Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sandy Bull-INVENTIONS CD (Vanguard/Akarma Italy); VEHICLES CD (Timeless Recording Society)

Are you the kinda guy who likes to play hunches??? I sure am...well, not as much as I used to during my thankfully-brief racetrack days in the early-eighties when I'd trek on over to nearby horse hangouts Waterford and Thistledown with my uncle (who used to send me to the window to collect his winnings because he knew I was too cheap to tip) and I'd plunk down huge amts. (even as much as a whopping fiver!) on horses with such bizzaroid tags as "Wad" and "Marsha's Honey" actually thinking I had a great chance of winning just because of their strange double-entendre monikers! Not that following my inner sense of quick buck seeking actually worked...let's just say that I'm lucky I left the track with my shirt intact (though at least I could look forward to a free dinner that evening on Uncle's bill!) but even though I "should have" known better let's just say that sometimes I tend to do certain things on pure instinct which only proves that, given that animals work on instinct alone sans any shard of reason, I probably wouldn't last a day in the ol' jungle were I a lowly garter snake!

But instinct and hunches can sure work to one's benefit when hunting for a great recording to snatch up, hold and keep for your very own. Which, in case you haven't guessed, is exactly how I scarfed up the two recordings in question for today. Y'see, just a few weeks ago I was scouring through a buncha old boxes of magazines and whatnot that were wallowing away in the ol' abode, and amidst such long-missing items as my copies of UGLY THINGS #'s 1-6 (incredible rarities worth way up in the triple digits that I may just sell if poverty gets any more povertier around here!) and an order, complete with six actual smackers still folded in the note, from Philly blues/punk guitarist Mr. Guy requesting PHFUDD #8 (which, if I haven't already, I will send Mr. G. if he's reading this and leaves a current address in the comments box which I won't publish in order to protect his privacy...this offer not good anywhere else on the planet) I came across an old (spring/summer '77) listing for CBGB that just happened to be wallowing there between the pages so to speak. Anyway, one act that was listed on that clipping amidst the likes of the Ramones and various other acts you've never heard of before and probably never will hear of again was none other than today's artist-in-question, noted guitar-strummer Sandy Bull! As George Takeanappus said in that great Joe Cook comedy short entitled THE WHITE HOPE, "Boy what a hunch!", and so with this in mind (and the fact that I really dug the bejabbers outta Bull's ST. VALENTINE'S DAY disc reviewed here ) I did some crafty ebay finagling and came up with these two platters at hand which I would say was a wiser thing for me to do than bet two-fifty on a horse with the name "Fanabla"!

INVENTIONS is a classic side from Bull...don't let the cover showing him with his patented mid-sixties teenage Joe Palooka haircut and Jan-Michael Vincent good boy looks fool you, this man was a total talent when it came to string things (he being the master of just about everything from guitars and banjo to even the oud) and it all sounds so great and classy with that proper touch of sixties smarts that always separated the men from the Mr. Peepers. The side-long (using el-pee terminology here) number "Blend II" is a trip, Bull's paen to the then-current Eastern Music modes that thankfully forgets the tren-DEE aspects of Indian sitar wailings with him raga-rocking away on an acoustic guitar (even throwing a bitta "Wabash Cannonball" into the mix!) while Ornette drummer Billy Higgins tries to keep up on his trap set making for a more'n adequate free-play substitution for tablas. Nat Hentoff, who before becoming THE VILLAGE VOICE's resident somethingorother was writing liner notes for albums by the likes of Bull, Dylan and Cecil Taylor, actually hears a bitta Coleman's influence on this side and yeah, that does figure in and Higgins sure helps the mental straining along if you ask me! A wonderful song, as are the rest which range from two takes of Johann Sebastian Whatzizname's "Gavotte" (the first with a deeply enveloping cavernous feel akin to the live take on ST. VALENTINE'S DAY) and some samba and more classical gas ending with a spirited electric version of "Memphis Tennessee" once again featuring Higgins on traps. This one really is a grabber far from the usual "World Music" and "New Age" reference-dropping that beginners seem to tag onto both John Fahey and Robbie Basho's music! There ain't a drop of hippie credo to be found anywhere and it ain't hard to see just how Bull could have garnered the hefty cult following he did lo these many years despite the rumored drug use and mental breakdowns that are usually associated with "genius" (well, how about talent???) such as this. An outta nowhere winner.

VEHICLES is a late offering from the late Bull, recorded in '91 with backing musicians the caliber of the Brecker Brothers (hint: a tip off as to what you could expect esp. for late-seventies album browsers who should know better) and a sound that, although showing many tendencies relating to nineties music-as-commodity gush, still manages to stir up a few juices in the corpus duncitudus. On this one Bull sneaks more of his string-bent talent our ways with not only some country steel guitar showoffisms but blues, subdued spacial acoustic jungle ventures and even another Bach rehash! Not the best place to start, but it's nice enough as an afterthought and I wouldn't beat the tar outta ya if you happen to enjoy spinning it during those introspective evening hours like I do.

Oh, and case you'd actually like to read top Bullpenner Patti Smith's review of one of his gigs at Max's Kansas City, all you need to do is click here to be taken to it! Don't go 'round sayin' I don't do anything good for ya!

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