Thursday, February 18, 2016


(Brad Kohler was gonna do illustrations for these mythical spinners but he backed out due to his real life job taking up too much of his time...sorry about that! HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS...)


When this platter hit the racks in late-'72 the world certainly did get a collective rock rush that would have been equal to the oft-rumored get back togethers of both the Beatles and Snobs combined! Yes, the all time mid-sixties sonic reduction itself, thanks to the efforts of one Andy Warhol,  actually got back together after Lou Reed and John Cale's solo career failures for this platter to tour of some of the best beergardens in the tri-state area and boy are the results a doozy!

Of course Warhol got his friend David Bowie (just coming off a recording slump with HUNKY DORY) into the act and Warhol managed to also get HIMSELF into the stew playing "rhythm guitar and nothing but!" in his own words, but the overall results were exactly what the folk-hating top-40 eschewing glitter glam denizens of the day were looking for. And best of all, with both Reed and Bowie in the acts their upcoming solo albums which undoubtedly would prove to be outright turds given their recent works were definitely put on hold, only to see the light of day on future Cee-Dee box set retrospectives where they pad out the more familiar soundage and hey, why do you think they stick those outtakes and flubs at the end of the disque anyway?

With all of those acts of the day ripping off the Velvets and making hay while the influencers could barely scratch together enough moolah for Lou to buy a jar of wheat germ it was high time that the Velvets did a little ripping back! And fortunately for Lou, he kept his ego firmly in line and let the rest of the group's leading lights (in this case Bowie as well as John Cale, who contributed some dazzling instrumental work that ranks with those viola and organ outbursts that people were still talking about on album liner note covers for years on end) stretch out a bit. Cale's in fine form swooping about with a particularly fierce rage perhaps inspired by a recent argument with Reed, while Bowie remains Bowie, but his vocalese along with twelve-string and sax playing adds yet another dimension to the already rhythmic pace of the music. Sterling Morrison's doubling on guitar and bass provides a strong backbone to the group while Maureen Tucker was back from maternity leave pounding her inverted set and playing tambourine looking a little older and wiser but still girlish enough in that innocence in a sea of decadence sorta way that made us all notice her in the first place.

As for Warhol, he sure has proven that along with his art and film work he can sure be a rock steady musician as well. All those years of practicing guitar for therapy really paid off, and reports from Max's say that the man looked stunning if emaciated stage right playing his Teisco guitar wearing a lead-lined leather jacket with white fur collar.

Actually, the presence of  all those guitars does not drown out the music. Quite the opposite. As with the original Plan 9, the Warlocks and Jamie Klimek's recent incarnation of Mirrors, the stringed things stay in tune (well, mostly) and battle themselves in remarkable displays of cross-frequency feedback splurges as Tucker keeps that steady metronome beat that has characterized their sound to the point where more than a few bands were mimicking it as the years plopped on.

Cale's technological advances have also benefited this reunion greatly. Sure he once again had delved into the Velvet Underground past of the dilruba and viola da gamba giving this album a touch of gothic cringe worthy of MARBLE INDEX, but he had also managed to change the weather with his heretofore undiscovered frequencies as well as finally created that special drum for Tucker which the audience couldn't hear, but feel underlying the beat with feeling rather than sound. Those of us lucky enough to have experienced being subject to the creation of wind and rain as well as a pulsating backbone feeling while listening to this album can attest to one fact...don't bring your stereo set outside or you're bound to get an electric shock!

The album is successful especially for the long-time fans who were the first to understand the power and imagery of the Velvets. If you thought that Cale was the de facto leader of the group and that LOADED was an honest attempt to return the group to the mystical pop fury of the debut then THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (REUNION) will toast your testes more'n you could imagine.

Track selection was soo-perb enough that you kinda wonder why these guys hadda break up in the first place when they coulda been giving us something to buy other than Brewer and Shipley. Starting off side one is Reed plowing through a recent group composition (note: all tracks on this platter are credited to "Reed/Cale/Morrison/Tucker/Bowie/Warhol" no matter who may have written them or sung them or even hummed them in the shower, something that Reed must have regretted given his later attempts to claim credit to everything that appeared) called "Metal Machine Moloch", perhaps the most jarring opening to an album since the Deviants' "I'm Coming Home". It's even more eye-gouging than that, setting the pace for future Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With Wound endeavors that were a good six or so years off anyway. Reed had all of the guitars on this one not forgetting Cale's bass tuned to "C" (to make it easy) and feedbacking while Reed recited some of that homoerotic pervo disgusto stuff that THE PARIS REVIEW was publishing at the time in an attempt to turn Reed into a real literary force and not some street homo. The results are fantab and if you listen while wearing headphones you probably will hear various cuss words tossed into the mix that you can't decipher otherwise.

It's now Bowie's turn as he steps up to the microphone to belt out "Kay, Why?", yet another one of those gender confusion tracks that were all the rage back '72 way. The double entendres abound more than they did on those mid-sixties garage band singles dealing with limousines and hot dogs and even a backdoor padlocker like myself can chuckle at the imagery straight outta FIREWORKS if only that the melody is highly reminiscent of all of those Velvet/Stooges imitations Bowie had and continued to pump into his music when he wasn't channeling Danny Kaye.

Next up is Cale with his main contribution to the album, a ten-minute ode to yet another Scandinavian literary achievement, and although it is not Ibsen it's still as moodily powerful as Cale would get during his early solo period. "Pippi Longstockings" rolls and thunders with Cale's dissonant melody (reminds me of "Lady Godiva" if she were getting treated for Krohn's) and when the thunder and storms start brewing boy, you better have your umbrellas ready!

Flip it over and the real surprises begin. This 'un starts off with a newer Reed composition entitled "Walk on the Wild Side" which was gonna be on his first album but got axed because hey, how could this one get played on mid-Amerigan AM radio what with all of those mid-aged moms listening in? But it fits in fine with the mood of the album and thankfully doesn't end up sounding like some soundtrack for some middle-of-the-night gay bar where the only other guy there's Wally Cox. Following "Side"'s the real treat that I'm sure serious Velvets fans had been waiting for for years. You remember how Reed once said that there were so many versions and additions to "Sister Ray" that it would take a day or so to play them all? Well, here he packs all of those "Sweet Sister Ray" and "Sweet Rock and Roll"'s together into one gooey big ball, calls it "Sister Ray Part 1,537"! And it sounds like that, for it's gonna take at least a good ten years of steady listening to decipher and digest all of those "Sister Ray" nuances and get to the meaty crux. An exhilarating listening is the result, and the use of Tucker's "feeling" drum does add a special dimension to this though be warned that if you don't have your stereo balanced properly and suffer from hemorrhoids this could be an extremely painful experience.

Wayne McGuire's production is even better than the one he did for the STOOGES MEET PHAROAH SANDERS album, and even though the jacket might seem tacky at least it sure looked great standing outta those 1979 flea market bins the way it did. If you only have two albums in your collection and both were released in 1972, keep this one next to Roxy Music.
SLIPSTREAM LP (Polydor England); Woodchopper's Ball-CALDONIA LP (Island England)

Speaking of the Velvets, these are the two groups that Andy Mackay from Roxy Music told me were big up-'n-comers on the "who's gonna be the new Velvet Underground" scene o'er in Blighty, and the mere thought that there was even more'n one band (Roxy themselves) that were bubbling it up like refried beans for the Velvets in 1973 England was something that really got my percolator a poppin'. And these debuts (and as it turns out only albums) by these comparatively obscure acts at least proves that maybe there was something interesting goin' on in the import racks of the day that us dumboid Amerigans didn't know about, but as the old adage goes "Better sorry than late" or something like that.

Slipstream's only longplayer's the weaker of the two but still good in that high school decadence sorta way that had more'n a few suburban slobs smuggling copies of COUNTRY LIFE into the bathroom. Echoes of 1967 London psychedelia echoes through their sound making this quintet the logical extension of such 14 Hour Technicolor Dreamers as Kaleidoscope and perhaps even John's Children, but rhythm guitarist Peter Dillsworthy's lead vocals come off pale (sorta like Jon Anderson of Yes if he had only reached puberty) and the songs aren't exactly anything I would consider memorable. "Eyewitness Report" does have a slight sense of urgency and the group's style, sway and performance does recall what groups who would take Slipstream's sound and gain fame with it a few years later (talking the Only Ones, Television Personalities...), but the lackluster production and lack of urgency all around make this a mere sidebar in proto-punk English rock stylings. For ultra-serious students of the form and nobody but.

In comparison Woodchopper's Ball are just about everything a serious fan/follower of post-Velvets musical development in mid-seventies England could wish for. It's surprising that Eno didn't have a hand in this considering that this sextet comes off as if the guy's cummy fingerprints were all over the thing...from the brash music (which, besides elements of Woody Herman and that Big Band drum sound recalls everything from the VU to the Stooges, Hawkwind, AMM, krautrock in general, Jan Steele, the Philip Glass Ensemble, Seeds and [especially] early Roxy Music when they weren't doing their bo-de-oh-oh nostalgia tux 'n tie schmooze) to the hard overdrive sound that recalls "Sister Ray" played on a stereo switched to "aux" this is the record platter only serious import bin fanatics coulda dreamed of not only then but now.

These six Londoners handle a massive array of gear that dwarfs Roxy's instrumentation, with a wild line of woodwinds (all sortsa saxes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons and even an English horn), violin, guitars both bargain bin cheap and adapted as well as calliope-emulating keyboards and bammified drums making CALDONIA the unsuspecting sleeper of mid-seventies English rock. No definite group leader can be found amidst the six geniuses who make up the ranks of Woodchopper's, but if I hadda narrow it down I would say it was between Vince D'Abreau (vocals, keys, guitar), Edmund Collins (vocals, keys, woodwinds, guitar), Chance Runymeade (vocals, woodwinds, keys), Willie Castellano (vocals, guitar, violin, french horn), Derry Parnes (vocals, bass guitar, tapes) and  Keith Tibbles (vocals, drums, African percussion). Wait, that's the entire gorup wot? It's almost as if there were six Lou Reeds and John Cales in this band and not only were they trying to decide which of them were Reed and Cale, but they were fighting constantly because they hated each other to pieces (and where does Robert Calvert come in?)!

The sound??? Imagine "European Son" on a collision course with "LA Blues" while Debris puts a stranglehold on Terry Riley as Nik Turner referees. If that boring rockcrit hyperbole doesn't jab at'cha then maybe this will---take everything you thought that was totally noble and over-the-top about late-sixties rock experimentation and filter it through the most insane moments of krautrock meets DOREMI/CAPTAIN LOCKHEED/JOY OF A TOY and distill it into the Roxy Music cum first two LPs-era Eno. Then settle back for a wild ride that seems to vindicate all of that (oft scorned) rave that Richard Williams was spouting forth from the pages of MELODY MAKER back in '71 which certainly got him a lotta razz from Chris Welch!

Kinda hard to find (even the Repertoire Cee-Dee reissue goes for mucho dinero on ebay) but don't let that scare you off. Also try to snatch up the rare single version of "Lady Pearl" with the non-LP flipside "Window To Your Libido"! Talk about "metaphysical punk rock"!!!!!
Hampton Grease Band-MUSIC TO HEAT LP  (Straight/Reprise)

Can't say that the curse of the second LP didn't quite strike here, but at least they coulda used a photo for the front cover that wasn't snatched outta the gatefold of MUSIC TO EAT. Still it's boffo listening to this revered Atlanta group in shorter song settings playing a fine post-psychedelic guitar rock that reminds me of those Quicksilver live tapes that Gene Sculatti always told us were much better than the actual releases. Hope the backing of Frank Zappa's own personal tax writeoff label did these guys a lot more good than Columbia did!
MAN RAY LP (Kama Sutra)

I really was expecting a late-sixties reconstituted punk sound coupled with some of the fiercest avant rock heard since FUNHOUSE, but what I did get was mildly surprising. Far from the singer/songwriter stylings of SPIDERS IN THE NIGHT, Lenny Kaye and Richard Robinson do swell with this instant cutout classic that pretty much is one part-NUGGETS, one part Hackamore Brick, and one part "Radio Ethiopia/Abyssinia" making me wonder why this particular doodie never got the heaps of praise dumped on it like it shoulda. It's kinda like those later Count Five albums that Lester Bangs was drooling all over, a mix of teenage pop and free jazz at one point, then a Rolling Stones-styled ballad at another while the whole thing seems to collide into one big Beatlesiggymonksgroovies ball of mad teenage sounds and hot rock experimentation that doesn't poop out on you. Worthy of reissue, or build yourself a time machine and go back to 1974 where you can snatch it up for mere pennies at one of those cheapo record shops with sawdust on the floor!

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