Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sorry to take soooooo long (Sunday nite even!) to get this post out to you, but I was way too busy havin' fun celebrating the death of Robin Williams to drag myself in front of the ol' computer! Well no, not really (after all, I never did have any contact with him whether it be personal or via the various social networks), but let's just say that I am one ol' stinkin' turd of a human being out there in sowhaddaboudit land who ain't joining the choruses of hosannas 'n rendered garments that could be heard on many a tee-vee show this past Tuesday sniffing on about this "great loss" of a worthy human life. (And believe-you-me, when Ozzie Nelson died back '75 way all he got was a quickie mention as if his mere existence had nada social significance!) Now, I could be a smartass about it and say that I was "choked up" over his suicide 'n all, but that would be so typically tasteless of myself so why should I bother. But I will say that I am one guy who won't be claiming to High Heaven that Williams was one of the greatest comedians and emotive actors since Charlie Chaplin, and everyone knows what a twat he was!

Hokay, I will admit that I was one of the many suburban slobs who used to tune into MORK AND MINDY on a regular basis during the show's first season and that it was, from what I remember, watchable enough that during my budding Asperger's Syndrome days even I mighta blurted out a few "na-noo na-noo"'s during a fambly get-together or two. Of course this was during the big slide from seventies Second Golden Age of Tee-Vee revival to eighties flounder, and eventually I bailed out on the series like I was wont to do with a whole lotta programs that just didn't measure up to the high quality and standards of just one episode of LEARN TO DRAW WITH JOHN GNAGY. Maybe life just wasn't funny anymore...heaven knows that SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE wasn't once 1980 rolled around and neither were a good portion of the sitcoms that I had been tuning in to for quite some time. Anybody care for another round of ARCHIE BUNKER'S GRAVE* reruns??? Thought so.

If I ever got a laugh outta some Robin Williams stand up routine it must've been so rare I totally forgot about it. Ditto any of his film appearances, every one of which I've seen just reeking of post-hippie glop 'n ennui.  For some of us (didn't take count at the last curmudgeons meeting) Williams had become just another eighties relic and reminder of a time in my life when everything from music as an overbearing force (a la the sixties/seventies non-hippoid credo that gave us everything from the Stooges to Lester Bangs) to life as a celebration of youthful anger and justified revenge was either far beyond my reach or dead as a doornail, and if anybody could laugh or sigh or moan at the man's comedic or acting "abilities" they really must have either a dull sense of humor or had just recovered from that surgery where they remove your skull and stick weird metal probes on it that make you utter nonsense syllables.

It may seem callous to some, but for me Robin Williams was a guy who had everything anyone could have wanted in the world but didn't have enough sense to seek the mental help he obviously needed. Mind was probably too clouded from alla dem drugs those Hollywood types take, which is perhaps another reason we jackasses shouldn't worship the jackals in our lives. The newscasters and papers may mourn the passing of a guy who mirrored their own sick sense of what is supposed to be the new normal or whatever they call it, but all I could see was an unfunny guy who pandered to humorless people who always go about with a look on their faces that says they know something I don't, and personally I wish they'd keep whatever it is they do know to themselves!

Also rip to Lauren Bacall, who looked rather nice when she was younger unlike the androids they call females these days. But again, I really couldn't say much else because well, she was more like something from my parents' generation 'n all, and although I like old mooms as much as the next insomniac it wasn't like she was yukkin' it up with the Three Stooges 'r anything like that. And anymore it's things like that which mean all the more to me as the years creep on.
As you can tell, this "Special Report From BTC News" has postponed the planned post that was to have appeared here this week. That of course will be rescheduled at a future date just like all of those tee-vee programs you wanted to see only John Kennedy got his Excedrin Headache and ruined a fine weekend for us. In its stead I'm going to fill the rest of this 'un up with the post I had been planning to present next week, which of course I hadda do a whole lotta extra work on just so's to make this thing look "presentable". Between you and me I don't think I did that hotcha of a job getting this up to BLOG TO COMM standards, but considering the way life is going these days who gives a whit about standards anyway???
The big surprise these past few days was the discovery of a bonafeed crapload of new FIGURES OF LIGHT releases that are available via where else but CD Baby. Even more surprising is that none of these recent releases are available via the Norton label of fine fanablas leading me to believe that there may have been a falling out between the two parties at hand. Maybe not (after all, some of the material on these platters is not exactly up to the musical ideals set forth by the likes of Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, as you will see), but it's sure great knowing that this recently-revived act is still up and about making music (some of it good) while the rest of us are more content to sit around in our fart-encrusted bedrooms typing about it on our blogs. Anyway, here are the most recent releases from the soon-to-be-reckoned-with FOL label that you just might know about, and in case you're wondering why I didn't review the download-only selections it's because with a computer like mine, who knows where those files will end up!

LOST & FOUND is the sturdiest of the batch, a long-playing platter which contains a number of old, new and even newer tracks in varying qualities and the standard no-chord playing. A nice li'l sampler which introduces us to some new trackage of worth not forgetting some live cuts from a 1972 show at Vorhees Chapel where you can actually hear the vocals (and who out there would not believe that "Strawberry Jam" from this very show sounds almost exactly like that blues jam from THE CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack????! Not a duff cut to be found (and thankfully it all sounds suburban ranch house 1966, especially the mid-six-oh Beatles swipe "You Better Wise Up"), though I'm still puzzled as to why the inclusion of that Belladonna and the Decimators "Death Metal Cover" of "It's Lame"! What a strange sense of humor these guys have!

GIMME A QUARTER only clocks in at sixteen minutes, but those seconds are well spent with these recent recordings that showcase the band's various aspects. Seems as if a certain Stuart Pendergast is now a member of the act on guitar (Dixon and Downey handling the rest of the gear), and they do swell on such toonz as "Arrested Adolescent" and "Frustration". Some of these tracks, like the title one ("Totally Insane Remix" version) remind me too much of mid-eighties new wave for comfort, but since I can still work up a bit of a froth over some of the things my favorite post-seventies NYC outfits (or their survivors) could pull off then maybe I can enjoy the pre-programmed drum track'd offerings for what they are. But please don't go tellin' my 1985 self this turgid fact!

I dunno what you think about CD singles, but I'm sure you know what I think of them myself! Still, I did like the precious few minutes that the double-tracker "l;eave Her Alone" and "Dreams of the Past" unveiled before my very ears...dunno how this could qualify as a Figures of Light release proper consiering that Wheeler W. Dixon's main role in this release was as producer (Downey playing guitar with the aforementioned Pendergast handling everything else) but the instrumentals to be heard on this 'un are thankfully typical of the wild surf-y sounds that the Figures have been releasing on their previous and widely available platters so there's nothing really to fear from plunking down the moolah for this 'un.

Now, there may be something to fear from buying the group's THE OPEN DOOR four-tracker since it sounds about as far from the garage band-y Figures of Light sound that had me bidding a hefty $127.85 on their original single and getting outbid within a few minutes. The title track ("for Lou Reed" as it says) sounds more like a backing track for some 1982 Roxy Music cum new wave act that got stuck in limbo after the lead singer dislodged both tonsils during an extended holiday in San Francisco, while the "It's a Scream" mixes remind me of something a really masochistic bedroom-level bunch of budding musicians woulda sent to FORCED EXPOSURE ca. 1987 just so they could get off on the scathing negative review their efforts would surely render. Dixon plays synth and nothing but on these instrumental sides and really, I never thought that anybody even remotely associated with the Norton label past present or future even touched one of the things!

For a better mix 'n match you might wanna try GREAT! NOW WE GOT TIME TO PARTY! But then again maybe not. Again, most of the music contained within these grooves have nada to do with the Figures of Light sound that I've raved on about, and in fact the title track comes off more like some easily-enough whipped out computer-generated number I'm sure any astute middle-aged daddoid coulda cranked out with the aid of his seven-year-old son. One track, "Heading For The Sky", even sounds more like a Mobius/Plank track than a garage band standard, but at least there's a 2013 "remaster" of "It's Lame" that will at least jolt you back into rock 'n roll reality.

Of which there is very little on THE POWER, perhaps the weakest of the batch. Starting off with yet another electronic flub-a-dub, the title track is painful to sit through but at least the Downey/Pendergast instrumentals are relaxing enough. But then again it's back to a "Super Ballistic Version" of "Gimme Gimme Gimme" which once again comes off like pure electronic effect jagoff that irritates me to no end. Dunno what got into these guys bub, but talk about the sharp dichotomy between teenage garage fun and post-gnu wave ahtzyness...

Also clocking in on the short end of things yet packing a (thankfully) much better wallop's TOO MANY BILLS, NOT ENOUGH THRILLS which contains some leftover Norton-era recordings produced by one-time Gorie and Light Figure Mick Collins, along with a newer number once again featuring  Pendergast. The earlier tracks might just be outtakes but what a nice batch they are what with that patented A-Bone-esque sound that gets the punk rock drill down hard 'n good as if it were still 1976 filtering 1966 vibrations as if 1971 and the Peace Train got derailed for good. The last song tho is once again just Downey and Pendergast cooking up a pretty decent instrumental number that doesn't exactly zoom you back to some bikini scene in an AIP moom pitcher, but wh' th' hey...

What I guess would be the latest Figures of Light release "proper" (or "improper" if you prefer) would be BUY BEFORE YOU DIE, a full-length feature with this year's copyright date on it and Dixon and Downey joined by even newer members, this time an Andrew Nicodema and Alex Berserker, the latter of who has one of the better rock 'n roll names heard in quite awhile. And it's back to the great ol' teenage sound here with the band cranking out in that fabulous Ramones meets the Real Kids cum six-oh style that really sounds dated, but in the way alla us ranch house suburban slobs like our datedness anyway.  If you expect to turn on the tee-vee and see an episode of SGT. BILKO pop up, this is the one for you!

And finally on today's schedule WHAT'S THIS???, fiftysome minutes of nothing but atonal and perhaps even immoral guitar feedback in the grand tradition of "Loop" and all of those other attempts to get the guitar to play the amp! Here's da scoop..."On January 24, 1971, three original members of Figures of Light - Wheeler Winston Dixon, Michael Downey, and Phil Cohen - presented a concert of feedback music at Brecht West Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. Unlike their other concerts, this performance consisted entirely of feedback from the band's electric guitars, thus anticipating Lou Reed's 1975 METAL MACHINE MUSIC LP by several years. The tapes of the concert, however, were lost, only the poster remained to mark the date." So what did the team of Dixon and Downey do about the missing recording---pout and cry about it??? No, the recreated the entire shebang in the here and now making for an extended one-track romp that takes alla that gab about electronic music you've heard for eons and puts it in its proper place (which, in case you didn't know, was your laser launching pad). Listen hard enough and you too will enter into the fabled "cloud" that Lou Reed once talked about, and if you hear trumpets and Renaissance choirs in this stew I wouldn't doubt you one bit.

And (of course) if you wanna buy any or all of these rarities, you know where you can go ('n it ain't FYE that's for sure!).

Sometimes I do tend to take rockist kismet for what its worth, like the time, and the reasons I snatched these two fusion slabs up was just because of the same innate drive that'll have me slipping on an Amon Duul side after reading a Velvets = krautrock article or tearing through a pile of John Cage platters after his particular brand of free splat is compared and contrasted with Yoko Ono. This time I followed through on my whims to give Coryell and co's early releases a try after coming across too many fusion refs. in my rockist reading, especially a positive review of Return to Forever by Charles Shaar Murray in some old NME not to mention former Man-ster bass guitarist Tommy Gee referring to his earlier combo as being "jazz fusion" which does put an interesting spin on what was going on underneath the underground at CBGB if you also consider the reams of jazz-oriented rock strut that was taking place in the various En Why clubs at the time. (Still looking for tapes of the Boston-area teenage jazz rock combo Yarbles if anyone out there is willing to comply...)

INTRODUCING is the better slab even with the various slick and processed least this one could whip up somewhat of a noisy storm when prodded somewhat. Overtly mid-seventies jazz-guitar.synth-laden true (perhaps Coryell's work with Gary Burton would be more up my ever-expanding alley?) but still solid enough despite the patented electronic whirrs and heard it too many times before hot flash guitar lines. At least it can conjure up spasmodic images of typical jazz-bred tension and angst when needed, which is more than I can say about the pallid musings of the bowtie schmooze that came in the Eleventh House's wake.

And without the airy-fairy conjuring of Return to Forever or the trendy bump 'n grind of way too many mid-seventies jazzbos out for the moolah, this 'un does tend to satisfy even if it is only because it doesn't end up sounding like the aural equivalent to an ad for a synclavier to be found in the pages of DOWN BEAT magazine.

Big thumbs down for the live 'un though, which has the House playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival and losing much in the translation. As far as live albums go, this is way too sterile and fly-spec-less for my own personal sense of sonic crunch. Maybe if Vanguard had released an album from one of the group's appearances at Max's Kansas City from around the same time this woulda been easier to sit through because hey, something about Max's as well as CBGB used to really bring out the scuzz in a man's music, y'know? But until somebody does decide to release that Man-ster album maybe this is about as close to a non-aerie faeire jazz rock sound we can dare to get as far as mid-seventies tastes go, outside of the title track on RADIO ETHIOPIA.
Sun Ra-CHURCH ORGAN, 1948 one-sided LP (no label)

Dunno if this 'un was put out by the same stroon who released that boffo Agents of Misfortune single-sided album that came out late last year, but it sure looks like the same mad method that was put into that 'un was dumped into this strangity as well. According to the spoken introduction, Ra had purchased an early "paper" tape recorder in the late-forties and recorded a number of tracks in some unnamed church which I guess hadda be reconsecrated after the music of Blount was performed. Two jazz standards and an original, all kinda sounding like the soundtrack to a silent movie being played by Mrs. Muriel Carter of Tupelo Miss. who had been tippling at the punch bowl during the intermission to TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM. Lotsa "roots" of future accomplishment to be found, no doubt.
Various Artists-ROCK BOTTOM SCATTY BULBS-A-GRIZZLY CD-r burn (guess)

And last as usual here's the latest Bill Shute spin that I plucked outta the pile and slapped into the Cee-Dee launching pad during a Sunday afternoon of utter boredom. And hey, it's a pretty goody good toe-tapper and that's not only because of the old radio spot ads that'll zoom you back to 1951 whether you wanna go back there or not.** Exemplary selection here,. from the mock Beach Boys of Greg Mihran's "Grab-a-Grizzly" to the Off Set doing their darndest mid-sixties West Coast folk rock best to topple the Turtles and Association at their own game. Of course if you want something a little less professional there's always Barbara Gorman and Sister Viv sounding like Big Ethel and Sugar Bea from PONYTAIL (or was it the off-center spindle hole?) singing "8 O'Clock Date".

But the bestest off all happens to be a couple of NEW numbers, and both of 'em are from modern living and breathing modern day bands as well. The New Mystikal Troubadours' "Nature's Way " (not the Spirit song) is unbelievably wowzy, sounding like an unholy cross between the Velvet Underground at their droniest mixed with the best San Francisco had to offer before hackdom ensued slapped onto the b-side of a 1972 obscure self-produced single. The Peter Kerlin Octet's "Bulbs" reminds me of the late-sixties free jazz cum rock of acts like the Charging Rhinoceros of Soul and Carnal Kitchen. Both really affected this old fanabla in a way that kinda reminded me of back inna mid-eighties when I was looking for some then-current signs of 60s/70s accomplishment being made in the proper eighties mode...and FOUND it usually in the most obscure places one could think of. Gotta look out for more by these acts, though I do get the stinking suspicion that they ain't gonna live up to these superdupers, certainly not to be confused with superdopeers!

*hokay, that was swiped from some early-1980 ish of CREEM I only perused via the stands, but I'll bet you never even read the thing so why not swipe from a mag that was also in the throes of early-eighties agony?

**though I gotta admit that the five-second "Park Free Save More" sounded like a mid-seventies Philip Glass vocal composition!

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