somewhere in my collection, but I did decide to latch onto these still available PSF releases which I was at least hoping would have recreated the entire Japanese psychorock experience that was extant on that now elusive platter. And, as usual, I was right for both of these disques splatter the listener with the massive concrete wall of sound that groups like Les Rallizes Denudes first aped before an entire generation of Japanese kiddoes picked up on the hard ramalama and drove it into areas that kinda frighten me, especially after dark.
PSYCHOBOMB's a live album that was recorded during the group's 2000 US tour, and it's the High Rise I remember most from that early album as well as a variety of bootleg 10-CD sets that were cluttering up the ebay listings a good eight or so years back. The sound's great, the audience's fever pitched, and the performance is all-out sonic drive that once again makes terms such as acid rock and heavy metal obsolete especially in the light of the commercial fluff that music had become thanks to Andy Secher and the rest of the HIT PARADER flacks. Total pounce upon the senses attack here which is ultra-driving and perhaps even maddening, and if you were one to come into hard rock via its late-sixties birth and grew up with it as it came to age in the early-seventies, this just might be the last stop on the trip before you totally lose you mind to your old Voi Vod albums.
DISPERSION's a studio affair which, surprisingly enough, shows High Rise moving to and fro with not only the expected hard-driving numbers but slower efforts that work on you like an earwig slowly boring its way through your psyche. With an almost early-seventies-ish sense of drive, the trio weave in and out of various psychmodes playing both hot and cold at times with a particularly downer groove that comes about as close to WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT than anything else I've heard recently. In fact if I were one of those early-seventies rock critics who were trying to find some sense of sanity as the sixties were slowly sliding into something that perhaps wasn't as thrilling as we thought it would be, I would be heavily tacking the ol' Velvet Underground influence pockmark of quality onto this 'un (had it been around) the same way many of these now-forgotten crits were doing the same thing to everyone from the Magic Tramps, Sidewinders, Patti Smith and Link Wray!
These two may be old hat to you by now, but given the dearth of recent (and for me recent means the past three decades!) rockist items that affect me in a base, driving way both of these High Rise offerings sound mighty pleasing. Definitely ones that'll worm their way into your heart, among other things I'm sure.
A different 'n usual collection here as it has not one or two but THREE quick-o sitar cash-ins that came out just after George Harrison boosted sitar stock 1000% when he coulda been extolling the musical joys of the flute-o-phone. Chim Kothari does an exemplary job introducing your folks to the charms of the instrument viz his rendition of the theme from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, while V. Balsara and his Singing Sitar handle the old wop classic "A Man Without Love" well enough to get him plenty of tips at an Eyetalian restaurant when the guy with the bandanna and violin is too sick to show up for work. And Assie Tsahar and Tatsuya Nakatani----wait, they give us some weirdo free sounding neo-avant sorta jazz, but with a name like Tsahar I woulda sworn it was more of that southern asian music created to heighten the vindaloo experience at Paul McGarry's favorite Indian eatery!
The rest of this varies between Bill's c&w-fixated twangdom to hard enough for me bop (Cooper-Moore's "Part 4 blues for Jaki Byard") as well as some Japanese sixties rock romps from the Spiders and Roosters. One big surprise: the appearance of that Rockin' Horse single on Greg Shaw's Voxx label that I, and presumably you, missed out on the first time around in the early-eighties. Not that I missed much, but it's a good one to hear at least once and you know, I'm glad I did.
***Charles Gayle Trio-LOOK UP CD (ESP-disk)
Got a tip-off about this recent (2012) platter on the reactivated ESP label and yeah, it is a wowzer in the proverbial sense! I remember when the hubbub about Charles Gayle began fermentulating in the early-nineties---y'know, that he was the last in a generation of free jazz players to be discovered and that he was the spiritual successor to Coltrane, Coleman and the rest of the batch---and like I'm sure a good many of you readers were I wasn't too sure myself as to whether or not this was just fresh hype or the actual fanabla. Well as time has shown and the man has proved, Gayle definitely is as much a top notch hotcha player as his mentors, and the stack of recordings he's left us over the past few decades are evidence as just how much powerful avant garde jazz has been unleashed on us these past few decades. Only we never did have enough moolah to buy out the entire New Music Distribution Service catalog like we always wanted to do, and even a good quarter-century later we're still kicking ourselves for not latching on to the things we coulda picked up for a mere $6.98 way back when!
Great free playing here courtesy our star, who besides blowing his brains out on tenor sax also tries his hand at bass clarinet with rather Dolphy-esque precision. (Gayle has always been a fairly competent master at handling various non-woodwind instruments as his solo piano and violin, not forgetting his drum work with the Blue Humans has shown.) Some unknown named Michael Bisio plays bass, while Michael Wimberly (a name that should be familiar to people who used to hang out at the old CBGB Lounge during the Dee Pop-curated free music nights) is perhaps the best up-and-coming drummer in a sphere which really doesn't have as many adherents as it most certainly deserves.
The performance is fierce (not quite Ayler filtered through a perhaps even angrier Shepp), free and at times you really do have to strain your ears to hear the quiet parts but watch out when the free play starts up lest you be blasted outta your easy chair!
Best of all, Gayle even devotes some time to doing some of his street preaching here, and since this is the part of the man's oeuvre that upsets most of his "progressive" fans you can bet that many of 'em'll be thinking up unique excuses for liking the man despite his admonitions against breaking up fecal matter lodged in the Hershey highway using Mister Salami and other things enlightened people like to do. You might want to think up a few for yourselves as well...I mean, you really must look your very on-top-of-it-all best when you post YOUR two cents on whatever on-line forums there may be where people of your ilk discuss just how superior you all are to the past few millennium of civilization now, don't you!
For those of you who just couldn't care one white either way, a top notch release from the re-activated ESP, and one you'll probably be spinning a whole lot more'n Bill Horwitz that's for sure!
***Soft Machine-THE EARLIEST RECORDINGS; LIVE 1967-1969 (both of these are on the B13 label originating from [perhaps] the former Soviet Union)
Coming in just under the wire are these two items that the people at the mysterioso B13 label thought you'd just might like to hear, even if some of you probably have heard 'em before. Both of these platters were recorded by the infamous Soft Machine, but instead of those oft-repro'd BYG demos that have been roaming budget bins for ages here are some real interesting niceties that you might want to splurge a little bitta cash on, if you're a fan of the group that is.
I passed on the early pre-Soft Machine recordings when they hit the CD circuit about two decades back, but now that they're pressed up on vinyl 'n all I thought maybe I should snatch this 'un up before it was too late. And y'know what, this one's good enough (even better'n the Wildeflowers collection!) that I wish I bought the thing way back when! Culled from various rehearsal tapes as well as a live "Daevid Allen Trio" gig at the Marquee, the proto-Softs surprisingly beat everybody else to the punch with their mix of rock 'n roll. r 'n b and avant garde jazz at a time when the competition were still trying to figure out the chords to "FBI"! You could say that a good portion of this platter was just amateurish crank out, but for a buncha English sissies trying to act all boho and all this is surprisingly sturdy with little pretension or put on which usually makes these basement recordings so hard to sit through.
At times the music is free enough and even more out there than what the likes of Coltrane and Coleman were up to at the same time (1962-1963!)...not only that but there is quite an AACM-ish groove to the free-splat energy play which is surprising to hear considering just where the minds of most youth (in England and the rest of the sphere) were at that very same nanosecond. It's almost inconceivable...I mean even Frank Zappa was still doing fifties schtick and Varese swipes at this time, little of which could match the boho drive that these future Soft Machiners were coming up with! That trip to Paris really must have made an impression on 'em considering their rather appropriate understanding of the "new thing" happening around them!
LIVE 1967-1969 isn't really "live" but the group's earliest John Peel sessions, the first side being the '67 one when Kevin Ayers was holding down the guitar and bass chores while Mike Ratledge played organ and flute and Robert Wyatt drummed (as well as played 'cello and a few other instruments if Lillian Roxon can be trusted). It's really interesting to hear this not only because it is the Soft Machine at the beginning of their album-oriented career, but because Kevin Ayers had yet to affect that basso profundo vox he was very well known and remembered for. Not only that but the early versions of material later to end up on Ayers' albums show a remarkable primitiveness and approach that almost make them entirely different numbers! Fans of the ABC albums would do well to pick this one up if only for the a-side, while those who like the group's more "fusion"-y material will definitely enjoy the flip to hear the '69 version of the group crank through a medley of tracks from THIRD before Wyatt performs the very same "Moon In June" that later appeared on the TRIPLE ECHO box set. And if you thought that was a chore to listen to let me tell you things haven't changed.