Sunday, May 08, 2011


Given my current financial straits it's not like I can buy out the nearest Cee-Dee market and give it to the poor with typical Eddie Haskell braggadocio. I'm having enough trouble scratching up enough dinero to finance an order to one of my favorite online bizzez...not that there's that much being offered that I don't already have or which lights my pilot, but still I need that aural stimulation which has gotten me through even rougher times than these. And at this point in my life (which at times I think is 11:59 PM, if you get my drift) I have to do a li'l diggin' on my part, mostly through boxes of 35+-year-old cassettes which have been scattered about the place and are mostly hidden in long packed-away crates amidst tons of flotsam that has gathered throughout the ages. For the most part these tapes have been neglected over the past few years not because I'm that much of a new technology freak but because...well, I have been busy!

Yeah, old maudlin me has been gettin' the feelin' that I've been neglecting my good friends who've helped me through many a bitter time for too LONG, and that's yet another reason that I've been spinnin' quite a number of cassettes that have remained otherwise ignored for a much long time than even I would care to admit. Here's a selection of tapes from over the years which I've dug out  (usually while looking for other items of past glory) in order to resensify myself in these worn out times, some of them being "factorycassettes" of major muddle while others are whatcha'd call self-released wares, with even one of 'em being a home job made for me by a dear and trusted friend of mine (yes, I do have 'em!) that he happened to get in its original form during one of his Europeon jaunts. They all "fill the bill" the same way they did back when I was a goony fifteen-year-old taping top 40 mulch off the radio by placing my Zayre's cassette-loaded Panasonic directly next to the cheapo Westinghouse radio I got for Christmas a year earlier. And believe it or not, like old MAD paperbacks and ALL IN THE FAMILY these tapes really do send me back to those muddled and confused days, though not to the point where I'm locking myself in the bathroom for a good hour or so with a hula girl-laden issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC if you know what I mean...
The arrival and sudden departure (via death) of Jack Starr on the underground rough 'n tumble record collector circuit was something that held so much promise but only delivered on one full-length album and two singles that I am aware of. Too bad, because this Starr guy seemed to have had so much potential to cash in on his varied (some might say "sordid") past and crank out a living and breathing legend for himself the same way that Hasil Adkins (the man Starr was often compared to) did just prior to Our Man's very own rediscovery back in the v. late eighties.

What most Starr fans did not know about was this particular one-hour cassette of recently-recorded material called TRAIN TO NOWHERE  recorded under the moniker the American Xpress and released on the Strike One label outta Dallas.  Sporting a 1989 copyright date, it's really hard to believe that these weren't taken from the same mid-sixties sessions that produced those rare Starr singles that appeared on side two of BORN PETRIFIED (side one being Starr during his fifties "rockabilly"/Ricky Nelson phase) because the music found here is just as low-fidelity as those  punk rockers he did back '66 way! And what's even more surprising is that these songs were recorded by the same backing band that appeared on those singles which makes this a bizarre twist of circumstances...guys in their late-forties playing the same songs (and recording in the same john!)  sounding as if they had not aged a day since! If only the Who could have aged this gracefully!

One track entitled "UFO" did make it onto that rare In The Red single but the rest of this romp as far as I know has remained unreleased to all but a few lucky people who just lucked out in getting this very tape sent to their doorstep. And what makes it even more enticing is that the entire shebang comes off as if it was laid down after a hefty listening session of Bobby Fuller, the Seeds and (if you can believe it) the Doors! Some straight blues, one country creeper, and a whole lotta mid-sixties-inspired FUN (remember that word?) that kinda gives me the feeling that after they were done laying these classics to tape the whole buncha 'em got some Great Shakes and settled down to glom an episode of DOBIE GILLIS! Sure most of you cultured rock-as-art snobs would poo-poo such a base and crude idea as this but sheesh, we can't all attune our palates to fine wine, lobster and rectum like you obviously do!
Here's a tape that ain't exactly one you could pick up at the local five 'n dime, but something that was available in European flea markets well until the era of disque put these cassette peddlers out of commission for good. As you can see, the cover has that artistic late-seventies/early-eighties avant garde sheen to it and why not, since this tape houses two sets by none other than the conceptual group to end all conceptual groups, Suicide recorded live during that particularly underground-active year of 1977.

Undoubtedly taken from the Charles Ackers collection, these gigs recorded at heavyweight hangouts CBGB and Max's Kansas City took place within a few months of each other (the CBGB one being from the PUNK magazine benefit) and they sure sound pretty professional for being audience tapes even if there is what sounds like some interstellar flange during "Dream Baby Dream". They also show the group in fine form as the Alan Vega/Martin Rev tag team perform quite different renditions of their debut LP material as well as fend off at-times hostile members of the audience, one of 'em being none other than rock scribe Byron Coley who's not heard during the second Max's set for GOOD REASON! High-energy rock & roll personified, and clearly the music that set the pace for not only a load of limp synthesizer groups of the eighties but the hot late-seventies New York crunch of the Contortions, Mars, Red Transistor and a few others that'll come to mind within the next few minutes. It definitely makes me want to hear even more live recordings from this period than are now available commercially or otherwise and who knows, maybe if we all hold our breath and turn blue some enterprising soul out there will take the hint and churn out a whole lot more of this stuff which anybody with a brain would admit we needed a whole lot more thirty years back 'stead of today, but hey, why be picky? And what's more, the fine fellow who dubbed this tape for me even added some Rose Tattoo and Tall Dwarfs tracks to fill the thing out! I mean, who says generosity is dead?
Switching gears, we now take a detour to Cleveland where this li'l obscurity was not only recorded but released. Of course you all know about the Choir, local pop faves who pretty much singlehandedly helped nurture the long-held notion of Cleveland as the "New Liverpool" after the success of the Raspberries, Circus and a number of similar-minded endeavors in the early-to-mid-seventies, but you may not have heard their 1969 album which to this date has only been released as a cassette via one-time bassist Denny Carleton's old Green Light label back in the late eighties. One of the album's tracks did end up on the old Bomp! EP that came out in '76 while that and a few more eventually found their way on the Sundazed CD released many moons after, but for some reason the entire affair never did get the royal treatment that it should have which does puzzle me. Y'see, once you get down to it this 'un really was a solid slab of post-Left Banke gothic pop rock which shouldn't have been tampered with or edited in any way, shape or form. It's that much of an indication of what teenage rock 'n' roll could have aspired to in an era of mud festivals and hippie credo that changed rock into a soppy, milquetoast blob of "feeling" and "relevancy"., and we all know that sure ruined the entire genre for a good more many years than most people would care to admit!

Anyhoo, THE CHOIR features an edition of group after its main guns had more or less vamoosed for the likes of Cyrus Erie and their ultimate destination in Raspberryland, leaving drummer Jim Bonfanti (himself a future 'berrie y'know) as the de-facto leader of this new variant. Now featuring a dual keyboard lineup (three when performing the legendary live rendition of "MacArthur Park") and a sound that was even taking on jazzier arrangements, this new Choir had the dad-blamed audacity to keep up with late-sixties innovation while remaining a mid-sixties spirited pop group and for that I give 'em more'n just a little credit! The entire production reeks smart, from the classically tinged numbers with just the right pinch of psychedelic to spice things up and hey, it sure was a feather in at least Carleton's cap (see cover shot) to have been able to crank out a mid-sixties teen angst rocker like "If These Are Men" in the latter portion of a decade which showed so much promise, but ended on a note of love, peace and what some people called music.

Heck, they even improve on the usual post-Beatles psych-pop patterns on "Lady Bug" while the instrumental "Foreric" (Carmen?) actually sounds "mature" yet streamlined enough to fit in with the rest of these straight ahead pop-rockers to the point where I'm not gonna poke and probe on about it being real lounge-y 'r anything! A real winner that I hope gets resurrected somewhere down the line, and if I were sneaky enough I'd boot the thing MYSELF for your own personal enjoyment! (But I won't!)
I've mentioned many a time just what I think about David Peel, not as a Beatle-crony or early-seventies rabble-rouser but as a downright New York City rock et roll legend. Just about everything I've heard of his (even those Beatle-cash in records) does have that good on-the-streets feeling that makes me want to come back for more, but just how would the guy fare doing a CONCEPT ALBUM based on the George Orwell over-referenced 1984 you might ask? Actually pretty swell especially if Peel and his Lower East Side had latched onto the likes of Wayne Kramer to contribute some of his best lead guitar lines since "Gimme Some Head" let alone "Looking At You" on A-Square. Keeping with the regimen Peel uses a lotta synth here as well as early-eighties NYC-approved new wave jerky rhythms, but that still can't ruin this downright raver of a tape that rehashes the entire sad saga complete with a sound that comes off more Max's Kansas City 1981 than hootenanny 1966. As one would say a forgotten winner, complete with a cover that proves that if God did not create Ronald Reagan man would have had to.
Unlike all of the above which I assume are all cassette-only releases (other than maybe the Peel one which I think also got the vinyl treatment), this edition of Soft Machine's TRIPLE ECHO is a professional factory-produced cassette of pre-recorded music, the kind that used to be found with ease way back in the record departments of the mid-seventies usually huddled up in the corner considering how popular 8-tracks were at the time. And in an age when imported "musicassettes" (another term flying around) were pretty rare in themselves locating  an item like this really was akin to striking a gold vein. But obviously some did make it over intact, and I got mine for a pittance too because by the time I bought this (early-eighties via Wayside Music)  the glamour and fine shine on these import items had been washed away by the roaring punkisms both here and abroad making such items as this all the more affordable to a depression-era wage kid as myself who probably wasn't  that interested, but how could I pass up a bargain like that!

But it's a great slice of the whole Soft Machine oeuvre from their extremely rare debut single for Polydor (with the b-side produced by none other than Kim Fowley) up through their best days as an avant garde jazz trio and eventually as the English jazz fusion group that they were best known as. Funny, although I really was irritated by the latterday jazzisms found on tape #2  when I first got this nowadays I find that Mike Ratledge's buzz organ and the pseudo-Miles Davis-ish arrangements sound a lot more pleasing than a good portion of the gunk that permeates moderne-day new and advanced musicianship. I'll take TRIPLE ECHO over most if not all of the produce being presented to me as "new" and "innovative" by blogschpielers who claim to have out best interests at heart these sorry days and who knows, that really may be saying something I would have been embarrassed by had I said it even a good five years ago.
And finally, here's another English import containing what purports to be yet another "budget" "greatest hits" collection of hotcha and pertinent material recorded by none other than that infamous English punk rock group the Vibrators! Yeah, I know that for many of you readers these guys just didn't have enough "punk cred" but neither do I and I know that I have more of an insight and understanding of what this music was (and remains) all about than some demi-hippie with a ring in his nose and a chip on his shoulder. It's just good high energy rock with the patented English snarl to it; nothing exactly for me to dribble about like I do with old Velvet Underground and Stooges offerings (whom the Vibrators obviously owe hefty amts. of ideas to) but still miles ahead of what was to be once punk turned into pUnK turned into punque. Def. one of the longer-lasting groups to come out of the '76 chugathon who I haven't lost any respect for even if they are playing the cash-in game milking money outta aging amerindie types who didn't have any moolah to think of when these records were first coming out. But who can blame 'em really...I mean, could you think of a better market to exploit than all of those eighties "new music" schlubs who are now loaded with the long green? Me neither!
MORE LATE-BREAKING INFORMATION THAT PROBABLY ONLY I WOULD WANT TO KNOW ABOUT: once again IT'S ALL THE STREETS YOU'VE CROSSED NOT SO LONG AGO does it right with these '74 vintage CBGB and Club 82 ads which, like I always knew they would, just continue to stir up the obsessive seventies New York underground geek in me to the point where I feel like taking a trip to the Youngstown Public Library my next day off to do yet more microfilm-scrounging fun and games if only to refresh myself as to all of the stuff I missed the first time around again. Although the CBGB listings are sparse (y'see, I guess there was a beef twixt Hilly Kristal and the VILLAGE VOICE for non-payment of back-ads which is why '74-era gig listings are hard to come by unless you subscribed to the SOHO WEEKLY NEWS or EAST VILLAGE EYE) at least the mention of an avant garde blues jazz rock group called "The New Cat's Pajamas" playing there is enough to make me wanna do a li'l research to see what they were all about. The 82 listings are, as I would have expected,, I never knew that famed dyke-horn band Isis played there (though they also made an appearance at Max's in '76 and who knows, maybe they even played CB's though I kinda doubt that!) while it looks as if the Manhattan Transfer also made an 82 appearance which would figure given their whole camp forties appeal custom-made for suave New Yorkers of confused sexuality. Even more surprising was my spotting of an early appearance by the Out Kids, the same batch of guys who later morphed into the Feelies! Let's hope that STREETS keeps this Public Service of reprinting old En Why club ads up, and hey, right now they're gettin' my vote for BLOG OF THE YEAR even though it's pretty early in the game right now and quite a few other blogs out there are running a close second, y'know?

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