Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Hey, here's hoping that all of you BLOG TO COMM readers' Christmases were the merriest and that you got all of the nice little worthless things your peen-picking hearts oh so desire! As for my X-mas, it was pretty snazzy itself with no relatives bargin' down the door to waste my precious time or scarf up all the tasty cream-filled cookies either! And not only that, but I finally made out like a bandit proving once and for all that noneother'n Sandy Claws himself reads this very blog! Unfortunately no Remco Supercar or Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector graced the bottom of my tree, but Jillery got me not only some Fizzies but the first two seasons of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER on Dee-Vee-Dee, while Mr. Lou Rone of Ephrata Pee-Yay got me the new GODZILLA disque which not only has the familiar Raymond Burr take that has been shown on tee-vee incessantly ever since the early-sixties but the pre-dubbed/edited Japanese version...and you can bet that it's gonna be grand watching both the original and Ameriganized one and making comparisons, avid student of the cinema that I am! And not only that, but I got a turntable/CD player/radio which means there's gonna be a lotta vinyl spinnin' here at BLOG TO COMM headquarters once I find out where I can stick the dang-fool thing without it gettin' in the way!

So as you can see all is happy and well here at the old homestead, and though this Christmas wasn't exactly as tip-top as all of those Christmases past when toys would be pretty much comin' outta my ears it sure cuts a swath o'er most of the recent socks 'n underwear ones which have been about as exciting as listening to Dave Lang tell you about the last ten albums he bought in alphabetical order. Like I said, expect more "turntable trivialities" as the weeks go on, or at least after the first when I wrap up my typical summary of all that was good and bad with regards to the year we all know and love as 2006.

Until then, here are a few items I have just received courtesy Forced Exposure that oughta wetsy your betsy given their outright ginchiness. And maybe I will sneak another li'l posting in until my aforementioned Year's End Blowout (calm down Dave!) which should be hitting you between your eyes come December 31st!

Sandy Bull-STILL ST. VALENTINE'S DAY 1969 CD (Water)

One of the best things about being such a po' boy who couldn't afford all of the records 'n things that he wanted to hear way back in the day is that, as the years roll on to a precious few there's always some old thing out there to discover as if it were fresh spew. Of course, as anyone who has read my maybe not-so-infamous fanzine can tell you, there was a LOT of stuff out there that humble ol' me was discovering for the first time in the eighties and nineties that many of you readers were in on the ground floor for, but please don't think that was out of ignorance as much as it was in a tight-pursed household and barely making enough money to scrape together for a cutout, teenaged me hadda make do with what I could get hold of and if that meant I hadda think seriously about what I bought even if it was a chance-y proposition well then I just hadda. And yeah, I missed out on hearing a lotta things I shoulda because of it, but it wasn't like I was some richkid who had the maid wipe his butt as was her duty in such fine upstanding homes who could buy everything he could get his non-poopstained hands on because he was a stinkingly wealthy soul who had not only the love and kisses of daddy, but his charge card as well! No, I hadda WORK for my money, and given how much I hate to work it wasn't like I was snatching up the records left 'n right!

But then again, I think discovering guys like Sandy Bull way after the fact as I'm doing right now might have been a good thing...after all, the (ahem) mature me in the here and now would probably be way more receptive to the sounds this rather "out" multi-instrumentalist was laying down in the there-and-then than I would have in the distant past when a good portion of my musical education was limited to borrowed disques and in-store play. And yeah, I know I've been told about Sandy Bull and just how much I would enjoy his various Vanguard albums for a much longer time than I can imagine (at least during the days when my magazine was a cheap xerox printjob way back in the mid-eighties!) but frankly I gotta admit that some of the hype swung my way at the time seemed a little suspicious. Then again I'm always suspicious of hype either mainstream or underground which is why I shied away from worthy bands like Wire and many other acts so long. But y'know, a guy's gotta find out things for himself without the aid of post-post-Bangs issues of CREEM and a myriad assortment of now defunct "fanzines" anyway.

As far as this Bull guy goes, I at first had him pegged as being yet another one of those proto-gnu age guys, kinda like fellow late-sixties stringbenders John Fahey and Robbie Basho who like-it-or-not had a hand in helping create that horrid eighties musical fermentation that was going on thanks to the whole-wheat hippie leftovers at Windham Hill. Not that either Fahey or Basho could be blamed for the existence of utter nils like Michael Hedges, but for a spell in the mid-eighties I guess there was a lot of guilt by association going on. After awhile I changed my own tune with respect to the man...after all, given how Bull had garnered a whole slew of hipster fans the likes of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith (who even wrote a beautiful review of a Max's Kansas City appearance that was once online and dumped before I had a chance to download it for my own benefit) I figured the guy to be some sorta wired proto-punk (at least spiritually) in the Elliot Murphy/Bob Neuwirth mold. Given how it was Ms. Smith herself who tried to help Bull's sagging career out with some opening slots I tended to think it was more the latter, and given how new kicks seem to be getting harder to find these days I thought I'd give this old kick a go 'specially since the brave new label Water has just issued this brand new live elpee recorded at Marty Balin's own Matrix back Valentine's Day '69 (and April 5th), a time when I would think that Bull would have been at some sorta smacked-out high in his on/off career and judging from the wired nature of this disc who knows?

I usually would give a big thumbs down to a gent who would perform live with a taped backing but considering how it was Bull who would lay down his own instrumental thud (usually with a bass guitar or repeato-riff of some sort) and how the music he plays over the tapes with his over-reverbed electric guitar or oud has the rare magic to transcend the usual gnu-age trappings into pure Nova Music, I gotta say that I'll let my preconceived notions slip by for right now. Mainly because Bull's playing is as demonically hard-core intense as you would expect from a post-folkie with a heavy dependency on the needle, as well as an electric bent that seems to be plugged into the same circuit as a whole vein (no sic) of similar-minded atonal mongers of the time roaming around the rock and jazz spheres.

Far from your typical folk meanderings of the day (which would quickly roll on into Marin County hippies on the front porch trying to play faster than each other), STILL ST. VALENTINE'S DAY has a dark East Coast feeling that makes me wonder why Bull didn't score more high-profile underground giggage from the same scene that pumped up his career only a few years earlier. (Methinks it was the, er, "bad habits" getting out of control. After all, if his own mother was able to secure gigs at CBGB you think he woulda too!) And it's a beautiful darkness, one that sorta bursts all over you (as on the two takes of "Electric Blend") yet storms right into early rock & roll mode on the cover of "Memphis" and, thanks to the mid-eastern twang of the oud, into vistas (cool Christgau word!) that kinda sound like something William Burroughs and Brion Gysin woulda slammed onto their Tangiers turntable in order to get into the mood! And there is a Burroughsian mindset to this that I'm positive even all those decadent RE/SEARCH types were soaking up as little hippies!

This thing hasn't left my laser launching pad ever since I got it yesterday, and I have the feeling that if it had only arrived a month or ten earlier it would've been a shoe-in for BEST ARCHIVAL DIG OF '06 (I think I'll save ST. VALENTINE'S DAY for next year since it's such a latecomer anyway, but MAYBE NOT!!!). The hallowed drones and neo-feral oeuvre have got me sold. I think you know the rest.

Lol Coxhill-SPECTRAL SOPRANO 2-CD set (also available through Emanem natch!)

I remember back when this bald British soprano saxist with the strange name had an album call WELFARE STATE out on Caroline, Virgin's specialty label that seemed to take on a life of its own somewhere in the mid-eighties. Considering how Caroline had been issuing rare material from the likes of Philip Glass and Tony Conrad and Faust amongst other fringe-y avant garde artistes, I figured that Coxhill's music would have been in the same adventurous fashion...perhaps sounding like British art rock with a more extreme approach. Unfortunately none of the import outlets I knew of had WELFARE STATE in stock, and I fear it's extremely impossible to get hold of at this juncture in time unless you expect to dish out the usually high buckskins for a product that might've run you a then-outrageous $7.98 from any import album dealer. Oh well, all of the people (actually, only one) told me Coxhill wasn't worth the time and effort to listen to which at least helped sooth my Aesop-ish lust for them juicy outta-bound grapes of an album at the time, but as you'd expect the curiosity lingered in the back of my ever-rambunctious mind for quite some time afterwards.

To be truthful about it, I haven't even thought about WELFARE STATE in over twennysome years and it ain't like the platter has ever graced a want list of mine, but that doesn't mean that I've totally gone zilch on the career of fact, far from it as this review will reveal to you. I gotta admit that, even with a New York Scene preoccupation and early-seventies suburban garage mania that borders on fanatical taking up much of the past quarter-century if not more, I still looked into the guy and his amazing career whether it be as a member of Kevin Ayers' Whole Wide World or the Damned (at least that's what Pete Frame said!) as well as his various recordings of interest that I eventually came in contact with. Including this two-CD almost fifty-year-long effort that, for some not-so-strange reason, reminds me of some overview that Rough Trade would have done for one of their acts back in those transitional early-eighties days. Spanning styles, sound quality (including the scratchiest vinyl they could find!) and even instruments (such as a slide saxophone played underwater!), SPECTRAL SOPRANO is what I would call a pretty snat introduction to the man called Coxhill and if you're just a bumpkin just off the train from Moline maybe this one would be a good way to familiarize yerself, that is if you're game to a lotta class avant exploration the same way I was back in my bin-slumming days wondering whether to gamble the eight smackers I had on Cecil Taylor or Ornette (a dilemma I often came across in those oft-mentioned penny-pinched times!).

SPECTRAL SOPRANO has that proverbial all including early r&b and classic jazz recordings dating as early as '54, plus the expected varieties of avant jazz in various forms from late-sixties Lacy-esque bleats to electronic-addled squealing that reminds me of some lost Roscoe Mitchell sesh from the eighties for some not-so-strange reason. All-encompassing, especially for blokes like me who thought Arista-Freedom was thee no-holds-barred class label of the late-seventies, and even if you think British avant jazz is about as staid and tamed as the populace at large you'll get a kick outta SPECTRAL SOPRANO as you hear Coxhill go from lounge to free-play. Plus the format and general attitude of the thing is pretty wired in itself as modern switches back to bop and back meaning your pop will think you've finally "wised up" when he hears you playing "Autumn in New York" yet will fight to have you committed when Coxhill splats pure free bleat. Not much (in fact, not ANYTHING) referential to Coxhill's rock work is apparent other than some boss mid-sixties work for Teddy Knight and the Chessmen, but at least Lu Edmonds from the Damned pops up on one track playing a three-stringed bass banjo which should get all of you punques hot and bothered!

Avant snazzers will know that they should get it even if they probably won't, at least right off the bat that is. As for the casual persuer, SPECTRAL SOPRANO is a good place to get acquainted with Coxhill's entire reason-for-embouching, though if you're still pretty green may I suggest beginning with some of the more familiar lights on the late-20th century avant jazz scene such as Ornette Coleman, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (anything pre-Moye is recommended) and the entire BYC-Actuel jazz catalog which can now be scarfed up with relative ease via various reissue labels where you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for an album pressed from what sounds like the soles swiped from Dewey Redman's own feet. And I could be like Kurt Loder and state the obvious about how there's some mighty fine work on these discs you'll be in store for if you only let someone older and wiser guide you, but I'm not gonna be that obvious. It's up to you, and if this review doesn't garner Forced Exposure or Eminem one sale it's not like I'm gonna bust out cryin' or anything!

Also received in the latest FE package...two Smegma disques, PIGS FOR LEPERS and RUMBLINGS (with R. Meltzer!) which I may review later this week prior to the big send off to '06. Only spun the latter once so far and must say the fine blend of guttural (sounds straight from the guts, really!) and rockism sure appealed to me, especially when wrapped up in the smooth and sultry voice of Meltzer. Keep attuned.

1 comment:

James Purdy Society said...

Here you go: