Saturday, March 28, 2009

Various Artists-THE BABY M TRIAL VOLUMES ONE AND TWO cassettes (Sound of Pig, downloadable here)

Here's anudder skimpy weekend post brought on by most of my free time still being spent trying to shake off that cold that has settled inside my ear canals which isn't anything life threatening like you would have hoped but can still sap the energy outta someone who feels like Ondine coming down off a ten-day speed rampage. However, don't worry about these less-than-stellar posts being a steady condition here at BLOG TO COMM, for next week I hope to review a number of recent acquisitions including the contents of certain packages sent to BTC headquarters by such long-devoted readers as Weasel Walter and Dee Pop which sure look tastier than a kielbasa eating contest in Warsaw. But until then lemme recover a bit and present you with at least one bit of purloined (off the web) booty that I enjoyed and I know you will too (I should live so long!).

Anyway, those of you who were astute enough to tune into this blog a good month or so ago will remember a little aside that I wrote explaining the appearance of a new website linkup (that can be found on the left column on this very page) entitled ALIEN PLANETSCAPES FOUNDATION which is dedicated to the works of pioneering New York-area musician Doug Walker, a man who is probably best known to people involved in the "space rock" idiom as the leader of the group known as (what else?) Alien Planetscapes. They certainly were an act that has made quite a name in the electronic music genre o'er the past few decades (as even a few cursory looks inside an issue of SOUND CHOICE would tell you), and there's no need to drag on about exactly what I did write about the man and his works since you can read it all here if you so desire. And, as anyone who could feel the karmic vibrations emanating throughout that piece could tell you, what Walker has done for the electronic music cause since the seventies has (I guess) been rather monumental. I must admit that even for a guy such as I who is not exactly interested in space music (with visions of bad seventies excess rock and floating unicorns cluttering up my already bored-outta-the-mind with twenty minute moog solos psyche) I thought Walker's mix and match of the Berlin school of electronic rock with the even newer free jazz was something that would light my hindquarters up more than some of the usual "innovation" one gets to hear these days.

There's a ton of Walker-related music just awaiting your downloading capabilities on his site available for nada/nyet/nothing (which is a good bargain esp. in these cash-strapped days), and if I were you I'd start off by burning a copy of what was once a two-cassette set called THE BABY M TRIAL which is a fair but not all inclusive history of what Walker was doing not only during the early days of Alien Planetscapes, but of his days in a variety of seventies groups etc. that I guess were originally released on the Sound of Pig label in order to satiate the most rabid of Alien Planetscapes fans amongst us. I guess the seventies were fruitful times for Walker, who was either leading or performing with a variety of groups that have remained undocumented and under-the-counterculture for a pretty long time, and not only that but these recordings are pretty adventurous without succumbing to cliches sounding varied enough going back and forth between Walker's prog tendencies and his free jazz concerns resulting in some pretty tasty excursions which even I somehow missed out, but better late than never as I always tell my boss!

Now Alien Planetscapes, despite being an outlet for Walker's electronic music excursions, always seemed to sound like a different group from gig to recording to gig (perhaps due to the ever-changing roster), but here on these early takes there seems to be a strong garage band element to 'em, sorta sounding like ELECTRONIC MEDITATION-era Tangerine Dream and solo Klaus Schultze recording in Archie Bunker's basement in Queens with the very tape recorder he was talking into that day thought he saw a black Jesus Christ. Perhaps the occasional organ chord bursts are what prompted me to think so, but all I gotta say is that anyone who goes for smart early-eighties electronic rock w/o the smarm might cozy up to this a lot better than they would the typical Kajagoogoo stuff that was being dumped upon us all at that time. Going back even earlier into the fray is a late-seventies outfit called the Yeti Band who seemed to be more rooted in the seventies free/loft jazz scene that was petering out around this time (1979) complete with, besides Walker's own woodwind playing a number of saxophonists including Red Transistor auxiliary member Ken Simon. With all the punk-funk talk that was going in in En Why See at the time it's a wonder why these guys never caught on with the underground rock circuit. Two public performances are probably the reason why.

An even stranger aggregate that Walker not only belonged to but was the leader of was Third Sun, a group whom Walker referred to as "one of NYC's original Progressive Rock units when formed in 1971" who "had mutated (into) a sound not unlike VDGG playing the Art Ensemble of Chicago songbook" which does sound rather tasty even if these guys really do not sound like any progressive rock group I can think of outside of perhaps the krautrock idiom. If you wanna find out what they do sound like for yourself, two tracks appear on these tapes and frankly both remind me of a more fusionesque Art Ensemble with a reliance on electronic keyboards and of course Walker's own rather well-balanced reed and vibraphone playing. These guys, besides playing such well-respected jazz venues as Environ and Jazzmania also popped up on a few '76 CBGB bills which really doesn't seem that strange considering the vast array of fringe rock acts (Zobus with Zoogz Rift etc.) that were appearing on the En Why Scene at the time.

Unfortunately nothing by Master Radio Canaries which was yet another mid-seventies aggregate that Walker was involved with shows up here, but we do get one recording from '75 which features Walker on vibes and sax with fellow Canary Frank Pashke playing a wide array of percussion instruments as well as using his own voice to add emphatic tension to Walker's horn and vibes playing with a variety of screams and sobs. The results are akin to some of those duo recordings that have been coming out of the AACM stable for quite some time, sorta like one of those Joseph Jarman/Don Moye workouts that Lester Bangs used to laugh out loud at but I always thought were quite mesmerizing in their own nightmarish ways. I can only hope that the fellows who are responsible for this site get the message decide to post some Master Radio Canaries recordings more sooner than later!

Even the rest of THE BABY M TRIAL whether it be Walker playing along with Philadelphia's Cool and the Clones or one-shot Peirama won't have you reaching for the reject button because even though they were recorded live in the eighties and the eighties sucked hard they still have that long-forgotten hard-edge to 'em that you still could find even that late in the game if you only looked hard enough. 'n in all, these tapes (which handily burned onto four Cee-Dee-Ares for me) sure did make for a nice change of pace from the usual fun and games I so desire, and hey like I said if you wanna get hold of 'em you don't have to slam down a lotta hard-earned for some cheaply burned copies but can make them cheaply burned copies yerself for a lot less in cash! And considering some of the dross you DO have to pay for these days isn't it enlightening to know that some of the best pleasures in music can now be had for the price of a mere tea coaster?


I gotta say that, even after all of these years when I still am extremely ignorant about most of the (Golden Age of) "legitimate" Rolling Stones albums, I will occasionally pick up one or two of their, uh, clandestine releases featuring material that was never meant for public consumption. And today's case-in-point entitled SMOOTH is just one of 'em, sorta a "greatest hits" of the Stones' bootleg catalog featuring material that can be found on other then-just-as-easy-to-find TMOQ-pressed backdoor wares, probably issued just to grab some sucker money from the myriad assortment of teens just seeing a bootleg for the very first time. And, as you'd expect from a stagnant pond of a rock & roll fan such as I, SMOOTH still satisfies especially if you imagine yourself one of those pimple-encrusted teenagers who just plunked down $3.99 for this thing at the local clandestine head shop and are spinning it for the first time in your lonely suburban ranch house squat while the parents are away at a Lawrence Welk concert. Besides featuring tracks from their READY STEADY GO appearance in '67 plus that ED SULLIVAN one where Ed said he was gonna meet the boys in the dressing room after their Madison Square Garden show (!-probably to get some groupies, but don't tell Sylvia!) we get a side featuring a '72 blooze jam of Swiss origin and those Jean Luc Godard "Sympathy" rehearsals that've been imbedded into the brains of Stones fanatics ad nauseum. And as a relic of bootleg conquests past SMOOTH does have a bit of a charm (and very good sound), though for the more serious of you Stones bootleg buyers you'll find that next to those William Stout-delineated covers and such seventies wonders as SUMMER RERUNS it comes off more like another bootleg budget tossout for those of us who would buy anything and everything! But I like it if only for it capturing the Stones during one of their few primes and as a reminder of fun record shop bin hopping past that sorta dried up once the era of the Cee-Dee ruined everything for good!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BOOK REVIEW! HUMBUG by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffee and Jack Davis (Fantagraphics, 2009)

Well, the fershlugginer thing's finally out, and at this particular point in my lifespan all I can mutter is what took yuz bastids so long???? Rilly, I coulda used this two-volume slipcovered collection of classic Harvey Kurtzman satire when I first discovered the existence of the famed humorist's late-fifties magazine via Les Daniels' COMIX at age twelve while I was totally immersed in that entire comic book/MAD magazine ideal of fandom without actually being able to afford being one. After scarfing down the early Ballantine MAD paperbacks, finding out that the spirit of those great sarcastic fifties sagas lived on in the pages of HUMBUG was truly a revelation...I mean it when I say that a burning bush might as well have told me this was so all-umportant to my ever-budding sense of comic/mid-amerigan teenage goofoff history! And who could forget my revived interests in the whole EC universe back in the mid/late-eighties when I would pester everyone from Robert Forward to Brad Kohler about this mag reveling them in what little snatches and bits I had scammed from minuscule reprinted artwork. Heck, I even remember writing a little note to EC reprinter Russ Cochran back during the day asking whenna heck he was gonna reprint HUMBUG for an anxiously awaiting audience of hopefully more than one. Naturally I got no reply which only goes to show you that the bigger the fan gets with his pouring of revenue and precious time into his projects, the more cranky/midaged grouchy he becomes!

So after a good 3/4th of a lifetime of wait, HUMBUG has re-appeared on the scene in this nifty two-volume edition which not only reprints the entire eleven issue run of the mag (that's nine comic-book-sized mags originally going for fifteen-cents a smack and two larger MAD-sized ones without the inside color overlays at two bits each) and even though the impact I woulda had had this edition made it out way back when is long gone I'm sure happier than Barney Frank at a Fire Island nude encounter session over the arrival of this nifty package into my already over-comic historied abode! It's that important to the whole BLOG TO COMM genetic makeup that I would be surprised if none of you serious readers don't already have this collection in your very own squats, and I mean it! (By the way, the package repro that appears to the left is that of an earlier visualization of the product, which eventually ended up looking a whole lot different than what was originally planned (see pic directly above for the "new" slipcase). It is reprinted here not only for referential purposes, but because I wanted to cram as many visuals into this post as I was able.)

Maybe a little background is in order for you newcomers whose idea of comedy and satire is birthed from the nth-generation fizz that has devolved from the original fifties inspiration of men like Kurtzman et. al. As I'm sure even a few of you "new comic book" (circa 1956) neophytes would know by now, the arrival of MAD on the scene first as a comic book then as an "adult" oriented magazine (or, in reality, an over-sized comic book) was one of those big fifties publication successes that not only was representative of the comic book "coming of age" but actually made men like EC's Bill Gaines and MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman well-known in their own right with intellectual magazine articles, praise from like-minded fifties funnymen like Ernie Kovacs and Stan Freberg, plus fanzines cropping up pretty much influenced by the new breed of comics-beyond-entertainment that EC was pioneering in the early-fifties. I'm positive that is was pretty neat to be some loathed comic book industry "hack" suddenly being thrust into this new cult of personality, and that just might have been just one of the reasons for the eventual split between MAD editor Kurtzman and Gaines with Kurtzman supposedly wanting to own 51% of the mag while Gaines either said no or said yes but his mother said no or something like that. But whatever, Kurtzman was out, taking original MAD-men Bill Elder, Jack Davis, and (for a short while until Gaines gave him the ultomato, Wallace Wood) with him adding sometimes MAD contributor Al Jaffee and MAD-fan Arnold Roth along the way.

First stop was at Hugh Hefner's budding PLAYBOY publications, where a hopefully soon-to-be reprinted high-gloss publication called TRUMP managed to get two issues out before Hef pulled the plug due to cost jitters. Stuck with a wee bit of a problem, Kurtzman and company decided to immediately pool their resources and talents together for HUMBUG, a mag which despite the lack of distribution and newsstand space managed to accrue a good portion of the old MAD following if evidenced by the familiar names that have sprung up in the lettercol such as Bhob Stewart amongst many other FIAWOL adherents.

HUMBUG was almost a carbon copy of the Kurtzman-era MAD right down to the square word balloons with corners rounded off and the finely-delineated art from the likes of Davis and Elder picking up where the mid-fifties MAD left off. Unlike MAD you could say that HUMBUG was meatier, with less filler fluff and more of the hard-edged spoofing that the post-Kurtzman edition of the rag did seem to lack. However, being a new and innovative satire comic book and all, it was easy 'nuff t' see that no matter how hard they tried Kurtzman and his pals were still living under the shadow of MAD not only with the steady cross-references but even the presence of advertisements for the Ballantine MAD paperbacks in various issues!

As you'd sorta expect, the former boss didn't seem to appreciate the competition one bit, as a snide reference to HUMBUG (and the more successful CRACKED) was actually made in a '58 issue where the oft-used caricature of the toothless man swallowing his nose (supposedly representing a self-portrait of Kurtzman himself!) was mentioned as being an Alfred E. Neuman swipe a la CRACKED's Sylvester Smythe! Even Kurtzman noted that the newer editions of the Ballantine paperbacks had deleted the contributor biography page in the back so I guess that the mass defection really did bug Gaines to no end! But I'm sure Gaines didn't need to worry that much, because after a little over a year and publishing deadline hassles etc. there was no more HUMBUG to kick around with Kurtzman and crew eventually heading over to Warren where they would produce HELP! (another fine post-MAD endeavor but of an entirely different animal) for a good five years with new features and ideas that I even caught MAD swiping from in the early-sixties so who's the real innovator now, eh?

So what does this all gotta say about HUMBUG anywah? Nothing 'cept that if you're a big fan of that fun and sleazy mid-fifties MAD look and like the sarcasm that went with it as well, this collection is for you! If you, like me, grew up on those MAD paperbacks with that great airbrushed realistic artwork and those wisecracking commentaries on such magazines as CONFIDENTIAL along with all of those amazing and equally realistic ad spoofs, there's more than enough of this in HUMBUG to satisfy even the creepiest of seventies adolescent arrested development in all of us. The MAD-like movie and tee-vee spoofs here (such as those of BABY DOLL, PANTOMIME QUIZ, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and TO TELL THE TRUTH) are on par with, and at times are perhaps even better than their MAD counterparts and at least for me seem to be custom-made for the snide types who would sorta set the stage for snarky humor in the sixties and seventies. At times these comic-oriented spoofs could surpass anything the Al Feldstein-period MAD would dare dream up, such as in the take-off of A CHRISTMAS CAROL wonderfully illustrated by Roth (who was the only HUMBUG contributor who never worked for the original inspiration which is a bloody shame as they say that time of month). And of course Elder's art complete with the infamous "chicken fat" (that is, detailed gags stuffed into just about each and every one of his panels that'll take years to decipher!) is just as good as the stuff he was doing during the early MAD mag days, and sure easier to spot given the horrid reproduction that those Ballantine paperbacks were known for in the very early seventies.

Not that everything is especially hunky dory. Too much text (and who reads that!) whether it be a reprint from PUNCH or a spoof of a then-current paperback really doesn't suffice as the comic-oriented material will, and although I really love fifties spoofs because I love the fifties some things like issue #10's fashion layout with hot models posing amidst labor unrest and racetrack accidents didn't quite catch my attention. And oddly enough, considering how Kurtzman and Elder made a name at MAD spoofing comic strip characters with the latter's impeccable mimicry of whichever artists' style he was copying, the only comic-oriented satire to be found here is the Jack Davis-penciled "Flyashi Gordonovich" where the famous space hero is transformed into a Soviet agent with high-larious results right down to the imitation cyrillic lettering. I sure could have used many more of those MAD-styled strip takeoffs drawn by Elder, whose only attempt at such here would have been the strange Dick Tracy/Columbia Record Club spoof seen on the inside back cover of #11.

Some of these HUMBUG sagas naturally do "date" and not in the fine way I wish they would, such as the spoof of television "bloopers" (here called "bugs") which after a few decades of Dick Clark specials and the like have lost their original impact. Sheesh, those long-circulating DARK SHADOWS gag reels have a lot more humor jam packed into 'em 'n that 'un! Other things, like the re-do of HAMLET for first graders by writer Larry Siegel, foreshadows all of those MAD primers he would eventually end up writing ad nauseum from the early-sixties on down. But for fifties-derived gags and honest-to-Sy Mednick humor HUMBUG really can't be beat even if you (like me) didn't spend your entire life regretting not being born at a time when you coulda appreciated that great tee-vee/music gulcher a whole lot more!

The folks at Fantagraphics did a pretty good job reproducing this too, not only with the classy slipcase but the fine printing that immaculately improves on the color onlays which were one hefty selling point for a magazine that was self-produced by the artists involved w/o any major financial backing. However, I hate to be a douse but I should mention one big quirk I do have with the thing, and that is the fact that the front and back covers repro'd here were taken from old worn magazines complete with rips and creases! I dunno whose idea it was to do this, but whoever it was deserves a good groin kick for making such a mentally-challenged decision!

And, as you may or may not expect (I never can account for the intelligence of my readers, let alone myself!), the historical background and interviews with Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth (howcum no Jack Davis?) really are more than just plain ol' "informative" presenting a whole different picture not only of the likes of Kurtzman and his artistic pals, but of the entire MAD axis so to speak. Interesting tidbits of information and stories abound, like the time Kurtzman was supposed to appear on Henry Morgan's radio show but walked off in anger before he was even introduced because the caustic Morgan (whom you'll remember from I'VE GOT A SECRET before he hadda vamoose off to Canada for "legal" reasons!) gave Kurtzman a most uncomplimentary introduction not only putting him but MAD magazine down as well! (Which is kinda strange in light of the fact that Morgan himself did a Wallace Wood-illustrated piece for the mag during their late-fifties special-guest-comedian writer days!) Even stranger is the revelation that MAD editor Gaines had, by the sixties, grown somewhat conservative in his views even to the point of being a supporter of Richard Nixon, something that I find hard to swallow in light of the harsh Nixon satires and general run-downs that magazine produced ever since his veep days! Well I guess stranger things have happened, but now I wonder if that pic of Ronald Reagan that hung in Gaines' office wasn't just some sort of satirical ploy on the bearded one's part! Well, things you never woulda thunk woulda ever gone down the pike inna millyun years have happened, and given the topsy-turvy world we live in now I'm sure we can expect even STRANGER things to be revealed more sooner than later...really! Until then, getting hold of HUMBUG just might be the best way to connect with fifties gulcheral concerns in the privacy of your own bedroom, at least until you can latch onto your NANCY DUCK comics that is!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I'm usually not the kinda guy who goes 'round crying "woe is me" unless I have a pretty durn good reason to, but you just gotta hand it to your faithful BLOG TO COMM-ster for getting this typical bigtime Saturday/Sunday post out despite more than a few brickbats and monkey wrenches being tossed in said COMM-ster's way. First off I gotta admit that although I may seem upbeat and healthier than a pack of wild Melbournians on the hunt for pommy bastards to screw I've just come up from under the weight of a head cold which really wasn't that bad, but the dang cold hadda go'n settle in my ear canals thus creating some humongous pressure in my head akin to having Moe Howard put it in a printing press and clamping down HARD! I can still hear somewhat, but my head feels like both of my ears are stuffed with gritty wax and no matter how hard I jab a wooden stick cotton applicator down the tube I cannot get any relief whatsoever. Maybe if I punctured my ear drums with a sharp pencil or somethin' the pressure would subside? I think I'll try lighting some M-80s and sticking 'em in my may not work, but man what a sound!

Adding more to the frustration that I am experiencing is the hassle I'm having with my Cee-Dee-Are burner! Now that I got the hang of burning discs from files taken off of various downloaded sources I attempted to burn me as they say some interesting recordings not only for my own personal pleasure but as review fodder for this very blog. Now, I was able to successfully burn one particular disque (after a good two or so weeks of trying to get the mp3 downloaded into my library and then onto the "Roxio Easy CD Creator" [hah!]), but a whole slew of other interesting recordings that I had downloaded for some reason will not burn onto the blank disques I have been using, and this is even after I had been told via the pop up window that these discs are finalized and ready for play! Some discs do play, but will end up sounding like screech and flutter after anywhere from forty minutes into the thing until (on one disc) about ten seconds! Others actually make it through all of the usual steps avoiding the occasional buffering and "write to CD" problems only to eject with some error a good 99% towards completion! Of course these pop ups are of no use because all they mention after the right royal mishap is that the reason for said screwup is either in the tape or through the downloaded file...never the fault of the actual system you're using to make the disque! Anyhoo you can imagine the inner tension and pressure building up because of all of the work and energy I have been putting into making for myself some nice bedside listening experiences for my evening reading sessions being all for naught. So if your maybe not-so-humble blogster doesn't seem like his congenial (or congenital) self this week now you know why. And please, have pity on me boo hoo sniff blubber!

And to add even more woe to my already over-woed life I can't locate my copy of UGLY THINGS #27 so's I can re-reference the boffo Johan Kugelberg article on those proto-punk "junk shop" glam rock singles that came outta Merrie Olde to nada acclaim at least until a good thirtysome years later! Y'see, I just can't get enough of those outta-nowhere obscurities that appeared on the GLITTERBEST compilation and I need to know which numbuhs posted on the fantastico PUREPOP site are worthy of burning to disque for my own personal enjoyment (current fave is Grudge's "When Christine Comes Around" which I like almost as much as Spunky Spider's "You Won't Come" and Stud Leather's "Cut Loose", tracks that prove that English punk rock wasn't exactly a cunning ploy birthed from the fevered mind of Malcolm McLaren). But where oh where izzat ish of UGLY THINGS moiling away at anyway??? Sheesh, with bad luck such as this it's no wonder I'm a pithy blogschpieler hated by all and loved by none!

Enuff of that sickening self-pity so put away that tiny little record player spinning "My Heart Bleeds For You"'re just a few li'l tidbits I've been listening to o'er the past few days that you might or might not wanna know about but who cares because 'tis my blog! It's up to you, and at this point in the game I don't mind if you skip this 100% vitamin-packed post for something with a little more stuffing, like DETAILED NAUSEA or the like. At least I can see that it's ALL going down the tubes, this blog included, and frankly if anyone thinks that blogging or even anything remotely resembling a music fandom will exist a good ten or (hopefully) twenny years from now I'd certainly tell 'em what orifice they can probe during their next contortionist lesson. But until those fateful days arrive why not check out Lou Rone on Radio Basile and get something of value for next to no money at all!

Pharoah Sanders-IZIPHO ZAM (MY GIFTS) CD (Charly UK)

Hey, note that from now on I'm gonna revert to putting the name of the artist in small-case letters and the title of said artist's work totally upper-case, just so's the look of my writeups have some sorta sartorial elegance this blog is sorely lacking. Now that I got this bitta fluff outta the way let's, as Ben Fong-Torres used to say, get down to brass tacks. Here's a disc that has been highly sought after for quite some time (heck, even Mike Stax had it on his want list a few years back!) and it sure is good to hear this album without all of the scuffs and scratches that my tape of this just oozed with back in the days when these rarities just weren't getting reissued and we hadda make do with whatever do there was out there. Now, I gotta admit that I really never was that big of a Pharoah Sanders fan, if only because I believe his spirituality got the best of him much of the time. Well, at least it did to the point where his albums became more inner-light minded and you could hardly say that anything he had done since the late-sixties (with the exception of his appearance on Sonny Sharrock's ASK THE AGES) was really worth the bother especially next to such feral masters as Roscoe Mitchell or Frank Lowe, guys who seemed to take the original Ornette/Coleman/Ayler inspiration and go runnin' with it over the wall and into all eternity. I know admitting something like this would be bound to get me on Wayne McGuire's hit list, but sheesh, after being burned by all of those horrid eighties-era Sanders albums that I latched onto (one which actually featured the vocal "talents" of Bobby McFerrin), I really learned to be wary of the guy especially seeing just how far he had fallen since the glory days of TAUHID, a miraculous high energy masterpiece that tanks amongst the best late-sixties ear-shredders one can find!

'69's IZIPHO ZAM does come slightly close to TAUHID's sheer emotional overflow and Sharrock thankfully appears once again to give Sanders the additional push needed to break on through to pure energy, plus despite the unexpected setbacks (like an over-reliance on the more poppier aspects of Sanders' r&b background and the dreaded yodeling vocalist Leon Thomas) this one does cut the mustard 'stead of the cheese. It ain't no TAUHID true but then how often could anyone come up with that twice in one lifetime? This reish (which actually came out in '98 and has been making itself real scarce) is worth the time needed to track it down, but I wouldn't let it get in the way of such other important searches, like for the Stud Leather or Grudge singles I most certainly need!

Wanna hear a funny story? Back inna late seventies Bill Shute, who was then a Thirteenth Floor Elevators-looking college student down Colorado way, went to see the popular collegiate hipster jazz pianist Keith Jarrett and his group featuring noted Ornette sidekick and leader in his own right Dewey Redman in its ranks. Arriving backstage with a copy of Redman's BYG album TARIK, Shute asked Redman to autograph it at which point Redman snatched the album from the bewildered one's hands, smashed the album to pieces while swearing up a storm something about not being paid for that 'un and how nobody should be hearing the thing onandonandon... I'm sure Bill could fill us in with the grubby details, but believe it or not he remains a fan of Redman and even burned an unreleased album recorded at En Why See's Record Plant on December 19th of 1969 for me which only proves that Dr. B is made of stronger stuff because if that happened to me I'd still be smarting!

Dunno how Redman would react if Bill gave him a copy of this Cee-Dee-Are to autograph. Who knows, because the guy's now dead so your Redman albums are safe for now (unless son Joshua decides to carry on the "tradition") but it sure is a good cooker of a session just like TARIK, with Redman and band getting into a post-Ornette mode complete with the musette and a strange outerworldly mideast groove at times that I'm surprised didn't have Mr. Coleman himself coming over to punch Redman's lights out for sounding so eerily close! Bill downloaded the copy he made for me off the internet, and maybe if we bribe him with some Eddie Constantine DVDs and coupons for Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips he'll let you all know where you can find it so's you can fry up a copy for yourself!
MEERCAZ CD (Gulcher)

I reviewed this guy's debut single here (scroll down, as they say) and a good year-anna-half later this Meercaz fellow re-appears in my abode in the form of a Cee-Dee released on the Gulcher label! If you happened to miss out on that 45 rpm obscurity don't worry because it reappears on this disque, along with eight other goodies that should sate you BLOG TO COMM readers who never did get enough of the more hard-edged eighties underground home-produced rock & roll, which MEERCAZ and Meercaz revel in.

As I originally wrote, there seems to be the same spirit in Meercaz's music as there was in such long-forgotten self-produced vintage eighties-era singles as the one Spike Kagan did (which I will have to dig out and re-play/review one of these days) and many more. It was the stuff that was pretty much birthed from the seventies underground but got buried under the weight of eighties Amerindie music and hardcore. Hardly anyone seemed to pay attention to it back then and the same unfortunately probably holds true for Meercaz and hundreds of similar-minded people who are so obscure that even I wouldn't know how to find 'em even in today's myspace mad world. (BTW, you can find Meercaz's very own myspace page here.) But I dunno, this is hard-edged rock music, not exactly e-z listening schmooze and it packs a wallop that'll remind you of all of your fave late-eighties wonders who made their own records, got bigtime contracts then proved themselves to be the schmucks they really were with a load of substandard sputum.

This Meercaz/Mozzley M. guy does know how to play not only guitar but keyboards and bass and he does a pretty ample job presenting this music in thankfully less-than-tasteful stylings. And this is one of those outta-nowhere offerings that does hold up, surprises and harkens back to the days when underground rock was a whole lot more adventurous than it is now even if it is just as obscure despite the technological networking. If you need a more definite assertive prod to decide whether or not to buy lemme just say...yeah, you'll like it.

The Bachs-OUT OF THE BACHS LP (Void)

I wasn't that anxious to give this 'un a listen to which is why I've waited a good four months or so after receiving it to give it a spin. I dunno, but when one record seems to have such a hold and sway over even a slight portion of the "underground" listening audience you KNOW that alla these little lites will start flashing on and off in my mind goin' BEWARE OF THE HYPE! That's definitely why I haven't ordered the Death CD so far, but jaded ol' me's just gotta hold off on snatching up everything that these blogster critic wannabes or mail order mavens toss out at us eager beaver buyers ready to latch onto anything just like those food-crazy carp that people toss stale bread to up in Linesville.

But hey, sometimes these shady mail order people and gullible blogschpieler types can be RIGHT, and they certainly were when they heaped praise upon this recent exhumation of a Chicago-area garage band album that seemed to have slid under everybody's radarscope or at least until now. The Bachs were a pretty good group at that (considering they recorded only original material and snattily well!) who really did fit in to that late-sixties post-Byrds/Grape style of garage-psychedelia Thankfully these guys didn't blow their minds entirely because amidst the good West Coast cops OUT OF THE BACHS certainly retains a healthy suburban outlook which separates it from the more hippydippy practitioners of the form. If you wonder what the '65-'66 folk rock cusp shoulda sounded like a good two years later here's your chance.

Digitally-minded readers would want to know that a Cee-Dee version has only recently been released (about a good ten seconds after I purchased this!) complete with the come-on additional tracks to help ease us out of even more long green! I think I'll stick with my vinyl copy for now...after all, come to think of it I just might buy not only that aforementioned Death CD but the JT4 album which is also on Drag City, and whaddaya think I'm made outta

BOOTLEG(S) OF THE WEEK!: The Flamin' Groovies-NO CANDY (ZAP) and HOME TO ROOST (BRR)-Now that the weather is getting warmer and the sun shinier I feel it safe to once again take a trip down into the basement and mingle with my vinyl friends (who have given me more hours of downright happiness and pleasure than any of my real flesh and bone ones ever have!). And since I just "happened to get hold of" a load of those great (once) clandestine bootleg albums that sure zone me back to the days of those long-gone outta-the-way budget record shops, I thought I'd make it a PROJECT to review for you each and every weekend a bootleg album (or Cee-Dee if the moment arrives) perhaps to reminisce about record buying adventures past or to further document a portion of a seventies/eighties-era piece of rockism that really hasn't been discussed to the utmost. Naturally I'm only doing this mostly to help pad out these weekend posts and make 'em look a lot meatier than they have the past few weeks so don't say I have an ulterior motive doin' this!

Here are a couple oddities from the now-distant and much-missed (in some respects) seventies, Flamin' Groovies bootlegs that weren't put out by Skydog Records! Really, one would gander that only a Skydog or some other small specialty bootleg company would have dealt with a group the cult status of the Groovies, but it looks as if the big timers in the underground biz took a shine to our San Franciscan heroes as well. The first offering up for today, NO CANDY, was released by the "Ze Anonym Plattenspieler" label who I guess fell for the SHAKE SOME ACTION album a lot harder than the rest of the music buying populace. I mean, why else would they issue this live recording from August of 1976 featuring our heroes in the middle of a grueling tour kicking out the jams for a rather rabid and appreciative audience when they could have used the vinyl cranking out yet another nth-generation Beatles platter? Sound quality is good enough mid-seventies cassette job about as clear as many of the similar items that were cluttering up the bootleg bins back in the day, while the performance is, er, action-packed as well with the Groovies at the outset of their "power pop" period bridging the energy of the pre-hippie sixties with the budding new underground that somehow caught everyone by surprise during those hard-thrust times. Funny, but I don't recall seeing this one in any of the bootleg bins or catalogs of the day. My guess is that this was so desired that it actually sold out before I could get to the store.

As for HOME TO ROOST, it's a collection of easily enough and perhaps not-so Groovies tracks including their Skydog sides as well as a few things from the United Artists singles, the Bomp release and outtakes that I'm sure got more than a few Flamin' Groovies fans hopped up at the time. If you ain't got 'em and want it all in one place this would be a good one to latch onto, and ol' sentimental softie I should admit that HOME TO ROOST easily zoned me back a few decades to the days when I wasn't so jaded like these alternative squirts are now and stuff like this had a mighty impact on my general well being. Hate to sound so POSITIVE and all, but HOME TO ROOST was a pretty refreshing reminder of just how fun it used to be when you could pick up Flamin' Groovies albums for mere pennies in the cut out rack of your choice. Considering just how well the Groovies sold that was an easy enough task in itself!
BLOG TO COMM COMMENDS THE PRESIDENT FOR CLASSIC OFFENSIVENESS ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY! In closing, let me step out of character for one moment and get a little political because y'see, I absolutely must give Our Leader Barack Obama his dues and commend him for a recent action that proves that despite his college professor demeanor and general "nice negro you'd see on early-sixties television" looks he still can be just one of the slobs like us if he just wants to! Yes, Prez Obama's recent remarks about his bowling being akin to the athletics found at the Special Olympics only goes to show that the man has a great sense of BLOG TO COMM-approved bad taste humor in him, and if anything his recent actions puts him in the same ranks as such social commentators as the seventies-era NATIONAL LAMPOON and Richard Meltzer, who got some heat for his own Special Olympics comments in the pages of CREEM quite awhile back! And it's for that we salute you, Barack Obama! Just keep it up, and maybe I'll think of you in terms greater than you being a grownup version of the kid with the polka dot tie from DAVEY AND GOLIATH!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

UGLY THINGS #28 (which is still not a fanzine anymore!)

(pantpantpantpantpantpantpantpantpant PANT!)...whew whaddanother issue! As you all should know by this point in the time frame of musical concerns UGLY THINGS is definitely (not "perhaps") my favorite current day rock & roll magazine! Whenever I get hold of whatever latest issue there may be into my grubby little paws nothing short of a crowbar can get me away from the thing! Hands down, UGLY THINGS is thee bestest magazine out there in the wunnerful world of (ahem!) "music literature" today, and if you were the kinda guy who used to drool over obtaining the latest FORCED EXPOSURE or KICKS back inna eighties and remember the fun-packed times you'd have pouring over each and every issue of those in the privacy of your own suburban squat then UGLY THINGS will surely send you back to them days of old. Sheesh, the fact that UT editor Mike Stax has never been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Rockism really is enough to make my mouth go into overfroth, and it should yours too!

So, once again Stax came up with a 208-page wonder, and I'm sure...nay, positive that every one of you reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers have latched onto a copy of this by now. If you're one of the few who hasn't, here's whaz innit! For starters, there's a cover saga on such big name draws as the Dave Clark Five and the Move which I assume Stax snuck onna front in order to help move (no pun intended) some copies amongst the "classic rock" clientele or at least what's left of it. Fine stuff I guess...I didn't even get to those pieces yet because I wanted to dig into the meat and potatoes portion of the mag like mainly the bits (big hunkerin' bits!) on Roky Erickson's pre-Elevators group the Spades (dig that photo on page 115 showing Roky sandwiched between two go go gals looking like a bashful adolescent about to have his first rug tumble), Hackamore Brick (fantastic enough that even I found at least two chronological errors regarding the post-Brick bands here!) and the Daughters of Eve, an all gal group who certainly chose a better name'n the Daughters of Belitis! All of these articles are jambus packtus with heretofore unknown information and you can bet your bottom butt that one page of UGLY THINGS has more fun, knowledge and snappy pix than an entire run of ROLLING STONE! But then again one square of toilet paper (used) has more verve and charisma than STONE's whole existence could muster up so maybe I should come up with a better analogy...

One bit that really rocked my socks off was the coverage regarding the history (more or less) of rock fanzines, with mastheaded writers Jon Savage and Johan Kugelberg giving their fave rave rock fanzine rundowns a good seventeen years after I did the exact same thing in ish #19 of my own rag but better late than never. In order to be "controversial" and non-sycophantic to the entire UGLY THINGS dynasty I must admit that I thought Savage's piece, while good enough for a fairy, was more or less geared towards his own English sense of class struggle consciousness (they're all socialists over there, y'know) and with too many questionable entries (por ejemplo I would not consider KRLA BEAT a fanzine), and that interview he did with SEARCH & DESTROY's V. Vale was kinda dry... Not his fault though considering the subject matter at hand (the Claude Bessey one was better even if I have tres ambiv. feelings towards the man). Kugelberg's companion piece was much better 'n hip enough to drop the names of such wonders as DENIM DELINQUENT and even the ultra-obscure NIX ON PIX (a fanzine due for a BTC retro if editor Peter Tomlinson will only deliver with the copy of issue #1 he promised me a whole year ago!), though I would have expected him to have at least mentioned BACK DOOR MAN and TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE in his roundup! He probably thinks they've already been over-mentioned (by me!) to do such an obvious thing so kudos to him for being restrained!

The record (or Cee-Dee these days) review section is what gets me all hopped up, and although I didn't find as many must-gets this go 'round as I usually do (in fact, I found NONE other'n that JT 4 album that's on one of my waiting lists which proves that the truly hotcha exhumations have pretty much come to a grinding halt!) I always like to peruse this portion of the mag just to read the bright writeups and enjoy the brisk writing styles of everyone from Laurence Bigot to Doug Sheppard, a guy who I must admit I couldn't stand a good ten or so years back. Reading a good record writeup's almost as good as listening to the record itself, and sticking a typewriter in front of any of these guys is like sticking an electric guitar in James Gurley's hands...pure energy, and don't you let anyone else tell you different!

Oh, and in case you wondered why there are no refs in here to the reviews of a certain contributor of the femme persuasion this time, I merely bloobed over her stuff so's to not give myself any reason to mention it! Besides, I don't want to get the ire of ol "Jeff" who took offense to my criticisms to the point where he had to even berate my own writing "style" as being one big run-on sentence. Jeff, have you ever read Richard Meltzer???

And even with all of these goodies being tossed at your feet there are loads more things here that I haven't even gotten to yet, like part two of the Dandy Girls article (I liked the bit about when they were in Tehran and got in trouble for washing a dog in a sacred fountain!) and this promising looking article on rock & roll records made on "custom labels" (which is sorta the aural equivalent to those vanity press companies where you get to pay to have your own book printed up no matter how gnarly it may be!). And that's not mentioning the rest of the features and columns and all of those great bits and pieces one would find in this mag's twenty-eighth go' round. It's so all-encompassing and high energy that everything else blanches in comparison, and it's sure a good thing that people like Lindsay Hutton and myself have suspended our own publications because UGLY THINGS definitely would have the two of us at wits end tearing the hair outta our heads...wait, there's no way in heaven we can do that anymore, but I'm sure you get the drift!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


This is going to be a (comparatively) short one, not because of any lack of blogworthy material to review (and believe me, I got enough this past week to last at least the lifetime of a Dennis Kucinich for President blog), but because I am otherwise preoccupied. Preoccupied mainly with reading the latest issue of UGLY THINGS which arrived in the mail today and (as usual) has enraptured me to the point where I pretty much do feel like Snuffles from the old QUICK DRAW McGRAW cartoons when he'd swoon, sway and float in the air upon the ingestion of a dog biscuit (pardon the anti-esoteric writing all you intellectuals out there!). As you should know by now, the appearance of UGLY THINGS in my or anybody else's mailbox is a major event in the life of any rockster because this mag is def. the only rag on the market today worth reading from cover to cover, sans any interruptions and hopefully with hours of great music to help magnify the rockist experience of devouring such a herculean publication. Yeah, I've tried SHINDIG and glance through an occasional SIGNAL TO NOISE and a few other current periodicals out there in read-me land, and although they're okay I guess they still don't have alla the jam-packed information and just plain rock thrills that a mere page of UT exudes. You can bet your bottom buckskin that I'll be burning more'n the midnight oil (like perhaps a few Cee-Dee players and a reading lamp) pouring over this ish for the next few nights, and if you don't expect at least another half-baked writeup next blog roundup then may I call you Karen Quinlan?

Right now, what else that's big on the BLOG TO COMM itinerary are such funtime goodies as a coupla volumes of DC's much (and rightfully) vaunted SPIRIT ARCHIVE which had been taking up my precious reading time at least until UGLY THINGS's recent arrival, and although I can't deny this ambitious series' Golden Age greatness and the wonderful writing and artwork of Will Eisner just like every other schmoe out there I should 'fess up to you that those back cover blurbs printed all over the dustjackets of these things are enough to make me wanna chuck the entire (costly) series out the proverbial window! OK, I can understand that Art Spiegelman is a "respected" comic book art au-thor-oh-tee and all so's his high-falutin' opines are I guess "supposed" to be reprinted ad nauseum, but some jamoke at USA TODAY callin' THE SPIRIT "the CITIZEN KANE of comics" is just too much at least for an oft-gagging comic fan such as I to bear! Now, I must admit that I'd be put off by a blurb along the lines of "the PLAN 9 of comic books" just as much (why no "SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS of comic books" anyway???) but having such things as good ol' Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids entertainment the calibre of vintage forties comic book sagas dumbed up for the chattering classes really does the entire form no good! In fact, it only comes off like just another example of dilettantes praising the same "trash" they scorned for ages now that the particular era is long gone and for all practical purposes DEAD. Sorta like they did with punk rock, which they loathed for eons until it suddenly became enshrined in the history of music (see Anastasia Pantsios' more recent palpitations for a good example). Maybe if I threw away the dust jackets?

Until next go 'round's UGLY THINGS reviews, here are a few items that have been tickling my ears as of late, and maybe they're fine enough to french yer lobes as well:


The first time I ever heard about Jobriath I couldn't believe what I was reading. Twas in the pages of NEWSWEEK, a '73 vintage "special issue" dealing with the arts in Ameriga'n all the high and mightiness that goes along with it, and amidst the standard upper-crust praise on everything from homebred movies (Woody Allen's SLEEPER being amongst the images featured on the cover) to painting and classical music to be found therein was a bit on rock or pop or something to that effect which I assume the editors felt worthy of mention alongside the 'serious" stuff. Anyway, in that special section there was a pic of this emaciated fairy dressed like a clown complete with a Ferd'nand-styled conehead hat and what I believe were fake fluffy clownsuit buttons affixed to his bare flesh named Jobriath, and the description of his stage show read like a script from the NATIONAL LAMPOON PRESENTS THE DAWN OF DECADENCE DVD...onto a stage adorned with an art deco version of the New York skyline comes our hero clad in a gorilla suit, and while the music rages on Jobriath/the ape climbs the Empire State Building while fighting off the toy biplanes encircling him as the tension builds to feverish pitch. Then after the sound abounds to a frightening crescendo the stage goes dark except for a spotlight on the ape-suited warbler, who then descends the skyscraper, strips down to nothing but a fur g-string, and begins his big budgeted (and not all of it went up the nose) stage show that I guess was calculated to put those of Alice, David and all the rest to shame.

CREATURES OF THE STREET does convey a bit of this overblown gay/old movie campkitch but (thankfully) not enough to make it yet another mid-seventies Bowie wankoff that we've all come to know and abhor or enjoy, depending on your own mental instability. "Dietrich/Fondyke" does tend to do a little envelope pushing since it feature nada a whimper from this wizard/true fairy but his backup gal singers blurting out the names of various femme movie stars of yore, but other'n that I was surprised to hear that this guy, contrary to the image I would have had of a lisping wannabe adagio dancer, had a rather good voice that didn't ooze effeminate smarm. And that voice is put to good use on numbers that may reek of overproduction (BERLIN sounds like Mitch Miller in comparison) but make for occasional ha-ha deca-glam slam fun and games. Coulda been a neat spin at Club 82, though I'm sure the people waiting to hear the Dolls, if not 'luded outta their gourds, might have put up a bit of a fuss. And although musically this ain't no great shakes with "The Jobriath Symphony Orchestra" (who sound like members of the 101 Strings doing a little moonlighting) backing him up, but as far as mid-seventies gay froth goes this one might even top such space kiddettes as Dorian, Another Pretty Face and even Jay Gatsby!

Kudos to Mike Snider for the burn of this obscure relic of a more innocent time...will get to the rest of his freebee offerings hopefully more sooner than later.

I wanted to get in a review of this 'un last year just so's it woulda made my year-end summation of things usually not worthy of such notoriety, but I guess it is better late'n never that I latched onto this one at all. Anyway, you may have read my review of the Bon Vivants' debut 10-inch EP awhile back, and you too may have marveled that a group like this could ever dare exist in the here and now after all has been said and done in the world of rock music since those halcyon days. I mean, the Bon Vivants sound a whole lot more 1976 than they do 2009, or at least they sound like one of those outta-nowhere bands that fanzines like BIG STAR woulda covered to the hilt because there was something new in the air, and it was ten-year-old rock modes! The kind the Bon Vivants excel in, only they're doing forty-three-year-old pop rock forms filtered through thirty-three-year-old retro ideals, but it sure sounds better here in the cyborg waning days of this decade than all of that moderne-day pooh being passed off as the bona-fide goodness-to-gracious garage rock of the day I'll tell ya!

Anyway the Vivants' latest entitled BLACK HONEY is just as good as that outta-nowhere surprise debut, and major kudos must go to Gulcher Records for signing these guys lest they sorta flitter away into nothingness like way too many rock bands of worth have over the past few decades or so. The twisted Southern pop take (sounds mid-south even if these guys are from Georgia) mixed with the studio-wise production calls to mind Mitch Easter or at least what he was doing during the Sneakers days and the overall performance and production'll probably have you dreaming up more interesting comparative accolades than Eddie Flowers did in his own nifty bio of the group! Maybe the Velvet Underground meets Television with Eno recorded live at CBGB in '76? Naw, that's too convoluted...make it Big Star (the band, not the aforementioned fanzoon) meets the Modern Lovers in Kim Fowley's garage laying down some demos while these fourteen-year-old blond triplets with double-d cups show Kim the true meaning of sisterhood. Well, it sounds better than most of those "____________ crossed with ___________ recording in _____________'s studio" comparisons you've read from myself and others ever since day one!

Only real downer here is the cover of Frank Zappa's "I'm Not Satisfied", not because it's a Zappa number (and a good 'un at that!), but because it would seem that the Bon Vivants probably have more than an ample amount of good songs in the rep and don't need to cover anyone else's music for whatever reasons they may conjure. A nice surprise outta nowhere (at least nowhere would I would suspect something like this to come outta!) and I don't care if it has an '08 date, I just may mention this in my year-end roundup up the best and worst that have and will transpire this current solar orbit!
That's it for now...stay tuned to this blog for my UGLY THINGS review hopefully this midweek, and maybe in another seven I'll have some more reviews of recently-unearthed items to dish your way. Until then have fun, and remember to keep your ass covered, especially if you're in Melbourne!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


(t' be cornpone about it)...will wonders ever cease? Here for the past week or so I hadda rely on fulfilling my BLOG TO COMM doodies by closing my eyes 'n picking a Cee-Dee outta the box at random (and surprisingly enough, no John Cage was within reach!) and here it is Wednesday and not only do I have this beaut to write up for you anxious minions but a few more offerings have appeared in the ol' mailslot as well! Who knows, but perhaps even more items of value and worth may be appearing in the not-so-distant future for me to write up and enlighten you ignorant but lovable readers with! And here I was, just getting used to old favorites that just happened to get shoved under the rug in lieu of newer booty! Well, I gotta say that I sure do like my oldies, but it really is wunnerful to grace mine lobes with something a little different once in awhile!

And different this three-Cee-Dee compilation of various tracks ruminating under the "space rock" banner is, especially on this blog where such matters are usually not discussed w/o being accompanied by a parent or guardian. Now I know that space rock can be just as GENERIC a term as punk rock or heavy metal, and if the Tornadoes and Byrds could have qualified as space rock do they still have anything in common with Yes or Pink Floyd, but once you cut away at the flitzier meaning of the term the genre did come up with some interesting examples of down and dirty low-fidelity tunesmanship. And SPACE BOX is a sampler that covers at least the more interesting examples of the space rock movement (TRANSLATION: you don't have to worry about "Close to the Edge" taking up a good twennysome minutes outta any of these disques!), and even if you're more'n just a dabbler in the form you might find at least some use for this thing which can be obtained for less than the high-ticket retail price if you search it out hard enough.

Natcherally you can say that a "decent" portion of SPACE BOX sounds like some rich kid in his bedroom with too many electronic instruments and too much free time on his hands for that matter. That's always to be expected with these synthocomputer ravings, but there's still much here that'll snap your brain synapses like a cyborg in heat. Well, at least they snapped mine because such necessities as Hawkwind's "Valium 10" ('81 recapturing of SPACE RITUAL glories) and Chrome's "Third From the Sun" appear here amidst the krautrock familiarities and instant disposals, and since I missed out on 'em the first time 'round it's sure great to prove F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong and get a second act for once in my life!

True there's a good hunka material here that you'll probably have elsewhere in your collection and who wants to clutter up precious apartment space with dupes 'n all! Yeah you could say that, but like on NUGGETS these tracks sound good in the company of each other and even if you're about to snooze through some asteroid synthibleep you can bet something along the lines of Guru Guru will soon pop up to jar you our of your complacency. Think of it this way...SPACE BOX will save you tons of money because yuo won't have to search out each and every one of these platters just to hear one crucial track cutting down on the filler!

The real reason I got hold of SPACE BOX was so's I could hear this little numbuh by the New York City-based '80s/'90s space rock band Alien Planetscapes. As you might have known (from this blog and other places on the web and off) the group's leader, namely the late Doug Walker, was also involved with the mid-seventies Long Island-based space/krautrock-influenced act Master Radio Canaries whom I have been trying to get information (and recordings) on for nigh over three or so years, and if I can't get hold of the Canaries material any time soon I guess Alien Planetscapes will have to satisfy me until I do! As their various recordings available via their website would attest to, Alien Planetscapes were successful in their mission to bridge Ohr-period Tangerine Dream-styled kraut electronics with the avant garde loft jazz sound of the mid-seventies NYC scene, and naturally giving their sole track a listen-to only makes me want to hear even a substantial part of the group's 100-plus cassette tapeography, which I don't think even the most devout of space rock fans could stand to do even with every inch of tape at their disposal! If any of you have any Planetscape tapes they'd like to part with (ditto such Master Radio Canaries cassette offerings as THE IDI AMIN FACTOR and GUIDED MISSILES TO YOUR HEART) then let me know as soon as humanly know how to get in touch.

While I'm on an space rock tangent I thought I'd also mention this CD-R burn I got from an English chap by the name of Rupert (not Murdoch or Holmes, nor even that fag bear that Paul McCartney seems to have the utmost fondness for) of an Amon Duul II release that even slipped past my radarscope! ETERNAL FLASHBACK is its name and it was originally released by Captain Trips in Japan sometime in the mid-nineties. According to Rupert, ETERNAL FLASHBACK was only available if you bought the traditional crapload of Captain Trips' wares back in the day, but then again I did some snooping and I guess Amazon UK is selling it so who knows? Having been described to me as consisting of rare '67-'71-era outtakes and having a PARADIESWARTS DUUL-ish "feel" to it, naturally my salivary glands began working overtime, but other than having a number of rough early versions of familiar tuneage from the early albums and some interesting psychedelic folk rock moments a good portion of ETERNAL FLASHBACK contains oft-heard LP tracks that fade in and out of each other, sometimes being played simultaneously which I guess ain't my idea of a space rock fun time whether I'm orbiting Jupiter or not. If this is someone's idea of doing an Amon Duul variation on THE FAUST TAPES I don't think they succeeded, but if this is someone's idea of a joke I think they deserve a good punch inna mouf! Still, the rarities are must-hears for any Amon Duul fan, though why the clip from the group's debut performance (which can be found in part on the web) was left off is reason to ponder.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

LUTHER THOMAS TRIO-SAXCROBATIC FANATIC CD (Creative Improvised Music Project, available via Cadence)

Gentle reader, once again I am at a loss re. writing one of those info-packed woozer-doozer megaposts where I get to dribble on in detail regarding a half-dozen of the hotcha recordings both old and new to have graced my lobes since our last chitchat. Thank goodniz for that. Really, I find myself getting into various writing ruts all the time and even if I do like to blab on about my current listening experiences maybe I should try to be more creative and varying in my approach if not my own personal opines. And then again the ol' juices, or whatever I've been able to squeeze outta the rinds, just haven't been flowin' like they would when I'd just burst all over the room'n crank out yet another issue of my long-gone crudzine during my younger and less inhibited days. Of course back then I'd take days, sometimes weeks and months off from writing in order to re-charge my rockist sanity, but in these days of instant internet communication such a frivolity is certainly not allowed for, and truthfully, like Superman and Dick Tracy I feel obliged not to take a vacation from my blogging duties in order to inform and enlighten even the dimwittiest of you faithful BLOG TO COMM readers.

Not to say that I haven't been enjoying myself when the duty arises. Besides indulging in a load of disques both old and new (mostly the former due to the stringent economic conditions I must confront daily) I have been spending my precious pre-beddy bye time reading even more recently-acquired PLASTIC MAN reprints as well as taking in a movie the new-fashioned way, mainly via the modern day miracle of YouTube! And what a modern day miracle it is, because in the here and now, at the tip of your very fingertips, you can now see in the privacy of your own fart-encrusted bedroom a film classic like I just did, mainly the Don Knotts epic THE LOVE GOD? which I gotta admit was one biggie must-see on my film list, a list which includes such cinematic wonders as PERFORMANCE, PAY DAY and of course that cute dago kid movie DONDI even if the comic strip sucked more than a la leche convention.

Well, I do recall seeing a good portion of THE LOVE GOD? back when it aired on NBC's MONDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES, though to be honest about it I must admit that your's truly was actually sent to bed by my mother (who continued watching the film!) right around the scene where Ann Francis was thinking up a good scheme to do away with Don Knotts' virginity problem! (Such mandatory early bedtimes and/or channel switches also occured during my growing up days including WHAT A WAY TO GO [the Shirley MacLaine/Paul Newman bathtub scene], although THE IMPOSSIBLE YEARS actually got the set turned off when the biker character told David Niven that what he knew about sex could get you arrested!) Well, there was no parental guidence suggested or even implied when I tuned in to see this flicker in its entirety yesterday (please don't tell mommy!), and despite the naysaying to the contrary I will place my wee-wee firmly upon chopping block by saying that THE LOVE GOD? is a pretty snat film (deserving of cult status!) that was worth the wait to watch especially considering how I was thinking about dishing out the bucks to buy the DVD version that's easy enough to find on ebay and perhaps other areas of the web including Amazon and Arnie's Virtual Back Alley Emporium!

Hokay, the premise of Knotts as an innocent publisher of a failing birdwatcher magazine transformed into a porn king might be stretching things a tiny bit, but former BILKO-mate Nat Hiken manages to mix classic fifties/sixties entertainment with the New Morality so hands-down easily that this film, funny half-backed plot and all, makes for an exemplary thumb-upper esp. if you think the merging of classic sitcom elements and the late-sixties "now" film mentality is one of the best pairings since Leopold and Loeb. The screenplay holds up a whole lot more than one would expect and the cast, featuring besides Knotts and Francis such stalwarts as Edmond O'Brien as the pornographer/partner of Knotts, Bob Hastings (ex-McHALE'S NAVY, probably best remembered by you as Kelsey on ALL IN THE FAMILY) as a member of an ACLU-styled organization urging Knotts to fight on for the sake of free speech, James Gregory (Luger on BARNEY MILLER) and the guy who used to play Corporal Boyle on GOMER PYLE is pretty copasetic with the entire gist of this film which seems so incongruous in the way it looks so innocent on one level and sleazy on another! Believe-you-me, watching THE LOVE GOD? sorta smacks of what it would be like if they started discussing erectile dysfunctions on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND!

Also noteworthy of mention is the scene with Darlene Love and the Blossoms in Supremes drag doing this great late-sixties via 1962 girl group pop number, plus I should point out that former child star Junior Coughlin makes a brief appearance as a reporter and how can you argue with a cast like that! And special kudos must go to actor O'Brien, who spent '69 not only acting in this wonder but the all-time slaughter epic THE WILD BUNCH making that year a real power-packed double header for this famed forties survivor!

Even with the homey gloss look that at times makes you think you're watching an early-sixties Disney feature there is a good enough lowdown quality that I guess made this film deserve the old "M" rating back in the day. And all these years later THE LOVE GOD? even earns its current-day PG-13 which it lives up to even without some of the stronger language and overt sexuality moom pitchers of that rating usually contain. Well, all I gotta say is that they sure don't make PG-13 films like this anymore, and anyone who's out on the prowl for a good clean dirty movie (shades of Alan Funt plugging WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY?) might wanna tiptoe over to youtube for a nice evening viewing that'll have you flashing back to the days when this kinda entertainment was deemed nudge nudge enough by the kids discussing what they saw on the box the previous day during their lunch break encounter! Just convince yourself you're watching a good version of THE PEOPLE VERSUS LARRY FLYNT and you'll have yourself one whale of a time!

Before we get on with today's rockist screed I thought it would be also wise to point out yet another new addition to the ever-growing list of BTC-approved websites that I know you will both know and perhaps even cherish. And as far as these link-ups go all I gotta say is...who woulda thunk that the great BACK DOOR MAN fanzine would have ever make it into the age of internet but it has and via its very own myspace page as well! (Check linkup at left for, as they say, "more information".) As anyone who has ever perused a fanzine would know, BACK DOOR MAN was perhaps thee ultimo self-publication read to have popped up during the Golden Age of Rock Writing, a time when most of the rock fanzines that were appearing on the scene were shall I say pretty "etapoint" when it came to writing about such an unbridled sound in some of the most cutting, controversial, offending and high energy ways possible. And yeah, in a sea of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTEs, NIX ON PIXes, DENIM DELINQUENTs, CAN'T BUY A THRILLs and SLADE PARADERs one might think that BACK DOOR MAN woulda been crushed under the heavy tide of moral offensiveness, but even when stacked up against even a tres-caustic offering as TWG BACK DOOR MAN knew how to write about the true, gritty underbelly nature of rock & roll as seen through the drug-sotted eyes of it SoCal just-post teenage denizens, all of whom really did their darndest to counter-attack the ever-growing legions (or shall I say lesions???) of seventies peacelovecreeps who were doing their best to ruin a whole lotta things including my very own growing up period for which I will never forgive 'em! Maybe that's one reason I like these old BACK DOOR MAN's so much. Too bad I didn't have a copy to help guide me through high school, but then again if we all hadda do it over again I'm sure we'd've been packin' some iron during recess!

BACK DOOR MAN's debut issue is now available on this page for download or perhaps just some casual on-line reading (with more to come!), and in this mere ish you can see where not only I, but people like Lindsay Hutton and James Marshall not to mention the fine folks at KICKS magazine got more than a few good ideas to swipe for our own crudreads. And it is a doozy too, "guaranteed to offend" as they say especially in these rather frightening anti-free expression times but also guaranteed to inspire, motivate and (best of all) rev up the old resensification elements in ya with its powerful writing and no-holds-barred attack mode which seems to be in such short supply these (chicken) days. Stacked up against the entire bulk of "rock criticism" seen o'er the past three contest man, no contest! One can only hope that the entire run of BACK DOOR MAN'll be up and running more sooner'n later because if the snide, snarling attitude of this rag infects even one unaware mewling post-hippie brethren to help kick-start a new generation of anti-PC rave-up rockscreeding it will not have been in vain. And who knows, if such effete nonentities as Jay Hinman and Dave Lang dare to penetrate this webpage's walls they might even be offed for good, and Lord knows what it would do to J. Neo Marvin you lovable electric bunny you!
Well, now onto the main meaty review portion of today's literary abomination, mainly this Cee-Dee which is yet another close eyes and snatch outta the collection offering that you might want to osmose at least a little pertinent information outta. Dunno how many of you have been following the career (for wont of a better term) of avant garde altoist Luther Thomas, but he has had a pretty exemplary one not only as the "star" of a number of St. Louis-based Black Arts Group sessions but in New York during the '79/'81 punkfunk avant jazz movement spawned by the success that James Chance and his Contortions were having in that burgh at the time. Like such free jazz mongers as Rashied Ali, Sonny Sharrock, Arthur Doyle and countless others, Thomas was one who knew enough to capitalize on the popularity that the new jazz had with the new rock audience, and you gotta be glad that the guy probably got more than a few bucks his way for being smart enough to associate with people who copped his entire style and swagger and laughed all the way to the bank, or at least to the connection!

This trio setting also features gutiarist Kelvyn Bell who was also part of a New York underground rock scene as a member of Kelvynator in the late-eighties (LP easily enough obtainable via ebay in case you're interested) as well as drummer Ronnie Burrage, and from the liner notes one can find out that these three actually started out as a garage trio in the early-seventies playing avant versions of Motown and other concurrent hits! Well all those years later the three still cooked hot enough with Thomas sounding like a freaky cross twixt Chance and Albert Ayler while Bell cranks out good enough jazz guitar chords not anything near the Sharrock-esque feedback blare I would have hoped for but swell enough. Burrage's drumming is nothing special mind you, nothing near the Murray-esque free play I would have hoped for but it does fit in at least as backdrop for this urban revolution music.

The "Spirit Room Series" recordings from whence SAXCROBATIC FANATIC came seem to be worth the time to search out, for they feature relatively recent (mid-nineties) sessions from some of those players whom I even forgot about over the years, and if you want to hear some more playing from the likes of such legends as Billy Bang, Frank Lowe and even former Red Transistor sax player Ken Simon you might just wanna hit the Cadence site linked up above and indulge yourself in some of this freedom blare that I seem to find myself playing at an even greater frequency considering how this music seems to be the soundtrack for my general nervous state these days. Expect even more avant jazz dribbles from this blog as time rolls on, and it wouldn't hurt to check out Cadence or ebay for some of these CIMP recordings which, at least from what I've heard, sound just as out-there energetic and nerve-bending as the stuff that originally hooked me onto this music way back in the good ol' days of record shops that would actually stock these wonders as if they were just as relevant and commercially viable as the latest disco abomination!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Cecil Taylor-OLU IWA CD (Soul Note, Italy)

Here's another close my eyes 'n pick one outta the box review, and a good pick fer once considerin' the current heavy duty deep throb that I have for the high energy sounds of the post-bop/freejazz/avant thing that seemed just as enticing and as feral-sounding to me as the rock thing did back during the day. And Cecil Taylor has been a longtime fave of mine ever since I, on a plain ol' down and dirty whim, latched onto a copy of the Arista/Freedom NEFERTITI THE BEAUTIFUL ONE HAS COME twofa with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny bass! way back in '78 just because of the underground free buzz that even penetrated into the pages of the rock press. Ever since those days Taylor has been an on/off interest of mine and although I'll admit that I have only a handfulla his recordings in my possession (at least compared with some of you deep pockets types out there!) and that I certainly am not what one would call an "expert" with regards to the man or even what he has fully been trying to relay to us via his performances and albums spanning the past fiftysome years Taylor is one of those jazz legends whose work remains timeless and geared to minds that I will say are more fully developed than the standard soft jazz schmoozer's who laps up the pablum known as "today's light jazz favorites" with addled glee. (But then again one just has to feel some empathy and perhaps even pity for Taylor considering he was the only performer interviewed on the vastly overrated Ken Burns documentary JAZZ to get the razz from the omnipresent Wynton Marsalis, who dismissed Taylor's wishes that people would understand his music by studying various classical precedents as "bullshit". And you know that the likes of Return to Forever were to have been left unscathed on that useless piece of jazz hagiography that speaks about as much to the true core of jazz being as Jann Wenner does to rock & roll concerns! TRANSLATION: LCD as the bottom line!!!!)

But why should we really pay attention to the ravings of ol' bow tie when Taylor's music continues to speak for itself, which it certainly does on this '96 side recorded live in Berlin and issued on the Italian Soul Note label. A massive performance with two extended tracks, OLU IWA shows that although reports might have had Taylor slipping and sliding into softie territory that none of us would dare sit through without a handy barf bag, he still could cook hard velocity even at this relatively late date and at a time when at least I believed that the free jazz idiom, for all intent purposes, was a thing of the past having been replaced by some new alien life form I really didn't want to have anything to do with in a millyun years!

Ya get two tracks here, the first being the 48'21" "B Ee Ba Ngauga Han'a Eee!", which I believe loosely translates into "Dig it in a little deeper Dave" but I could be wrong. Anyway, this 'un features the entire Cecil Taylor Unit as it stood at the time complete with such stalwarts as Frank Wright and Peter Brotzmann on tenor saxes, Freedomland leader William Parker on bass and longtime vet Steve McCall on drums. I kinda wish I had read Art Lange's liner notes back when I first got and reviewed this disque a good eight or so years back because they mention McCall in the past tense, something which I had not realized (or remembered) which did come as quite a surprise. Adding an extra kick to this number is Thurman Barker on marimba, an instrument that never did get seen that much in jazz outside of some old Art Ensemble of Chicago discs, though frankly I don't think the Baja Marimba Band had this in mind.

Whaddeva, the Unit cook like Aunt Jemima at a Jaycees pancake breakfast as they get into a frantic jam that ebbs and flows from calm to overload while Taylor seemingly keeps it all under control with his patented scrunch which at times reminds me of Ellington channeling the spirit of Stravinsky while undergoing a rectal probe. Might-T powerful performance with a typical Taylor-led ferocity although I will shame myself and say that I actually prefer the followup title track by the stripped-down quartet (Taylor w/Barker, Parker and McCall) where the foursome get to stretch out even a little more and Barker's marimba can be heard in an even greater context giving an overall effect of a south of the border avant splurge. Tacos with soul sauce anyone?

It really is a treat to hear Taylor in any wayshapeform because I've yet to encounter a bum track from the guy, and even if the snooty jazz estab. continues their "conspiracy of silence" regarding Taylor even this far down the line at least there's the hard-edged high-energy lumpen proles (mainly ourselves!) who are out there supporting him in any way we can even if it is scarfing up old albums at hopefully budget prices. Anyway, this is just one of about what...a hunnerd or so Taylor albums out there somewhere and picking up one or a dozen the next time you carouse at the flea market would be a pretty snat way to resensify yourself after being barraged by the modern evils of sap. And if you're one of those jazz aficionado snoot types who think this review is heads up hindquarters because it doesn't mention or articulate on any contrapuntal tonology or the natural "healing power" of such a cosmic entity as Taylor well what were you expectin', Gary Giddins???