Sunday, March 15, 2015

As Shemp Howard once said, "How time flies!!! Only a few weeks back the entire tri-state area was covered in a thick layer of snow 'n ice that was causing more'n a few incidents of fenderbenders and bone breaks, and today alla that precipitation is gushing its way right into my very basement! Yes, when the sump pump starts working overtime and the yard has the texture of quicksand you know spring is just around the corner, and although I do dread the days of lawn cutting and less inside goofing off the feeling of walking around with my bare arms and legs showing does set off a certain...tingle inside me that's even worse'n when Chris Matthews sees Obama! Well, at least I'll have all of those rainy days to look forward to just like you did when you were a kid and felt so lucky that you could stay cooped up inside your cramped sitting room watching reruns all day 'stead of going out and playing with the other kids inna neighborhood who thought you were a queer because your mother dressed you up like Freddie Bartholomew.
Please, somebody kick me in the
A sad bitta current events to relate to you---r.i.p. Irwin Hasen, not only the artist for the late-Golden Age GREEN LANTERN and JUSTICE SOCIETY titles at DC but the pencil man for that infamous comic strip of yesteryear entitled DONDI! Y'know, the particularly saccharine one about this dago kid with the gigundo ears who remembered World War II even forty years later and was so cutesy-wootsey you just wanted to beat the shit outta him! Never could stand DONDI, not only because ol' Don seemed like such a squeaky clean "role model" type that my mother obviously wanted ME to be like but because well, with the fambly cramming alla that wop kultur down my throat from day one to the point of no mas! I hadda take my ethnic stereotyping frustration out on something and why not this ineffectual comic strip kiddoid! Well, at least the story line from the late-sixties or so regarding a beatnik cousin who was heavily into pop art (with even an indirect reference to Warhol!) was striking enough that even Don Fellman remembered it, but if it wasn't for Hasen's work at DC and the fact that I wanted to have a good reason to rag on that comic strip for ages I probably wouldn't have even mentioned his passing at all!
Well, on that particular note here's what you've all been waiting for these past seven earth-spins. To be all gosharootie about it, I personally believe that I picked a good batch of newies this time (some oldies too) and who knows, of the posts I've presented these first few months of 2015 this just might be the crowning achievement tip top toppiest of 'em all! And what's really goody-two-shoes about it all is that most of this booty was actually purchased by memeME! with my hard-begged, thus proving that I'm not the sycophantic gotta-have-this recordgrubber various malcontents have made me out to be. Anyhoo, since you've probably skipped down to the reviews awlready and aren't even READING this why don't I just STOP...

Alice Cooper-OLD SCHOOL 4-CD set and book (Alive)

Don't know how this 'un slipped outta my sight when it came out, but it did. Whaddeva, now I got it and boy am I a happy stroon because this Alice Cooper collection's the THING I've been waiting for for quite a long time! Or at least since the mid-eighties when I was wondering when a decent collection of classic Alice Cooper live shows, outtakes, rarities and other sundries would be given the royal treatment and make their way into not only the underground rock world, but my very own private and heavily fart-encrusted boudoir.

But come out it has, and I gotta say that this is one collection that does Alice proper and should send shivers of thrills to all of you once-teenage fans who grew up on Alice then puked to see what he had become once the late-seventies had turned this bonafeed hero into just another washed up rock hasbeen reduced to appearing on boring variety programs and MUPPET SHOWs just like the rest of the sudzy stars of the day.

But we ain't talking Alice the flimflammer but Alice the high energy rock maniac, the guy who like the best acts of the seventies took everything good there was about the sixties and rolled it up in one huge ball that seemed like the end-all regarding how far this rock 'n roll thing could logically go. Y'know, the snot-nosed arrogance of the Stones, the rampaging mania of the Yardbirds and the over-the-top danger of the Stooges (I could through the Doors and Seeds in there even though I don't dig the former and adore the latter) and frankly, what else did you want in your early-seventies listening pleasure anyway?

And so they get done up in a nice package once again proving that the powers that be might have a few smarts in 'em. The book portion will naturally knock you out, especially alla you olde tymers who were always miffed that those old and rare Alice group snaps from the mid-sixties never did make their way into the public arena. They're here, complete with family photo album pix of Alice with short suburban hair looking more like the denizen of a very late LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode back when Gilbert was sprouting up higher'n even Ward and Whitey hadn't even grown one inch during the show's entire run. Those early days are lovingly detailed as is the transition of the Earwigs/Spiders/Nazz to Alice proper as well as the group's heyday during the height of Alicemania when even your pre-teen cousin would snuggle SCHOOL'S OUT in between ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH and TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN (just make sure to hide the panties from mom!). And yeah, it's all here right up to that big breakup which had Alice going soft schmooze and the rest of the act fragmented beyond repair to the point where Glenn Buxton had become even more down on his luck'n most of the once-famous musicians and actors who were once a big deal but!

Best thing about this book is that it's all done up lovingly and with the proper care and rare group photos that any real Alice Cooper Band fan will appreciate, and while you're reading the book you'll (as if you didn't know) definitely want to listen to the disques enclosed therein. And what good platters they are what with the rarities and li'l surprises that it seemed only popped up on mid-seventies bootlegs that were put out by real fans and not a buncha knownothing cheap thrill hustlers.

Disque one features Alice during the early years of bitter struggle. Coulda been slightly better. Like, why only ONE track from the early, garage band Alice days when there are a whole slew of these sides making the rounds and for all I know the Nazz one had never been released legit-like even after all these years? And while I'm at it, the classic Yardbirds-driven Caravalles single side "Lovin' Just My Style" with Neal Smith on drums woulda sounded fine in this stew as well. Their omission is undoubtedly a big mystery adding perhaps the only real damper to this boffoid collection.

The early Alice Cooper proper rarities from those early and oft-loathed splatters really fit in well with a guy like myself who could never find those Straight-period releases anywhere back inna mid-eighties and hadda rely on cheap cassette copies to give 'em any appreciation. Hearing a clear version of the infamous "Nobody Likes Me" (best known from not only a paper record giveaway but numerous live Toronto Rock Festival live releases) was goody enough for me, but most striking is the early version of "Eighteen" done up right before Bob Ezrin shaped it into a downright punk rock classic that really shook up the AM dial for a few months way back when (in its original form its so chopped up that its a wonder it ever came out the way we've all known it to be lo these many years!). Heck, this disque even sports a few classic radio ads (it's amazing to see how the term "Third Generation" was being used at a time when hardly anybody outside of CREEM was aware of it!) that just might take you back to those days of listening to the radio in the car while making out, only you didn't quite realize that you were the only one in the ol' calaboose!

The second 'un centers on Alice the Big Hitmaking Freakshow and takes you through the group you knew from 16 right up until the bloody end when MUSCLE OF LOVE signaled the capsizing megashow that was somehow beginning to seem so quaint. It's got more fantastic radio ads that I never recall hearing, live tracks, pre-production demos, and even that session where those kids who sing on "School's Out" are being coached pop up here! The quality is mostly a-hokay even if some of it does sink a bit into slightly hissy tape Korneyphone quality. But at this point in time are you still that anal-retentive (I know I sure am, at least some of the time!).

After this comes an interview disc which is fun to listen to, entertaining and even informative even if a lot of the information blabbed can be read about in the book making one wonder "why bother?" Still more'n a few shards of insight are revealed, such as the fact that Alice himself considers the first two albums more or less Nazz releases and not "Alice Cooper" proper considering how LOVE IT TO DEATH was their true breakthrough. Still if you're not reading anything and wanna osmose some mid-seventies vibes re. one of the few big things that was still hotcha this is definitely worth an occasional spin.

Closing out the package's what I personally consider its crowning achievement, a live show from the KILLER tour which I sure wish woulda been the bootleg of the year had this come out 1972 way! Quality varies but so what, because it's the energy that we're after and if you want to hear the Cooper band right before they really began tearing up the charts (they still being an underground concern even this late inna game) this show's the one for ye! And since KILLER's my own fave Cooper effort (with the roots of everything from "serious" period Rocket From the Tombs to the Electric Eels evident within its soundwaves) maybe I can appreciate this wild side more'n you. But somehow I actually doubt it.

One that should get out a li'l more, and a great tombstone to all of the energy, effort and downright LUCK that made the early-seventies rock scene so good, at least when it got good that is!
Jett Black-"Mademoiselle"/"You Make Everything Dirty" 45 rpm single (Fiddlers)

While we're on the subject of Alice Cooper it just might be mighty handy to bring these guys up. Like Alice Jett Black began in the wilds of Arizona and not only that but they also made the trek to Detroit to cash in on all of high energy action was happening. However, by this time they were reduced to playing covers and little but, though an article that appeared in the local CREEM magazine insert sometime during the mid-seventies made 'em out to be the most astute cover band around, tossing songs like "Waiting For My Man", "Queen Bitch" and a few Stooges thingies into the usual stew. Sounds like the kinda group you wished played in the school cafeteria Friday night 'stead of the ones the Art Club always happened to get, right?

After their stay inna city of motors Jett Black made their way to Connecticut where Alice and band were then holding court, and none other than Cooper guitarist Michael Bruce took 'em under his then-expansive wing producing a buncha sides that I don't think ever'll see the light of day unless Munster Records just happens to be reading this. There was a gig at the infamous Club 82 which earned Jett Black one of Fred Kirby's few sour writeups (he hated their negative stage banter) in the pages of VARIETY, and from then on I don't think the group's fortunes were as bright as some had thought they would be. The last reference I can find of 'em anywhere was on a '77 CBGB listing opening for the Dictators who were certainly garnering up a whole lot more success than Black, an act that was headin' down the crapper of busted rockism dreams becoming one of a million rock groups that coulda taken the world by storm if only.... Well, listening tastes were turning for the worse and with disco and light metal being the next big musical trends what use was there for rock 'n roll anyway? Whaddeva, the Dics/Black pairing certainly would have been a double bill to be front and center for if the group's sole single's any indication.

Hokay, the a-side isn't anything I'd call exemplary, pretty much falling into the standard post-Bad Company tuff stuff sweat 'n kerchiefs stylized moves that weren't anything special at the time. But "Mademoiselle"'s still a halfway-decent cooker that at least did the mid-seventies hard rock schtick better'n many local hairsprouters could. Much better's the flipster where lead singer Jett Jeffords and crew get into a more down 'n dirty groove almost emulating the Stooges circa. "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell" and coming off equally devious themselves as a result. Rather hotcha stuff fer a band that hadda play covers in barjoints to pay the bills only a few years earlier, and it's too bad that Jett Black hadda capsize the way they did because...well y'know if they ever did release an album it woulda been the cutout classic of 1979!

Coming to a BONEHEAD CRUNCHERS collection near you? Only time (and a wake up call to whoever puts those collections of seventies obscurities out) will tell. But like man, you better hope it's soon...

As I've mentioned many a time, I really dig these recent Cee-Dee collections of various easy-to-find archival digs that are gathered up and annotated via a certain (sub)genre that the particular piece just might happen to fall into. This time the tracks gathered about (by Kris Needs no less!) fall into the early avant garde (mostly of a classical variety) with other toonz that take certain ideas either consciously or unconsciously from these works tossed in. The resultant splat makes for a perhaps incongruous collection, but if you thought all along that the Stooges were playing a music more avant garde than anything Luciano Berio could come up with then man is this the collection for you!

Yeah, a lotta this has been heard by you "serious" beret and stale doritos types who've been practicing your patented precocious poses inna mirror for the past four decades, but Needs' natural abilities to mix and match 'em does make for about as good a listen as those legendary Scott Krauss platter sessions at the Plaza on Prospect back inna seventies where friends would plop themselves down while the original Pere Ubu drummer would spin early Grateful Dead (!) into African ritual making for a listening experience you'd never get outta Anastasia Pantsios! Thus we get the Joe Meek faves the Blue Men doing their electronic space rock pushed up against Olivier Messiaen working out on an Ondes Martenot before Edgard Varese makes a whole lotta orchestral thunder that Zappa shamelessly swiped while dribbling all over his mentor. It does make for a better free-form than some might admit, but nowadays nobody wants to admit anything so why should I give a fanabla anyway?

Hokay, maybe it is a stretch to include everything from Xenakis, Cage, Stockhausen, Babbitt and a whole slew of Frenchies you never heard of with the likes of Sun Ra, the Tornados, the Spotniks and Les Baxter, but like Lou Reed said during one of his more lucid moments rock 'n roll's a better avant garde than the avant garde, and maybe this li'l package proves he might have had a point. A slight point perhaps (after all, "Gesang Der Junglings" and "Turangalila-Symphonie" do pack as much as wallop as "Pushin' Too Hard"), but it's pretty funzy to listen to such seemingly disparate tracks gathered together coming out as a cohesive whole custom made to satisfy us cohesive holes. Heavy kudos to Needs and to Fantastic Voyage for glopping it all together and dishing it out to us ranch house kiddies who always deserved the best in high fidelity gunch!
Shorty Rogers and his Giants-CLICKIN' WITH CLAX CD-r burn (originally on Atlantic, England)

The El Lay cool brigade plop back for more of that forward-looking music that seemed so experimental in1955 yet was reduced to PSA background music only a good ten years later. The group (including Jimmy Giuffre and Shelly Manne, who with Rogers released the avant-looking ten-inch LP THE THREE back '54 way) plays swift enough but there's plenty missing for fans of the even newer thing that was just popping up around the corner. For tension mongers like myself hold out for some of the more atonal-minded West Coast platters that have appeared o'er the years. BTW, the Bill Holman who shows up on tenor sax is probably not the same guy who used to draw SMOKEY STOVER which I will say does disappoint me a bit. Foo!
Paul Flaherty & Randall Colbourne-IRONIC HAVOC CD-r burn (originally on Relative Pitch)

Maybe this downtown stuff doesn't have the same kinetic drive of either the sixties new thing expression or the seventies loft jazz movement, but the Flaherty/Colborne duo does play as good as free jazz splat as most anything you're gonna come straight up against these days. For most of you this is probably just more of that "heard it all before" nada but I gotta admit that it sure is swell that sixties/seventies sonic jazz explorations are still being bleated out even this late in the post-fun world game. If you're one who still thinks the best thing that happened to rock 'n roll was the incursion of various freedom moves inna sixties then hey, this one is probably just waiting for you so go get it!
Various Artists-BIG NOISE FROM THE IN-CROWD CD-r burn (Bill)

More and more of those surprises that Bill Shute always has in store here...from some middle-eastern psychedelia that prepared me for the Indian buffet I was about to engage in to the beatnik bopsters called the Cecil Young Progressive Quartet creating some of that hotcha jazzbo stuff that I'm sure went real well with teenagers reading MAD comic books inna early-fifties. Some of this is really obscure like Sha Kane's hard rocker and Spaghetti Head updating the Bob Crosby classic "Big Noise From Winnetka", while Dick Hyman (he shoulda had an act with Beaver Cleaver!) does his version of "The In Crowd" for the same type of men who you used to see snuggled up to the bar chatting up gals when you were but a mere eight years of age. Highlights include Geater Davis (who, as I feared, was not Skeeter Davis under an alias) doing some surprisingly stirring soul movers in an age of creeping discoisms as well as the same Flamin' Groovies cuts you've been listening to for over thirtysome years but YOU don't mind, do ya!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jett Black were in consideration for Bonehead Crushers (Crunchers) 2, but another Fiddlers release was chosen instead (Holy Smoke), still who knows what might be in store for future volumes of Ultimate Bonehead?