Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band-FRAMED CD (Vertigo UK, burned for me by Mike Snider)

If the Paley Brothers brought back memories of bygone bargain bin days, FRAMED brings back hearty recollections of the import section of most well-stocked Amerigan record shops! And lemme tell you readers (especially you furriners!) that there was a time when (to me) things like import albums were the closest one could come to owning a brick of gold...they were really exotic being made outside of the United States and all with their flimsy (yet laminated unlike the US of A ones) covers and plastic-lined innersleeves and at-times remarkably different from the domestic product artwork (and always confused me that something that was on Capitol or Sire here might be on Harvest there complete with totally different packaging, and who could forget the Import label which reissued loads of European prog goodies [and baddies] that the parent companies wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole!). I used to love gazing at all those unique imports; the Beatles and Rolling Stones collections and ANDY WARHOL'S VELVET UNDERGROUND FEATURING NICO with those pop art lips sucking the Coca-Cola seemed so unreal, and hey, it was in those very same import bins where I first laid eyes on records by such eventual favorites like Amon Duul (I & II), Can and the Deviants, all of 'em to make a LASTING IMPRESSION on me as time would tell.

Not to mention The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I used to see FRAMED all over the import racks back then, mostly because Phonogram here in the USA thought it would be a stiff or something and wouldn't release it. Well, I guess in a world where the likes of John Denver and Melanie were calling the shots and every unwashed woods-dweller with an acoustic guitar was getting signed something like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band wouldn't exactly be entitled to any preferential treatment, but at least Alex's label wised up enough to release followups NEXT and THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM on these shores (and I think TOMORROW BELONGS TO ME as well...however, by the time LIVE came out Atco was handling the SAHB over here). And I gotta credit myself for picking up a cassette of THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM during the summer of 1975 merely on rock press points alone, and you can bet that one became a pretty hefty spin on my rockism-forming playlist, though by the time things like the Velvets and garage rock punkisms began encroaching into my tastes I began to see Harvey as an embarrassing shuck who was a mere remnant of just what was feh with most rock outside the intensely-underground scene. But maybe not enough, as I did list THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND as one of my top spins of December 1975 in the third issue of FUD (early BLACK TO COMM), which came out exactly ten years later.

So here, almost thirty years after the fact I get hold of this burnt CD-R of some album which I truly debated whether or not to buy so long ago, and guess what? I sure wish I bought it, mainly because if I had purchased FRAMED back in my impressionable early zitfarm days it would have made me a better rockism fanatic and helped hone my listening parameters more than Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods ever could, that's for sure! After all these years FRAMED comes off as such a sleek surprise, especially considering how THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM was more humorous, less serious, perhaps over-produced and maybe even lacking in intensity with only a fragment of FRAMED's true rock & roll vision.

If anything, FRAMED reminds me of what the early-seventies "proto-punk" thing that got a whole lotta collectors scouring British flea markets in the eighties was supposed to be about. It has a lot of the drive of Stackwaddy (and like Stackwaddy, this would have fit in well on the Stiff label only a few years later) and kinda sounds like what I thought Killing Floor were supposed to sound like, only I remember the Floor to have been less flexible than SAHB and perhaps more dour in their approach (I'll have to give 'em another spin one of these days...) Heck, I could even rank FRAMED up there with those classic British proto-punks the Deviants and Pink Fairies which wouldn't be that far off base, especially considering how Alex Harvey's whine comes remarkably close to Mick Farren's.

The title track (yes, it's THEE "Framed" and not some title-swipe) is a fine creepy-crawl with equal parts blues, heavy metal and punk (and slightly-changed lyrics), a trio which ya gotta admit makes up the bulk of this seemingly long-forgotten disc. Believe me, I'm not that big a fan of "da blooze" but I find the primitive crunch complete with at-times perverted keyboard playing mighty tasty in this day and age.

"Hammer Song" sounds like a rock take on some old Scottish folk song (y'know, the kinda things Scots-derived Appalacians would sing back in 1700, long before they inbred themselves into hillbillies) translated into seventies techno/taste modes. On par with the Sweet pretty much doing the same thing on "Tom Tom Turnaround" and much better'n Rod Stewart's attempt on that "You're in my heart/You're in my soul" thing that "oldies radio" plays into the ground anymore. Considering how the roots of a lotta Amerigan pop (and especially country) music had its origins in Scottish and Irish down-home hoot, "Hammer Song" is almost like a u-turn back to the source of it all with the past 300 years of knowledge and evolution fully in place!

The SAHB gets into an early-seventies funk-rock groove on "Midnight Moses," a pretty good groove mind you that almost reminds me of something the post-FUNHOUSE Stooges might have whipped up in 1971 only there's a bitta that "heaviness" that had sunk many a group here. Except that with Alex and crew it works mainly because it tones down the garishness of most of these "funky" attempts and leaves the bell bottoms and medallions behind in its attempt to reach HIGH ENERGY NIRVANA.

And as for "Isobel Goudie" (which I take is one of the first of Alex's prostitute paens), it has been suggested that this was Alex Harvey's attempt at the "progressive rock" market (remember, Alex's Vertigo label was also home to Gentle Giant and Jade Warrior not to mention hundreds of other European aerie types serious collectors will pay through the nose for). I can't really see that despite this being a "suite" of sorts. After all, the organ here is pure sixties garage drone. Oddly enough, the second part of the suite resembles this 1969 Plastic People of the Universe track that appears on the People's historical round-up. Heck, there's even a hint of Cale-period Velvets stress and strain here, maybe filtered through Alice Cooper's "Desperado" off the KILLER album which was about a year old when FRAMED was's no surprise that Alex and band opened for Alice on their (SAHB's) first US of A tour since there is a remarkable resemblance between the two acts, not only with their music but their all-out theatrical stage show.

Things do take a bit of a turndown on "Buff's Bar Blues," but perhaps that's because this one sounds close to what about 95% of every other "heavy" blues band was doing at the same time...even prog heavyweights would toss something like this on their albums as a goof take of sorts. The cover of "I Just Want to Make Love To You" at least succeeds with its Indian tom-tom rhythm which almost sounds like it's ready to morph itself into "Pablo Picasso"!

At least by "Hole in Her Stocking" Alex revs it up and doesn't come off like one of those mustachioed blues goombahs who seem to always come from Texas which is strange because Texans oughta know better! Think of it as how Loggins and Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" would come off in that mirror dimesion where the bland and cheaply-calculated would sound brilliant and high energy.

"There's No Lights on the Christmas Tree Mother, They're Burning Big Louie Tonight" is a great twenties/thirties Warner Brothers crime film on the Late Show-nostalgic track, or hopefully a spoof of all that late-sixties BONNIE AND CLYDEderived yowzah that was really big with the LAUGH IN crowd back then. And for a spoof it's a pretty good one reflecting the pop culture-conscious trend in Harvey's future endeavors. And better too, since I thought the similarly minded "Sergeant Fury" on THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM (yes, it's about the famed Marvel Comics Universe character who's been fighting World War II for about forty years awlready!) was a bit of a failure with its strings and MGM musical approach. Funny title and great bo-de-oh-doh here!

Closing the thingie's "St. Anthony" and I wonder just how theological students would take to this mad-screech funk track dealing more with S&M than anything remotely religious (I think). Another hard one to describe, but I would call it a good early-seventies hard-funk scraper almost like the aforementioned "Midnight Moses" screeched out a little more in classic seventies last-track-let's-make-it-one-they'll-never-forget fashion. "St Anthony," for whatever its intentions, is a great closer to what's a much more powerful, knock you over album than I would have dared imagine either then or now.

Mighty fine record that I guess proves there's much more to Scotland than eating haggis. putting on bowler hats and marching through Catholic neighborhoods. Lindsay Hutton should sleep well tonight knowing that his heritage was in fine hands with men the calibre of Alex Harvey putting out albums like this while it seemed the rest of the British Isles were more content flying around stages like Peter Pan while mellotrons oozed an aural equivalent to tree sap. Alex Harvey was perhaps the bestest man to burst out of the land of Scot at least until Rowdy Roddy Piper, and I gotta thank Charles Shaar Murray and Tim Ellison for planting the seed of Harveymania into my brain...Murray with his intriguing piece reprinted in the SHOTS FROM THE HIP collection reviewed on this blog way back in May, and Ellison with his mention of Richard Meltzer's VOICE-piece on Harvey ca. '75 about a month back on his (Ellison's) blog. Talk about mind-&#^$ing! Thanks for it all Murray, Ellison and especially Mike Snider for having the common decency to offer a trade of this in exchange for the latest issue of BLACK TO COMM.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

THE PALEY BROTHERS CD (some Japanese reissue originally released on Sire, burned for me by Jon Behar)

Here's one of those discs that brings back great memories...memories of the GOLDEN AGE OF BARGAIN BINS in the seventies that is, when it seemed as if all of the real hot fifties/sixties rock action that was going on down at your local record shop was happenin' in the cut-out rack! (Maybe if your local store had a good import section there's be a little more to cheer about, that is, if you could afford the at-times stiff prices that were given to Stiff Records!) Anyway, THE PALEY BROTHERS was one of those custom-made platters that seemed immediately destined for the cheap racks...along with the previously-reviewed Lisa Burns album, the Flamin' Groovies (both in their Kama Sutra and Sire incarnations) and (not forgetting) Paley brother Jonathan's previous album output (THE SIDEWINDERS from '72 plus Elliott Murphy's 1976 NIGHT LIGHTS, both on RCA), you just knew it would end up corner-cut, saw-toothed and price reduced more sooner than later. And all of these intriguing albums usually ended up there (along with what seemed like the entire Kama Sutra line from Sha Na Na down through the US edition of The Famous Charisma Label catalog!), though unfortunately a good portion of 'em seemed to end up in bargain bins outside of my immediate area! Maybe I'd chance upon a cassette of something good down the line (though the 8-track bins were the ones filled with the desirable booty and such unobtainable wonders as Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR not to mention the Lord Buckley album that was also on Zappa's Straight label...waaahh!), but looking back this bargain-bin game was a greatly hit-miss affair though I gotta admit it was fun looking through 'em not knowing what you were gonna see (and I did score my copy of Slapp Happy's DESPERATE STRAIGHTS at Musicland in the Eastwood Mall for a mere $3.49, though stoopid me just HADDA pass on the Black Sabbath hits collection on Fontana for half the price...though I wised up enough to get the Pretty Things one [part of the same series] a few years later!)

And these Paley kids put out a great just what the Doc Rock ordered platter too, one of those ingenious things that, like various Tommy James hits of the sainted sixties, could appeal to the teeny-bopper contingent on one had while on the other alla those snooty intellectuals could appreciate the fine production and musical arrangements in order to be "with it" as well. Only problem with this you'd think winning combination was that this elpee just hadda've come out during the dog days of 1977, a time when not only AM rock was being overrun by the dregs of the leftover singer/songwriter and California brigades and disco remakes of "Baby Face," but FM was getting so coked-out that stations like WMMS-FM had to resort to playing the soundtrack from STAR WARS every hour in order to appeal to the boxboy mentality. Heck, the Paleys would probably be considered lucky if they got their not-so-prospective hit single "Ecstacy" (surprisingly not on the album, along with their Ramones-backed EP side amongst other things) played on "rate-a-record" just about everything else out of the great late-seventies hard-edged pop/rock movement, THE PALEY BROTHERS (and the Paley Brothers as well) got wooshed over in the undertow of some pretty lame music that still seems to be rotting away even this far down the line!

But (as you'd expect), the Paleys run all over the competition despite their obvious poor showing in the late-seventies AM pop olympics. And, unlike I was led to believe, this is not a "surf" record per se, but fine, Greg Shaw-approved power-pop that got hefty praise in the pages of BOMP!, but hardly anywhere else. Some of it (like their cover of Mel Tillis' "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing") reminds me of Jan and Dean before they put their baggies on, while other parts sound like pretty good late-seventies AM pop that reminds me of the straight commercial blahdom of the day like, say, the Allessi Brothers or Paper Lace had they gotten hold of Lenny Kaye as a producer and hung out at CBGB for a few weeks...but WAIT!!!!, AM pop of the mid/late-seventies sounded NOTHING like this! Thinking it over, this is what (using my anti-populist rockist elitism to its fullest extent) AM pop would've sounded like had I any say in programming matters...smooth, high-energy rock that was a much purer continuation from the best of the late-sixties/early-seventies AM cream that once you get down to it acted as if Melissa Manchester and Andrea True had never happened, and if Shawn Cassidy and Leif Garrett had been injected with testosterone! Unfortunately it was stuff like THE PALEY BROTHERS that flopped big while cheesy, put-on drek like "Beach Baby" (early-sixties surf nostalgia focused through late-seventies customized van logic) and "Undercover Angel" (not to mention Peter Frampton and his Loretta Young perm) hadda go and "speak" for the reams of all those downed-out zilch-dimensional teenagers I hadda go to high school with! Too bad THE PALEY BROTHERS got little more than a "new Beach Boys" nod and a mention in a Mad Peck cartoon back then, or else there would have been something good for Shaw and his followers to talk about back then, besides punk rock that is!

EC FAN-ADDICT FANZINE (Roger Hill, 2463 Aloma, Wichita, KS 67211 or

It's odd enough when you realize that the fanzine form has survived well into the oh-ohs (though they're certainly not as strong a FORCE as they were even a decade ago) and it's even odder to see that there's a new EC fanzine available in the here and now as well! EC FAN-ADDICT FANZINE is a newly-published 'zine dealing with the EC idiom even this late in the comics game when you thought the subject matter has been exhausted, and as far as trying to emulate the classic EC fanzine titles of the 60s/70s/80s goes, it does a pretty good job even though the modern slickness tends to take something away from the old selectric look of the originals. Of course, when just about everything about EC from the Pre-Trend titles on down the line has been documented and discussed there's really no hard, gripping EC news to disseminate like there used to be when most if not all of the EC people were alive, but that won't stop editor Roger Hill who does some pretty good barrel-scraping in order to give us a read where a few small surprises can pop up here and there.

This ish features an interview with Ron Parker, the guy who put together HOOHAH!, one of the first EC fanzines back when EC was still alive and kicking (in a grave I'm tempted to say, and you can order his new [well, maybe not so new as it came out in 1984 and he's still trying to unload 'em!] BEST OF HOOHAH! collection at 3974 South Coral Court in Byron California if you so desire [zip is 94514] even though I think $25 for a fanzine the size of BLACK TO COMM #18 is really, uh, steep), plus there's a gab with some woman who took painting lessons from "Ghastly" Graham Ingels which I guess is better'n nothing even if the interview deals with heresay part of the time. But once your mind starts a-wand'rin' suddenly it gets perked, like with a piece which queries what the rarest EC title to be released was, plus you get an interesting reprint from a mid-fifties MAD swipe called LUNATICKLE (one of those poor imitations which tend to make me cringe more than laugh, and one which often placed actual MAD reference points...these editors often sneaking doctored versions of actual MAD covers or even Alfred E. Neuman into their pages!) which deals with horror comics, the Comics Code, and a thinly-veiled imitation of William Gaines! A person interested in the whys and wherefores of just about any fanzine (mostly of the old, pre-information highway days) would see the EC FAN-ADDICT FANZINE as a worthy successor to such titles as SQUA TRONT and SPA FON, even though the subject matter in those tended to be "soil-tilled" and "re-tilled" more than the average non-fan could stand. But then again, would it be an EC fanzine WITHOUT any mention of Fredric Wertham???

Speaking of fanzines (and NOT of "soil-tilling!"), there are still plenty of issues of BLACK TO COMM in its current and not-so current form available. The latest is a 162-page wonder complete with a CD (see my July 31 post for more information on this and other available issues) that you can get for ten smackers plus $2.00 p&h. Sure, paying that sorta money would have sent you to the poor-house had this been the age of the original EC (and other) fanzines way back in the fifties, but nowadays it's a trifle amount. C'mon, man does not live by SPIN alone!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I had a long dissertation on the likes of the Troggs, the Paley Brothers and a new EC fanzine that took me about three hours to write just about up and ready to go, though while proofreading it my computer suddenly lost its connection and took the entire post with it. And if you think I'm going to peck out fresh reviews of these items all over in order to give you that promised post, you've got another think coming!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

THE LAST WORD ON "DON RETTMAN" (at least from me)

Contrary to the half-baked musings and opinions of a few people whose lives are so shallow that they have to read certain blogs in order to feel "with it," I would like, in fact, love to state that I am NOT the mysterious "Don Rettman" who has been posting inflammatory items about Jay Hinman on his award-winning Agony Shorthand weblog. True, some of you may doubt it especially after this "Rettman" character linked up this very site on a recent posting (probably because of the criticism of Your Highness Hinman in my previous post), but I swear on a stack of BLACK TO COMM back issues that I am not this mysterious being who has been making life miserable for Our Hero Jay. In my defense, I must honestly state that I have no personal, first-hand knowledge regarding any of the sordid details of which Hinman has been alledged to have participated in and in which he may even practice at this late a date (which frankly is his business and nobody else's, just as long as he's totally ashamed over such bestial acts which probably could still get him arrested in a number of states and local counties). I am not sure as to how this imitation "Rettman" character seems to know all of the intimate details of such a depraved, disturbing lifestyle, but we're all grown up, mature adults and what Hinman chooses to do in the privacy of his own bedroom, stall or cubicle is his own business and his alone! Believe me, I would love to know about all of the disgusting, perverted things this man is alleged to have done/still does for all I know, but unfortunately I am not privy to such information.

Sorry to disappoint all you alternative-minded losers out there. I'll have a REAL post for you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Yes, I'm a few days behind and by now this is nothing but old news which just about EVERYBODY on the planet knows, but Johnny Ramone is dead. And given the fact that Mr. Ramone is no longer with us I thought that (for a change) maybe I should honor the man for what he did, especially considering the faint (and heavy) damning with "praise" that has been heaped upon the memory of Mr. Ramone over the past week. Believe me, I really hate writing obituaries which is why you haven't read too many of them in the past few BLACK TO COMMs (probably because now that I'm getting older and closer to the grave myself, maybe a sense of chill is rolling down my back), but considering some of the half-baked remarks and oh-so-chic asides being made by various self-appointed commentators (and there's nothing wrong with that, just as long as said blabber engages peanut-sized mind before typing away), I thought that maybe I should set aside some quirks of mine and write something decent about the man that at least honors his memory w/o any of the cutesy-pie ca-ca that I've been inundated with as of late.

First off, I gotta admit that I never was a big fan of Johnny or any of the Ramones. I doubt that you could even call me a "fan" in the basest sense...all I have in my collection Ramones-wise are three legit LPs, one cassette (a collection), one bootleg, a few singles and some lives tapes dating from 1975-6. Hardly enough to qualify as being a faithful follower, or even a peruser of the Ramones lifestyle for that matter. In fact, I remember when the Ramones were first making their mark on the teenage psyches of many a kid worldwide...there was some cafeteria-level hubbub in my school as perhaps there was in your circles (given you were old enough), but I never really felt any affinity with regards to their style and what they had to offer. At this point in time, I was only beginning to hone my, er, "listening aesthetics," and the likes of Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Eno and a whole lot of import rock both excellent and so horrid I haven't listened to since those days was taking up a huge portion of my music-related time. The Ramones??? They seemed like one of those instant cut-out groups that I would probably be savoring in two years time when the mode of my music changed from less art to more garage, that is, if they became a one-LP wonder and/or cheap-o bin champions like the Flamin' Groovies. I mean, Television looked enticing and Talking Heads seemed just as interesting as the then-hyped Modern Lovers debut album, but to me the Ramones came off like the stupidest excuse for rock 'n' roll music to offend my sense of propriety!

Of course, this is before I discovered that maybe stupidity and rock 'n' roll proprieties pretty much go hand in hand, and with art rock taking a dynamic slide into the rock pooper-shoot as the decade creeped to an end maybe it was that "stupid" stuff that was what this whole rock game was about! After all, wasn't it that ridiculous fifties rock and pre-adolescent bubblegum music that really spoke for the mass of moronic teens who used to buy those scratchy singles you still find at flea markets this far down the line, at least before those said teens devolved into the stoner fuzzy-lipped boxboy types who used to listen to metal with a passion before going rap? A lotta the prog slosh that made up part of my listening habits suddenly seemed not only incredibly passe but downright evil! I turned away from most of the more, er, refined music of my early-listening days with a passion, and began spending my time listening to not only old garage-band classics and primitive fifties/sixties proto-garage instrumental-type "junk," but all of the new groups that seemed to take these roots and go in whatever direction they chose to, along with varying degrees of Lou and John (and I'm talking Harrison and Cage as well as Reed and Cale) tossed in for superfine results.

Maybe it was then and only then that I really becan to appreciate Johnny Ramone's entire schtick, just like I began to NOT FEEL BAD over having spent my third-grade days listening to the Ohio Express. True Johnny's guitar playing wasn't exactly Frank Zappa's, but it was as good as Lou Reed's on those early Velvet Underground albums not to mention all the $29.95 guitar careening that was happening on those great proto-punk discs that were hitting the cheap bins, and given how I began to see Zappa as some over-praised shuck once I hit the age of eighteen ("Night of the Iron Sausage".....mmmmmmmmph!) it was that "vile" and "uncouth" rock 'n' roll music that the Ramones and their followers created which made all the more sense to me!

It's funny, but after doing a lotta research on the Ramones in the eighties, I came across a number of writeups from their pre-LP days which compare da brudders with the early-Velvet Underground and Johnny's guitar playing with that of Reed's on WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT. Gee, maybe if I had only read these reviews during my formative listening years when the Velvets were beginning to take an ever-so-slightly hold on my being (before bear-hugging it to death) then maybe I would have picked up on them even earlier!

But still, I began to get to the gist of 'em at this post and eventually the Ramones became a band that I...well...liked. It wasn't like I was buying everything with their name on it like I was buying Velvet Underground wares since I couldn't afford that, but it wasn't like I was turning down the occasional flea market find that still adorns my collection. So after all's said and done what I gotta say, I can't regale you with detailed accounts of Ramones fandom nor could I rattle off their discography and innermost thoughts like a lotta you can, but I can sit down, listen to and enjoy the Ramones even this far down the line when they and their music seemed like rock 'n' roll's last hope in an age of light metal and singer/songwriter dreks.

But yet, with his death being only a few days ago, I must complain, complain about the reams of horrid accolades and total crapola being touted by people I thought were supposed to be "fans" of the man, people who I thought were bigger followers of Johnny and the Ramones than I could ever be and who thusly SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!!!! I'm mainly talking about the utter heap of dung that has been placed upon Johnny and his memory via various elements of this internet culture who as usual fell way short in their paens to Johnny, almost to the point of damning him with praise that isn't faint, but perhaps isn't even praise at all! Now, Lindsay Hutton's farewell on his NEXT BIG THING blog was fine enough as I would expect...after all, the man has been writing for himself and others ever since 1977 and he was hip-hip-hooraying it with regards to the Ramones for a longer time than anyone could imagine. But as far as Jay Hinman's blog goes, ferget it!!! Hokay, there is more than a bit of sour grapes involved with me singling him out as you've probably would have guessed, but Mr. Hinman's good-bye was one of the saddest excuses for an obituary of this legend I have yet to come across. "Oh, he influenced Tom DeLonge (whoever that is!) and all you living ex-Ramones better start eating right and ladies, don't get uptight when we complain about those prostate tests!!!!" Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh. I mean, I'm not maniacal over the Ramones true, but seeing the memory of Johnny treated in such a cavalier fashion is enough to make me want to bathe in concentrated Lestoil just to wash that oily coating of condescension away.

The comment box on the post was telling as well. A fellow named John Righter, who seemed like a halfway-intelligent being despite him thinking my "existence" is "pathetic" (hey John, how do you know me anyway??? Don't recall meeting any phony intellectuals as of late!) said that Johnny was one of the few "right-wingers" he liked...I guess if you're the post-hippie-freak total-government control goon-squad type that Righter probably is (yeah, I guess I can dwell into your makeup from your various posts just like you can get me dead to right by reading the musings of a couple unmitigated imbeciles!) then right-wingers would be on your short list, eh? Barry Goubler had an interesting retort about how long it would be before the lefties would start to rag on Johnny's political bent which seemed to open a whole can of worms, and really, I can't think of a better can to open in this day and age! Now frankly, I don't think that voting for "Ge'ogre Bush" as Tim Ellison called him is necessarily a good way to honor his memory (playing Ramones records is!!!), but then again jumping all over the guy for having political views that go against the grain of the so-called accepted young hipster norm has always had this taint of rock elitism, which certainly ain't the good, healthy elitism of Mencken but it's far from the even healthier populism of a Pat Buchanan! Now I don't hate Ellison one bit for his political views just as much as I don't hate Goubler for his (it's just that I probably would have a lot more to agree with Goubler than Ellison, at least from what I can discern), but I gotta say that the last twenty-plus years of neo-communism (for wont of a better term...write in with yours today!) has sure watered down the energy and drive of rock 'n' roll as a truly vibrant force. From that guy in Theolonius Monster (or was it Camper Van Beethoven?) who was disappointed that many of his fans weren't supporting Jesse Jackson (which reminds me of Pauline Kael's shock at Nixon winning a landslide since all her friends were voting for McGovern!) on through the stodgies at the Crass commune who were so adament over people enjoying their music (why, it was the MESSAGE that was dare you buy our wares just for the mere pleasure of it all!), there has been a grim dinge of film covering much of the rock scene thanks to its "leftification," whether it be John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen getting NEW YORK TIMES editorial space as if they were as important as the usual pasty-faces writing for "The Newspaper of Record" (a.k.a. the newspaper of Walter Duranty and Jayson Blair), or your average ranting basement band wearing "MAO MORE THAN EVER!" t-shirts (probably made by Chinese prisoners of conscious). And if you don't think rock 'n' roll on a whole has been the worse for it all these pretentious years, then I guess you can go back to your small clique and enjoy talking to others JUST LIKE YOU at the next li'l cocktail party. Just leave me and the rest of the REAL PEOPLE who live outside your boho environs alone, please?

Anyway, back to the comment box. As far as idiotic comments regarding the death of Johnny Ramone and his politics go, this year's Karen Quinlan award definitely should be given to one J. Neo Marvin for the following astute response: "As for his politics, who cares? He didn't write the lyrics anyway." With insight such as this, I guess we have years of exciting and wonderful music (not to mention blog comments) to look forward to from the "man."

I mentioned that yeah, maybe I had some sour grapes I wanted to squash with regards to Hinman and his pals...after all, even I will admit that I'm a petty, vindictive (make that JUSTICE-SEEKING) man who never gives up on grudges, and if that means I'm going to stew in my hate until it destroys me, I guess that's better than taking it with a stiff upper lip and putting on the ol' Ghandi routine. However, I don't have any sour grapes to direct towards Robert Barry Francos. After all, he seems like a decent guy who put out the great FFANZEEN in the seventies and eighties, and that fanzine deserves an award for lasting so long and with such quality despite being a second-stringer (as opposed to a nth stringer like BLACK TO COMM). However, I hate to admit it but even Francos had to go out of his way in praising Johnny by damning him even stronger than John Righter would have dared..."Yeah, Johnny Ramone was an asshole. A fascistic, right-wing fanatic who was anti-gun control and was a big supporter of GW Bush, the Iraqi invasion, etc. But he was also OUR right-wing fascist." Oh, now he's not just a "conservative" or a "right-winger," but an actual wool-dyed fascist! Well, if this was the case then GOOD FOR HIM (after all, a student of history like me has come to realize that maybe the Spanish brown shirts were a WELCOME RELIEF from the Stalin-backed communist forces of the day, not to mention their "useful idiot" lackeys from England and the United States). But hey, I guess if you've committed ONE sin againt "the people" you've committed 'em all. OK, I am against gun control for the same reasons I'm against drug control, FCC control, government control (of your money) and a whole buncha other controls out there that are imposed on freedom-loving types by people who act as if they know more than enough about us than we do ourselves, and believe-it-or-not but I still think that the Iraq Invasion as well as most military endeavors are useless and more harmful than good in the long run (as Thomas DiLorenzo recently wrote, if a peaceful solution to slavery was worked out the nation would be a much better place today). Not only that, but I plan on spending November 2 hiding under the bed which is what I think anyone who cares about this world of ours should do. So I guess that puts me in the same bag as Johnny Ramone? Well, considering Johnny, and considering the back-patting alternative lefties out there (wow, what an alternative!!!), it would be a much better sack to hop into.

Of course I'm not the kinda guy who goes around pegging bands as "good" or "bad" necessarily because of their politics or lack thereof. After all, I can like the Ramones even if Joey was a kneejerk liberal and Johnny wasn't. Now, it may be hard for me to listen to a band that goes way beyond the pale as too many do, but if I eschewed groups for even straying slightly from the norm, then I wouldn't be listening to anything!!!. But hey, if you're going to go on hating certain rock types (no matter how much you go on saying you love them anyway) strictly for their conservative/right wing politics, then you're probably going to be hating a whole lotta people and not only the obvious ones like Sammy Hagar and Ted Nugent (who I only dislike because they perform such low-energy music!), but John Cale, Sid Bishop, Edgar Breau, J. D. King, Tom Hazelmyer, Eno (well, he is a staunch anti-communist so I'll give him credit for that!) and a few others whom I'll probably remember about a minute after I post this. As far as rock scribing goes, I don't think that Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, while not exactly Eagle Forum cheerleaders, are Che Guevara enthusiasts by any means, though one of my favorite fanzine editors, Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL fame, can definitely be counted on as being on the side of the right (though we did have a friendly discussion after the death of Ronald Reagan, he saying that Reagan was great as far as his role in the end of the Soviet Union went amongst other things while I poo-pooed him as an over-rated cornball who expanded the government while claiming to limit it...yes, you can disagree in a fine, amiable manner!). What really makes me laugh over all this is that the standard lumpen lefties get all shocked and discombobulated over someone who has one foot in hipster credentials yet also has strong non-left convictions...they don't know how to react!!! Reminds me of the time Justin Raimondo was on Bill Maher's old POLITICALLY INCORRECT television show, and he got Maher and his cooler-than-thou guests (including Dweezil Zappa) all stymied because yeah, Raimondo's a fag, but he's a right-wing libertarian fag with ties to Pat Buchanan! Kinda threw the typically one-dimensional views of Maher and company into a tither!

As you've probably guessed by now, this post was nothing more than an excuse not only to twist a few knives into some old enemies but to toot my own political horn with regards to a couple of things that've been bugging me as of late. Just kidding...I intended and only intended to honor Johnny Ramone, and in doing so I had to airwick out some of the putrid flatulence that a number of self-anointed swabs who came to not praise, but bury Johnny, have sputtered about these past few days. Anyway, I guess I've said way more than enough, but I'm glad I said it, and frankly I'm glad that Johnny went out of this world a little "cooler" than his fellow bandmates. Now, I don't know all of the Johnny stories that may be flying around, but I think he was a lot more decent than Joey, who once wandered around some college campus banging on doors asking if he could get high, or Dee Dee who made extra money on "53rd and 3rd" and ended up looking like a malnourished ghost even more ragged than your standard low-class jeeter at the end. Maybe Johnny could have stooped to lows such as this and maybe not. At this point, God's already judged him so we'll leave it at that. Let's just say that Johnny will be forever etched into my mind as that guy with the leather jacket and 1966-era long hair (in an age of feather-cuts and mullets) who I only thought was just a year or two older than I was (while he was actually pushing thirty!), cutting a fine path and (yes) playing a mean guitar all the while. Just like Alfalfa will always be the kid with the cowlick and Bob Denver the sailor-capped red-shirted Gilligan. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that, no matter how much the arbitors and people looking out for "our best interests" complain.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Hanuman Sextet-CONFUSING THE DEVIL CD-R(Rent Control, try Cadence)

The virus that infected my computer a few weeks back (with no relief in sight!) somehow screwed up me being able to link various sites of worthiness, such as Cadence's on-line catalog where you can go to buy this and other Rent Control wares amidst a wide array of desperately-needed booty. Too bad...I guess for now you'll just have to "dial up" "Rent Control Records" or "Cadence" on your favorite search engine, and you better throw something like "avant garde jazz" in there somewhere just so's you get some righteous response. Anyway, avid readers of my BLACK TO COMM fanzine'll remember a "gang-review" of a couple of Rent Control releases in the latest issue, specifically those by a duo of current free-improv jazz acts with names as mind-bending as Idiophonic and Freedomland. Both of these aggros seem to be pointing towards a new direction in jazz, one of an even-newer avant garde bent that takes its cue from where the seventies free players left off, going in an even more skewered and ultimately engaging direction if your mind can fathom that!

Idiophonic are a trio with woodwinds, percussion and a sampler that play an even brighter take on seventies avant accomplishment, in the "classical" as well as "jazz" realm, while Freedomland are an amalgam of old and new players who hearken back to the late-seventies jazz collectives like Air who were making a bit of a splash in jazz circles thanks to the ever-budding "loft scene" which seemed to almost be a "last gasp" for the fertile underground of jazz that was documented on a vast array of discs easily and no-so available these days, the five-album series WILDFLOWERS on the Douglas label amongst them.

Joining this impressive selection of new jazz pioneers is the Hanuman Sextet...usually billed as the Hanuman Ensemble this group captures the free splatter mix of jazz and serious music like Idiophonic while searching amongst the outer-reaches (with a few trips into a rock-y funk-y groove) like Freedomland. And not surprisingly, both Freedomland and the Hanuman Sextet share a member in percussionist Dee Pop (yes, the same one who made a big name for himself as a member of the post-no wave band the Bush Tetras in 1979), who not surprisingly is the guy who's booking the Sunday Evening avant jazz shows at the CBGB Lounge. Also, not surprisingly, both the Freedomland and Hanuman Sextet CD-Rs were recorded live at the Lounge, and though Idiophonic weren't they have played the stage before which, true, does make it an "all in the family" affair, but this is one form of nepotism that I certainly approve of in that it helps categorize things for anal-retentive me even more!

Using a wide array of bizarro instrumentation (shofar [!], lotar [???]) along with gear that's less esocteric but still strange enough for the free jazz idiom (lap steel guitar, electric harp, banjo...), the Hanuman Sextet create "soundscapes" (for wont of a better hippie term) akin to something from side two of Sun Ra's THE SOLAR-MYTH APPROACH VOL. 1 thanks to the harp playing of Mia Theodoratus, formerly of Mia's Groovy Little Harp Band! In fact, the reliance on stringed instruments and electronics (shofarist/saxophonist Andy Haas being the only horn player in the bunch) gives this disque an even more outer-worldly essence than even Ra at his most outer-spaceist could.

When Haas plays his alto he comes off with a weird and pleasing vibrato that sounds kinda like a cross twixt Albert Ayler and Steve Mackay, while the use of stringed instros being plucked and strummed gives one the impression of a Japanese koto band played by the Marquis Chimps. Yeah, I know that such comparisons are strictly verboten in the world of jazz/snob critiquing, but you gotta remember that I'm writing about this stuff through a dunce/suburban standpoint (ie. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT JAZZ I LEARNED THROUGH CREEM MAGAZINE), and being naturally bigoted towards what I would consider non-pretentious tastemodes (at least as far as avant-jazz goes) I would say that this was a far better aesthetic than the ones all those neo-hippies at DOWN BEAT used to have back when I was reading that hallowed periodical in the seventies! (Sorta reverse-snobbery true, but it does make for a pleasant change.)

I'm no expert as far as jazz goes and never claimed to be. I'm more or less that old doofus who said, while looking at the painting of the nude lady, "I know what I like!!!," and I gotta admit I like this platter with it's mix of free jazz, obscuro late-seventies no wave moves, "world music" (for lack of a better term) and the classical experimental, and I think I'll go out on a limb and actually proclaim (given I don't even know who or what is reading this blog, or how many of you are out there) that if you've read BLACK TO COMM magazine o'er the years and if you have musical tastes similar to the ones I've touted throughout this blog, then YOU TOO will probably enjoy and cherish this CD-R as much as I think I am going to as the years roll by. In some ways it's surprising but others not that I'm probably listening to more avant jazz these days than avant rock, and even with the hot crop of underground rock goodies coming out (see past BLOG TO COMM entries) one comes across there's still plenty room for fire music in yout collection, a sound which I must admit makes more sense than a lotta the drivel that's out there vying for your precious attention and money, dontcha think???

Friday, September 10, 2004

Patty Waters-YOU THRILL ME CD (Water, PO Box 2947, San Francisco CA 94126)

I've been interested in this jazz lady's recorded output ever since I read an in-passing yet power-packed reference to her in Lester Bangs' YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO BAND album review in a 1971 issue of ROLLING STONE long ago (I believe this now-legendary review is available on-line easily enough, or you can probably get hold of a reprint in one of those old STONE paperback collections with a bit of effort). After a few years of extreme anxiety over not being able to hear Miss Waters gleep, yelp and moan the infamous Folkie Anthem of 1964 "Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair" (Water's as-yet unheard screaches and moans even permeating my dreams, which goes to show you just how obsessed I can get with regards to unheard booty!), I finally did the smart thing and placed an ad in GOLDMINE for such wares, these being the way-pre-ebay days. I got about ten responses (which is ten more responses than I got asking for tapes of Cleveland first-wave underground bands placed in an early 1980 issue of THE CLEVELAND EXPRESS) and since then...well, my life wasn't improved or changed for the better or anything along those lines but I finally did get a chance to hear PATTY WATERS SINGS in its full early avant garde cheap studio glory and that was good enough by me!

Anyway here's a new collection of ne'er before released Waters which fits in well with those of you entranced by not only her two ESP platters but the fantastic creepy-crawl of that duet she did with up-and-comer Amy Sheffer on the Savoy Marzette Watts album. It's a pretty good doozie as well, starting off with a 1964 beer commercial (!) up through some demo tracks for Columbia (produced by Tom comment!) on and on through a variety of nice ESP-y thingies that remind me of the way the early avant garde of jazz had this soft, extremely spaced-out sound (witness the Jeanne Lee/Ran Blake album) which stood as an opposite to the sonic explorations of the time, yet complimented it perfectly. Believe me, listening to Patty's breathy voice moan a could-get-stale standard like "Georgia on my Mind" is every bit an esoteric, transcendental (to get hippie about it) experience as listening to her stranglulations on "Black"!

Those of you expecting a Yoko Ono yodelfest will be in for a letdown, but if you're impartial to the soft as well as the hard then YOU THRILL ME will satisfy you plenty. Music to soothe the savage breast, and speaking of breasts you should see the photo of Patty on page ten of the enclosed booklet! I guess there are now more than a few ways that we can compare Patty and Yoko, but for the sake of decency I'll forego any more comments...use your own avid imaginations!

(Booklet notes are as good as we've come to expect during these past few decades of CD exhumations, including musings from Masaki Batoh of Ghost [see yesterday's post] as well as long-silent hero Byron Coley [who tells about this concert where he was sitting next to Patti Smith and she wouldn't stop yapping about Waters!]. And to top it all off, there are even a few eye-opening words from Miss Waters herself popping up as well! It's a hoot reading her tell all of us info-starved maniacs about a number of associations with everyone from the likes of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to...Timothy Leary??? [Well, at least she stayed at his estate!]. A rilly nice package to accompany this fantab disque, and y'know, sometimes I do get stuck with the ol' wordage when trying to think up new ways to express pleasure over new recordings of substantial worth, so for now let me just say...good job and leave it at that!)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Various Artists-THE NIGHT GALLERY CD (Alchemy Japan, available through Eclipse Records)

GHOST (Drag City, also available through Eclipse)

Believe it or not, but if there was just about any place on the planet where I would like to be at this moment, it would probably be Japan! Yes, I mean it!!! Now, when I was a lot younger the place I would have wanted to be the most would have been Cleveland (mostly because of their two independent stations not to mention the PBS one that used to run old movies on Saturday night as well as their budding underground rock scene natch!) or New York City for the same reasons minus the stations (NYC TV in the seventies was comparatively dullsville next to Los Angeles' [even Robot Hull admitted that!], although El Lay's music scene wasn't as hep as En Why's...ya gotta trade off some things y'know!) but nowadays I wouldn't want to be caught dead in either place unless there's some major upheaval going on (like the public execution of Anastasia Pantsios or something along those lines!). In fact, I don't know if I even wanna be caught dead in the United States of Amnesia at this time...face it, them thar states ain't just what they were back forty, fifty, even five years ago and most of the people here are dummies and dullards who are either too led around by the nose-ring to the point that they actually believe the patented LIES they've been fed by their oily leaders both spiritual or political, or else they're trying to outdo each other in re-creating Paris 1929 right in the middle of their local art gallery! Let's face it, America's had it, and while I'm at it so has Europe and a good portion of the rest of the world which doesn't leave me too many places which I can inhabit in peace!

Except Japan that is. Yeah, I've heard all of those horror stories about how the place is one big sex crazed mass of decadence where any blonde on the street's liable to get her mammaries mauled by horny Sony execs, but I guess that if you're in the right place at the right time (and are rich enough to afford the highly-priced wares you can get for a fraction of the cost at Big Lots) it's a pretty nice country to be in. Besides, I'm sure Sodom coulda been a fun place for the family if you knew just where to go, but anyway Japan seems to be one of the coolest places on the planet once you feel your way, I don't mean that!

And where I would want to go to while in Japan are the places where the bands that appear on THE NIGHT GALLERY CD compilation are playing! As you may have known from even a cursory spin through your fave search engine, Japan has had a fairly interesting underground rock scene that rivals anything found in Ameriga or Europe from the sixties onwards, and as you'd expect most of it has remained buried even in Japan and (if you can believe it) Japanese underground rock is even more obscure than the Iron Curtain clandestine rock revolutionaries of the same era as well as NOW, with shards of information only coming to light within the past ten or so years. From Les Rallizes Denudes to Friction to all those PSF bands onwards, Japan has had their share of good, fair, bad and dire underground aggregations just like the rest of us, and if you think I'm going to be touching on anything even remotely fair or dire on this post then you've been reading the wrong blog all these months, podner!

I mentioned THE NIGHT GALLERY before in these web-pages, and although I've had this one for well over six months by now I figure I better review it for you (I originally was going to write it up for the next BLACK TO COMM fanzine, but who knows when that'll come out!) before it's too late to capture any of you reader's imaginations or pocket books for that matter. THE NIGHT GALLERY encapsules what I would call the current post-Rallizes Denudes Velvet Underground-inspired Japanese scene...y'know, given how obscure Les Rallizes Denudes were even in Japan (despite being together for almost thirty years straight even beating out the Flamin' Groovies for underground longevity!!) it seems as if there were a number of bands that have taken the Denudes' early-Velvets image and extrapolated on it (now listen up, this is important!) WITHOUT succumbing to all of the sick pratfalls that have plagued way too many of these new (post-REM/U2) Velvets wannabes who took the introspection and cute movements from "I'm Sticking With You" to heart while shucking all the hard putsch and HIGH ENERGY that made up a huge portion of the just-post Velvet drive of everyone from the Stooges to Modern Lovers long before the whole Velvets reason-for-being in underground rock was run way into the ground. (I mean, in 1972 it was brave and unique for a rock singer like Jonathan Richman to have short hair and sing about being straight...fifteen years later his spawn just looked all the geekier for it!) I couldn't say this about anybody else, but Japanese rock of this stratum totally zones me on all levels!

LSD March starts off the CD, and they're kinda like a weird cross between Les Rallizes Denudes, the Deviants and Mirrors (second track starts off like one of Mirrors' old slow ballads, say, "I've Been Down," with a mournful violin solo ending the proceedings). They have a CD out that Eclipse (who seem to have all the best Japanese releases on the market available at fair prices) probably carries, and I might be able to buy it if just enough of you blog readers put out for a few back and current issues of BLACK TO COMM (hint!). And y'know, it's fantastic hearing something that's high energy these days and realizing that it's contemporary and not some thirty-year-old wonder from what seems like a totally different world! Doodles is a two-piece all-gal band that also seems to have the Mirrors take on early-Velvet Underground drone and power, sounding like a rock band I would have dreamed about with alarming frequency back in 1979. What I like about them is that they can play gentle with their beautiful soft femme vocals and use the Velvet template like the best bands of the seventies did (before the eighties reduced it all to cutesy-pie drek) yet still rock out in that patented BLACK TO COMM way where inner-fortitude and using the materials at hand to create rock as art as energy not necessarily with volume or crunch but with spirit means a whole lot more than the superficial applications of punk watermarks in making a sound that doesn't necessarily capture anything other than the utter vapidness of the musicans at hand. (Which is why John Fahey had always rocked out much harder than your favorite stuffed-crotch hard rock showoff act ever could.) Besides, Doodles are the right race (Asian) and the right sex (femme) and both of these are fine attributes in my book! (And while I'm at it, I think the one with the pageboy hair's cute in her own natural beauty way...she has a strange appeal even though most of you would probably think her a goof!)

Mimi No Koto have a certain late-sixties pop aura, using various 35-year-old moves in their Velvet-y make up the same way Alice Cooper did on their first few albums. However, their entire sound is still firmly planted on Velvets terra and in fact sounds like a toned-down LSD March. Chouzu have a femme vocalist and reminds me of Canadian bedroom band the Shangs (ex-Simply Saucer) with their introspective manner. Very restrained, almost like a traditional Japanese version of rock & roll and I don't mean like those geishas entertaining Willie and Joe doing fifties pop on their kotos and banjos but old Nipponese elements transformed into modern rock 'n' roll (you read correctly!) with electric instruments playing sparsely utilizing silence itself as part of the overall makeup.

After Chouzu's calm, almost Nagasa Ni Te-ish rock Up-Tight come off like the bomb was dropped right on your head! This bunch (with guitarist/vocalist Aoki the only constant member since their 1992 formation) are more or less a "brother band", acolytes of Les Rallizes Denudes taking a lotta ideas amd energy from Mizutani and company, and all I gotta say is that if we can't have a Rallizes Denudes anymore at least we can have an Up-Tight who are just as good! (There's a great though mostly-in-Japanese Les Rallizes Denudes website out there as well as one for Up-TIght where you can download a lotta their music in case you wanna give it a try before plunking down the lucre, or wanna make your own CD-R if you so 'em out because both will engross you for hours! Up-Tight's website'll also link you up to their own Velvet Underground page which is worth your while even if Japanese is your tenth language!) Up-Tight's 13:44 contribution to THE NIGHT GALLERY is "Sweet Sister," which I could safely say is perhaps this group's signature song. With a pounding "Sister Ray" backbeat and acid guitar leads worthy of Sid Bishop (not to mention more late-sixties hard-crunch guitar moves than you'd ever remember), "Sweet Sister" is only a taste of what you will be in store for when you check out the rest of Up-Tight's easily available (via Eclipse natch!) booty. And the best thing about this (along with the rest of the wares here) is that it's all happening in the HERE AND NOW and not some faded memories of a movement that you unfortunately missed out on first-hand. I mean, THE NIGHT GALLERY flashes me back to the late-seventies, when I figured out that sure, the Velvets (who had become more or less demi-rock gods to me) weren't around anymore, but there were these other cool bands like Patti Smith, the Flamin' Groovies and (yup!) Talking Heads who were almost as good so why fret? THE NIGHT GALLERY reminds me of them days when this high-energy fire was blazing through every moment of my waking being (and dreams at night) and I couldn't shake this passion I had for the Velvet Underground, sixties garage rock and these new seventies underground groups out of my system, and if this makes me a middle-aged virgin holed up in mommy's house who writes about this stuff as it I were just discovering it, so be it!!!! It sure comes off a lot better'n being the leader of a flaccid San Francisco alternative geek band or a SD blogger who loves to throw taunts of "hypocracy" (whatever that means these days!) while posting on about the "same groups" himself as if his belief and love of certain musical acts is above reproach and mine is mere soil tilling! Yeah, and I end up being tagged the evil reactionary (which to me is an oxymoron anyway, and a pretty moronic one at that!) repetitive fanzine/blog geek of all time!

Yeah, I'll never be able to get any of that out of my system no matter how long I live (y'see, I'm a big fan of JUSTICE, and to be totally frank about it I don't think I ever got a shard of it in my life!), but enough of that and THE NIGHT GALLERY for now...there's another Japanese group that I've also ignored for way too long who have a whole batcha easily-obtainable disques
(again, try Eclipse). They're called Ghost and they have a whole bunch of CDs out, some on Drag City and some on other labels, but if you want 'em bad enough you know where you can go! Ghost have been around for awhile, in fact I remember reading about 'em in a variety of nineties 'zines (by this time they were ashamed to call themselves "fanzines") and ignoring 'em just like I did with most of these Japanese wonders (though I did play and sorta enjoyed the first High Rise album!). Well, maybe I should have listened to the geeks for once, because GHOST and Ghost are fine entries into the Japanese rock & roll sweepstakes, and while I think they'd easily be washed away by the tide of an LSD March or Up-Tight in a battle of the bands they could beat most of their occidental competition all hollow!

Yeah, there are some moments here that remind me of "early-seventies introspective moosh" that you still hear on "classic rock" stations from here to Patagonia, but I gotta admit that Ghost do a better job at it than, say, the early Jethro Tull whom I'm sure some bozo would wanna compare this to. (I'm thinking of "Ballad of Summer Rounder," where at least the flute isn't of the heavy-breathing variety...maybe this could pass as one of those obscure British demos that collectors would pay upwards of $2000 for???) Ghost start out fine on their debut with a Velvets-drone track that sounds like something out of a 1970 German garage band's set list, but the reliance on acoustic numbers does lower the energy levels a tad. If I had to compare Ghost to anything it would be PARADIESWARTS DUUL, although it isn't that driving. Still, I highly recommend Ghost even with their softer takes on the new Japanese style...they may be acoustic and folky and instant douse for many of you readers out there, but they can put enough electricity into their gear to create a bit of a stir that'll shake you out of your alternative doldrums faster than you can say "Matador Records!"

So that ends my little rock 'n' roll travelogue to Japan, land of the rising underground band! It's amazing that here in the mid oh-ohs there can be a rock scene as vibrant and vivid as this, producing all of these fine groups who sound just as well-versed in the "aht" of garage band erudition just like all of our favorite save-the-world acts, so I guess that after all's said and done we can rejoice in the fact that there remains a place that we can get excited over even this late in the rock 'n' roll game! And y'know, if I were some independently wealthy pampered trust-fund kid type like J. Paul Getty III I'd jet set my way to Nippon right now and check out all these groups, have fun with 'em and even date that gal in Doodles, and sure I'm just another mid-Amerigan slob who can barely afford these CDs, but I can dream can't I???

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Gee, aren't you thankful for the modern miracle of internet? Now you don't have to wait ten years between issues of BLACK TO COMM to read my opinions on a wide variety of recorded wares anymore...nowadays all you have to do is "dial up" (to use Wayne McGuire's now thirty-five-year-old term) my blog and read my usually witty and ascerbic reviews as fast as I can poop them out! Enough self-satisfying dribble, here are a number of recent and not-so items that I've been playing a lot or a little of as of late, and I figured that maybe there was just ONE person out there who would be intersted in reading this stuff and if you're that guy....AIN'T YOU A LUCKY DUCK!!!!!

The Velvet Underground-SCREEN TEST: FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE FALLING SPIKES (Dom 001 Japanese bootleg)-Here's a direct dupe (with added bonus tracks) of an LP that came out in the mid-eighties during the sudden mini-rash of Velvet Underground booty. You may remember those times way back when it seemed there must have been at least twenty Velvet Underground albums, EPs, singles, picture discs etc. of questionable legality making the rounds, just begging you for your hard-fought welfare check money. (By the way, the correct saying is "A fool and his money are soon parted," though maybe they just say it different elsewhere on this planet. However, considering the "person" who made this comment recently, in this case I would say the old adage should now be "A STOOL and his money are soon parted!") Most of these discs were pretty much useless if you've been in on the game for awhile, they being dupes of earlier masterpieces or zilch-generation live tapes that sounded icky upon vinylization etc., but this one at least seemed interesting. Alledgedly put out by one John Balance (who I think was in one of those pagan British bands...they all are pagan come to think of it) using tspes that were donated by Thurston Moore (ex-Coachmen, see BLACK TO COMM #25...please!!!!!!!), SCREEN TEST was unique in that it tried to capture the very early, anarchistic Velvet Underground feeling and sound back in their early Warhol days when their shifty, under-the-sheets style was still in force. With soundclips from Warhol films (including dialog from some early-seventies post-Velvets period flick...the one about women's lib that got all the feminists undie-bundled) and John Cale describing his vast array of esoteric instruments (and plans for creating a music that could change the weather!), how could you go wrong. Looking back, this bootleg was one of my favorite illegal recording pleasures of 1985, a year which I remember as being a rather good one for bootlegs altogether.

Some enterprising Japanese (who understand the pure nature of the early-Velvets mystique as some current aggregations like LSD Marsch, Uptight and Doodles will lead you to believe) have reissued SCREEN TEST on digital disque, and guess what? It sounds like they had someone tape the album on a cheap Cetron cassette using a Zayre's stereo unit (bought on sale for $29.99 in 1972...real jeeter stuff!) which must account for the extremely low-fi sound. Well, it's nice to know that at least some CD-generation people have a hankerin' for the old Moxie days of cheaply-pressed wonders...I always liked that stuff myself, but given the better-sounding sources available the bootleggers could have easily re-built this album with fresh tapes making it sound pretty crystal clear. The music (I'll have to admit) deserves it, from the mad clang of "The Fourteen-Year-Old-Girl" to that wonderful, oriental-like sounding melody (which evolves into a 1957 instrumental number!) from the CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack. Still nice for the music extant and the ideas behind it.

Tim Buckley-STARSAILOR CD (Enigma/Straight)-This disc has been getting a lot of revivalist hubbub as of late and guess what? For once this re-found interest is warranted for STARSAILOR, Tim Buckley's infamous stab at a new avant garde rock back in 1970, is every bit as good as even the wankiest of rock bloggers would lead you to believe. And even, as I've said I was one who was more than interested in giving this platter a listen to after reading former Buckley lead guitarist (and future DOWN BEAT editor) Lee Underwood's impassioned article on Buckley in a 1977 issue of Underwood's internationally-reknown jazz flopsheet, mostly because at the time I was a big Frank Zappa nut and wanted to know more about anything associated with him even if it was Tim Dawe. Luckily enough, in August 1978 I finally found a used copy of not only STARSAILOR but Buckley's final Elektra outing LORCA in a Cleveland Heights used record shop, and naturally both of these discs were welcomed with open ears once I got home and slapped 'em on the ol' turntable. LORCA was fine enough even though only side one was what you would call avant garde jazz-derived (the flip was just more of Buckley's introspective West Coast rock folk which didn't interest me as it seemed too much in that jazzy Joni Mitchell vein---in fact I recall a critic in I believe STEREO REVIEW comparing her oft-praised '79 MINGUS album to STARSAILOR!), but as for the other album... Well, it was yeah, kinda like, er, pretty nice and all and, yeah, I like it I guess...but frankly it didn't have that much of an overall effect on me. But then again, there were plenty of records I would now swear on a stack of back issues as to their ultimate greatness that just didn't zone me out on first spin back then, so I gave STARSAILOR another chance. Then yet another chance a few years later. Maybe it was the lousy sound (groove damage?) that made it so unenjoyable, but later on I got hold of a dee-jay copy thinking it would sound crystal clear (I mean, how many radio stations played it???). Guess what...the sound on this was pretty bad in itself as well!

There's a post of mine a few months or so back which mentions how I wouldn't mind hearing a CD of this thinking it would at least present the music as it was originally intended to be heard, and thankfully I got hold of this by-now obscure CD reissue just to ease a bit of the curiousity that's been eating at me for awhile. And you know what (to coin a phrase)'s better than I expected. Yeah, there's more than enough early-seventies sophisticado-pop here to date this straight to the days of relevant comic books and the inevitable hippie backlash, but unlike Frank Zappa and like fellow Straight Records labelmate Alice Cooper it comes off much better than one would hope to expect. Buckley's band, besides regulars Underwood and bassist John Balkin, now contained former Mothers Bunk and Buzz Gardner, who outside of the Zappa freak-mill milieu sound like halfway decent free jazzers, nowhere in the same class as any of the serious guys, but still fine even though their West Coast bop slips are showing. Odd time signatures and weird almost FUNHOUSE-ish funk grooves add to the free-rock charm of it all, as does the general esoterica (silent movie horror pipe organ, multi-tracked voices on the title cut used to brilliant effect...). It's no surprise that the general listening audience took to Frank Zappa but not the greater talents he was tax sheltering during the '69/'70 season (besides Buckley, Captain Beefheart and pre-burst Alice Cooper), because this, like the Stooges, Yoko Ono and the Hampton Grease Band, was just too good and too wired for general mass consumption. It's funny...but a few observers during those days (Richard Robinson comes to mind) couldn't wait to tell all of us just how it was going to be this music (along with the Velvet Underground, MC5 and Flamin' Groovies) that was going to take the world by storm in the upcoming decade, a prediction that was about as on-target as the one from the same time stratum that said libertarianism was destined to be the dominant philosophy of the right wing!

Hey, are there any tapes, records or CDs of Buckley's just-post STARSAILOR band with Emmett Chapman on electric stick floating around? This was from a time when Buckley was somehow prohibited from performing live and had to book himself clandestinely into small clubs where the audience's reaction to his avant rock were even more confused! Also, check out your old ROLLING STONE's for a live review of Buckley ca. STARSAILOR where STONE, in their typically befuddled way, can't come to grips with Buckley's new direction. (Also, there's a Buckley TV special that appeared on KCET in Los Angeles from this period [and a tape of it flying around...there are also KCET appearances from Captain Beefheart and {yawn!} Frank Zappa from those days] which that station should DVD for our musical hunger dontcha think???)

Kali Z. Fasteau-ONENESS (Flying Note)-I happened to pick up a number of CDs by Kali Zusann Fasteau Garrett over the past month, and this one's her latest (still working my way through the others, which aren't quite connecting with me at this time perhaps because I get easily preoccupied with other things that divert my attention). You may be familiar with Fasteau through the ESP LP she did with her now-deceased hubby Donald Garrett (THE SEA ENSEMBLE) and though that one never did 100% gel (too percussive-y ethnosplatter for me) I gotta admit that I like this recent disc which also takes the spirit of the sixties "fire music" scene and continues on with the same style and unmitigated energy that drew me to freedom jazz after more than enough rants about it in the pages of CREEM. Some of this does recall the better moments of mid-sixties ESP-dom (Guiseppe Logan comes to mind as do Burton Greene and Bob James on his infamous avant garde trek for that label) as well as the late-sixties/early-seventies over-the-top material that continues to shred braincells even to this day (Alan Sondheim?!?!), and even though Fasteau is the mistress of a whole slew of ethnic instruments and styles this doesn't come off like the soundtrack to a television yoga demonstration. Pretty driving music which transcends a lotta genres w/o succumbing to "World Music" cliches, thank goodness. (I caught this woman at the CBGB Lounge via cybercast playing with legendary free drummer Art Davis about a year ago...there was someone else helping but I didn't catch the name...and Fasteau was in fine form playing cello like she was attempting to saw it in half with her bow!)

Zolar X-TIMELESS (Alternative Tentacles)-Here's a newie, or actually an oldie but since it's just been released it's a newie in an oldie kinda way. Zolar X was this sci-fi based bunch who walked the streets of Los Angeles back in the seventies during the days of glam slam and Rodney, and from what I can tell you they seemed to be absolutely HATED by more than a few people on the "scene" (witness a review written by BACK DOOR MAN's own Phast Phreddie in the pages of SLASH, a surprise since the folks at BDM seemed to hate SLASH with a passion!). I guess that having a band walking around the streets dressed like those blondie blue people on STAR TREK while talking in their own language wasn't exactly the thing that was going to endear them to the record buying populace of the day, and (off the top of my thinned-out dome) if I had to say that there was something that seperated Zolar X from the rest of the outer-space rock groups from the Spotnicks to the Tornados up through Magma and VON LMO it would be that these guys probably tried way too hard to hit the genre on the head and missed, maybe looking a bit too silly in the process.

But they did record, and a whole slew of their studio stuff is now available on this new CD you can now get directly from Alternative Tentacles. (There's also an LP as well.) I guess Jello Biafra was so engrossed by them after seeing their snap in the pages of ROCK SCENE (wow, I never thought that Biafra actually read those same magazines I only perused at the newsstand!) that he actually put this thingie out on his lonesome, and since he's a guy with a record label and pull and I ain't, you can get to see his seventies heroes like Zolar X released while mine rot away in tape collections! And these Zolar X guys are pretty good...I can see a lotta "sophisticated" creeps out there upping noses at 'em, but personally I like their fine mixture of glam pop and outright heavy metal asteroid blast that sorta sounds like the Sweet one minute and maybe a poppier Black Sabbath the next. True there's not any astral flange here to dirtyize the thing like there is with Hawkwind or VON LMO, but I find it good seventies hard rock that would probably appeal to the same people who got into GWAR back in the eighties. The only track I had trouble listening to was the sixteen-minute-plus album closer, but that was probably because I was suffering from astral sensory overload...these CDs can get pretty long sometimes!

DNA-DNA ON DNA (No More, try Forced Exposure)-Interesting collection of DNA from their early days up through their 1982 capitulation. The Robin Crutchfield-era recordings are perhaps the best here even those the dreaded spectre of art pops up more often than not, while the later Tim Wright days, while noisy in their own good way, seem less garage band and more Franklin Furnace, if you know what I mean. I always liked those no wave bands on the lower Manhattan scene that rock 'n' rolled even while attaining an "artistic" result, and believe it or not, but DNA along with their fellow no wavers DID present themselves as rock 'n' rollers on the NO NEW YORK album! I mean, even I had no doubts that I was listening to GARAGE ROCK when I played that one not only then but now because the music had such a connection to what garage bands were doing not only in 1965 but 1978 as well. It was more than obvious even to a dolt like me that DNA and the Contortions seemed to be connected to the Velvet Underground not to mention even the Roxy Music continuum on a garage/punk level as much as, say, the Fans were. Or even as garage rock with a heavy metal bent to an extent, though only VON LMO would exploit that the same way James Chance used rhythm and blues. Later on, when I would spin such bands and their spawn in the eighties (mostly talking about the groups that seemed a little more, er, stiff, like Information maybe?) I felt like I was listening to an art project for some reason. Maybe because this music was becoming co-opted by the same pretentious artiste types who've permeated New York for years it sounded like this but I dunno, at least acts like early Walter Steding and VON LMO always seemed to not forget the rock 'n' roll with the white noise. Who knows, maybe DNA had just become too "hip" for rock by the time 1980 rolled around. Still a very essential disque not only for the early, more cranky material but for DNA's eighties work which does have an ability to rock out at times despite the deca-art angle. But in closing I gotta say that once all is said and done DNA ON DNA makes me HUNGER for all of those late-seventies no wave bands that DIDN'T make it to vinyl (and who were supposedly more primitive than DNA and their NO NEW YORK cohorts) then or now (like Tone Death, Terminal, Daily Life...).

THE BEAT OF THE EARTH (Radioactive, once again try Forced Exposure or a number of mailorder places that deal with these esoteric items)-Too many wisenheimers have been singing the praises of this one, comparing it to the early Velvet Underground which (as you would probably know by now) at least got my b.s. detector dismantled even after years of hearing the hype about how group "X" (or, to be more specific, group "X-tal") "sounds like the Velvet Underground" and all that jive only to hear just another buncha doofs taking the superficial but leaving behind the inner-working GUTS. However, given the 1967 date and recommendations from a few people who aren't complete cretins I decided to be brave and give this oft-raved item a try. Well it', hmmm.............nice............but it doesn't come anywhere near Le Stelle di Mario Schifano, Parson Sound, Les Rallizes Denudes, the Deviants or a number of groups brave enough to tackle the Velvet Underground style back when such an act was one of "bad karma." The platter starts out fine enough, almost like a cross between the EPI-drone period Velvets and the Seeds on "Up In Her Room" with that live cut on the second side of the first Faust LP, but then it gets to the point of cheeziness (and I don't mean in a good way...sorta like in a psychedelic club scene from an episode of GOMER PYLE) with the electric organ chiming pure psychedelic flower power moosh as the band plays along. Things get bad by the time this silly conversation about playing a triangle pops into the mix. Maybe a few spins within a year's time will change my opinions...after all, some of my fave rave platters took a little time to get used to. But for now, I wasn't surprised, moved or shaken by Beat of the Earth at all, though I want to hear MORE (by the early generation of Velvet Underground practitioners, natch! Folks, clean out your tape collections and send it to me IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!).

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Stu Daye-FREE PARKING LP (Columbia)

Only one LP for today's listening experience, the (as far as I know) debut disc from heavy metal somethingorother Stu Daye entitled FREE PARKING. This one came out in 1976 amidst a deluge of similar-minded heavy metal offerings (many of which were produced by Jack Douglas, who also handles the metallic production chores here), and like many of these mid/late-seventies toss-outs (especially those on Columbia's "sister" label Epic) they either seemed to go nowhere or make it big, with their legacy being the fact that they clutter up way too many "classic rock" stations with some of the worst offal imaginable. My interest was somehow piqued by Daye perhaps because he was part of the budding New York Scene (on and off) for about six or so years, and yeah, I know a few of you "readers" get so offended over me writing about just about anyone who's had any slight involvement with the New York Scene and that's your problem like I said, but look at it this way...I'm a fan, I have an interest in this movement and I like studying, listening to and writing about the New York (and related) seventies groups, clubs, scenes and happenings and if that makes me an unhip (whatever that means) nerd I guess that's your stupid opinion which you better keep to yourself lest you look even more retarded than the dorks who populate the pages of these "rock" magazines I've unfortunately had the mis-pleasure to come across over the past few months.

So (to borrow a phrase) who is Stu Daye? Beats me, though I can tell you what I do know. Daye's a guy who's been around on that aforementioned-to-death scene since at least the mid-seventies as the leader of this NYC hard rock act called New Model Army (no apologies to English creep Oliver Cromwell or the lame-o band of the eighties either!). This New Model Army also contained one Christian Osbourne, the guy who played dobro so masterfully on the first side of Yoko Ono's incredible FLY album and who later led a nth-string CBGB band called Uneasy Sleeper, as well as bassist Mark Abel who later ended up in City Lights, another "most likely to" band on the early CBGB scene who actually got signed to Sire and released an album in 1975 (see BLACK TO COMM #25 for a review of this album that could have gone somewhere but failed on most accounts).

As for Daye, he somehow got signed to Columbia and released this direct-to-oblivion album using the standard session men of the day (Tony Levin, Steve Gadd, Rick Marrotta...). Remember, these were the pre-vinyl shortage/profit crash days when all of the majors were signing just about every tin-horn singer/songwriter and heavy metal band left and right (just take a look through some old music mags of the day and see just how many acts who couldn't get arrested these days were getting record deals with all the biggies), so a hard rock guy like Daye would just fit in with the mode of the music that the likes of Columbia was pumping out at the time.

Lessee, nice typically surreal mid-seventies cover (hunters shooting automobiles from the sky), plus with the Jack Douglas production who could go wrong? Well, actually nothing really goes wrong here, only there isn't much right going for it anyway. FREE PARKING is what you would call a standard, maybe even "good" mid-seventies hard rock album, but there isn't much to discern it from the rest of the pack which also might have had their moments and all, but don't you need more than just moments to make even a halfway-decent rock album?

Actually, there are some good quasi-high energy moments extant. Yeah, they're typically seventies hard rock ones mind you, but they still sound good enough to capture your attention maybe if you have even an inkling of affection for the hard rock form (which I don't profess, but I still have a liking for heavy metal when it's run through a variety of punky/avant garde filters). Maybe Daye's days on the New York Scene helped hone him towards a less macho/more rockism course but whatever, some of the higher points here sound like something that I'm sure would have make a hit with the punkier aspects of seventies musical fandom who were brave enough to mix their metal and garage in the pages of such esteemed pubs as RAW POWER, DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN.

Some of this even sounds like heavy metal Dylan, such as on "The Witness," a strange distortion/lie dealing with the relationship between Jesus and Judas told by someone who was waitering at The Last Supper which I'm sure would have theologians scratching their beans from here to eternity, had this disc only gone somewhere. Faring much better is the hard rock version of Paul Simon's "The Boxer" which transcends the original with sleighbells and crunchy power-chords coming off remarkably better than Honey Davis and his cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." (Davis was this Johnny Winter-esque guy who spent quite a few years on the NYC club circuit before moving to Los Angeles and making a slightly bigger name for himself.) But frankly, most of this disc is plain ol' hard rock without the zip and zam that made a few hard rock bands transcend their by-then stale stature and zoom into high energy vistas which is where all good hard rock should go. (But whaddya expect considering the downer groove that stoner teenage Ameriga was in at the time?) The Stooges, Dictators, even Patti Smith on the Douglas-manned RADIO ETHIOPIA made it up there, but unfortunately Stu Daye remained down here with the rest of us.

But what FREE PARKING mostly reminds me of are some of the more heavy metal tracks that ended up on that second Max's Kansas City album, the one that earned Max's owner Tommy Dean a lotta death threats from assorted punks worldwide for its inclusion of a variety of kinda mainstream acts. These tracks, by such New York nth-stringers as Lance and Grand Slam, were actually listenable and perhaps even downright pleasing, but they weren't anything of what the seventies underground rock brigades who cut their teeth on Velvets and Dolls albums were expecting. Not surprisingly, these tracks were also produced by Douglas, who must have set some sort of record for most heavy metal productions of 1976 with all of these post-Aerosmith goodies that he ejaculated faster than Lancaster PA pops out Amish!

As for Daye, the only other thing I can find out about him is that around 1980 he got a power trio together with drummer Corky Laing (of West, Bruce and Laing fame) called the Mix, who not only played a gig at CBGB but released a mini-album. Unfortunately for all involved that trip ended in a haze of white stuff which I guess put Daye's chances for mass acceptance on permanent hold, but for obscuro-minded hard rock aficionados I guess this offering sure helps out more than had Daye went unnoticed, which is what happened with way too many people on the various seventies rock scenes who might have done better or worse than Daye, though my guess is that they probably did pretty much the same.