Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lowell George & the Factory-LIGHTNING-ROD MAN CD (Bizarre)

I'll bet this one's going for a lotta dollars on the OP Cee-Dee market along with the rest of those "Bizarre"-label rarities that sorta came and went back in the early-nineties. However, unlike Alice Cooper and Tim Buckley these Factory guys never got the opportunity to release any of their wares during their lifetime. In fact, I doubt very much that they made it out of the Southern Californian freak scene alive, heading into the seventies under the guise of Little Feat and not quite chilling these bones the way these '67 El Lay folk rockers continue to to a good fortysome years after the fact.

You heard and even saw 'em on GOMER PYLE (although they have been so cleverly edited out of the DVD package along with Gomer singing "The Impossible Dream" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie") but if you'd like to hear what an actual Factory album might have sounded like had Zappa the nerve to release this on Bizarre/Verve along with Sandy Gurvitz well snatch it up! The title cut's the same one that pops up on all of those Mothers bootlegs (credited to Gail Zappa of all people!) which don't surprise me given that Beefhearty sound, while the rest is dang good power folk West Coast rock located somewhere between the Byrds before they gave David Crosby the heave-ho and San Francisco at its high-end shock best. (Think '67 Grape as opposed to '69 'plane and you'll get the idea.) Overall this would have been an atypical release for the fledgling Bizarre label but then again it was a tax loss company anyway so maybe them cutouts woulda been comin' at us at a faster rate than any of us'd expect!

Songs might have this air of sameness but just when you think you're gonna get candy-cane bored outta your mind along comes a real surprise like the "Hey Joe" homage "Hey Girl!" It's the stuff I think of when I think teenage and late-sixties. Pop yet smart, West Coast yet not silly or show biz. Surprise production tricks can also be espied with such niceties as Lowell George tackling dulcimer and woodwinds as well as Emil Richards adding his typically exotic/spooky percussion to "No Place I'd Rather Be" (and yeah, that is Zappa himself adding those boo-boo's on "Lightning Rod Man as if we couldn't guess!).

Biggest surprise of all is the way the tone of the disque changes from folk rock to nasty blooze within the span of two years of recordings. Dunno exactly when the Factory transformed from flower children into the country bloozers Little Feat but you can hear it plain and clear right here. Never did give a listen to those early Little Feat albums and I know that they eventually became too much a part of the seventies Joni and Linda laid back ROLLING STONE set for me to give two whits, but Mark Jenkins did like those early-seventies releases so perhaps the Feat had something on the ball for them. (And I sure remember a CREEM piece from the mid-seventies nailin' 'em as a punk rock group perhaps due to George's time as a post-Dick Dodd Standell!) Judging from these tracks I don't think I would be that much induced into heading straight for the Cee-Dee Supermarket to find out if Little Feat's early platters are that good even with that Neon Parks painting resplendent on the front cover of SAILIN' SHOES, but these tracks, including a standard late-sixties white-hard version of "Framed", do seem to be a good tag-on roundup of things to come especially for those of us who kinda shudder at a lotta the things that went.


Bill S. said...


I don't remember the "bizarre" CD's in the early 90s. Were these boots? What other interesting items were in that series?

By the way, when I said that I got a review in CREEM, it was in the same article that YOU got reviewed in. Was it Chuck Eddy (sorry for mentioning that name) who did a review in CREEM of various zines, and you and I were mentioned for PHFUDD (I'm assuming it was pre-BTC, but maybe it wasn't). Remember he wrote something like "Bill Shute likes Ike Turner and Bob Wills but hates hippies and Jello Biafra" or something like that?
You may remember that review better than I do...then again, if it was written by CE, maybe you've tried to forget it! :-)

talk to you soon...


Todd Lucas said...

Well thanks for confirming what I thought was probably true - that the Factory were in fact erased from the Gomer Pyle DVD set. Anyhoo, I have this CD and give it a spin every now and then. Pretty good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I really love the older tracks on this CD! Total Byrds, Love, LA folk-rock bliss. I don't really think you'd dig Little Feat too much but I love the first self titled one, which also features Roy Estrada from the Mothers. One of the other guys was in Fraternity of Man with Elliot Ingber (Winged Eel Fingerling of Beefheart fame) and Little Feat later did their song "Don't Bogart That Joint". There are some rarities on a couple comps worth hearing. "Rat Faced Dog" is a way tuff punk blues with a sick dulcimer solo, and a real cool early version of a song called "The Fan" "Heard you got, an infection, from a guitar player of great renown". I think Lowell George is completely under rated. When people cream all over Gram Parsons all I can say is Lowell had way cooler roots in the Factory and the Mothers, and could sing, write, and play that dude under the table any day. Word, PhilthyRex

Christopher Stigliano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Stigliano said...

Bill, the Bizarre label was in operation during the early-nineties or thereabouts (I'm thinking late-eighties though the copyrights on my disques read 1992), distributed by Rhino I believe. Unfortunately they were in business for only a short amount of time which is why their various wares such as the Alice Cooper albums and Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR later on went for rather large amounts of money on the ebay market. Thankfully they are available in some form nowadays, usually via the grey market.

Much of the Bizarre/Straight back catalog was re-released at this time with a few notable exceptions (Tim Dawe, Judy Henske...) while some totally new albums such as an early Alice live at the Whisky set along with the Factory managed to briefly see the light of day. Strangely enough, the Wild Man Fisher album was never reissued because Gail Zappa was still mad at him for throwing something at Moon Unit all those years ago!