Sunday, January 23, 2011

The wintertime blahs really must be getting me down! Not that they usually don't, but frankly I normally start gettin' 'em around mid-February or especially March when some freak snow shower 'round St. Patrick's Day manages to hit leaving the area with one big mess of slush. Worse yet is when I get 'em in April especially when I espy the sight of snow encrusting the blossoms on a that's bound to send me into fits of pure afanacaga even though the weather usually breaks within a few days after which it all melts into the sanctity of your basement. But at least the eventual thaw and warm sunny shirtsleeves weather will be just around the corner, and that always gets my spirits up at least until I start mowing the yard and pulling weeds while trying to beat the impending thunderstorm making me wish it was Winter and all I hadda do was lull around the house reading old comic books!

Does my frustration show? Y'know, I can never really be happy in whatever situation I find myself in lest I can come up with even more ways of goofing off and indulging myself in the finer things of life like old fanzines and "the music of our lives" (hard blare avant garde scrunch or doofus suburban teenage rock wankings). Though sometimes I wonder...when I finally retire and can spend the rest of my life just reading and listening and watching old tee-vee programs, will I get bored to death within the span of a few days and yearn for the good ol' 9-5 workaday schedule I'm now inundated with? Somehow I don't think so. You know, once a layabout always a layabout and if my eighth-grsde teacher wasn't right about me then who was???

In udder news not much else going on. The Forced Exposure order was canceled after 99% of the items chosen (including the Stooges '70 album on Easy Action [which I sincerely hope is not the same as the Rhino handmade live set] as well as the first two Soft Boys albums) were already sold out. Will try to get another order into them probably by next week in the anticipation that its arrival will coincide with my day off, but until then I'm gonna hafta rough it like our ancestors hadda do amusing each other with the tonal purity of their flatulence! I mean, how do you think music really got wasn't because some hunter liked the twang of his bow so he decided to make a harp outta it! Naw, it was something a lot more gaseous, and considering some of the music being made today I would say we've come FULL CIRCLE.

Five-day-old news true, but I'm sure you all'd want me to give my own personal two cents regarding the late Don Kirshner who passed away Tuesday. Not much to say really other than if it weren't for DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT airing on channel 3 in Cleveland after SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE back in the late-seventies I don't know what I would have done during my usual bouts of teenage insomnia! And given the quality of a lotta the acts Kirshner was booking onto his program who needed Sominex? Of course being so tuned into the music biz he was bound to do something right once in awhile like get the New York Dolls and Ramones onto his show, but fighting to stay awake through the likes of Kansas and Cat Stevens to see 'em surely was a battle we all hadda fight back in those days when the pickin's were so slim that we hadda get what was there when it was there for the pickin'!

Of course there were other surprises on the show like the time Richard Robinson performed his magic act and I'm there watchin' the whole thing thinkin' "Wow, that's the guy who produced the Flamin' Groovies and Cramps!" soaking it in as much as if those groups were on instead!!! And of course I keep remembering that upcoming blurb for one particular episode on Youngstown's channel 33 that they were hyping all week featuring an appearance by none other than Roy Wood's Blizzard. (Missed that one but caught "Blizzard" doing a track from the abysmal EDDIE AND THE FALCONS platter on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL around the same time!) I wonder if Mike Nesmith was available for comment?

Oh yeah, and I understand that Peace Corps founder and father to Maria the chin, Sargent Shriver died as well. Was looking for that NATIONAL LAMPOON spoof entitled SARGENT SHRIVER'S BLEEDING HEARTS CLUB BAND to post here but I couldn't find any available on the web. Sheesh, and it would have looked soooo good.

Better quit now before I really show my general burned-outness. Anyway here are da revooze! As you can plainly see most of 'em are of old-timey vinyl stock...y'see, I've been spending a lotta time in the basement goin' through the stacks o' wax that have been accumulating there lo these past few centuries, and to be honest wit'cha about it I haven't had so much fun since I used to prowl the flea markets during the v. late seventies/v. early eighties trying to cop all of the early "important" rock that I sorta missed out on the first time 'round because I was too young or too stupid to realize what I was passing up. Perhaps it was a better thumbing through my own possession rather'n having to put up with the gruff peddlers who'd sneer at you when you'd ask 'em if you could come down a bit on an album. Reminds me of a time when I was at the flea market they used to have at the old Clarkins this one Saturday morning in 1982 espying this copy of Blue Cheer's VINCEBUS ERUPTUM, the black cover issue which was torn and the record was slightly scratched and scuffed, and some typical flea market dealer was asking like $3.50 for it. Asked if he could come down a little bit and got my bloody head chewed off! Naturally I just plopped the album aside and departed from Mr. Bad Vibes but sheesh...all these years later I just wonder what it is about these flea market dealers that made 'em all out to be a pack of wild maniacs anyway. Then again, I've noticed that most of the people in the Youngstown/Warren area are the rudest, most curt types you can find outside of New York City...maybe it has something to do with the industrial flange, or lack of it since the mills closed down? Wow, that was really long ago...hope all those people who used to give me all of that grief are now burning in Hell!

Alfred 23 Harth-MICRO-SAXO-PHONE, EDITION III CD (Kendra Steiner Edition, see link on left for blogsite)

You may know about Bill Shute's Kendra Steiner Editions' chapbooks, but did you know that there's also a Cee-Dee label going by the same name? If you didn't, then I'm afraid you haven't been reading this blog long or close enough because I've written up some of their earlier releases a good while back! Be sure to pay more attention next time and while you're at it give this latest release of theirs a spin because you probably need it more that you'll ever realize.

MICRO-SAXO-PHONE, EDITION III's a collection of material recorded by a chap who goes by the name of "Alfred 23 Harth", a moniker that's just about as mysterioso as the Cee-Dee's title. Actually I knew nada about Narth before receiving this particular disque and rather than show my ignorance for all to see by reviewing this cold-like I decided to do some research on the guy...turns out Harth's had a pretty long history in the field of European avant garde jazz, and if you're the kind of person who can trust Wikipedia there's even an entry on him there which will fill you in on most if not all of the essential info. I am surprised that a person like Harth who has performed with the likes of Peter Brotzmann amongst many other biggies on the free jazz range has remained under my radar, but he sure has been around and as you can see from this particular entry he has a lotta things goin' on under his belt, if ya know what I mean...

Featuring recent work as well as old trackage re-shifted for this release, MICRO-SAXO-PHONE, EDITION III's got a wide array of sound sources not all of 'em sax. Electronics produced by a lap-top figure in nicely (even if they do drive my beanie bonkers) as do crumbled up and truncated German voices. Never did figure out how a lap-top could be used to make music (when some group playing at the CBGB Lounge freestyle series had a member listed as playing a laptop I assumed they meant a Hawaiian-type guitar!) but whatever Harth has mastered its uses making for a pretty zapped-out affair. His sax playing is pretty hotcha as well reminding me of Roscoe Mitchell for some reason, but then again I've noticed that most of these new players do which is why I say maybe Mitchell is the new Dave Brubeck only far more visionary.

My fave track just has to be the one where you hear some Kraut talking about Madame Blavatsky while a wooden flute plays a simple melody amidst the confusion. Another topper reminds me of those old chord organs kids used to get for Christmas being run through a few effects and a big speaker before everything gets fried to a frazzle. Anyway, it's a great encapsulation of yet another direction the New Jazz is going in that you won't be reading about in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY anytime soon, and who knows if THE WIRE is still around to bother with it...I don't!

Gotta admit that Lake's perhaps my least favorite of the St. Louis BAG players, but he sure put out with a doozy on this particular '71 sesh that Arista/Freedom reissued with a couple of hard-to-get Human Arts Ensemble and Julius Hemphill platters back '76 way. Great playing from all quarters which, given the presence of Charles Bobo Shaw and a number of BAG regulars, might as well be a Human Arts Ensemble album the way it moves and careens between the new jazz, the new jazz-rock and the AACM-inspired "small instrument" motif. Fantastic guitar playing from Richard Martin as well...I remember Bill Shute telling me about how he used to be stymied at the quality of the guitarists who ended up on these various BAG sessions because for the most part hardly any of 'em got the universal notice they so deeply deserved. Martin did appear on the Solidarity Unit Inc. LP which was reissued a few years back and more or less functioned as an early Human Arts Ensemble get together...if you thought that one was beyond the ken of freeform blitz then you'll probably take a liking to this 'un as well.
John McLaughlin-DEVOTION LP (Douglas)

Decided to dig this 'un up from the bowels of my album collection because the thang actually made the "Best of '71" list in the ROCK REVOLUTION book reviewed last week. And as George Takanappus would have said "Wow, what a hunch!" I must admit this DEVOTION did take me by surprise when I first gave it a spin some time back in the late-eighties...and this after a good lifetime of thinking McLaughlin was just another jazzoid guitarist who was brainwashed by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy and thusly inspired to "higher" ways to express oneself including playing an acoustic guitar with these weird diagonal strings placed upon the body. Only goes to prove what the perils of being an ex-junkie can entail.

I'm still surprised by the hard dynamics of this as well as the high-energy grooves that McLaughlin and band (including his former Lifetime partner Larry Young as well as Hendrix clingon Buddy Miles) can crank out, as well as the overall tension that'll envelop you when McLaughlin's playing gets into that overdrive mode. Hokay, maybe there are a few numbers where you figure why not go 'n take a dump, but overall this is a whole lot more exciting than the dross that eventually followed. And the best thing about it is that you can actually hear where MX-80 Sound got a lot of their early inspiration from on these sides, though while McLaughlin evidently reached a little too far into the cosmos for his personal enlightenment at least Bruce Anderson kept both of his feet on terra firma and I can listen to his playing all day without conjuring up images of flybynight spiritual hoaxters like I always do when listening to the one called Mahavishnu.
THE SHIELD; AMERICA'S 1ST PATRIOTIC COMIC BOOK HERO softcover (Archie Comics Publications, 2002)

Given that MLJ/Archie never seemed that keen on reprinting their Golden Age titles back when I was an avid superhero maniac it's sure nice seeing this one available in the here/now and for a halfway decent price at that. And having heard a whole lot about the Shield from my father (who used to regale me about his antics back when I was combing through garage sale piles of OUR LOVE STORY to get to that one elusive DOCTOR STRANGE) it sure was nice reading these classic sagas which surprisingly pre-date the US involvement in World War II by almost two years. And not only that, but this first of the star-spangled patriotic superheroes pretty much carried the MLJ company for the first few years of its existence with these pretty good if primitive superhero sagas, or at least he did until some teenaged kid with a bowtie and sweater took a whole lotta wind outta his sails to the point where he even took over the Shield's fan club badge and all! Well, by then the war was over anyway and alla them star-spangled heroes were being mothballed until the time was right for a revival...

And even with the barely passable even for the Golden Age art and patented cutout scripts these Shield sagas are downright entertaining and funtime frolicking reads! Nothing out of the Golden Age ordinary mind you, but they're still action-packed enough to bring out the depression-era poverty-stricken kid in ALL of us! And while I'm at it, gotta admit that I was surprised to find out that the Shield actually had superhuman powers (I always assumed that he was just a powerful costumed crimefighter in the Batman vein) who could fly through the air and have bullets bouncing off his chest just like Superman! Talk about nerve...MLJ had the audacity to sue Timely over Captain America's shield when they could have easily been the target of a suit from National given just how close this guy came to the Man of Steel! Well, given some of the slimy stories I've read about the early days of the comic book biz it does seem par for the course!

Talking about par for the course, the usual early-40s violence and grotesqueness, the same kind that riled Dr. Wertham so much, is evident despite MLJ/Archie having the reputation as the goody-two-shoes wholesome publisher we've all known 'n loved for years. Even I was rather creeped out by the final story in this volume where FBI agent Joe Higgins (in reality the Shield!), his sidekick "Ju Ju" (!) and some shapely blond dig up some coffins in order to identify the bodies of a few alleged gangster victims! When the gal breaks down after seeing her decaying dead father and Ju Ju innocently remarks "Gosh Miss Morgan, we all gotta go sometime" I almost barfed up my dinner...really! Grotesqueness aside, it's sure fun watching Higgins don his star-spangled costume and do everything from holding back speeding trains to stopping a Moscovian attack at Pearl Harbor a good year before the real one took place! If only he'd been at the actual one...well, I'm sure the writers thought of a good "out" to explain his absence!

One interesting piece of info regarding THE SHIELD is that the only one who knows his true identity is none other than J. Edgar Hoover, a man who also figures in as a major character in these sagas to the point where I was wondering if he was going to get his own feature in the back pages of PEP comics alongside Archie (where you see the FBI head fighting saboteurs all by himself!) or perhaps get his own super powers and becomes part of the MLJ crime-fighting stable! Don't laugh too hard...the relationships between these comic book heroes and real-life political/entertainment figures used to be extremely strong whether it'd be FDR personally thanking a hero for his contribution to the war effort on the White House lawn or Superman being a close personal friend of JFK and Jerry Lewis. (And Herbie a.k.a. "The Fat Fury" seemed to know just about every personality, political or otherwise, good or evil, who was making some kinda noise on the face of this earth!) I guess that's something that went out of fashion when Watergate kinda jaded more'n a few miscreants out there who didn't want their heroes intermingling with the establishment and in many ways I can see what they mean. After all, how would it look if you laid eyes upon a comic book story which ended in a scene where Richard Nixon personally thanked Iron Man for brutally quelling a race riot, or Dick Tracy chumming it up with Spiro Agnew right before he plugged some hoodlum right between the eyes?

Do you remember the Spanish Civil War? I don't because believe it or not I wasn't even born yet but I know that a lotta folks out there in political struggle land do. Mainly some of the more altruistic types who look upon the late-thirties Spanish war as some noble dress rehearsal for World War II that should have been won by the Spanish communists no ifs ands or buts. And if you can believe some of the things that had been said about that war from the likes of THE VILLAGE VOICE or PBS the difference twixt the sides involved was easily discernable...the good guys were the on the side of the republic which was marching Spain forward into the twentieth century if all of that newsreel footage showing smiling kids eating nutritious food could be trusted, while the bad guys were Generalissimo Francisco Franco and all of those mean and nasty falangists who wanted to return Spain to the bad old days before socialism had its hooks into the ways and means of everyday breathing. Of course it wasn't really that simple, but just try telling that to some frothing sandalista type who may sniff and blubber when the people he's rah-rahing for get slaughtered but cries nary a whimper for the thousands of priests, monks, nuns and various other sundries get bumped off in droves by the communists. After all, his side has the smarts to kill the right people and why should the documentary makers who get their films aired on PBS quibble, eh?

Of course it ain't as simple as that either, and today in Spain the understanding pretty much goes that maybe both sides had their point, one being anti-fascist and the other anti-communist. Of course I dunno exactly how Charlie Haden would have taken all of that given how the longtime Ornette Coleman bassist, in between stints at Synanon (!), was also a true-blue card-carrying member of the Communist Party USA! Can't really argue or debate with these kinds of people given how they KNOW the true meaning of everything, but if I were a betting man I'd say that he hasn't changed his political opines one iota despite the evidence that has stacked up against the World Credo whose koolaid he's gulped down voraciously for quite a long time. Maybe he has shed his Stalinist tendencies since I've last heard but somehow I kinda doubt it. I mean, I get the feeling he's all for "people's revolution" even in the here and now although the guy's probably gonna be one of the first to get the bullet inna neck if his political allies actually do get into power.

So anyway here's this album he did as a leader, the first of a variety of "Liberation Music Orchestra"'s and perhaps the best known because it was the first and even got advertised in ROLLING STONE. Nice all-star cast here including such frontrunners as Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri, Perry Robinson, Carla Bley, Mike Mantler, Roswell Rudd, Dewey Redman and others whose names will tingle the lobes of late-sixties free jazz lovers worldwide. And in many ways this could be considered the first JCOA release given the personnel behind it and a whole lot easier to find as well (and cheaper!) than those now-obscure releases which used to show up in record shops only on scant occasion. But despite the outright agitprop and clenched fist angst that permeates this release what is there to satiate the standard avant garde jazz lover who finds left-leaning bellowing empty and something to downright fear (if there are any, that is!).

Frankly LIBERATION MUSIC ORCHESTRA fails to fire off any pleasure synapse in my head unlike say, various Archie Shepp (a fellow traveler by the way) did on his black anger releases let alone the Revolutionary Ensemble on their ESP classic VIETNAM. The Spanish melodies being infused into the free playing (along with the pertinent "field recordings") might "work" at times along with Sam Brown's flamenco-styled strumming, but the entire effect seems to getcha only about half way there. I will admit that some hot cooking does pop up on "Viva La Quince Brigada" section of "El Quinto Regimento" plus Haden does deeply satisfying bass solo on "Song For Che". Ornette's "War Orphans" gets a beautiful rendition as well. And now for the big BUT...most of LIBERATION MUSIC ORCHESTRA sounds awkward and dragging to these ears, not quite sparking any real emotion or energy and kinda being just "there" for us to like because of its good intentions which I know matter to the people making this but, what about us hungry freedom jazz lovers? Sheesh, the album ends with a rendition of "We Shall Overcome" (which the boys in school would sing emphasizing the syllable "come"..wonder why?) that sounds about as exciting as a Salvation Army performance, and though I might be able to see two late-sixties college radical types looking at each other nodding their heads in approval over this I move my noggin outta totally different sentiments!

Would I tell you to go out and buy a copy for yourself? Well, that would all depend on how much of a frothing late-sixties avant garde music maniac you profess to be. I kinda like to think that I'm one as well but frankly this isn't the expressive slab of fire music that I was hoping it to be. Maybe it only goes to show you that despite their airs of openness and experimental natures and being well-informed on various societal issues and all, these communist artists are just as stodgy and as dogmatic about their own world views as some dreadlocked odor-laden and tenured college professor who still bows to the altar of Stalin. It's too bad the Soviet Union fell, or else maybe Haden would have survived the purge to teach Brecht in some university with all of the comfy fringe benefits that job woulda given him!
LATEST ROCK & ROLL REFERENCE IN A WEIRD DREAM DEPARTMENT!: Yeah, I know that people tellin' you about dreams they had can get pretty boring unless you're in 'em, but not if they're rock & roll oriented ones which are something we can all share freely w/o fear of being socially shunned. My latest one, dreamed up sans any outside stimulation I might add, had me receiving a 2-CD set of LESLEY GORE'S GREATEST HITS and other Gore-related rarities stuck on it courtesy of none other than one Brad Kohler of Coraopolis Pennsylvania fame. After sticking a disc into a small player that was barely larger than the slim James Bond cigarette cases these disques are packaged in I actually get to hear Miss Gore sing what else but...her version of the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night"! She vocalized it in a particularly breath-y fashion after each phrase..."I (huh!), believe (huh!), that you and me (huh!) forever..." Don't remember if she changed the sexual orientation of the song but then again, given the stories Don Fellman (and nobody else!) told me about her perhaps that wouldn't be necessary. Anyway the dream ends with me pressing the eject button to raise the lid on this strange player and finding out that I accidentally put both disques into the machine and had to quickly grab 'em all so's none of 'em would scratch up like has happened on a number of these tiny monstrosities which I had been careless with o'er the years!
Closing out this week's blabathon's this li'l gem I discovered while prowling youtube, an interview conducted by John Peel with Mick Farren who discusses not only his involvement with the then-spanking new INTERNATIONAL TIMES underground paper but the Deviants' upcoming gig in Holland. Nice to see these shards of historical fodder being made available to us peons for once in our lives, and hopefully some other rare gems will pop up in the upcoming months to sate our ever-craving need for sixties rockist-related filmware. Sure is a long way from those days when ultra-serious fans hadda pay beaucoup for some short 8 mm film being sold in the back of some Beatle fanzine!:


Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Wow. It looks like you're the middle-aged generation, and you've got something to say. Do you think that J. Edgar Hoover was the inspiration for Waldo Weatherbee in "Archie"? If so, did Mr. Weatherbee share the same proclivities? I should dig out my cassette of a performance I did in '89 or '90, "Erwartung in Riverdale," which featured Diana Mars from the group EYK declaiming texts from "Archie" in a suitable Schoenbergian sprechstimme while I played cut-ups of Schoenberg's music and Lawrence "Chip" Swan painted expressionist portraits of Archie's a shame that there's no video! (EYK also had a piece with words from Archie, but it was really all my fault. And Diana was perturbed that I got her a subscription to the Jughead Digest, prompting her to ask "WHEN will this subscription run out!?")
As Malcolm X once said, "Only the mistakes are mine."

Anonymous said...

thanks for the review of A23H. KSE will be issuing a 3"-cdr of a recent trio date of his with a Korean bassist and pianist, and it's great!
I need to send you the new 3"-cdr, from KUSCHTY RYE ERGOT, featuring your friend and mine, John Stanton!
You'll love it!
I've been reading some of my stacks of old Charlton Comics recently, although I get a bit allergic around them as they've gotten a bit yellowed over the years...also reading the Fantagraphics KRAZY KAT anthologies, which have been remaindered for about 20-25% of the orig. cover price. George Herriman is the man IMHO...
Bill S.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Yeah, Alfred 23 Harth (nickname reportedly derived from the number of saxes, or instruments in general, that he had at one point. Also the trucking company Preston 151 Lines's name supposedly came from the 151 something-or-others that they had in their workspace.) is pretty hip. You can catch some of his stuff on YouTube. I saw him at the FIMAV in Victoriaville, Quebec, in 1987, in duo with his pianist partner Heiner Goebbels. I think they closed with a ballad version of "At Last I Am Free" (a Chic song also done by Robert Wyatt). Goebbels also presented his theatre/music piece "The Man in the Elevator." Great festival.