Saturday, November 30, 2013

Whenever I get that hot 'n horny feeling for the seventies and them boxes of old CREEM magazines inna closet just don't fill the bill, the one thing I like to do is purchase some classic, previously unread by moi "Golden Age of Rock Scribbling" publication and soak in even more of that special aura you just can't get outta what passes for "criticism" (or just plain ol' fandom) these sorry days. I've pretty much picked up most if not all of the original Lester Bangs-period CREEMs extant and them old fanzines are hard to come by, so once-in-awhile a '72-'79 or so issue of the NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS fresh off an ebay auction is something that really helps me fulfill all my earthly needs. Yeah the news to be found inside might by up to forty years old, but the energy and spark these papers could emit (thanks to a totally punkoid attitude that was rather alien in a world of cyborg electronic rock mummery) continues to pump on all cylinders which is more than I can say about 99.99999...% of whatever might be offered up via the current "rock press" let alone cheap amateurs trying their hand at the "rock criticism" game via blogger. And yes, in many ways I too am a guilty old sod even if I have been practicing this without a license for a way longer time than I can care to imagine, and I truly am sorry (well...not really...).

Y'see, unlike many of you rich kids out there I was never one who could find let alone afford the NME over here in the middle of Nowheresville USA (MELODY MAKER used to be my choice of English Weekly fodder if only because it was the only thing one could find at the various short-lived small record stores). It was definitely my loss because hey, I sure would have loved to have been reading this 'un as a blank-minded 14-year-old 'stead of the pooperoo that was offered me, and who knows but if I had only been exposed to the likes of the NME staff raving on about Iggy and Mott when I was younger and more susceptible maybe I coulda gotten my own rock fandom "career" off at an earlier age. Well, it sure as shooting sure beat drawing all of those "Rats Reagan" cartoons nobody in their right mind would want to read!

Got the May 18th, 1974 issue and it's a pretty good doozy of a paper. In fact the quality's so good that I wonder just how the folks behind it could keep the energy and quality going on a weekly basis for all those years. Or at least until the original prime movers gave way to a new generation that never did know which way the wind was blowing 'em into the abyss. And hey, that generation of prime movers sure produced a whole lot of top-notch writing from the likes of Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent (Mick Farren wasn't on board yet) not forgetting Ian MacDonald which makes these magazines indispensable for the standard runna-da-mill pre-glitz takeover rock freaks that we have been for years and most truly remain (I hope!). Each and every word plucked outta the typewriters of these guys is worthy of not only minute study but down on your knees hosannas, and frankly you do gotta give thanks because if it weren't for scribes like these what would the English Music Paper crowd have to do than look forward to other than the weekly ramblings of Chris Welch plugging away at the more technowhiz side of sixties rock upping toffee nose at anything even remotely "punk"???

Kent seems to be in short supply this edition, with a short but sweet article on Brian Eno, co-credits (with Roy Carr) on a Pink Floyd album rundown and a review of Kevin Ayers' CONFESSIONS OF DOCTOR DREAM, but Murray sure sent in a heavy dosage of rockist sputum to be dealt with including a feature article on the under-rated Mike Nesmith and a career retro on Mott the Hoople which really do take up more'n the expected amount of space that was usually allotted to the more gonzoid scribes around. Kinda think of it in the terms of a ROLLING STONE of the same time period, only with the likes of Lenny Kaye and Gene Sculatti taking up a huge portion of the mag while the down pat hippies only got a few meager morsels tossed their way!

What really makes this a top notch ish just happens to be the half-page or so article/interview with...MELANIE (as in shaggy hippie "Brand New Key" Melanie) conducted by none other than Chrissie Hynd (without the "e" at the end) long before her Pretenders days. I think it was pretty funny when papers like the NME would assign their "gunslingers" to interview or generally rave on about some downright scuzzoid performers and the scribes in question are of course expected to turn in a solid, editorial-free piece highlighting the artist in question's "talents". It was expected that they did, but rarely if ever was their objectiveness ever delivered on and you can really see the disgust and contempt Hynd has for her tinkle bell subject even if you have to read way between the lines to really understand it. It's too bad the lady didn't continue on with her writing career, because from the few things I've read of her NME contributions we sure coulda used a lot more of her articles and a lot less of her singing!

Was it boffo reading??? NATURALLY IT WAS!!! Am I getting another classic-era issue into my hairy palms shortly??? OF COURSE I AM, AND AS SOON AS I DO I'M GONNA WRITE IT UP AND TELL ALL YOU GATHERED GUYS JUST WHAT A FUN TIME I HAD POURING THROUGH YET ANOTHER ISSUE!!! OK, I know it is impolite to yell, but this stuff (even Ian MacDonald's review of Sparks' KIMONO MY HOUSE and the Charles Gillett contributions) is just as good as any Amerigan gonzoid or fanzine offering of the day, and the more I read of this the more I want to grab Jann Wenner, tie him up and stick sharp objects into his torso! But I better not...I do get the feeling that he'd kinda like it...

(Velvetphiles take note---the Velvet Underground reunion mentioned on the cover was not exactly the kind you would have hoped for. Actually the tempting headline was only a come on for the upcoming and infamous ACNE [Ayers, Cale, Nico and Eno] show that eventually came out as a live album soon to frequent many a flea market nationwide. The page three blurb does mention that Lou Reed was originally scheduled to take part in this one-off gig but backed out due to previous engagements, though frankly without the presence of Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker I dunno if one could call this a bonafeed reunion (even w/Reed) without stretching the honest truth quite a bit.

A CREEM item mentioning a reunion with Eno scheduled to take the place of Reed did appear shortly thereafter and I do recall that Tucker herself said that she was unaware of any reunion plans but that she would have been glad to have hitched up, so who knows? Maybe the plans regarding a seventies VU with Eno taking Reed's place was more than just idle rockfan gossip even though it did seen rather far fetched I'm sure even then! Another one of those "it could have beens", though of course it ain't as good a downright rock fantasy as my dream this past March where in 1972 news that Andy Warhol was going to reform the Velvets with the addition of not only David Bowie but himself on rhythm guitar and rhythm guitar only was swirling across my fevered subconscious, and you know that fantasy would have been a much more interesting deal than what did transpire in the early nineties! Well, at least the album would have been a boffo mid-seventies cut out bargain, and I probably would have waited until it was marked down to 99-cents before I'd buy it!)
And with that, tally ho on to this week's record and Cee Dee reviews! I managed to get a little more'n I would have expected out this time, and of course the freebee items which I have received have also helped out so to all of you disque burners out there, thanks a heaping hunk! I even managed to buy a few things with my own hard-begged, so let's just say that I ain't the no account mooch that I sometimes come off like even if I hardly have two pennies to rub together! And so, without further somethingorother...

Various Artists-APRIL SPECTATOR FLUTE BIRD MAMA CD-r burn (courtesy of Bill Shute)

Swinging selection I must admit, from zilch-rate covers to down home (and even further down) country twang to the same kinda e-zy listening that your Unca Ferd used to settle back with in his den with the doors locked and headphones on while you and your cousins were getting into a rumble inna other room over a game of Mouse Trap gone foul. Coulda done without James Stewart's recitation of "Shenendoah" (an blatant movie tie in, and an obv. bandwagon jump on considering Walter Brennan's and Lorne Greene's successes with the spoken word chart toppers "Old Rivers" and "Ringo") but at least it has Diana Dors singing away as well as some oddities like a swinging pop number based on the movie BROKEN BLOSSOMS! Made me feel like the downtrodden and spat upon member of the Silent Majority I most truly am, even with the beyond-passable cover of "The Kids Are All Right" done up by some clandestine copycats called the Mopp Tops!


This trio of 78 rpm kiddie records  pressed up on a single disque reminds me of when I was a kid...not because any of these spinners were being played around the old abode but because they conjure up memories of back when I was about ten or so and I'd go traipsing through some relative's attic or basement looking for old things, and most likely they had items like these records stuck away somewhere or other. Of course that wasn't what I was on the look out for...I was more interested in finding things like newspapers with old comic strips or neat toys that hadn't been broken by some older cousin who was now more apt to be breaking open clogged pores in front of the bathroom mirror. Records like this? That was sissy stuff more suitable for the "Sids" (an old family term denoting pantywaists) in your life 'n not the he-man red-blooded type o' suburban slob you and I were and most hopefully will REMAIN.

I never did like Bozo the Clown for reasons I might go into in a future post, but for those who do here's an early Capitol label record and book which has a story you can follow by turning the page when the special sound effect tips you off. Here Bozo gets on his rocket ship and goes all around the world meeting up with a whole load of strange people who speak in cartoon dialects and probably reek which is why I am glad they never did get to invent smell-o-vision in order to enhance the "aura" of things. Really dullsville...kinda hoped that when Bozo landed in the USSR he'd be placed up against a brick wall and given his just desserts which woulda made for a funny NATIONAL LAMPOON during their heyday comic book spoof, but no such luck here.

As for TOM AND JERRY...when they first started running their cartoons on Saturday mornings (actually early Saturday afternoons) I thought Hanna/Barbara had lost their minds. These seemed trite and typically derivative, and what's more the animation looked so old fogey and stuck inna forties which just didn't jibe with my tastes which were definitely stuck in the fifties back then. Of course I was too stoopid to know that these were made inna forties, but when I was like six or so I must admit that I felt a bit creepy watching these cartoons...not as creepy as I felt watching MILTON THE MONSTER or THE BEAGLES, but creepy enough.

Not that this record helps their image any. Like with many of these crossover media cartoon items there seems to be little connection between the original characters and the sames ones transplanted into a new format. Naw, it ain't as bad as those thirties KRAZY KAT moom pitchers which had nada to do with the strip other'n the name and a very slight resemblance to the kat of newspaper comics fame, but it is cringe-y enough. First off the characters speak on this 'un, and they don't sound anything like you'd've imagined them to sound like inna first place. They come off more like some guy who never saw the cartoons' idea of how the two would flap their jaws. The story's equally hackneyed...a re-do of that one T&J which was a swipe of Androcles inna first place which only goes to show you...if you gotta swipe, swipe from something that was written eighteen centuries ago because the author ain't gonna sue (well, it also worked for George Bernard Shaw).

LUKE THE SINGING I'm gonna even bother to tell you about it. Like you wouldn't know what was in story after looking at the kissy-cutie cover. I can't tell you how many of these I tossed aside at garage sales and flea markets county-wide on the search for that elusive copy of some garage band album that certainly wasn't as easy to find as I'M IN YOU.

As for yer own kids...force feed 'em SUPERCAR and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND...stuff like this'll only turn 'em into a buncha Freddie Bartholomews and heaven knows you don't wanna pay for all those dental bills after they get their teeth knocked outta 'em by the neighborhood kids!
Various Artists-PAINK (French Punk Anthems 1977-1982); MOBILISATION GENERALE (Protest and Spiritual Jazz from France 1970-1976) CDs (both on Born Bad France, available through Forced Exposure)

Another "Vive la Frenchies" review here, this time honoring the Gallics in their never-ending quest to get some of that well-desired musical respect that's been so long denied 'em because well, the French have been known for rubbing snobbish Amerigans the wrong way for a lot longer time'n any of us could imagine.

Yeah, I know how many times I've heard the French couldn't play rock 'n roll. And I can recall how many times I've refuted that claim by dragging up a whole number of rock acts from the Frenchies and Rotomagus who certainly knew their way around a stage or two. PAINK is a neat collection of French punk rock rarities worthy of a Skydog issue...fourteen hotcha rockers that remind me of just how potent the entire punk credo was back inna seventies before it fragmented off into a million different directions and pretty much fizzed out into lackluster cover versions of "I Wanna Be Your Dog". Some relatively familiar names here like the Dogs show up, some recently uncovered favorites like Ruth as well as Soggy balance things out, and a whole slew of newies to my ear make me glad I decided to pick this one up after debating whether or not the exorbitant price was really worth it depression-era wages and all.

A good spin of this'll remind you exactly what punk rock meant especially in lieu of the punque rock that followed immediately. These guys weren't afraid to take on the rawer aspects of the Stooges or Velvets unlike the more superficial eighties p-rockers, coming off as "demonically intense" (copyright 1979 Charlotte Pressler) as the rest of those seventies slayers whose music had every bit the impact and energy as the originals they were obviously copping entire images offa. These guys knew which way the blood was flowin', like on Les Ollivensteins' "Eithanasie" which begins with a perfect "Out in the Streets" rip that'll have you turning your beanie it's that good! If you have the rest, this is a nice maraschino on top and if not, it's a better'n usual place to start!

MOBILISATION GENERALE does make for a fine companion and yeah, I know it's a jazz platter 'n all, but it's still as revolutionary as PAINK and at times as driving as any MC5 platter you would care to come up against. The soundtrack for the French underground political putsch of the early seventies, MOBILISATION's a top-notch sampler of the free French sound that was mostly made by actual French people and not Amerigan expats although the Art Ensemble of Chicago appear on one track. A refreshing spin even if I can't unnerstan' a word they're saying, from Areski and Brigitte Fontaine talkin' back and forth at each other to the Full Moon Ensemble and Francois Tusques playing a bit smoother than you would have hoped but that's OK. This one ebbs and flows and while it might not all by fire music it sure has a hard-edged drive that's the aural equivalent of those photos of burning cars on European streets you used to see ages back.

A quickie Berlitz course might help considering how the lyrics and booklet notes for this and PAINK are all en Francais, but considering this used to be some sort of "Universal Youth Language" to the point that we could even communicate with some aboriginal in Sweden despite any other barriers maybe it doesn't really matter what language they're jabberin' in!

Anyhoo, these two are the latest in a long line of resensifiers that I really can use especially when you consider just how "no future" the past thirtysome years have been for high energy cultists such as ourselves. Might be worth your while to snatch these up but then again, when have YOU ever listened to me in the first place? Yes, be ashamed...
Hackamore Brick-"Oh Those Sweet Bananas"/"Someone You Know" 45 rpm (Ugly Pop)

It's been out for a few months, but I just got this collection stuffer inna mail and I know you wanna know what I think of it. Nothing here is what I would call essential if you already have the album...even the alternate take of "Someone You Know" ain't radically different enough to cause any major heart palpitations,  but if you're a fan of the group like I am and you know you'd be bothered if this one just happened to slip past your fingers I'm sure you'd want to latch onto a copy before it's too late. And if you're still stuck in the seventies of the Flamin' Groovies, Stooges, New York Rock, CREEM and R. Meltzer well, you know that a platter like this is custom-made for your own refined tastes now, don't you!
Satanic Rockers-FU KUNG CD-r burn (originally on Albert's Basement, Australia)

Ain't posting the cover of this ''s really durty and the family status of this blog just might be ruined if I presented for you a pic of an erect you-know-what ramming some solid boards in a John Holmes meets Bruce Lee sorta fashion. The music itself ain't that much to rave about though...sorta like reworked Flipper sludge without the narcotic influx and whatever else it was that made Flipper interesting. Kinda monotonous, and in a negative way at that. It figures Satanic Rockers woulda come outta Melbourne, and I don't mean Florida!
Anonymous-INSIDE THE SHADOW CD (Machu Picchu, available through Forced Exposure)

Here's a self-produced platter that originally came outta the wilds of Indianapolis in a limited edition of 300 which has really captured my imaggynation as of late. The strange thing about that li'l truth is that this 'un is being plugged as being an offering of the "progressive rock" persuasion, and if indeed it is prog music then call me Chris Welch and send this 21st Century Schizoid Man to the heart of the sunrise!

Well I gotta admit that a whole load of music I downright enjoy gets tagged as "progressive" even if I wouldn't want to be caught dead listening to any music with such a denotation considering just how listless, dull, narcissistic and downright anti-rock progressive music can be. However like it or not a whole slew of the German Expressionist acts (a.k.a. "krautrock") that I've been raving about for some time does get categorized as progressive, while some of the mid-seventies underground acts that I've enjoyed like TV Toy and Musica Orbis got the progressive tag slapped on 'em as well which does seem rather strange in retrospect. And as I've stated a few posts back, I wouldn't mind hearing some of the other "prog" groups who were playing CBGB and Max's in the seventies (and beyond) if only for historical purposes and who knows, maybe they too had enough of a garage band sway and swing to appeal to the likes of your typical reader, whatever that sort of creature may be.

Anonymous, like TV Toy, Musica Orbis and I'm sure a whole flock of other acts that were wallowing around in the rock netherworld of the day, don't sound "progressive" as in layers of mellotron strings with synthesizer blurps and keyboard rolls straight out of the advanced John Schaum learn to play book...heck, there ain't even a keyboard on this 'un and when you listen to the music images of fog machines and colored lights do not dance in one's head like the sugar plum faggots. Actually, Anonymous present for you a more late-sixties West Coast rock with all of the bad acid and shaggy leather washed out...straight ahead rock 'n roll without any of the pretense, pomp, "hey look at me I'm being artistic!" above-it-all-isms that really helped make the seventies and beyond a lousy place for me to be in control of my aural faculties.

I am reminded of the post-Flamin' Groovies mid-seventies combo Hot Knives more than I am the Jefferson Airplane name-dropping that often surrounds this release. INSIDE THE SHADOW is actually a straightforward rock album, with smooth male/femme harmonies and lots of 12-string to give your Byrds fanatic some rather embarrassing beneath the belly spasms would he happen to hear this 'un in public. And best of all, the lack of all sorta thumbs in the production pie leaves off that slick gloss and professional goo which undoubtedly had ruined many an album o'er the years. Or as I like to say sometimes, the road to a lousy album is paved with good production.

Might be one for the late-sixties followers of Love, Byrds, Grape etc. to affix themselves to. And don't let the "progressive rock" tag frighten you away...this is probably the best music I've heard wallowing under that banner in years or at least since the last time I played Angel in Heavy Syrup, another group who got the prog rock tag even though I couldn't even find a polymoog or ripoff of Bartok anywhere in their oeuvre!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

BOOK REVIEW! LORD OF GARBAGE by Kim Fowley (Kicks Books, 2012)

Some love him, most hate him, but the fact remains that very few probably have heard of him let alone heard him. To most casual "classic rock" brain-numbed "lovers" of "rock 'n roll" who have, Kim Fowley's just some guy behind the scenes whose name appears on albums by the likes of Emerson Lake and Palmer not to mention the irrepressible Helen Reddy, and what AM radio luvver out there could forget about his behind-the-scenes work with the Beez back '82 way. Oh yeah, and he was involved in that Runaways thingie too. Nada more needs to be said, but us high-falutin' BLOG TO COMM readers know better now, do we?

I can't tell ya just how brain-slapping this tome for the times really is. I mean if you really must know, this is definitely the best rock 'n roll book I've read since Nick Kent came out with his own history of seventies rock/autobiography and that was a real doozy in itself! Fowley the spinner of tales, artist, hustler and (never knew it until now) poet really shines bright here, dishing out his own HOLLYWOOD BABYLON first-hand encounters of the slimier (and therefore more interesting) underbelly of the El Lay music and moom pitcher scene. The turgid sagas he relays to us in his stream-of-unconsciousness rambling style (which wouldn't work if someone other'n Fowley was up on the chopping block) really blows the cover off the slick veneer that's been presented to us suburban slobs for eons awlready as the kinda glamour and glitz we were all born to partake in as if we were just as much a star as...Douglas Fowley???

Speaking of Douglas, Kim's very own father and an actor who seemed like an affable, everyday kinda guy if his roles on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and a rather guffaw-inducing scene in the Joe McDoakes comedy SO YOU WANT TO BE A GAMBLER (not forgetting one of the funniest ABBOT & COSTELLO episodes) would lead you to believe,  comes off like a typical grade-z Hollywood turdball here. I'm not talking about the part where young Kim is told to be a lookout for the fuzz while Doug and his pals imbibe in the evils o' maryjane and heroin, nor the part where he walks into his room and discovers Doug's fellow actor John Garfield using cocaine for a purpose that is clearly not medicinal, but in reality pop was quite a different fellow'n the good guy who used to pop up in various EAST SIDE KIDS films as the older brother doomed to the electric chair. Somehow I just can't fathom that dignified looking mustachioed actor sticking needles in his arm but hey, as Kenneth Anger has proven Hollywood really was known to bring out the beast (and maybe The Beast) in quite a few people.

But a whole lot is here, from Kim's early days being shuttled off to relatives by a rather self-centered mother to his start in the music biz and various sidesteps and mishaps thereof. Some of it's pretty hilarious such as the part where Jan and Dean are on the prowl looking to beat someone up starting with Roger Williams (!), others can be downright scary, but a lot come off smirky humorous. Whatever, the whole saga is educational, informative, guffaw-inducing, entertaining and a breeze to read through on one of them lonely nights when you have nothing better to do than settle back in your easy chair and osmose ancient ideas of rockist tendencies in an age which couldn't care one whit anymore.

And naturally, there are questions brought up that remain unanswered...for example there's the story about the relationship between Fowley and Seeds lead singer Sky Saxon which, if you can take Fowley's word at it, was always cordial even if it only amounted to a "howdy" here and a "good day" there. If so, then why was the very last Fowley/Saxon meeting played out in Las Vegas when  Saxon snuck up behind a dancing Fowley and sucker punched him with a pair of brass knuckles? Seems that there was a whole lot simmerin' between the two for years that led to this "knockout game" and of course, my inquiring mind wants to know more'n the tad info Fowley sprinkles about. (Likewise, the sagas regarding Fowley's associations with Frank Zappa and his "membership" in the Mothers of Invention are more or less glossed over---I mean, for years I, like you I'm sure, have been wanting to know what the heck a "hype-o-phone" is and how the thing is played for that matter!) Maybe the answers to these and other questions will pop up in part two (which, along with part three, has already been written but the folks at Kicks books don't wanna overload or craniums and besides they'll make more money offa us, which they most certainly deserve to do).

One of the best rock reads so far this the guy trying to push the slow-moving records always sez, "highly recommended".

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sorry it took me a longer time to get this weekend post out than it took John Holmes to pee, but the usual problems did arise. Boy, that real life thing can really get to you sometimes...sure wish they'd come up with a cure for it other'n the patented bullet to the brain! Still, at least it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble, so maybe I shouldn't squawk so much about doctors appointments, work (ugh!) and those other things that keep me from my true calling in life. Mainly plopping on a nice soft comfy chair and reading old MAD, HELP! and TV GUIDE magazines while albums and other pre-recorded forms of entertainment spin on whatever piece of by-now outdated technology I deem appropriate. It sure does ease those pangs over getting over the fact that it's not 1979 anymore (not that I'd ever want to go back to that dreadful year but sheesh, if I only had the money to buy all of those records I missed out on the first time...).

Well, I see you made your way through the Kennedy assassination anniversary intact too. Thankfully I just managed to stay away from both the tee-vee and the radio in order to spare myself from all of the brow-beating and clothes rendering that I just knew was gonna transpire this past Friday, and stayed on the computer where I could at least control what was going into my skull in a way that I'm sure then-prez Kennedy sure wish he coulda that fateful day!

Fortunately Don Fellman decided to give me a ring-a-ding which also kept me busy for a good part of the evening (little did I know as a turdler that when I'd be a well grizzled adult a man with that name would be talking to me via long distance and helping me make it through a solid prime time of retrospective misery!). During our conversation I was racking his brain for any assassination jokes or riddles that may have been going through his playground at the time, but the only one he could muster up was "What is Caroline Kennedy getting for Christmas? A jack-in-the-box!"...didn't say that any of these jokes were good, but at least they served that sick purpose that thankfully still remain meaningful to us lo these many years later.

Kinda skimpy in the reviews dept. this week. Like I said the free time to put one of these jambus packtus posts out just wasn't there this week and besides, the inspiration not to mention cash flow has been rather dribble-like to the point where I've been spending my by-now long and dark evening hours sacked out in the comfy chair in my room staring out the window while listening to Albert Ayler blow his sanity out through his alto. And with a little gumption and assertiveness maybe you can do it too!

But soldier on I must, and considering that national holiday coming up in a few days maybe we should be thankful I was able to crank this much rock fandom of a questionable caliber out!

Fabian-HOLD THAT TIGER! LP (Rumble, Europe)

We all remember the great line Eddie Haskell once spewed to Beaver, "If it can happen to Fabian, it can happen to anyone!" And yeah, during a time when a&r men from a wide variety of record labels were scouring the neighborhoods of South Philadelphia looking for wop-a-dago boys with a modicum of talent, how could a guy like Fabian escape the scrutiny of Chancellor Records, the same label that brought Frankie Avalon to national fame 'n fortune at a time when late-fifties wildcat sounds were starting to mutate into a thing that was just a little...different...

I won't go out on a limb and say that the early-sixties musical scene was all "wimp rock" as many pundits out there have been drilling it into our heads these past fortysome years. I can rattle off a whole slew of acts both national and local that made the 1960-1963 airwaves and/or dancefloors a real pleasure (and yeah you may get up on your high soap horse box and complain about all of the Singing Nun folkies and Frank Ifield types who were raking in the raves back then, but I'll only counteract ya'n mention the tons of instrumental surf groups, "Louie Louie", "Surfin' Bird" and wild raves that 1963 closed out on in a "so there!" that'll have your head spinning from here to Coraopolis and back!)---oh yeah, as I was sayin', with a good half-century of hindsight at hand I gotta admit that the early-sixties teenage music scene was a whole lot hotcha-er'n most hippoid world saver types'll want you to believe, and hey, even the likes of Fabian and Bobby Vee, two of the most loathed icons of early-sixties teenybopdom, sound fine and dandy to me a good fifty-plus years down the line. Of course next to the glop being spewed today even my gassiest farts sound pretty melodic, but that just might say more about my sphincter than it does the talents of Justin Timberlake.

But despite what the naysayers, whether they be aging classic rock armchair revolutionaries or amerindie aficionados with all of the depth of a Chuck Eddy review may want you to believe, Fabian was more of a rock 'n roll role model'n the likes of Jim Morrison ever could be! Yeah the guy coulda used a bit of a punk up in his image and even material, but the tracks on HOLD THAT TIGER have proven him to be a whole lot more of a balls out performer than many would care to admit. Yeah he's a little weak in the vocal range, timbre and drive department (at least sometimes), but when he goes all out the man does not hold back. Just one listen to the hit "Turn Me Loose " (last track on side two) shows that he could equal any down home deep south ranter who Fabian had supposedly "disposed" of after "the day the music died" and we all went cardigan sweaters, crew cuts and nasal voices.

The rest ain't bad either even if Fabian's tonsils just weren't suited for him romping through the old timey chestnut "Cuddle Up a Little Closer" which sounds more like a ploy to grab the teenage gals and their curmudgeon dads in one felt swoop! But HOLD THAT TIGER is still ample proof that those cigar chewing managers and teen idol crafters of the day could get it right at least once in awhile, and if you liked the old ploy of mixing crass commercialism with a product that didn't blow turd and in fact uplifted your spirits more'n Penelope Playtex ever could then you just might go for Fabian the same way you did for Sigue Sigue Sputnik!

It's definitely time for a Fabian revival that's for sure, and maybe this reissue can spearhead the movement! DEMAND Fabian on your local "oldies" station! DEMAND that your local big city rock critic speak of him as an artist of worth 'stead of a creepy footnote, or footstep between the Buddy Holly and Beatles era as they're most likely going to do. Best of all call up your local television station and PLEAD with 'em to run HOUND DOG MAN as soon as they can...maybe it's not to late to save the youth of this world from the evils of Lady Caga and who knows, maybe the new knockout game'll be one where the kids get knocked out by Fabian's singing. Wouldn't that be something positive and heartwarming to look forward to???
Various Artists-AS TIME DRIVES US AWAY W/O BRAKES CD-r burn (contributed by Bill Shute)

An even more pleasing 'n usual Bill Shute disque, this 'un featuring everything from lounge schmooze to free jazz and even reggae music along with the expected garage band and country and western standbys. The inclusion of a couple of Jamaican rarities from Nora Dean and Dennis Alcapone was definitely a surprise, and considering that I enjoyed both of these low-fidelity rompers despite not being whatcha'd call a reggae aficionado was a surprise in itself! Also appearing are the infamous Titfield Thunderbolt  b-side "In The Can" (Gunter Hampel meets the MC5?) as well as this weirdoid free jazz thingie called "All Scars-Airwaves of Terror" of which I could not find a single dad-blasted thing about onna web! Other entries include two sides of a fairly good self-produced single by some guys calling themselves "the Mechanics" circa 1978, the Blitz Boys '"Eddy's New Shoes" (more "amerindie" that slipped under the wire) and of course "IDENTIFY THE MYSTERY VOICE" which was some English supermarket tie-in contest giveaway platter which urges housewives to do just that and win a whole passel of wondrous goodies. I personally couldn't make out who the mystery limey was myself, though for some reason I keep thinking it just may be John Inman? Well, as Archie Bunker used to say, "the English are a bunch of fags..." 'n they all sound the same no matter how faggy they may be to these Amerigan ears I'll tell ya!
Various Artists-IDEA CALDONIA FREE SOUTH JONES CD-r (sent in by Bill Shute)

Yeah, I'm (once again) breaking my own rule not to review more'n one of these Bill Shute comps per post but hey, things are getting mighty starvation rations around here so maybe I'd BETTER lest this blog lose whatever shard of meaninfulness and relevancy it once might have had! This platter's a nice selection of asst. sputum as well. not only with some under-the-counter cover versions of the hits ("Along Came Jones," "Caldonia") but a Wilbert Harrison rarity, a hardcore punk demo tape ("Mental Subject" 1996...which sounds like the kind of blur that  Imants Krumins used to devote his time and energy to whilst under the influence of MAXIMUM ROCK 'N ROLL) and "Ideas of South," a modern composition by Roger Mills which sounds more to me like 1950s avant garde filmscapading with some early free jazz spurts tossed in for good measure!

Speaking of jazz, Bill thankfully thought it worth his while to include nine snippets of that "free jazz" session that noted composer Edgard Varese held with the likes of Art Pepper and Charles Mingus back inna late fifties, and not so surprisingly its pretty good, educational listening even if these recordings are about as uneven as one might expect. These are not what you would call entire songs, but fragments of ideas being fleshed out. Heck, I was still able to sit back and enjoy 'em and they sure left me wanting for more! Never was too familiar with these Varese experiments, but if you'd like to hear a more Euro classical take on the early avant garde of jazz conducted by an actual longhair composer, here's your chance!
The Zippers-"He's a Rebel"/"You're So Strange" 45 rpm single (Back Door Man)

A classic finally in the palm of my hands. While the Zippers' 12-inch EP on Rhino is now all but impossible to obtain w/o paying collector scum prices, at least I was able to cop their debut single from '77 on the infamous Back Door Man label (spawn of the infamous fanzine of that same name which launched a thousand more fanzines, or so I would wish) at a fairly decent sum. BACK DOOR MAN (the mag) was 1000% behind pushing this home town aggregation for obvious reasons, most of which included the group's close alliance with the BDM staff (bassist/vocalist D.D. Faye being the twin sister of BDM regular Danielle Faye) and the fact that they were just a hot, driving, good group that deserved some publicity and if Robert Hillburn wasn't quite up to it then I guess the folks at BDM knew just what was their duty, and dutied they did!

"Heavy metal pop" was a term often used to describe the band, and if you're one who spent the seventies following the Cleveland rock scene of the Raspberries and Circus and sorta believed in Greg Shaw's "It's All Coming Back!!!" hype even though you kinda thought he was off by a long shot this might be the one for you. The Crystals cover is done up proper late-seventies El Lay style kinda like you woulda hoped the Runaways woulda done it...with more emphasis on the hard crunch and less on the tits and underage ass. "You're So Strange" is a hot original that reminds me of power pop with a whole gallon of testosterone pumped into it 'stead of that "My Sharona" jiz that had local cubes thinking they had discovered the truth and beauty of new wave. Two powerful tracks that, true, may not have been commercial enough for the tuinol and low-acumen listening audience of the day, but they sure sound great enough to be included in the upper reaches of any seventies top singles list extant next to a whole load of basement singles that flew by us back then but when they did hit boy, did we feel like the Titanic!

I know that some of the ex-staff of BACK DOOR MAN regularly careen this blog so here's a SPECIAL MESSAGE for you all. How about releasing a Zippers album/Cee Dee or whatnot with these tracks and a whole lot more just so's we can get some rock jollies here in the beyond hopeless teens? Yeah, you can do a major history of 'em with a collection of tracks from the group's original incarnation as Atomic Kid all the way up until the end, and maybe interview the bandmembers in question for some long-lost and heretofore unknown facts we all could use. C'mon...if you're gonna lose money might as well do it this way 'stead of dump it in some shaky investment that won't benefit anyone 'cept for some phony prince in Nigeria!
Steve Treatment-25 "A" SIDES + YOUR FRIENDS ARE IN THE NEWS 2-CD set (hyped2death)

Whazza word for it..."serendipity"? "Luck"? "Kismet"? Whaddeva the word is, it sure hit me nice 'n hard with the arrival of this Cee-Dee set via Brad Kohler, a loaner which the man actually had burned a copy for me about seven or so years back only I couldn't play it on my boom box nohow. Well, now I get to hear it and y'know what---I think I coulda gone another seven years without hearing it but at least I got to give it a listen and it's

Treatment was, like a few thou of his countrybrood, one of those late-sixties kiddies who just happened to luckily morph into a late-seventies punk rocker when the time was right. However, unlike many of his compats the guy was a proud member of the Marc Bolan inner circle which is probably why these two platters of unreleased (whether they were meant to be or not) tracks have a rather DIY Tyrannosaurus Rex feel. Talking maybe BEARD OF STARS or "King of the Rumbling Spires" right when Marc was getting back into the electric groove. All these need are background vocals by Flo and Eddie and the connection would really hit home!

Platter "a" is more honed studio strut which was created with public consumption in mind. The other's mostly rough demos that were recorded redline and have that trashoid appeal I like. Cheapo Dylan splurge that'll have you wanting to kick David Bromberg inna balls. Take it in small do-see-doses though, because it might just overpower (or grate on) you.
For all of my Amerigan readers this Thursday...I hope you all choke on a wishbone!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Back when I was a single digit kid Elvis Presley mooms on tee-vee were like a big  to-do...not exactly for anyone else inna fambly but for me. I always thought they were great what with the wild dancing, big time musical numbers and of course the obligatory fight scenes. Of course by the eighties when these mooms hit the afternoon dialing for dollars circuit I really couldn't care one whit about 'em, but my boob tube watching days were slowly but surely fading away from sight to the point where nowadays you couldn't get me in front of a real live set unless they were showing some of those old series I used to spend beaucoup bux on if only for a VCR containing two to four well-worn syndication prints of AMOS 'N ANDY or M-SQUAD.

LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE fits into the late-sixties Elvis conundrum well enough. Maybe even more so'n expected that I get the feeling that if I had watched this one on the NBC MONDAY NIGHT MOVIE during the early seventies I would have been told to go to bed in no uncertain terms (which had happened on scant occasion such as during the Don Knotts classic THE LOVE GOD and THE IMPOSSIBLE YEARS, the scene where the biker tells David Niven that what he knew about sex could get him arrested!). This 'un's a li'l too spicy even for an Elvis moom. Not as out-there as that scene in CHANGE OF HABIT where that mad Puerto Rican gang member was chewin' away on Mary Tyler Moore's tits but still naughty enough.

Of course it helps that the female lead (Michelle Carey) has all of the sex appeal of my last bowel movement and that the general plot is about one step removed from some LOVE AMERICAN STYLE romp (and really, can any of us take Dick Sargent playing anything even remotely hetero anymore???). In many ways this comes off like a late-sixties movie trying to look "M" but getting a "G" anyway...kinda like the aforementioned CHANGE OF HABIT come to think of it only without the tit snugglin' (and yeah, I still wonder how that 'un got a "G" anyway---the MPAA probably thought it was gonna be another Elvis romp and didn't even bother to watch it!). Naughty yet innocent enough that even the pseudo-PLAYBOY photo shoot scene where Elvis snaps some gal hiding her boobs with her muff (and no, she is not a contortionist) might just pass Aunt Petunia's scrutiny even if you might be beggin' for at least a peek of cleavage.

No real plot, message or moral can be discerned but then again were any needed in these films? Whatever plot there is just acts as a binder to the music numbers, fight scenes and romantic angle, sorta like a cinematic glue which keeps the fun stuff from falling apart.

Besides the irritating Carey, this 'un also has Rudy Vallee as the head of the respectable advertising firm, Don Porter as a health nut loosely patterned after Hugh Hefner, and Sterling Holloway as a milkman who just might be the same character who fixed William Demarest and Joan Blondell's tee-vee on that TWILIGHT ZONE episode now working under a new name in a new profession on the west coast after too much occult karma caught up with him. After getting an eyefulla the dream sequence (which of course gives Elvis another chance to stretch his tonsils) featuring the erstwhile WINNIE THE POOH actor coming off especially creep-like I wouldn't doubt it otherwise.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Since a lotta gals lost their heads over JFK, he obviously felt it proper to
 return the favor!
A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE OF BLOG TO COMM---well, not really, but continuing on my demi-nostalgic paens to a variety of "Golden Jubilees" that have been crossing my path as of late (such as the fiftieth anniversary of the first Christmas I can remember, the fiftieth anniversary of the last LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to be filmed, a good half-century since I've been able to control my #2 functions enough not to wear diapers...) I thought it would be neato and keen to mention this upcoming Friday's big semicennial festivities, none other'n that of the last successful presidential assassination on record and you know what the hey I'm talkin' about by now, don't you all you aging conspiracy theorists and assorted riff raff still living in 1963 (lucky dogs) out there!

Frankly, I really didn't wanna bring up JFK's head-dive into oblivion if only because of the more mawkish and sentimental souls out there who are holding back tears even as we speak---y'know, the kind of peace creep type who ties every protest movement to come down the line with their own sixties spirituality---precisely because the subject is just so baby boomer heart rendering one would just have to wretch! You're no doubt familiar with that tired.old "on November 22 we all lost our innocence!" rant as if each and every one of us alive on that fateful day was some sorta precocious artzy-litzy introvert listening to Joan Baez albums while holed up in our lower-midclass workingman box houses. Well if you're that kind of "Save the World" sorta feelygood about yourself don't let me stop you from parting your pithair inna middle, just steer clear from outta my sight and frankly, the day I lost my "innocence" was the day I found out that those vending machines in the men's room at the bowling alley weren't selling gumballs. But they sure made funny looking bubbles!

Personally I like that other "baby boomer" trait that fortunately has never really gone away, the one that had kids watching loads of tee-vee and listening to the radio and racing slot cars,  reading comic books, eating strange food and doing all that stuff the high school phony intellectuals were supposed to sneer at because it was just...icky. And of course gabbing about it ever  since because  you knew those days were so great and that unfortunately they never ever would come back. Y'remember, like back when it was 1971 and all you wanted to talk about with your buds besides Alice Cooper and the Who was nothing but greasy reminiscences of all the great times you used to have not so long ago, like "remember how fun it was watching TWILIGHT ZONE" or about such and such a musical act that was playing around back then but you haven't heard a peep outta since. Things like that which, when gathered about and added up, just go to prove what fun the kids had back before everything hadda have "inner meaning" and be "relevant" like they eventually ended up being by the time I was old enough to have my own serious fun! Yes, in the early-seventies ten years ago...even five years ago for that matter sure looked rather enticing especially in the face of Cat Stevens and BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN!

So it's in this spirit of hotcha baby boomerism that I bring up the big fiftieth splatzo reupholstering of that Lincoln limo, and all I gotta say that this particular day continues to resonate in my mind because hey...I was there! Not in Dallas or anything like that, but in the tee-vee room on that overcast November Friday afternoon talking with my sock-darning mother while MOON OVER MIAMI was airing on AFTERNOON THEATER on WKBN-TV when, right at that scene where there's this big ball the first bulletin pops up via the CBS network which naturally stymied my mom who was soon on the phone calling her sisters with the news. Of course I was wallowing in turdler confusion myself especially when it was known to the world that something big was goin' on, and you can bet that I was a sad stroon over the proceedings because...that only meant there was gonna be no BARNEY BEAN for me that evening!

Or Saturday AM cartoons for that matter because we all hadda endure a good three or so days of "national mourning" which really musta sucked, especially if you were one who loathed JFK to the point where you still take Lee Harvey Oswald's birthday off to celebrate! But the bright part of it all is that everybody I knew kept their newspapers which sure added up to loads of fun for me when I was ten and I'd read through 'em enjoying all those old comic strips and moom pitcher ads and the rest of that last flash of a fun, kid-oriented civilization that was slowly but surely slipping from sight.

What was even weirder about the events transpiring at hand was the fact that mom definitely wanted to have the tee-vee tuned to CAPTAIN KANGAROO that upcoming Thursday (Thanksgiving) because, for some maybe not-so-strange reason, she thought that the program at hand would mention something about the events of the past week as if ol' Bob Keeshan was going to tell the assembled brats at hand "now children, remember that we should be thankful for everything even if our previous president got his head blown to bits just short of a week ago!" So tune in we did as mother was preparing our feast (she even checking in on things to see if her premonition was coming true)...naturally nothing specific about the assassination was mentioned, but even I do recall a rather solemn tone in Cap's demeanor that morning which reflected the proper response to the "skull full of era's end" as Lester Bangs once so succinctly put it.

Of course the best "where were you when Kennedy got shot" saga just has to be the one that's been spouted off by none other than the infamous Don Fellman for quite some time he was at school with news of the multi-Excedrin headache hit the classrooms at Campbell Junior High in Queens New York and some kids were naturally stunned saying "they shot the president" while one, a chap named Gary Frank, jokingly retorted  "shot him in the ass!" Of course when the gravity of the situation finally became known, Frank responded to the shame being dumped on him for making light of things by uttering (in a rather Snagglepuss-ish delivery) "that was before I knew!"

As for Don well....he was waiting all week to watch RETURN OF THE FLY starring Vincent Price on the Friday late movie and was so keyed up about it that he actually sat through the wall-to-wall television coverage of the events unfolding in the hopes that local programming would eventually resume. When eleven o'clock hit and assassination coverage continued Don kept up the hope that maybe by MIDNIGHT the station would air the film. Dunno exactly what time Don gave up and went sleepy bye but he did, having to wait for FLY to make its way back into syndication a good year or so later!

But that's not all---y'see the Fellman family tee-vee just happened to blow a tube or two the very next day so the repairman was called in to fix things. Back then if a television set went on the blink the repairman would give you a loaner, in this case a micro-sized Hotpoint portable with a teeny screen which you could at least watch something. But that was the thing...since Kennedy was dead all there was to watch was a buncha small horses dragging Kennedy's body all over the place, so what good was having even that small substitute around if all you hadda watch was dungeonsville stuff like that???

Hey I know that these stories aren't as dramatic or as moving as the ones that were cluttering the newsstands forty years ago back when the tenth anniversary was fodder for not-so-faded memories, but I sure hope they serve as an antidote to all of the self-righteous, soul-searching and humanistic quap we're all gonna be inundated with this Friday! Well at least Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian weren't around to join inna national grief like many of us oldsters (and man, it was bad enough when Billy Joel hadda spout off his self-righteous opines when asked a good quarter-century back!), but don't worry, I'm sure they (along with Kanye and the rest) will come up with some beautifully touching mewlings about that fateful day if prompted...
I'LL BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW THAT JERRY LEWIS® WAS A PROGRESSIVE ROCKER!: of course he never was even if his son did use an accordion in his act just like PFM, but after viewing these two clips where Jerry gets a chance to show off some of his musical talents I kinda wonder why the comedy titan didn't up and join some up-and-coming progsters just yearning for an electronics wizard! In the first clip from THE DELICATE DELINQUENT, Jerry meets up with a theremin resulting up some high-larious antics that had me gagging back when I was a mere age of ten! Jimmy Page eat your heart out!:

What's even kookier is this clip of Jerry demonstrating his new "Chamberlain", which as any prog rock freak knows is the Amerigan equivalent of the way more popular Mellotron (check your albums for mentions of the Chamberlain on David Bowie's LOW or even Sonny Sharrock's PARADISE where it is referred to as a "Chamberlain Mellotron"!). Given that during the sixties the Mellotron became the fun play thing among the millionaire set, sort of an even more sophisticado organ what with the left row of keys emitting all sorts of drum and rhythm patterns (the version more familiar with those of a rock knowledge emitted the left row of keys and focused on the cheezy strings, flute, brass and voice we've been inundated with for ages!), it's no wonder Jerry would have picked one up for his own highbrow pleasure. Well, I will admit that the sounds the famed comedian emits from the Chamberlain were a whole lot more entertaining than anything Rick Wakeman was able to get outta his, but then again what else is old?

And as you were hoping all along, here come this week's reviews! Well, not reviews as much as the usual top of the head comments revealing my impressions regarding a variety of platters that have crossed my path the past week or two, only a couple of which were purchased by me with my hard-begged moolah (the rest being Cee-Dee-Are burns sent gratis by various fans and followers who wanna to d the big daddy J. Paul Getty II routine to my Kenneth Anger I guess). Gotta thank you guys for the kind thought really...and considering the absolute dearth (or unavailability) of BLOG TO COMM-friendly sounds being unleashed these days well, I wish I could go over to each and every one of your places and thank you personally. That's outta the question though...y'see, I can't use a strange toilet.

And speaking of toidy functions what better disque to begin the critiques'n with the following classic!

The Urinals-NEGATIVE CAPABILITY CD-r burn (originally on Warning Label)

Wow, what primitiveness...and yeah, I remember back when such dunce-addled rock perfection was sneered at by the reams of classic rock dolts I hadda put up with for many a year. Of course as time has proved I was right, as usual, all along! Classic sides from the late-seventies that were being spoken about in tones hushed even then, a time when such sub-garage techniques weren't exactly considered chic by the smarmy rock handlers. Fantastic mix of "six-oh" and late-seventies modes mixed and matched to your perfection and it sounds so "real" that you might hallucinate that it's still 1976 (or even '66) and these are the kids next door who got peed atcha for spying on their rehearsal! A tip of the skull to Tom Gilmore for deciding this one worthy enough for mine ears.
Peter Brotzmann and Steve Noble-I AM HERE WHERE ARE YOU CD-r (originally on Trost)

Very recent euro flash sesh featuring the time honored Brotzman and percussionist Noble cooking up such a racket that you'd think they were trying to wake Albert Ayler up. Brotzman plays at seventy the same pure spout he did on MACHINE GUN while Noble proves once and for all that the future of jazz doesn't necessarily have to be in the hands of those squeaky clean mutants you hear when you happen to traipse upon the "lite jazz" station on your cable system. Gives me more hope for the future of music than even Herman Munster hand after espying Eddie's autographed photo of the Standells!
Rudimentary Peni-CACOPHONY CD (Outer Himalayan)

Wow, can you believe it? A concept album about H.P. Lovecraft from these ever-popular anarcho punks! And it's pretty good too, with its expected mix of sharp underground drive, heavy metal (in the hotcha, truest 1972 CREEM meaning of the term) sensory overload and a general attack and approach that reminds me of all of the better moments the eighties had to offer without all of the pretense and misguided gush that seemed to have permeated those years. Underground rock in the truest sense, and it's so good that I almost feel ashamed about having written the whole load of these peaceniks off as just a bunch of hippies wearing leather jackets and spiky haircuts!
Peter Stampfel and the WORM All-Stars-A SURE SIGN OF SOMETHING CD-r (originally on Korm Digitaal)

If you wanted to hear what that legendary unreleased Holy Modal Rounders album sounded like well...maybe this would come durn close. Maybe not, but this does have a version of the HRK "chestnut" "Fucking Sailors in Chinatown" that was to have appeared on that elusive effort. Also has a new version of "One Will Do For Now" and probably a whole slew of  oldies that just happened to fly under mine radar. One for fans of the (Un)Holy Modals as well as the Bottlecaps as well as a whole slew of Peter Stampfel-related folk splat (including the Muscular Christians) which have been springing up like age spots all across the New York underbelly these past fortysome years.

Various Artists-FUZZ, FLAYKES AND SHAKES VOL. 1 CD-r (originally on Bacchus Archives)

The first in a recent (1999) series of garage band compilations which, as I suspected, just doesn't have the same sense of mid-six-oh wonderment as the original garage collections that came out in the v. late seventies. Not quite bottom of the barrel scrapings, yet not quite total hard flash brainwarp worthy of a PEBBLES VOLUME TWO let alone a PSYCHEDELIC UNKNOWNS. But alas, that's been the case with many of these mid-eighties-onward punkoid excursions which just don't have the same crash 'n bash that we've come to expect after being exposed to the Sonics and Seeds thinking that it was all gonna sound as good as that! I frankly don't expect much more from the other volumes but give 'em a try I will, ever persistent nebb I am and will remain.
The Velvet Illusions-ACID HEAD-THEIR COMPLETE 45's CD-r burn (originally on Tune In Records, England)

Best known from their appearance on some early-eighties Moxie garage band extended play, the Velvet Illusions certainly had that minor key creep factor fully in flush on their signature number "Acid Head." That's on here as is their theme song "Velvet Illusions" which is also good in the creep department. The rest varies from standard if entertaining mid-energy proto-punk to a thirties nostalgic number which sounds good enough that I'm sure even the older generation types like my mother who hated being made fun of like this would have been suckered in. Definitely worth looking into (if you definitely think recordings like these are worth looking into), but sheesh I sure think these tracks sounded better when pressed up on that cheap Moxie vinyl whilst being slapped into a cover that looked as if it were designed by a bunch of twelve-year-olds who were being paid off in Thunderbird to tackle the dirty deed! Just as long as the mailorder businesses didn't jack the price up too much!

The legendary Tokyo underground assemblage of various Fluxus wannabes and asst. bangers on (cute, huh?) finally get their hotcha Cee-Dee dues with this triple disque threat collecting a passel of neo-readymades and  not-so-found sounds recorded during the wild days of the early seventies. The spirit of late-sixties free fall fanablaism is in full force here complete with wild scat singing, toy wooden flutes (the kind you used to see at tourist trap hangouts with feathers sticking out of 'em), tape squeals and tom toms. Sorta like an extremely loose Amon Duul I with the Czech musical aggregate Aktuel tossed in...might get kinda tranceville at times but that's your problem.
Various Artists-PAUL IS DEAD AND ELEPHANTS ARE FLYING CD-r (compiled by Bill Shute)

Perhaps the most sit-down-and-don't-touch-that-fast forward-button entertaining of Bill Shute's recent send me's. The Wyncote Squirrels might have been a 99-cent attempt to cash in on the Alvin and the Chipmunks Beatle bonanza, but their "Be My Girl" is top notch hard -edge rock 'n roll with some mighty boss playing worthy of Lou Reed's Roughnecks. Solo cup backed vanity entertainer Dora Hall continues to curdle with "Cuddles the Calico Kitten" while "Squee-Gee the Happy Clown" just doesn't go over too well in these days when ya just gotta wonder about guys who never take off their face paint and wear baggy pants. The syrupy string selection helped ease me into a "Stereo 99" stupor akin to any hi-fi nut turning to the e-zy listening dial a good fiftysome years back, while even the c&w twang didn't make me wanna go ghetto like it sometimes does.

What I really liked about this 'un though was the CBS radio report on the Paul McCartney death hoax which not only served as an example of pop kultural history being re-experienced, but gave me that "grown up" feeling just like it woulda had I heard this onna radio during my single digit days copping some of that weirdo adult nutzo world that seemed so alien to my suburban slob upbringing. I'll tell you, I got almost as much creeped out over this as I did when I saw that tee-vee special on CHARIOTS OF THE GODS a few years later.

Closing out the disque is that old Jiminy Cricket chestnut "Give a Little Whistle" which urges you to pucker up and blow "when you meet temptation and the urge is very strong." Somehow I get the feeling that if this song had gotten around a little more you'd be hearing a whole lotta whistling coming from the bathrooms of households containing adolescent boys and rock fanzine writers. Don't think it would do much good though.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just got done watching disques #1 and 2 of the ULTRAMAN box set and boy do the memories keep coming back! Unfortunately the memories aren't of sitting happily plopped in front of the television set watching this long-heralded television series, but memories of wishing I could be able to drag in some station from the nether-reaches of the broadcast area that would show a program such as this! Y'see, the programmers in the Youngstown Ohio market were such one-dimensional bozos that they thought kids wanted to watch the same episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and MY THREE SONS over and over, that they were too stoopid to realize that it was the same shows they were seeing repeatedly and why dish out $$$ for another series whena measly few would suffice! The dolt programmers were either too cheap, too ignorant or both, to consider running the kinda shows I would have loved to have sacked out in front of the television set for which is one reason I honor programs like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET so much...these were the shows that I deserved to have been watching back when I was a roughshod run over adolescent only some azzole out there thought that VIRGINIA GRAHAM was more suitable to my well-being. Kinda like the nimnul who gave Ellen DeGenital her own series which is aired during the post-school hours when ya know every kid should be front and center watching RIFLEMAN reruns like they were fifty years ago!

But man, ULTRAMAN has it all. The best moments of late-sixties/early-eighties UHF tee-vee rolled into one half hour of action. Sci-Fi adventure, cool rocket ships, neat sixties gadgets and even boss studio wrestling moves on the part of Ultraman and whatever monster he's up against this episode. All of your cheezoid favorites wrapped up into one half-hour of entertainment that sure did me a whole load of betterment than the entire 1979-2013 tee-vee seasons combined!

The basic premise of the show reminds me of FIREBALL XL-5, only instead of being set 100 years in the future it takes place in a 1993 Japan even though all of the technology and automobiles are clearly early-sixties. The prominent characters on ULTRAMAN are part of an organization called "Science Patrol" as opposed to the "Space Patrol", or was that the name of the FIREBALL imitation that had come out around the same time (known as "Planet Patrol" in the USA)? My memory's getting even soggier here, but anyway you kinda can feel the influence chart dripping from  one show to the other and yet to another one that's so encrusted with so much  cheeze you just don't care no more.

And what cheeze it is, for each and every ULTRAMAN on this platter really socks ya with high energy power and chill thrills galore. I mean, I knew that there was a whole lotta turmoil and disasters goin' on in that Land of Monsters called Japan, but in these shows the carnage was upped on a daily basis to the point where I can't fathom how the locals could stand all of those buildings and ships being destroyed having to be rebuilt over and over...I'm surprised that the Japanese aren't having Valium pumped into 'em intravenously what with all of the upheavals they have to contend with not only in the ULTRAMAN universe, but with all of those other Toho productions that sure helped out many an unemployed wrestler who hadda don some big lizard outfit and re-create some of his best moves up against a guy dressed up as the title character!

Good casting also makes ULTRAMAN every bit the Japanese equivalent of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN that it "purports" to be. Susumu Kurobe is perfect as Shin Hayata, the cool and competent member of the Science Patrol who becomes Ultraman after flashing his "beta capsule" (which looks more like a space-age vibrator to me) in the air while making a strange arm signal which might be mistaken for some gang sign. Of course the connections between him and Clark Kent are amazing, what with him disappearing at the most crucial time with Ultraman popping up just in the nick (and of course everybody's too stoopid to make the obvious connection!). Captain Mura is the head of the Science Patrol, not quite a Perry White type but still gruff enough. And hey, who could deny that the Ito character, he being the big goof up yet brilliant inventor of the group, was more or less comic relief in the fashion of Jimmy Olsen! Sometimes I wonder why DC just didn't go and sue like they were wont to do with everything else even slightly infringing upon their copyrights!

Of course my fave of the bunch is Hiroko Sakurai as Akiko Fuji, the token femme on the force who usually sits around at the radio and makes coffee though sometimes gets to go on a mission with the guys and usually proves herself worthy despite her sex. If a Lois Lane comparison has to be made it would be to the more motherly Noel Neill rather than the hard-boiled Phyllis Coates, though hey, unlike the legendary Loises of tee-vee fame this is one female lead I really do have the carnal compulsion for! I mean, she's unlike every woman seen these days...nice, sweet, beautiful and hygenic...who in their right mind wouldn't want to be married to a gal like this who looks wonderful especially in that Science Patrol uniform with the necktie, not to mention the straight hair which looks so much better'n it all teased up and curly. I was kinda upset that the scene where she and her kid brother have to swim to safety after escaping from a viaduct didn't show her with skin-tight clothing and a little chill popping out her nipples, but hey this is supposed to be a kid show and they'd never allow anything like that in a millyun years (unlucky kids!).

For those of you who care, the quality is top notch, though perhaps you'd like to distort your screen somehow with snow just to give it that broken down rabbit ears feeling. Or better yet see if you can watch it on an old tube television and have one of the tubes blow out just like they used to when you were a kid. Really brings those good ol' memories home! Even better yet, don't do your homework, watch ULTRAMAN, then get your mother to yell at you for watching that dumbo tee-vee show when you should be studying instead...I'll tell ya, you'll be flashing back to the past so quickly you'll remember how to throw a proper temper tantrum in no time flat!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

"Never turn your back on the Mael Brothers." Steven Morrissey wrote that in an old issue of THE NEXT BIG THING, and although I must admit I've turned my back on Morrissey around the time of MEAT IS MURDER I never felt that Sparks were a group to dismiss en toto given their...well...bizarroid pop music masterpieces. Tracks that on one hand hearkened back to previous rock accomplishments of the sixties yet set the stage for various musical epiphanies that were a year or two away. In many ways Sparks were yet another one of those acts that was caught between the great rock movements, too late for the early-seventies pop maelstrom that was overtaking AM radio yet too early for the late-seventies pop underground where I'm sure they would have fit comfortably up against all of those Blondie and Ramones albums that were coming out even if a lotta people thought they were of the previous generation, ifyaknowaddamean...

Gotta say that looking at the covers of Sparks albums just wondering what the sounds inside entailed was a big part of my early record shop prowling years, and by the time I could actually afford to buy those wondrous slabs you can bet that I was snatching up all that I could get my handy little grubs on. Y'see, by that time Sparks had pretty much hit the dollar bin flea market circuit and spending a pittance on a used platter sure beat dishing out the six bucks a fresh 'n sealed copy would set me back at the local soon-to-be Cee-Dee emporium.

Yeah I can see why a whole lotta people, both snoots and level headed types, would dismiss Sparks as a cheap shuck. Yeah, I can even see how Ira Robbins would notch 'em a few points for leading the way to Queen (even though I gotta say that next to some of the turdburgers that have come out during the mid/late-seventies and beyond even Queen sound good in comparison!). And yeah, I can also see why people who I thought had some sense would wanna lump Sparks in with the likes of Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer and the rest of the dinosaur rock brigades given their ascent in popularity around the time progressive rock began making huge inroads into the listening habits of boxboy teenagers nationwide. I can see alla that, but it ain't like I'm buying it one iota.

Dunno about you, but for me Sparks seemed like a bright mid-seventies hope, a smart-pop act that had it not made it big during the pre-punk days woulda been grouped in with those late-seventies "save the world" bands that seemed so tame and commercial in many ways yet were too outre for a public that was numbed by way too much exposure to Southern Californian Sopor sounds. Snat decadent rock that was good enough for England but way above the heads of the average Amerigan teenbo who was either into stoner post-power metal music or fluffoid AM dribble. When I first saw the picture of the Maels on the back of KIMONO MY HOUSE Russell reminded me of Marc Bolan for obvious coiffure-like reasons, and given T. Rex's slide into post-mania ridicule I thought perhaps these were the guys who could pick up the scepter from Marc's ever-chubbying hands and run with it into snazz rock territory yet unconquered. I was right, though unfortunately Sparks never were able to capture the Amerigan market the same way Bolan could even on an underground, FM radio level and we really were the worse for it if you ask me.

This post's more or less a rundown of Sparks in the seventies, a time which saw the group rise from their local SoCal punk rock (in the best 1972 CREEM/JAMZ definition of the term) beginnings to mid-seventies megastardom to their eventual descent into the abyss with a string of albums that more'n a few aficionados of the form tended to loathe with a passion. Just my observations and opinions mind you...nothing more or less. Maybe I'm just bringing out my seventies rockist tendencies and resensifying myself as to some of the music that captured my fancy during that period in time (though really, a whole load of other music from those days that I was stupid enough to listen to better remain buried in the dark corners of my brain for all eternity)...well hey, it is my blog and if I wanna write about seventies art-flash rock acts that most would find tedious and even downright loathsome I got more of a right to do so than you...


Sparks' debut (issued under the group's more grappling original moniker of Halfnelson and changed at the insistence of Bearsville label head and all around industry irritant Albert Grossman) was actually produced by none other'n Todd Rundgren, but don't expect this one to sound anything like the Nazz. Well, heavy British influences do abound from the Kinks and the Who to Tomorrow with the Southern California hub of industry ooze still firmly in place, but the flash and crash of the Nazz is...uh...just not present. Sparks were punkier and more SoCal local group irritable when compared to Rundgren's old act. And really, I can even hear just how none other than Alan Betrock (who seemed to be one of the better arbiters of underground crosscurrents throughout the seventies) could discern a Mothers of Invention vibe on "Biology 2" even if I more or less hear the roots of Devo. A listen or two all the way through and you too will know why this got buried under the weight of too many inferior albums of the day, but like the Sidewinders and Hackamore Brick you also get the idea that it was just too good for an era that showed both AM spark and FM dribble. And really, did anyone expect a group like Sparks to appeal in any way to the same frame of (or should that be lack of) mind that was buying up Jim Croce records with laid back gusto?

But who could fault the original Sparks for not trying? With a look that was total punk snarl (well, at least if you left the Maels outta it) it wasn't like they were going after the Marin County front porch jam band audience that's for sure! But as you'd expect Sparks were only about three or so years ahead of the gang doing what acts like the Quick and Fast would a short time down the rock evolutionary line, and maybe had this one gotten out a little more we woulda had an underground epiphany a few years before the fact. A surprisingly tough record too if you can believe that, perhaps due to Earle Mankey's high fever guitar playing that might have earned him a place in the Stooges had James Williamson's hand remained broken longer than the time it actually did take to heal.

Shouda been single track: "No More Mister Nice Guys," perhaps Sparks at their garagiest and most atonal. But surprisingly enough, the track that was chosen for the single, "Wonder Girl", actually did make it all the way up to #1 in Montgomery Alabama which is why the group was presented with a special award live and on stage during their tenure at Max's Kansas City pictured below:

I must admit (again and again) that I never really cozied up to the Bearsville version of Sparks than I did the Island one, even to the point where (attempting a change of heart) I bought a used double disc collection of the group's two albums from Bona Fide Records...and returned 'em because not only didn't this particular spin change my mind but because I thought the albums were downright irritating! Time has soothed my nervous system to an extent, even to the point where I can slap on A WOOFER IN TWEETER'S CLOTHING and enjoy the bizzaroid pop even though Ron Mael looks like a fey Charlie Chaplin on the back cover while Russ sounds like a castrati about three performances away from getting the pink slip. However, after repeated listens I did find myself thinking this album really ain't as limp wrist as I originally thought...kinda smooth in a So Cal meets psych England sorta way. Sure you get a bit of the cutesies tossed in (a cover of "Do Re Mi" wasn't exactly gonna put 'em on the cover of HEAVY METAL DIGEST), but numbers like "Moon Over Kentucky" and "Angus Desire" have the right touch of deca-punch that fit in swell with Russ Mael's freaky faksettos which I'm sure took some time to get used to, but then again I'm positive most people didn't quite cozy up to Bob Dylan's vocal cords on first listen!.

Not surprisingly, tracks like "Underground" had that right touch of sleek early-seventies AM pop mixed with the suburban teenage drive to the point where you kinda wonder why it wasn't being played in heavy rotation between the Raspberries and Hollies. Really this is nothing to sneeze at (that'll have to wait for "Atchoo" on PROPAGANDA), and between the aforementioned tracks and the non-LP b-side "I Like Girls" you can see the direction the group was heading in this rat race biz and surprisingly it was "up".
Of course only a doof'd admit that KIMONO MY HOUSE wasn't the big all-out breakthrough platter for the band which I'm sure surprised a few dongos who thought 'em a total flash in the pan. The Brothers Mael naturally did the right thing when they realized they weren't going places as fast as maybe they shoulda, and since they were trying for an English look, sound and feel the best career move they coulda come up with woulda been to ditch their old band, move to Blighty and start all over again with a new batch of musicians and label,  in this case Island. Being on the cusp of English prog smug and deca-dunce, Island was the perfect label for this new Sparks-concoction, and of course the implementation of a Roxy Music-ish sexy gal cover and attempt to capture the same audience as theirs was about as good a job of tuning in on a post-hippoid glamoid trend as there could have been. Of course the new hopped up music which despite current retro-reports wasn't progressive rock sure did hit some sorta collective chord with a whole load of kids who shot "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us" straight to #2 in England. Kinda heavy metal pop, with hefty references to early-mid-sixties production values from both sides of the ocean. That would figure, since one thing that made me pay attention in the first place as a young turd was some review in ROLLING STONE of all places which dared bring up the sainted name "Shirelles". Who sez that rag was a total waste back then, although it came pretty close most of the time?


I sure wish "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us" woulda shot to the top inna US of Whoa like it did elsewhere onna globe, but I guess this country was too far into denim and pious phony hipsterisms to notice anything even remotely Sparksian. Well, at least KIMONO MY HOUSE was one that was sure prevalent at the time and for years after via flea markets (where I picked up my first vinyl copy [had the cassette for years] at Hartville Ohio along with the first two Soft Machines and maybe that first Roxy Music...someone sure must've needed the moolah to sell 'em all to me for a mere buck!) and spinning this 'un sure brings back teenage memories that, for once, I don't mind shuttering to the darkest reaches of my cranium!

There's not a duff note to be heard here even if Sparks might be (inadvertently) giving fuel to some of the giddier practitioners of what would later be known as "new wave" with their terminal "quirkiness". Couldn't care less actually since Sparks toss it all off with such elan making a good portion of their emulators sound like the eighties "new music" wusses they most certainly were. And of course mucho Mael pts. are added considering that two surviving tracks ("In My Family" and "Barbecutie"---perhaps "Lost and Found" with that raging guitar lead) actually sport a mutated Pink Fairies (Larry Wallis, Russell Hunter and Roxy Music's John Porter) as the backing band!
PROPAGANDA seemed to be the one that broke Sparks through, somewhat. Well, at least I remember seeing this all over the place back when this 'un hit the bins, and the overseas version (with the photo sticker on the cover because someone forgot to put the group name 'n title front and center) was even charting in the upper reaches of the PLAIN DEALER import top ten trying ever-so-hard to knock Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel's PSYCHOMODO and CAPTAIN LOCKHEED AND THE STARFIGHTERS off the #1 spot. Maybe it eventually did, and come to think of it PROPAGANDA might have even topped the domestic charts considering how on the ball Cleveland may have been at the time before the spirit of Laughner was washed out by the poison of Pantsios (the poison hadn't quite set in yet).

At least for me PROPAGANDA was Sparks' last big bang of the seventies. Really, the followups just couldn't compete with this one and for good reason...PROPAGANDA was a good all-out hard pop jaunt that really seemed to hit a whole number of smart ideas while gauging at just the right emotional tugs without sounding too coy or cute. Quite snappy in fact, and even the plays for your sweet sensitive side doesn't drive you batty either.


Mael's belladonna vocals fit the post-Kinks neo-Brit material rather swell, and the group wasn't afraid to balls out rock either. Even the four years after they went out of vogue ecological number entitled "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" doesn't drive you batty. In fact, I can easily fantasize making out with a cute Japanese miss (perhaps one of the ladies who popped up on KIMONO MY HOUSE) to the strains of "Bon Voyage,"  a natural tit-rubbin' track what with its strings and Holiday piano lines, in our wooly sweaters next to the fire at the ski lodge. No wonder it was such a popular album back during the mid-seventies Sparks heyday even though I probably could count the number of people I knew who personally owned a copy on my nose.
Unfortunately a whole lotta the smart deca-smarm of the previous platters seemed to get watered down quite a bit by the time INDISCREET hit the mid-'75 racks. The violins just didn't tug at the ol' heart strings this time but just sounded as klutzy as they did on "Here Comes Bob" offa WOOFER, and overall it seems as if this is the one that disappointed the old fans while failing to find any new ones. There were some bright spots natch, but even those (such as "Tits" which for some odd reason reminds me of some low budge thirties b-comedy then so-prevalent on late-night television!) would've come off as a low point on any of the previous English-era platters. You can hear the brothers just begging for a shard of inspiration and insight here and flopping about miserably. This might have been the beginning of the end of Sparks' seventies megastardom, and given the material and even performance (what happened to those killer guitar leads?) you don't have to scratch your head that much to figure out why.
'76's BIG BEAT was whatcha'd call as "transitional" album, and the fact that it took 'em over a year to get this 'un out to the public might point to the fact that there was trouble brewing in the Mael camp. By this time the English musicians had been jettisoned and the Maels were in New York, with Russ posing with Cherry Vanilla on the cover of THE NEW YORK ROCKER while a new band was being constructed from the various acts that the brothers were catching via the stage of CBGB. In this new aggregate were local regulars Hilly Michaels (Cherry Vanilla drummer pre-CADDYSHACK), Milk 'n Cookies etc. Sal Maida and Tuff Dart Jeff Salen. The group that toured with the Maels to promote this album also featured El Lay resident Dave Swanson during his Pop days, something which I get the feeling must've irked at least a few people at BACK DOOR MAN who were championing the Pop to the ends of the city limits yet had nothing but pure disdain for Sparks. Eh, but that stuff happens alla time, and you can bet that even I have chewed my lower lip through after seeing the things that me and my name have been attached to without my consent or written permission either!

The Richard Avedon photos were a nice touch even if they
did signal the beginning of reflective superstar narcissism.
BIG BEAT marked not only a change in locale but a change in labels at least in the US of Whoa, with the Maels now enjoying the power and push that Columbia Records were able to give 'em. Funny that Island inna USA woulda given up on 'em so easily considering how successful they were, but I guess that once a group got so big the Amerigan labels with the clout wanted 'em at any cost which is probably why Pink Floyd also ended up on Columbia around the same time, and didn't Alex Harvey and Monty Python even ditch Vertigo and Charisma respectively for Atlantic and Arista once their names became big box office bonanzas over here as well???

Guess Columbia lost out mucho grande with their business move though, because BIG BEAT wasn't the commercial breakthrough that they were betting a whole load of bottom bucks on. Sure the group sounds straightforward, giving the Mael's a sharp edge that reminds me of what any good New York City group coulda whipped out at the time, but there really wasn't anything as strong or as memorable as most of the tracks laid down during the KIMONO MY HOUSE and PROPAGANDA days. In fact, to put it mildly the production (courtesy Rupert Holmes) sure coulda used a beef up of Chesty Morgan proportions.

Lotsa strong material here though...single pick "Big Boy" was a pretty good hard rocker that seemed to have the mid-seventies CBGB sound down even more'n the Stones did when they tried the same schtick a few years later. LP closer "I Like Girls," a song which in its original version was stuck on the b-side of a Bearsville single, might have suffered from the additional horns but still came off like the kinda pop track I would have loved to have heard on the AM 'stead of Peter Frampton and Stevie Nicks. And you'd know that a song like "White Women" where Russ sings about his appreciation for the pulchritude of the Caucasian race would elicit nothing but self-righteous screams from all of the dykes who go to Oberlin, but in this day and age anything that can make the descendents (no sic) of the same "tweedy" college professor types Wayne McGuire warned us about "cackle like indignant hens" is OK by me. Cackle on Brunhilde, cackle on!

Not so surprisingly, I find that the non-LP single that came out shortly before BIG BEAT, the lush "Stereo 99" cover of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" b/w "England" to be Sparks at their mid-seventies post-PROPAGANDA best. It's a wonder why the entire BIG BEAT album didn't have the same sorta swerve to it blah blah and so forth that these numbers had considering just how potent this particular platter was. Originally planned as a duet between Russ and Marianne Faithful, "Hand" is rendered in perfect sudsy glop with the 101 Strings sticking to your speakers like fecal matter to a turdler's behind, and considering the reams of saccharine and beyond-believable Beatles covers that had been coming out around the same time it's a shame that this high-larious if engaging single was ripped off the market by Island because EMI was coming out with a Beatles "greatest hits" collection (again!) and they thought that with the originals out who'd wanna hear a copy! Typical record label logic at work I'll tell ya!

Thankfully both "Hand" and "England" are available on Cee-Dee releases of BIG BEAT (and, come to think of it, INDISCREET as well which really must prove what a top notch record it was!) and worth the effort to track down whether via the originals, these reissues or perhaps even youtube. An interesting aside..."England" was actually produced by former Spark Earl Mankey which is probably why there is a bit of similarity between it an his own "Mau Mau" single, originally released on Bearsville a few years earlier and via Bomp!'s "Exhibit J" around the same time BIG BEAT started hitting the record shops. One you should try to keep more'n a few eyes open for even if I bought a larger than expected stack of 'em when Bomp! was having one of their closeout sales in the eighties.

Although BIG BEAT was a halfway-there attempt to resuscitate Sparks' career '77's INTRODUCING SPARKS was the guillotine to the brothers' mid-seventies megastardom. You coulda seen it coming, what with the slicko production and bevy of session musicians giving the music all of the dimension and warmth of a Shaun Cassidy or Leif Garrett top ten smash. Of course if you like those Cassidy and Garrett rex INTRODUCING SPARKS would really fit into your collection snug-like. And really, I kinda like it, perhaps just because its slick and down pat like your kid sister's 1978 teenybop tastes, only with some imagination, zest and downright verve.

A keen sense of mid-seventies Sparkdom does make a grand return as well, such as on the snazzy "Ladies" which's got some rather high-larious and (if I dare say it) "witty" lyrics that I get the feeling alla them snobs at the Algonquin woulda been knee-slapping to had Sparks been around in the twenties. And even if "Over the Summer" sounds like a too-hard try for a Summer single in the Beach Boys tradition (which it most certainly was) complete with that seventies production that didn't exactly suit me fine both then and even now, you can't say that it wouldn't have been out of place on The Paley Brothers album which was making its presence known at just about the same second. And given that INTRODUCING also has some pleasing quasi-nostalgia along the lines of "Those Mysteries" maybe a trip to the local flea market to dig this 'un up would be in order. (The bonus tracks "Breathe" and "Fact or Fiction" [which Russ gave to Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick as a possible cover!] are even better'n anything on the album making me wonder...why did they hold them back inna first place?) Given the time, place and general fickleness of the record buying public you'd kinda get the idea that this'd flop worse'n a fish in a PSA for asthma, but then again what were you looking for at the time? I guarantee you that it probably wasn't this!
For being a group that had gone from Los Angeles deca-punks to the latest mania in England to nadasville, Sparks really know how to revitalize a sagging career at a time when any other act woulda gone into aluminum siding. A good two years after their previous outing and career disaster Sparks were back in '79, this time with the aid of none other'n electronics whiz Giorgio Moroder. And you can just bet that NO. ONE IN HEAVEN had alla 'em college newspaper Parke Puterbaugh wannabes diggin' into their thesauruses looking up new ways to say that this was Sparks going disco (which mighta been the haute thing to have said considering how everyone but the Kitchen Cinq were hopping on the discowagon at the time), but it really was a whole diff. ball of sound altogether as you should have realized all along.

Don't think of it as disco as much as electronopunk drive done up on synths and pretty refreshing at that. Probably nothing that much different than what a few acts were cooking up on the stages of Max's Kansas City and TR3 around the same time, even with all of the rough edges and amateur hour nerves tossed in. If you liked Moroder's work on those Donna Summers records you'll probably go for this. If you liked "Son of my Father" you'll probably also enjoy it. If you tune into this blog for my opines of long-gone metallic opuses or forgotten garage crank well, you probably haven't made it far down this article w/o sweating rivulets of disgust anyway. But for a dance record from the 70s/80s cusp that doesn't come off as saccharine syrupy as the Bee Gees nor as campy as the B52s this really does one good. Quite exhilarating in fact.

Of course Sparks have continued throughout the eighties (releasing some hotcha efforts that hold up with their seventies best) going through them ever-strange permutations and career moves that really stymied more'n a few observers. But as they said in Sodom in the end it all worked out swell. That's all for another post---after all the eighties were a time I'd rather forget about and hey, Sparks and the seventies did go together just as well as high school cafeteria food and salmonella. Who could argue differently?