Saturday, January 03, 2009

Various Artists-GODS OF HEAVY; WEST COAST FOG and LOST HOLY GRAILS CD-R's (Full Seeing Eye, available through Eclipse)

After that New Year's Eve year-end blowout post I did I'm feeling more run down than one of Tura Satana's bras, so rather than peck out one of those long-drawn out posts where I dribble on about the last ten "important" recordings to have graced my ears I thought I'd take it easy and just dish out a few briefies to satisfy your soul. And to start off today's soiree here are three CE-R's of what I definitely would call bootlegged material, with all three having in common the unadulterated fact that they've been "released" by the same "label" (Full Seeing Eye) and contain "themed" material scraped together from a variety of sources that have been cluttering up the tape/CD-R-trading markets for quite some time. These CD-R's sorta remind me of those old "California"-based albums (with titles like THE CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS ALBUM, THE CALIFORNIA EASTER ALBUM and THE CALIFORNIA WALPURGISNACHT ALBUM) from the early-eighties which gathered various West Coast acts and packaged them for what I would have assumed was the serious fan of the late-sixties West Coast ound. At the time (1983) I coulda cared less about the late-sixties Californicate sound...nowadays I wish I forked over the money for these albums because if anything, Gene Sculatti and Mick Farren where right about this stuff, or at least most of it, all along!

But still, despite the use of material probably easily enough available of the artists in question's own bootleg disques, these three collections come in handy for the mere dabbler, or just plain folk like myself who need to fill in a few musical gaps here/there. GODS OF HEAVY gathers up a number of late-sixties/early-seventies hard rock acts (pretty much pre-heavy metal but still HM enough that they all coulda been tossed into one of those mid-eighties issues of CREEM METAL ROCK & ROLL) making for a good cross-section of exactly what was being played on free-form FM radio circa 1970 in between the folk singers and budding progressives. A lotta this is pretty much outside the realm of what usually gets covered in BLOG TO COMM but that doesn't mean it's complete trash-toss. Highlights include the Edgar Broughton Band (taken off German tee-vee!), Budgie doing their anti-haircut anthem "Rape of the Locks", the MC5 on their final legs live in Sweden (handy in case you don't have the entire show...and a rare pic of the "MC4" onstage is printed on the inside flap!) and the post-Five Ascension doing the Temptations classic "Get Ready" in that great high energy style. Slade are here too sounding merely "OK" as are Silver Metre, May Blitz, Out of Darkness and Slowbone, so if you spent more than a normal amount of time browsing through import bins in the seventies this Cee-Dee might just be for you!

WEST COAST FOG naturally takes a different course, mainly that of the San Francisco Sound mostly around the time when few knew exactly what the whole shebang getting hyped in the "rock press" of the day was going to lead to. Hey, back in 1966 I doubt that anybody would have believed that the morass that rock music was to have fallen into only a few years later would have occurred, and true you could say that Jerry Garcia's mind was always orbiting Jupiter but at least he knew enough to listen to Love back in '66, not too long before the acid (and press agent releases) really got to his head! Jerry and the rest ain't on WEST COAST FOG (perhaps because they were lost in the West Coast Fog?), but you do get some 1966 Jefferson Airplane long before Gracie slicked up their sound even more (and they actually sound mid-sixties fresh here even if Marty Balin shoulda been whopped by bikers a lot sooner than he was at Altamont!), Moby Grape, the early (and best) Quicksilver and even the relatively obscure Final Solution, a bunch who not only had that great 1966 Preying Mantis look down pat but even managed to get ex-Great Society drummer Jerry Slick into their ranks, he joining up perhaps in a last ditch effort to separate himself from his shrieking ex! The Big Brother and the Holding Company take of "The Hall of the Mountain King" was taken from the Big Brother DVD but in case you don't got it there you can have it here.

LOST HOLY GRAILS is definitely my fave of the batch featuring an array of groups that seem to snuggle well into the whole BLOG TO COMM reason for being thus making for a nice hour-plus of background (or foreground for that matter) music to read old comic books and fanzines by. Again, a load of this stuff can easily enough be found on other bootlegs but somehow the choice of material (Moby Grape, Yardbirds, Stooges, Pink Floyd's "One in a Million", the Velvet Underground's "Nothing Song"...) works well in this setting...even the pre-Sabs Mythology appear here and though they sound more typical late-sixties British rock w/o the particular dunce-feel of the early BS they do seem to harbor a pretty good sense of things that are about to happen, if you catch my drift. Heck, in case you weren't able to download that Can bootleg with the Tim Hardin audition track that appears here too! If someone were to have told me that HOLY GRAILS was compiled by the guys who used to do PENETRATION fanzine I'd believe 'em!

Betcha thought I was gonna up and leave you with this mere review eh? Well, don't say that I come cheap, for here's another Cee-Dee review you might want to read in order to edjamacate yourself a little more as to the nature of pure, unadulterated sound. Anyhow, let me begin...I dunno if any of you know who David Solomonoff is, but you should since he did have a "role" in a budding late-seventies underground Cleveland avant garage scene that should have been documented just as much as the New York or Boston ones from roughly the same time. A musician and writer, I first knew of Solomonoff through his writings for the CLEVELAND EXPRESS, a free paper that was more or less vying to be a small (hopefully) monthly variation on THE VILLAGE VOICE without being as overwrought as the original. His writings appeared sporadically (well, at least I was able to pick up the paper sporadically so he might have been writing for them a lot more than I realize) amidst the likes of Cindy Barber's and Charlotte Pressler's documentation of a Cleveland underground twisting and turning in the wind, and although I couldn't possible remember everything I've read by the man one article stuck out in my mind like a sore lobe, mainly one about the under-the-underground scene that was transpiring in the city that was so unknown that even CLE magazine didn't cover it, though that might have been due to personal reasons rather than sheer ignorance.

The groups mentioned as being part of this movement were Harlan and the Whips, Willie and the Criminal Mystics (or "the Criminal Secrets" as they were called in another edition of the EXPRESS) and Bernie and the Invisibles. If I remember correctly through a haze of a much longer time than I could ever imagine, Solomonoff made these groups out to be roughly the equivalent of what was happening in the New York no wave underground, bands playing without the usual professionalism or "talent" but with a lot of interesting ideas and a shaping of the best the sixties had to offer in a seventies "frame", one that hopefully would point towards a music of the eighties. Harlan and the Whips supposedly had that early-Velvets hard-drive and played through a sound system that used to be a living room hi-fi. Willie and the Criminal Mystics/Secrets reportedly sounded like a cross twixt the Velvets and Mothers of Invention during their more musique-concrete days with leader Willie singing/ranting above it all, the results sounding like "listening to Hegel in a steel mill" or something to that effect. As for Bernie and the Invisibles, they were also bestowed with a Velvets comparison with some John Cage thrown in, and if you think I wasn't impressed with what was presented/promised in this piece then brother you don't know the meaning of obsessive/compulsive!

Unfortunately whereas a New York rock scene was open to the extreme no wave stylings of Lydia, James and Lmo, the staid Cleveland atmosphere shunned this new innovation with a voracity unknown in ages. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, since the only group in the batch to ever strike out and play in public was Bernie and the Invisibles, who not only were able to obtain high profile gigs (or what passed for them in Cleveland) but even got to jam with the one-off group the Fusionists, who performed at the legendary "Nazi/Zionist Love-In" set up by local poet Simon Emler. Reports say that both Harlan and the Whips and Willie and the Criminal Mystics did perform at private parties and the like, but to this day I've heard very little else about them and unfortunately no recordings have surfaces adding even more to the mystery surrounding these acts. Hopefully this will be corrected more sooner than later, but until then I'd say waiting for a release of these groups both legal and not would be akin to waiting for a legitimate Velvet Underground exhumation to make its way to the local shops, or the release of those avant garde Lenny Kaye/Robert Palmer tapes that I've been wanting to hear for quite some time as well.

A rumor has it that Solomonoff was involved with both Harlan and the Whips and Willie and the Criminal Mystics, and another even speculated that both of these groups were in fact totally the fabrication of Solomonoff's mind but I wasn't buying that...well, not totally. However, I did notice Solomonoff's name in an early-eighties issue of THE NEW YORK ROCKER in the course of a live review of a George Jones show (done in a conversation style originally made famous by CREEM) as well as via the existence of a cassette featuring music he recorded with a Carola Von Hoffmannstahl. Naturally I snatched up the tape as soon as I read about it in whatever new issue of OP was out there, and despite my best efforts I've yet to locate the tape in my collection even though I do recall the electronic squirms and squeals therein as well as a track called "The Nun and the Whore" which had two gals hissy fit catfighting about somethingorother to some crunchy industrial tuneage...good enough, but I really would have preferred the Harlan material, if it had existed of course!

After all these years and a chance mention of Solomonoff in an earlier post whaddya know, the man gets back in touch with me (as if selling me a cassette was ever being in touch in the first place) and sends me a CD-R of THE SIMPLE WAY, the latest effort from the Solomonoff/Von Hoffmannstahl collaborative that hearkens back to the glory days of not only the "cassette culture" but the Cleveland underground from whence Solomonoff and a few other bright ideas gone unnoticed evolved. It's short, but it still packs enough avant garage energy and excitement into it to turn at least this grizzled old head a total 360 a la THE EXORCIST or long before that Sherwood the City Slicker. Musically it's a quickie mixed bag featuring more interesting musical readymades such as the title track (a tape loop of a jazz riff with Von Hoffmannstahl's vocalese...perhaps reminiscent of various R. Meltzer ad-infinitum loop experiments of the mid/late-sixties done under the names Applejack and/or the Stump) or better yet "Miss Taznif Goes to Town (Riding on a Pony)" which has this great Velvets repeato-riff that kinda reminds me of the bass-line from "Father Cannot Yell" with Von Hoffmannstahl's voice sped up and slowed down whilst doing these epiglottal exercises before what else appears but...a player piano rendition of "Yankee Doodle"! There's even a snatch of no wave-ish guitar crank on the forty-two second-long "40 Seconds Over Albany" as well as some other quickie tracks that remind me of something that would end out a side on an old Hawkwind album. Of course I don't think this stuff'll ever touch whatever promise that Harlan and the Whips or Willie and his Secrets have in store, but it's a tasty tidbit of what might be. If you're interested in this (or wanna prod the guy into releasing his old wares) how about writing Solomonoff himself at for more information!


Bassta! Pex, a.k.a. Gramofonije Plocanovic said...

hey Chris, no need to print this.
It's Predrag from Perth, Australia.

hope you're well and Happy New Year. although, with Ron Asheton passing away it's been a bad start. I'm glad I saw the Stooges twice in last 2 years...

take care and keep doing this blog!


David Solomonoff said...

Thanks for the great writeup! Can you give me a direct email address so I can fill you in with some more info?

RIP Ron, "the king of feedback and fuzz" as one letter to the editors of CREEM put it.