Thursday, April 30, 2020

UGLY THINGS #53 (YOU KNOW WHERE TO GET IT!)

What was once a two times a year thrill has become a three times a year one, though at the hefty price of ten bucks (plus postage!) I dunno how I'll be able to afford many of these UGLY THINGS as the years roll by!

But beg borrow or turd I will in order to latch onto this crucial rag, and the latest is no exception from the rest of 'em and perhaps is an improvement over the earlier ones which really is sayin' something! Something especially when you consider the effort and quality that are poured into these things like hot coffee up my constipated anus.

UGLY THINGS #53's brilliant through and through, what with enough drama and excitement here to have filled up at least a season and a half of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. The major cover come ons are of course the big draw with not only tales about former Love drummer Dan Conka and the infamous Skip Spence that might even have you shedding a tear like they did me (I am a sensitive soul, you moron!) but a hotcha piece on the Groupies of "Primitive" (that blatant "Smokestack Lightning" swipe given a Stoogian life of its own) fame and the Outsiders of "The Boy With The Long Liverpool Hair" fame which would figure since both acts were "connected" somehow (you read it...I don't wanna give the entire issue away free since I'm already outta ten smackers for the thing and you're merely mooching!)

I also thought that the Johnny Blitz/Madansky interview was pretty good even if the guy seemed to clam up about a lot of things (an' he didn't even mention his early-eighties gig with Andy Gerome which Gerome said was the favorite of all his groups!). Oh well, maybe next time and maybe the great interview with Steve Cataldo of Nervous Eaters fame will get some more Boston-area gab abouts to apprear in future UT pages considering the wealth of hotcha acts that appeared in the area back in the seventies and eighties (and maybe even beyond!). And maybe the aforementioned Blitz talk and interview with Cleveland hero Wally Bryson will get some more of the heavily suppressed Cle rock scene info up and about before it all becomes a buncha jumbled unconnected brain syntax dribble at the rock and roller old folks home and euthenasium that's gonna be built any darn second!

Not only THAT (even tho I have yet to peruse some of the other hep pieces here such as the Time Machine and the Hungarian beatsters Atlas---there are a few time constraints gettin' this review out to DA PEOPLE ya know!) but there are those reviews which are good enough that they even inspired ME to part with some of that rare green stuff to purchase platters that will be reviewed in upcoming BLOG TO COMMs if I am lucky enough for them to arrive.

So the thing ain't exactly a waste of some good moolah after all! And unless a new issue of VULCHER comes out this just might rank as the ONLY rock mag that matters here in the dawn of a decade that just might be a whole lot more fun'n even I would have imagined. Might be worth the effort to do some serious labor in order to get hold of this one

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Hi---still sweatin' it out all on your lonesome in the sanctity of your fart-encrusted bedrooms? Still waitin' for the all clear to sound so you can go back to your usual wastrel lives? Haw, talk about a big lifestyle change (right!)...the only major difference in your lives is that now you have to wear a mask when you go to the mailbox to pick up your welfare checks! But don't worry, things will be getting back to normal shortly when people like ME will be out working in order to support all you loafers out there!
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In the meanwhile...well, I did manage to break the monotony of IMPENDING DOOM by shedding a few shekels for a few back issues of CODA. You might remember it, the Canadian jazz mag that kinda reminded me of what DOWN BEAT woulda been like had they been operating on a lower budget, didn't accept ads for Hohner instruments and were free of stodgies like Leonard Feather workin' for 'em. Plus CODA seemed to have more of an affinity for the new free avgarde stuff that DOWN BEAT seemed to cover only because they felt it was their duty, sorta like the way MELODY MAKER gave room to the pub and punk rock groups of the seventies even though Chris Welch's heart was firmly enshrined in the flittery progressive and camp pop of the day. Gotta put some Ruby Braff on to clear the air of all that Roscoe Mitchell we hadda review...you know the drill by now, eh?

In all, CODA had DOWN BEAT beat on all counts, from the less snobbish attitude as well as their eagerness to cover the free splat that was still up 'n comin' even a good fifteen year after its shocking debut. The print job resembles a good quality fanzine of the day, usually one of European stock with their professional typeset that the Amerigan fanzines usually lacked because well. them Europeons are richer. Plus you don't get that many annoying bigtime ads even if Columbia Records just HADDA HAVE the inside front cover spot.

But sheee-yucks, would much of the competition devote so much space to the likes of Steve Lacy or the New Delta Ahkri while tossing out rubber bones to the more established jazz fashion like was seen elsewhere in the music press? To the folks at CODA these hard-driving free players were the people to push, and while other forms of the jazz mystique did get their allotted time it sure was allotted in a way smaller fashion than would be expected from a mag devoted to a musical genre that really went off on some rather slickster tangents. CODA is a mag I can sure snuggle up with on these long and lonesome days, reminding me of what sorta meaning this music had for sequestered suburban slobs who were holed up in their cubicles reading the New Music Distribution Service catalogs thinking of a good way to latch onto the $5.99 for some Luther Thomas disc. Come to think of it, 45 years later we're still trying to get those very same platters that either went out of stock in a flash or got passed on because well...those depression era wages 'n all!
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Here's what I managed to scrape up for this week. Nothing shocking what with an old Mott the Hoople Cee Dee and various "donations" getting the royal BLOG TO COMM treatment. But who knows, things might just change as soon as my financial luck improves, which in my case means when some frazzled mother dumps half of her change in the parking lot at DOLLAR GENERAL and I'm there just in the nick of time to pick all them pennies (and maybe even more!) up! Thanks to Bill, Paul, and NO ONE ELSE for this week's goodie goods!


Mott the Hoople-THE HOOPLE CD (Columbia/Legacy Records)

If I was doin' one of those year-end wrap ups of familiar recorded booty this woulda ended up in it. But I'm not doin' one and besides I gotta say that I never even heard THE HOOPLE until the here and now! So yeah, it is like an all new platter to me and while I'm at it I gotta say I really am surprised by the thing given that the only legit Hoople I've had for eons on end (wouldja believe since my sixteenth birthday which also yielded a copy of THE SPIRIT and a MAD MAGAZINE SPECIAL?) was ALL THE YOUNG DUDES.

THE HOOPLE is a slicker effort true, but it still has that mid-seventies English rock urge to it that Queen flittered about with and Cockney Rebel flopped over. It kinda reminds me of the early Be Bop Deluxe albums before that group ended up overtaken by their own image. Even the overwrought string-laden moments from "Through the Looking Glass" don't remind you of the theme to THE MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE like "The Long and Winding Road" does. And you don't even have to squint your ears, at least some of the time, to believe that this indeed is pretty good rock 'n roll.

Other Hoople disques in the collection are just rarin' to be reviewed so don't be alarmed when one unsuspectingly bites you on the neck.
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JACKSON BECK AS PHILO VANCE---COACHMAN MURDER CASE & MIDGET MURDER CASE CD-r burn

It's hard to enjoy these old radio programs when you're "multitasking" as the chi-chi crowds like to say, but when you just settle back and close your eyes...you fall asleep! Well, not in this case, for these Philo Vance mysteries are good enough to keep your attention span goin' longer than you average flea's. The first case has a murder victim floating face down in a swimming pool with a fishing knife in his heart and a fish hook and reel connected to his suit. Sounds like an episode of THE AMERICAN SPORTSMAN starring Phil Harris that got out of hand. The other one has the leader of a vaudeville troupe ending up shot with a "midget gun" and you know that it's too obvious that the midget was the one to do it. But who did...the strongman,  the magician, or the acrobat? Yes,  you too can match whatever wits you have with Vance and try to solve the murder, though sometimes I think that if you did just that a lotta innocent people would be going to the chair.
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John Eaton-MICROTONAL FANTASY CD-r burn (originally on Decca Records)

Sheesh, I didn't even know that Decca had a special colored classical label like Columbia did! And I didn't even know who this John Eaton guy was until I did a li'l googlin' here and there! Anyway what it is is a pretty interesting combination of piano, electronics and voice with Eaton playing his co-invention the SynKet, which gives off some of the weirdest oscillations since the Silver Apples while sharp Webern-like piano chords and Cowell-esque tone clusters fill the clogged pores of your mind. The soprano voice of Michiko Hirayama should appeal to fans of Cathy Berberian what with her similar stretch of the vocal cords, but I doubt it. Joan LaBarbera maybe. If your dad got mad at you when you played Stockhausen records (like mine did), boy will he really throw a fit over this!
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Joe Henderson-PAGE ONE CD-r burn (originally on Blue Note Records)

Cool 'nuff true, but frankly after the day I had I could sure use a blast of John Gilmore or Joseph Jarman doing one of his circular breathing English Horn marathons while Don Moye crashes about on whatever drum set and African percussion he had at his ready. The bop still works its wonders what with Henderson's driving lines over competent bossa beats. Hmmm, maybe my nerves have been soothed enough by this '63 sesh. Still gonna search out some AACM to really shake me outta my frazzled nerves tho...
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Various Artists=DIE FRANKFURT SZENE CD-r burn (originally on Bear Family Records, Germany)

Here are some Cherman rarities zat vould put a smile on even Der Fuhrer's corpse had he had vun left to smile vith! I guess Frankfurt, like Hamburg, also had a swinging beat scene in the sixties and judging by these recordings it must've been a pretty hotcha one at that. Good re-dos of familiar hits along with new trackage by talent we haven't heard of before and probably never will hear about again unless we're stranded in an elevator with Mike Stax. One group that really caught me by der knockwurst...Adam und Eve Mit Hush, if only because Eve sounds strangely enough like Annisette from Savage Rose and that is really something that clears out the earwax in my oh-so-precious canals!
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PARASITE OF THE WESTERN WORLD CD-r burn (originally on Criminal Records)

The best thing about the Parasites is that they, like Bomis Prendin, managed to get their eletronica rock collage sound out and about before a whole lotta snoots began doin' the same thing thus reducing the entire concept of higher education experimentalism to pure moosh. The rock 'n roll drives on in that best socially correct rockist way (heavy on the primal thud, light on the pop pap goo) and the experimental tracks don't even sound like the standard musique concrete swipes that usually pop up on these! If I were a member of this act and someone would come up to me, I surely would not cringe in shame!
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Peppino De Luca e I Marc 4-ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK L'UOMO DAGLI OCCHI DI GHIACCIO CD-r burn (originally on Pegaso SRL Records, Italy)

Other'n a few exceptions like RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, soundtrack albums don't usually do much for me because the sound is separated from the action one sees on the screen and well, something does get lost in the translation. This 'un is no exception. Lounge-y jazz intermingles with typical thriller sequence pounce which for the most part reminds me of the background music one would have heard on some locally-made television commercial circa 1975 advertising either the Saturday Night wrestling card or a new menswear shop opening at the plaza. If anything, after listening to this I was inspired to buy a new pair of slacks.
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Bob Azzam and his Orchestra-NEW SOUNDS CD-r burn (originally on Columbia Records, Sweden)

Yeesh! What a torture it is listening to this phonybaloney mid-Eastern take on Brazil '66 goop that's all popped up in a late-sixties commercial fashion. This gives me the feelin' that I'm stranded in someone's idea of a hip Cairo airport lounge right around the time of the Six Day War. Standard euroslickness oozes outta every note to the point where I kinda thought that I shoulda snuck in an insulin shot. I guess they like it real e-z goin' over there. Funny thing, the original called "The Story of My Life" woulda sounded way better if Lou and the VU did their own version which cracks me up since they did do a song with a very similar title 'n all.
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Various Artists-FUGITIVE WILLIE MENTOR STRANGE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

A man like Bill outdoes himself alla the time, but when he outdoes the usual outdoing boy does he work a pile of WONDERS! The Willie Tyler and Lester opener sets the pace for this crazy spin which includes, besides one of those seventies rock sermons by some preacher spinnin' records backwards, a clip from Radio Iran (actually quite a nice musical experience, and we better get used to it!), some home-produced self-released neo-punk effort from an act called Fugitive Poetry, the Mentors doing some more real-deal punk, and this guy singing an entire album's worth of Olde Tymey songs accompanied by whistling and a banjo! He's kinda boring but you'll like it when he gets durty! Hope you stayed awake through all that to get to the Radio Asia clip!
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I don't think all of you reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers have all of the issues, available or not, of BLACK TO COMM safely stashed in your abode, and if this is so I hope you are ashamed enough to rectify this situation and pick up as many of these CRUCIAL magazines as you can before I really have to shame you into doing that! Boy, was I right about you nimnuls or what!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

BOOK REVIEW! MODESTY BLAISE BY PETER O'DONNELL AND NEVILLE COLVIN (Ken Pierce Books, 1986)

I dunno, but I always thought those English comic strips were nothin' but a buncha hooey! GARTH and the whole batch of 'em! They just seemed way too sterile and well done for a kid like myself who was more in awe of Chester Gould's and Ernie Bushmiller's art and lived for comics as cathartic entertainment without the fine writing and pristine lifelessness getting in the way. Now I wouldn't mind reading those GUNSMOKE comics that were done over there as GUN LAW, especially the ones with alla the swearin' and nudity. Now that's something that would rev up the old adolescent blubberfarm suburban slob in me, but alas no collections that I know of are in circulation so it's NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC hula girl issues for now.

Dunno how I got hold of this particular MODESTY BLAISE book but lo and behold it popped up at a time when I certainly was not looking for it! But given how I've pretty much worn myself out with the likes of BEETLE BAILEY and three measly ARCHIE strip collections I figured that I might as well take a chance on it and well, it sure was better than reading PILGRIM'S PROGRESS and THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SITZ BATHS combined and that's really sayin' somethin'!

I'm not too keen on the whys and wherefores of MODESTY BLAISE but I can tell ya that the entire "gist" of it resolves around the international spy cartel "The Network" and the same world of flashy sixties espionage that even had Kurt Russell meeting that secret council led by Alfred from BATMAN which was easily reached via Kurt's closet! As with the sixties-bred English spy genre of the past there's a whole lotta funzies to be seen here...flashy cars, grotesque characters, mindless violence and THANK GOODNESS a strong sexuality that got this 'un censored in whatever Amerigan papers would dare run it. Yeah, ya get to see Blaise's bared suckems when the opportunity arises...no "nailers" in this particular book mind ya but a nice shower scene complete with bullseyes can be espired for all you spiritual fourteen-year-old boys!

But I'm sure you high-minded comic fans are too "sophisticated" to get off on the mere sight of areola to get yer jamz...it's the excitement of reading an engrossing strip with lots of action and suspense, right? Yeah, you think that you're too sophisticated to appreciate action and adventure comics but then again, didja ever notice that many times your own folk were sittin' in on your LONE RANGER viewing gettin' even more engrossed in the proceedings than you were??? Get off your pretenses and have some fun for once, willya?

The first tale is a real doozy, with this millionairess capturing a Network operative and his teenbo daughter, chaining them up in the Sahara for some real cruel and unusual punishment since said spy sent her now-deceased better half up the river. The two slowly perish while back home Blaise, using her unusually keen sense of deduction and reasoning for a mere woman, patches a whole lot of pieces together taking speculation and working it through to get to the bottom of what really did happen. Sheesh if it were up to me I woulda let the two of 'em dehydrate!

"The Alternative Man" which, despite the title, ain't about any precocious and self-conscious eighties new wave musician, deals with this he-man type ex-Canadian Air Force guy who goes roughin' it up with Modesty on a small Caribbean island which just happens to be a stopping point for drug smugglers. The Canuck thinks he's gonna be gettin' some hotcha action and you can just feel the testosterone ready to spurt out all over, but things do change quite a bit after some friends from the DEA visit Modesty and suddenly the guy's gonads turn colder than the Bering Straits. Interesting twists in this one with a surprise ending that really will catch you off guard.

Closing out the book's "Sweet Caroline", a real chiller despite the Neil Diamond-copped title where an extortion ring led by a gal with a photographic memory named Caroline pulls a few gruesome murders in order to get the wealthy of England to fork over protection moolah. Modesty herself is witness to one of 'em which consisted of an exploding cricket ball...strange indeed, but if something like that were to have been filmed it would have come off more like an old Monty Python skit!

So eh, it's all fun reading that certainly won't warp your mind any more than it is. If you come across a copy, pick it up for a read. A better way to spend your evenings that watching Anderson Cooper paint and file his nails.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! BANK ALARM (1937), STARRING CONRAD NAGEL!


A while back I reviewed a 1938 film called CIPHER BUREAU, starring Leon Ames as an army intelligence officer involved in code-breaking. Two films were made in that series before Grand National Pictures went out of business in 1939, and those films were meant to follow in the footsteps of this series, featuring Conrad Nagel as federal agent Alan O’Connor. Four features with Nagel as agent O’Connor were made in 1936-37: YELLOW CARGO, NAVY SPY, THE GOLD RACKET, and the final one in the series, BANK ALARM. Series films were a staple for B-movie studios such as Monogram or Columbia or Grand National. They would get a pre-sold audience coming back to the theater for future entries, AND a series could be sold as a package to exhibitors. You can find online with a little searching vintage trade ads from poverty-row studios proudly announcing packages of films starring the likes of Jack Perrin or Kermit Maynard (Ken’s younger brother), and franchises such as The Bowery Boys or Blondie produced dozens of films over many years, continuing to bring in audiences. Grand National had a big name here in former silent star and Garbo leading man Conrad Nagel, a charismatic and affable performer who moved from big-budget films for major studios to B-programmers like this one to radio and television and even game-show hosting, working regularly in films until 1959 and remaining a public figure until his passing in 1970. He had a warmth and charm and a self-deprecating humor as well as a touch of class that served him well whatever he did, and his stage training gave him a fine speaking voice that he put to good use in his many hosting and announcing gigs over the decades. Next to James Cagney, who made two films at Grand National while on strike from Warner Brothers, and Tex Ritter, who became a western star through his series at GN, Nagel was the biggest name the studio ever had to offer, though these films were cheap programmers, from a period when former silent stars like Rod La Rocque was making “Shadow” films at Grand National, and the great Ramon Novarro was making a threadbare comedy at Republic parodying his old “Latin Lover” image from the silents. Men like these always radiated class and were the kind of troupers who always gave audiences their best, even in reduced circumstances.


It’s interesting to note that BANK ALARM shares the same director (Louis Gasnier) and producer (George Hirliman) from REEFER MADNESS (which I’ve always felt was a Grand National film in spirit), made the year before. And speaking of exploitation film greats, WHEELER OAKMAN (Escort Girl) is the heavy here, running a sleazy nightclub called KARLOTTI’S, right before he appeared in the classic SLAVES IN BONDAGE and right after he appeared in GAMBLING WITH SOULS, two of Brad Kohler’s favorite films.

This is clearly the fourth film in the series, in that no effort is put into introducing or explaining Nagel’s character, but do you REALLY need any? He’s Alan O’Connor (his name is stated for those who did not see the earlier entries in the series), federal agent, and he’s played by Conrad Nagel, movie star. What else is there to know?

There is a series of bank hold-ups and vault break-ins in moderate-sized towns across central California, and they are well-executed and seem to have inside information on the security details of the banks. Stalwart and charming Alan O’Connor, paired with his spunky and witty sidekick Bobbie (played by Eleanor Hunt, also a regular in the series), work to crack the gang’s secret. They are “assisted” by the film’s comic relief, BTC favorite VINCE BARNETT (see pic), as photographer Clarence “Bulb” Callahan, who was also in all four films. Bulb also has some kind of detective business on the side, but it matters not what his official position is, his function is as buffoon and thorn-in-the-flesh for the leads. Barnett, a veteran of silent comedy who also had his own sound comedy shorts, is a bit reminiscent of Al “Fuzzy” St. John’s roles as western sidekick in that I’d guess the script has non-specific sections where a minute or three is just given over to “Bulb” to do his thing, five or six times during the course of the film, and he takes some prop (and as a photographer with a tripod and the other equipment, there’s a potential goldmine of sight gags for Barnett to milk) and works a routine around it the way that Stan Laurel might with a piece of flypaper. In one scene near the film’s middle, where Barnett is explaining some new detective trick he’s got up his sleeve to Eleanor Hunt, the actress is clearly cracking up personally, not just in character as Bobbie the federal agent. I’d guess the crew were also in stitches over Barnett’s physical comedy. He appeared here at BTC a few months ago in the review of the 1934 TAKE THE STAND with Jack La Rue and Thelma Todd, and whatever he pops up in, he’s always welcome.

The plot complication here is that Nagel’s sister is dating some ne'er-do-well who claims to be a screenwriter but is actually part of the criminal gang working out of Wheeler Oakman’s sleazy club. So we alternate between new robberies, new investigations of past robberies, comedy sequences with Vince Barnett, scenes at the club, scenes of Nagel reporting to his superior, more comedy scenes with Vince Barnett, scenes of the sister getting caught in the phony screenwriter’s web, etc etc, leading up to a final shootout and the closing credits, exactly at the sixty-minute mark.

BANK ALARM features some attractive location photography (uncommon in Grand National’s non-Western product) on the streets of the cities maybe 30-40 miles out of Los Angeles, along with auto courts (early versions of motels) and cafes of the day. It provides an entertaining mix of action, comedy, intrigue, and the charm of Conrad Nagel, a name that should be better known today. Incidentally, Nagel was the co-star, along with Lon Chaney Sr., of the lost 1927 film LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, which along with the full-length version of Erich Von Stroheim’s GREED, is probably the most-desired “lost” silent film, so maybe if that is ever found, it can lead to a mini-revival of interest in Nagel. His two films with Greta Garbo are THE MYSTERIOUS LADY (1928) and THE KISS (1929), both highly recommended. BANK ALARM is in the public domain, and the circulating copy is of fine quality, just waiting for you to settle back for an hour to enjoy it!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Well, I made it outta Easter alive. But just barely. Even bought some half-off Cadbury Creme Eggs to suck on giving me at least a hint of holidayze past. And the "social distancing"---sheesh, that's an idea I hope never goes away since I've had more than enough social intercourse my entire life to sour me on the human race for good!

Still, I'm taking the "Chinese Gongo" situation rather badly. Not that """""I""""" have it, but with the way this epidemic is wreaking havoc on my wallet I do have to go without a few nice things that I probably could not "use", but wha' th' hey??? Against my better judgement I have ordered a few items like the much-desired ME 262 album which I can argue would be indispensable in my collection, but otherwise I sure ain't splurgin' on recs 'n such like I would like to. Between you, me and the parole officer I don't have that much moolah left to splurge with considerin' how the last month or so has wiped out a good decade of investments I was hoping to have on hand during my even more declining than usual years! So naturally a lotta things that I "might" like but don't consider "save the world" recordings or books will definitely have to go by the wayside. That's an unfortunate given and you can just bet that I am in "woe is me" mode because of it. At least I have a good four or so plus decades-old stash to keep me occupied, but fresh booty will surely have to wait until I can get on my feet again, buckskin-wise that is.

But is that gonna stop ME from having fun? Sure it is. I think Sir Paul McCartney (and maybe even Sir Paul McGarry!) might have once said that money can't buy him love, but who cares about love when money can buy you tasty food and fun music to listen to! So struggle on I must, and I know that you faithful BLOG TO COMM readers will be struggling along with me as well because well, some of you guys (and I know who you iz!) are STOOPID enough to do just that!
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Hope you dig what I have been able to scrape up this week! Not what I'd call "mucho" to use some Sud of the Border habla but enough to keep your toes tingled. Thank go to Bill Shute, Robert Forward and Sir Paul for the freebees which I hope keep on comin' cuz really, I need some brain stimulation these days and FUN WITH DICK AND JANE just ain't cuttin' it!


THE DEVIANTS LP (Music on Vinyl Records, Netherlands)

I already have at least three other vinyl copies and two Cee-Dees of this 'un so just why did I buy this particular reissue? For the rare enclosed booklet, that's why! Rather silly considering the above schpiel regarding the use of money on items not necessarily mandatory, but I preordered this long before the big crackdown and well...sometimes I do forget to cancel things until it's way too late...
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John Lennon-THE DREAM IS OVER bootleg CD (Pegboy Records)

Here's one from the archives, a disc that I got for who knows what reason since I never was one to drool over JOHN LENNON/PLASTIC ONO BAND like some of you readers do. But got it I did and well, I must say that I find this one rather interesting if not downright entertaining in spots!

The early solo demos, tremolo'd outta control, really aren't that hot in my book. They sound like any wimp that you can think of with his tape recorder and guitar mewling about the mental anguish he and every other suburban slob on the face of this earth goes through thanks to forces seen or not. Still these tracks can be funtime enough in a historical sense when you hear the development of a track like "God" through various takes as the lyrics grow and new ideas are snuck in slowly. By the way, I gotta admit that Don Fellman does an excellent impression of Howdy Doody singing not only "God" ("I don't believe in Buffalo Bob, I don't believe in Clarabell, I don't believe in Chief Thunderthud, I don't believe in Wonder Bread"...) complete with bicycle horn but "Mother" with a wooden scream that will shake you to the core! But I think I told you that already...such news as that can not be suppressed!

Things change for the better when the Ono Band jump in with early versions of the songs eventually heard on the real deal. These sound raw, a bit intense and just right for the kind of rock music that I prefer spending my ever-expanding free time listening to. The real topper jsu has to when Lennon and crew plow into some primitive-sounding rockabilly covers that come off as if everyone involved was having fun dropping that phony peacenlove cover for once in their dad-blamed lives. I'll bet the "serious" Lennon fans who see the guy as some sorta prophet for the better-than-thou generation of the sixties really hated seeing their idol step outside his beardo bed-in persona doing basic rock 'n roll. But don't worry goofs, IMAGINE was just around the corner...

The closing version of "Love" with Phil Spectre on piano ain't anything special (in face it's dippy) and ends the disque on a bad note, but if you like Lennon at his "punk rock" rawest (as minds as diverse as Bill Shute and Charles Shaar Murray have alluded to) you might just enjoy this boot. I think it's all been released legitimately on one of those Lennon box sets, so consult your Beatlemaniac record source who hasn't listened to anything else since 1971 for more information.
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Various Artists-IT CAME FROM THE PIT CD-r burn (originally on Psyche-Industry Records, Canada)

I used to go for this slowed down just-a-tad sorta hardcore (even the stuff that wasn't slowed down a tad) back when the remnants of what was punk were making a valiant yet failed attempt to save rock 'n roll from the forces of Pantsios. These mid-eighties Canadian bands do it rather swell, reminding me of that last shards of excitement that the rock 'n roll idiom was able to eke out years after the whole thing shoulda collapsed into the sea (an' I mean it!). Surprises abound, like a guitar solo here and DISCERNIBLE LYRICS there! Not bad, considering just what a pus pool of hippie doo the hardcore scene eventually became thanks to the addle-minded followers of MRR..
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THE GALAXIES CD-r burn (originally on Som Major Records, Brazil)

Brazil never seemed as if it could sustain itself as a rock 'n roll capitol of the world or a rock 'n roll fiefdom for that matter, but these late-sixties popsters sound hokay to me. The overall cornballusness works in that late-sixties way that keeps me from turning off many a seemingly "commercial" effort, plus the female vocals fit into the beat rock concept work just as well as they did in the Clefs of Lavender Hill! Cover of such old chestnoogies as "Can't Judge a Book" and "Farmer John" might not exactly tickle your tootsies like the originals, but just imagine what they woulda sounded like if Lady Caga sang 'em!
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Knox Mitchell-ON A STRING CD-r burn (Walls Flowing Records)

The concept of the "put on" was really big in the sixties, but can it survive in these times? It's hard to say, and it's also hard to know if this thing is indeed a put on or an actual honest to goodness work of art like the Mona Lisa or Chris Burden's "Trans-Fixed". Electronic squeals and squalls are to be found here might make this indistinguishable from about a few thou home-produced efforts dating back to the days of the "cassette culture", but if you think that Marcel Duchamp really had a thing goin' back when entered that urinal at the 1913 Armory Show then you'll really think wonders of ON A STRING. I better watch it...I'm already deep in dutch with some more traditional readers for tellin' 'em that there are some days I think that art BEGAN with Duchamp!
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Young Canadians-NO ESCAPE CD-r burn (originally on Zulu Records)

Canadian punk rock trio (who got a rave in these "pages" about a good six or so years back) does swell on these late-seventies/early eighties radio broadcasts filled out with some studio tracks, playin' punk rock the way it sounded way before it all became punque thus ruining the entire nerve-splice. Elements of the upcoming eighties pop movement can be felt, and a cover of the Balloon Farm classic "A Question of Temperature" is performed proving that punk rock did have roots deeper than Andy Secher ever would have admitted. Makes a lotta what came in its wake sound pretty pallid in comparison.
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Various Artists-STREET CALLIOPE SERPENT FROGVILLE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

I dunno who this "Street" group is, but it seems as if they're trying to merge the AM early seventies pop sound and the avgarde with startling results. If this ever got any airplay I'd be surprised! The rest is the usual "Virtual Thrift Store" mishmosh from Lou Donaldson's lounge r&b (for a minute I was expecting BO Donaldson!) to Tom Swift and the Electric Bag's cover of "Are You Experienced" (much better'n the original due to the preferably primitive guitar lead). Four Roses and a Thorn's double-sided "Gran'ma Doing the Bird" might be one "bird" song that Michael Weldon never heard of but I can't be sure! In all a good way to wast a good fortysome minutes of yer life but sheesh, whoever did that Leappo the Frog Christmas single shoulda "croaked", pun intended!
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"Never let a crisis go to waste". How many times have you heard that simple yet eloquent motto bandied about lo these many years? Well, considering the on-going "Chinese Gongo" hoo-hah we at BLOG TO COMM are sticking by that tried and true adage by offering for sale reams of BLACK TO COMM back issues to keep you occupied during these difficult yet fun times. Of course you're going to have to make your way to and from the mailbox to obtain these (or you can get in contact with me and do it the safe way...just read the instructions) but I doubt you'll get anything worse than cooties in the process. However I'll be taking a great risk gettin' these to the post office so if anyone'll keel over it's gonna be ME!!! And I just KNOW that most of you reg'lar readers wish you had an opportunity to spur me on to do just that, so get ordering

Thursday, April 16, 2020

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! THE NEW WIZARD OF OZ (also known as HIS MAJESTY, THE SCARECROW OF OZ), starring HELEN MACMILLAN and FRANK MOORE! (1914)

When I was a kid and other people knew what was best for me, I was literally forced to watch those annual television airings of THE WIZARD OF OZ whether I wanted to or not! And given all those years of boredom and the utter fright of seeing the wizard's huge head surrounded by bursting flames all I gotta say is that I hope I never do get to see that 1939 megamillion atrocity again as long as I have peepers to watch films with! 

However, I will admit that the early silent-era Oz films, whether they be the original L. Frank Baum-helmed series from the early 'teens or the mid-twenties edition with Larry Semon, Dorothy Dwan and Oliver Hardy, should be worth the effort to view if only to help demystify the overpowering image of the Big 'Un. The historical significance of the early Oz films also appeals to me pretty much in the same way it did back when I was just popping into my mid-teenbo years and I'd watch OLD MOVIES, THE GOLDEN ERA on channel 25 in Cle if a tornado warning just happened to be drawing that station into the Youngstown viewing market. That's what kind of a devoted viewer I was in the face of a lack of engrossing culture (and fun and jamz) on ALL fronts!


TV GUIDE sez  "HIRE THE ANASTROPHIC AND DYSCALCULIC!"
It might be surprising to some that there even were early moom pitcher versions of the original Oz books, loosely adapted I'm told, to warrant at least three films in the series. I believe this one was the last...dunno if there were any more and I'm too lazy to find out...but if you were a kid in 1914 and wanted your parents to drag you to the theatre I guess this would be a good 'un to see. Mom 'n dad wouldn't be so pleased, but I'm sure they'd do it just to keep your yap shut!

Before I start, don't take that much stock in the above TV GUIDE blurb. The film credits on the NEW WIZARD OF OZ reissue were in error when some historical revision led to the notion that "Frank L. Baum" was indeed the director, a gross mistake which I am told many believed as gospel truth for years. Actually J. Farrell MacDonald directed but Baum did write the screenplay and I do feel it is my PERSONAL DUTY to correct such previously held misrepresentations before such rumors really get out of hand!

Anyhoo, this particular Oz story is one that I'm sure will please kids from ages two to at least three. But I still like it plenty if only for its early filmic qualities that were created looooong before the idea of "cinema" became a buzzword for pretentious intellectuals who like to chatter about how virtuous they are in between issues of THE NEW YORKER. But more on that later...as far as the basic outline of it goes the evil King Krewl wants to marry off his daughter, Princess Gloria, to some old turdburger names Googly-Goo. However, daughter ain't havin' none of it because she's in love with the palace gardener named Pon who might not be rich like Googly, but he's young and good looking enough to appeal to her even if he's only working at a low-level paying job with little if any room for advancement. That don't matter to the Princess, even if it's more likely that if she does hitch up with Pon she's gonna be eating grass clippings the rest of her life!

Not that the King's gonna have any of THAT, so he summons the witch Old Mombi to put a spell on his daughter which results in the freezing of her heart (nice special effects there!) rendering Gloria to the point of neo-zombiedom where she wanders around for the rest of the film in a daze sorta like some of those brain-damaged types you come across while shopping at the grocers. For his problems Pon gets turned into a kangaroo which goes to show ya that you don't screw around with these black magic types or bad things just might start a'happenin'. Just ask Jimmy Page.

Oh yeah, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion all show up to help things out (the Scarecrow's "origin story" is rather interesting, he owing his mere life to the existence of corn!), and a rather dapper Wizard eventually enters into the story to put a stop to all of the chicanery that the witch has been tossin' out. Don't wanna give it all away since you can watch the thing yourself in the comfort of your own fart-encrusted bedroom by clicking on the very image below, and lemme tell ya you probably haven't spent a better hour or so of your time since you discovered DR. WILSON'S HOME MEDICAL BOOK that afternoon when everyone was away.

I like the look of this. The early static cinematography (if you can call it that!) actually lends a certain olde tymey story-book-y feeling while the various twists and turns and primitive editing sure digs up that affection I grew up with for old things like film before technology issued in a new generation that perhaps was not as exciting. Like most early silent filmage, this has an overall (dare I say) "charm" which seemed way more fleshy and human than the hippie spew that was accepted as all the rage when I was a kid but irritated me to no end. Sheesh, in many ways I think I would have preferred living in 1914 rather than 1969 given the overall entertainment value goin' 'round then!

The costumed animals, fake as they are, certainly do give a corny yet sentimental touch while film itself, which at times is perhaps a bit stagnant, woulda fit in swell with those same kinda kids a few generations later had this been some old foreign film and K. Gordon Murray dubbed in Amerigan voices for a whole new audience. Come to think of it, considering this was a silent flick maybe Murray shoulda gotten hold of it, added a soundtrack with dialogue and tinted it for those not-so-discerning children who would go to the mooms to see just about anything. I mean, more ridiculous things in the name of making a quick buck have been done, like reissuing this in 1996 with narration.

Before you watch it, a little about a coupla members of the cast. Frank Moore, who played the Scarecrow, was once part of a vaudeville team with James C. Morton, the once omnipresent character actor whose toupee would always be removed either by Larry Fine's violin bow or the Little Rascals' razzing. Really, who could forget the look on Buckwheat's face when he turned around and said "YOU KIDS ARE BEGINNING TO GET INTO MY HAIR!" Also appearing as "Button Bright" is none other than Mildred Harris, the same Mildred Harris who tricked Charlie Chaplin into marrying her before he discovered that she also liked playing the field herself, allegedly with Nazimova and Lillian Gish! Sheesh, who would have known that she was also a little tramp! Or maybe in this case a pearl diver.



Saturday, April 11, 2020

Sheesh, with the current "Chinese Gongo" lockdown I'm enduring 'n all it sure don't feel like Easter! Not that I was that big fan of the holiday anyway, since for years ("tradition", ya know) my mom used to always buy her favorite chocolate eggs (Fruit and Nut Nougat) which I hated, never getting the Vanilla, Butter Pecan or Fudge ones which I most certainly would have preferred. She always would tell me that "I wouldn't like it", a line she'd use over and over again when I wanted things like instant pudding or Fizzies, items which I would have liked only well...finances were limited and mom hadda keep the goodies supply down somehow. I also gotta admit that I never cared for the traditional Easter dinner of artichokes stuffed with ground meat covered in tomato sauce. The stuffed pork chops were good but those artichokes...ech! But as far as Chocolate Easter Eggs...sheesh she coulda made the sacrifice and gotten me something I really woulda enjoyed 'stead of her personal fave! (Which reminds me, in order to enjoy this Holy Season a whole lot more than I have maybe I better slip on the mask, go to the Dollar General and buy a few Cadbury eggs to suck on! Better'n nothin'!)

At least Easter signaled the beginning of the warm weather season with lots of bike riding and running around like a wild moron, and it also reminded many of us suburban slob kids that summer vacation was just around the corner so that day did serve its purpose. Not to mention the fact that we got the Monday after Easter off from school , a day which was usually used by hunting down fun stuff to buy at various shopping plazas. However, given the proliferation of the aforementioned Gongo the entire Easter experience has been lost on me this year. Right now I feel as if I'm actually living in some mid-fifties science fiction novella about a new disease that's bound to wipe out the entire planet, something so drastic and apocalyptic that even WEIRD SCIENCE wouldn't print it. Actually I really don't care about Covid 19 that much, just as long as it runs its course a lot sooner than expected while taking out a good portion of the population who deserve to be taken out! Now that's a disaster I can really go for!
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So, you may ask, what have I been doin' with all my spare time? Well I have used my newly found freedom from association to engage in a lot of fun-time activities other'n worrying about the great loss of money I am experiencing due to the lack of work. Like pouring through (recently-discovered) boxes of old fanzines and such finding such gems as the first two issues of UGLY THINGS (mildew-smelling and a bit wrinkled due to basement moisture, but I think I can iron that problem out) and a buncha things I don't even remember buying so its like discovering a new find all over again. At least it was a joy not having to re-read my BEETLE BAILEY paperbacks which I have since put away in order to give my head a rest, especially during those excruciating bowel movement times where I'm in a rush to get to the launching pad and I can't find anything else to read before the fireworks go off so-to-speak!

I'm still searching for a load of fanzines that I had stashed away and if I only could remember where... In particular I'm looking for my three or so copies of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, not the Stevie Nicks one but the one named after the actual bonafeed group which some guy named Sal Mercuri put out back inna nineties. I kinda remember it not being as good as the old WHAT GOES ON standby, an endeavor that retained that fantastic seventies typewriter pecked-out and pasted up look I adore (well, at least the Phil Milstein issues did!), but if I recall properly THE VELVET UNDERGROUND still was a great deal I'd like to refresh my mind with considering how Mercuri actually interviewed Doug Yule gettin' his side of the VU story. Too bad nobody thought about putting a Velvet Underground fanzine out in the early-seventies...a project like that at that particular point in Velvets appreciation (geeks like myself hadn't discovered 'em yet!) woulda been a great boon to not only the Velvet Underground mythology, but the entire fanzine process as well. Oh well, maybe if I get another chance at life and am born ten years earlier I could attend to the task myself.

My neighbor, after catching me looking through my NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC island girl collection.
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Gotta thank the usual people for their donations...Bill Shute, Paul McGarry, Robert Forward and Feeding Tube. Keep those cards and letters comin' in!


Mako Sika/Hamid Drake-BALANCING TEAR LP  (Astral Spirits Records/Feeding Tube Records)

Chicago-area free rock group once again teams up with noted SHOULD BE jazz legend  Hamid Drake for a record that ain't quite jazz or fusion or even World Music but touches upon all three without making you wanna puke. I don't have their previous effort for Feeding Tube entitled RONDA in my collection, but if its anything like this it's a pretty absorbing piece of work.

At times this reminds me of some of the more over-the-hill-screaming-all-the-way under-the-carpet sorta jazz acts that used to appear at the CBGB Lounge such as the unfortunately forgotten Noisetet, at others like someone's idea of Caribbean folk strums done under the influence of gas fumes. Music that builds up and twists your entire musical psyche like the best rock unto jazz platters have been doin' to ya for more than just a few decades.

In all an album that sorta soaks you up into it like a sponge making you wish there were more records like this when you were prowling the jazz bins of the seventies, something I and I assume you were doing on a regular basis!
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Ut-IN GUT'S HOUSE CD (Out Records)

Listening to IN GUT'S HOUSE while reading a cache of recently-discovered NEW YORK ROCKERs really crammed in a whole lotta early-eighties ennui regarding me and my place in this world of ours. It also reminded me of just how disappointed I was with the new Velvet Underground styled music that was comin' out in droves yet had petered out into embarrassing aerie faerie mush. Remember when people were awaiting "The New Velvet Underground"? Well, thousands of 'em eventually popped up and 99% were for the most part USELESS!

But still, I had a fun go of it...at least Ut, unlike many of the 70s/80s cusp underground groups who seemed to change with a sorry vengeance once the eighties got into gear, still had their dark and Velvet approach to music intact unlike those other New York types who fell under the spirit of white funk without the black grit or just opiated themselves outta existence. Still primitive with scratchy paens to John Cale viola screeches past and atonal electric guitar that any twelve-year-old could play which begs the question...why didn't more of 'em do just that???

Good enough in that truly old New York sense of street rock that I wasn't even compelled to slip on a cheap suit, shades and act like I was auditioning for some Godard moom pitcher 'r SOHO WEEKLY NEWS spread! One reissue that maybe should not be passed over in favor of the latest hype to come outta the more sophisticated "rock music" blogs one might chance upon.
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Sunburned Hand of the Man-SUGAR MAGNOLIA and PROCESS OF WEEDING OUT; IN ORBIT and IN ORBIT 2 and AGONY; MIND OF A BROTHER CD-r burns (hell if I know what label they're on)

I wrote about Sunburned Hand of the Man before, and lo and behold the same fanabla who sent me that particular Cee-Dee-Are sent me THREE MORE even though I was not particularly fond of the previous one. Just goes to show you the reading capabilities of some of the people who tune into this blog. But whaddaya know, what this particular BTC fanguy sent me is pretty invigorating stuff that really zones me into my O-mind like nothing since GUNSMOKE reruns, and for that I am grateful to him even if I probably would be tempted to punch him out if I saw him on the shuttle bus. You all know what kind of a short fuse I have.

Platter #1 starts off in an instrumental mode that reminded me of the original Mothers of Invention around the time of UNCLE MEAT before things start sounding rather cavernous, almost like someone was taking a "Fantastic Journey" through Robbie the Robot's colon. Other parts have a neo-free jazz thing to 'em like the Sun Ra Arkestra when they'd start playing with their percussion instruments at a Pandit Pran Nath sings "Starsailor" concert while Harmonia and Michael Karoli sit in for good measure. The results remind me of none other than something I cannot for my life remember, as if you could comprehend that obtuse riddle. Or my obtuse memory for that matter.

The second burn features a VERY FAMOUS (I think!) music critic and poet or something like that reading his rather hard-hitting prose to some music that sounds like a rather in-tune psychedelic band doing their late-sixties best groove, the results coming extremely close to the R. Meltzer/Smegma releases which might figure since Meltzer's inflluence can definitely be felt here. Some other people recite various prose in between free form gunk (at times reminiscent of who else but Smegma) with varying results that at times might just please your own musical parameters. Rather exhilarating although what can top "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" anyway?

Third one goes free splat and creeps about in various amorphous time signatures which once again beg for the usual comparisons to the same Outer Edges of Musical Comprehension acts we've known and loved for many a year! (And what about that DIRECT COP taken from the end of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's REESE AND THE COOL ONES???) Of course that's long before the mass off sound slips into this Amon Duul II-esque "First Church of Marilyn Monroe" psychedelic romp that'll have you digging through fifty years of record archives to drag that one out. This just might surprise your staunchly priggish typical old tymey undergound rock fan who hates everything recorded after 1981, and since I am that exact same person this is really saying something.

I'm sure you can find these if you search hard enough. Or if you're a lazy turdburger like I have been known to be who's so lethargic that people have to send me burns like these in order to get me a rise. Pretty fine material here if I do say so myself (and of course I would...).
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JANE'S ADDICTION CD (XXX Records)

Sheesh, I remember Perry Farrell 'n company to've been a pretty decent group spearheadin' that late-seventies decadent revival movement that was goin' on a good ten years after-the-fact. But this early album done up before the Big Break really doesn't jab any internal emote signals in me, sounding like just about any other well meaning yet far off the target local release of the day. It's only until the group goes neo-acoustic live with covers of "Rock 'n Roll" and "Sympathy For the Devil" (along with a few originals including the rather boff "Jane Says") that Jane's Addiction show what kind of hard-edged band in the El Lay sleaze tradition they could be. Gotta dig that boot 45 of "Whole Lotta Love" outta the collection one of these days.
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Filet of Soul-FREEDOM CD-r burn (originally on Monoquid Records)

When I was a kid there was one word really got my mother all in an uproar, and it wasn't anything dirty or even rude. It was "freedom", a frequently used buzzthing which really got mom blowin' her top since she somehow associated that particular word with hippies and other disgusting forms of non-human existence who were messin' up the atmosphere so-to-speak. I get the feeling she'd hate this album as well, since it's got that late-sixties sound and raucous rhythm that she most certainly detested!

As for me, I find both FREEDOM and Filet of Soul just more of that commercial pop that was most common throughout them days whether you turned on the radio or just happened to be smack dab inside some record shop. Actually some of it is pretty pleasing in that patented Top 40 way (as evidenced by a rather faithful cover of the Zombies' "Tell Her No" while the Paul Revere and the Raiders swipe also perked my ears), but if I were one of those screaming youth types back when this record came out I think I'd skip over it in my search for KICK OUT THE JAMS.

As Spanky once said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool mom!"
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Soft White Underbelly-UNRELEASED ELEKTRA ALBUM CD-r burn

I mentioned this 'un awhile back but since I got a burn of the thing into my sweaty palms I thunk that maybe a deeper, or as deep as your usually shallow mind can handle, appreciation would be due. Well, maybe not that deep, but as ya woulda guessed this'd also make a fine late-seventies flea market find had it only made it out.

The opening Doors-y anti-draft song was actually a hoot, not serious enough to warrant self-righteous angst the way Morrison would while the following instrumental is kinda outta place yet pleasing to the ears even if it does meander on a bit. Reminds me of something the Stories woulda recorded. "Mothra" complete with R. Meltzer lyrics (some of his best next to "Electrocute Your Cock") is a bee-youtiful dreamy waltz-time jazzy thing with a vibraphone solo!


That "J.J. Silhouette Girl/Happiness Boy" thingie with tasteful neo-harpsichord-ish electric piano recalls the Left Banke filtered through a number of late-sixties instant cutout faves. Not as good but still worthy of your time and effort is the one with the line about the three Fleishman's Motorcycle Shops while "Buddha's Knee" with the classic and obligatory late-sixties avgarde freak section will put your mind on a tilt-a-whirl as it cakewalks on in slow proto-metallic fashion!

The next one's a light popster but then again after "Knee" maybe that's what you need. "What Is Quicksand?" which follows shoulda been the album opener but since this was rather unpolished to begin with maybe a sonic beefup woulda been in order before heading to the front of the line. And the original "Arthur Comics" gets cut off but I'm sure an intact version lies in the Elektra vaults somewhere.

Les Vegas sounds like a better, detached yet soulful Morrison and the group hadn't yet gotten their heavy metal chops which is a boon for all you psychedelic fans who dreaded the advent of the sonic overhaul only a few years later. In some ways this reminds me of the IT'S ALL MEAT album with the heavy organ and the ponderous yet zany approach. If you need any more prodding read that Meltzer writeup from CIRCUS that DENIM DELINQUENT reprinted. And a cursory search of Youtube will locate a source which you can burn yourself if only to find out just how right I've been about the Underbelly (and Stalk-Forrest) all along!
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Various Artists-SELECTIONS FROM BOW RECORDS (NY) CD-r burn

As you might have expected the Bow label's output was of a varying quality. Now most of the music to be heard on this particular platter is far from feh, but little of it is anything that will grab you by the stirrups and become the soundtrack for your everyday existence like I'm sure many similar local-label wares of the day have become. However there are some good moments here, my fave being Buzz Clifford's "Pididdle" about that classic game where you and your sweetie sit on the front porch when it's dark and whenever a car with only one headlight on passes by you say "piddidle!" and kiss her. Not so surprisingly enough, the storyline behind this particular song had previously been worked out in a Sunday ARCHIE comic where the title character and Veronica play this very game with quite amazing results until the jig was up! Unfortunately things like that can't happen in real life...after all, would a gal who looked like Veronica even go near you???
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Various Artists-ALPINE HONDA BEBOP BEACHES CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Yet another fine burn that's occupied a good hour of my Coronavirus quarantine. From old radio ads with the Hondells and James Brown tellin' kids to dress neatly and bring their Social Security cards for summer job interviews, ALPINE HONDA BEBOP BEACHES has a lotta fun thrilling things to listen to. The Christmas platter might be outta date here during the Easter season, but it still sounds as fun as it woulda had I heard it age three so if I ever turn three again I got this one to listen to! The rockabilly tracks and the Three Thirds doin' "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" helped put me in a more than just amused mood while the weird avgarde of Captcha was earsplitting enough what with the Ono vocals 'n all that I just hadda google 'em (din fine much).

What really got me in a fine and toe-tappy mood were the old 78s by the likes of the Castlewood Marimba Band and Nat Shilkret Orchestra which appear near the end of this one. Kinda reminded me of the obsessive wonderment I used to hold for pre-World War II culture during my up and coming years. Still do hold it in fact, and thanks to Bill I got to osmose some of the class from those days at least one more time before I finally get unsprung from this mortal coil!
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So you thought you could do without 'em. Thought you could stand saving up your precious hard-begged for things like toilet paper and Vaseline 'stead of for BLACK TO COMM back issues. eh? Well it ain't too late to send an order in before you go totally stir crazy because you're holed up in your cyster's pad re-reading her HOME AND GARDENING mags while all your good stuff is holed up back at your place and there's no way in heck you can get your mitts on 'em! Next time you're quarantined don't do as Bob Dylan said...think twice because it AIN'T alright!..

Thursday, April 09, 2020

As far as books about Captain Beefheart go in my own personal library I gotta admit that there are probably many more devoted to Ving Fuller than there are of the man called Van Vliet! Thankfully that gaping omission in my reading matter has been solved with the acquisition of these three tomes for the times which should not only bolster the Beefheartian aspects of my reading matter, but educate me even more'n what I already know about the man, CREEM magazine circa 1972 and Lester Bangs' VILLAGE VOICE cover story notwithstanding, or notwithsitting either!

TIN TEARDROP by Ken Brooks (Ken Books) is a nice thin volume and a pretty on-target if kinda staid effort that was self-published by an actual Beefheart fan. It's whatcha'd call a pretty straight-ahead or straightforward for that matter bio, and although it does tend to read like a term paper (and what's with alla those cornballus literary quotes beginnin' each 'n every chapter) it should make any fan of the Captain sit up and take notice what with the guide to nom de plumes (better yet, nom de musiques) and bootlegs etc. snuggled in the back. Still, that relative dryness seems to permeate, and I get the idea that more than a few hardened fans will vehemently disagree with certain opinions or explanations of songs but hey, it's Brooks' book and not yours!

A CARROT IS AS CLOSE AS A RABBIT GETS TO A DIAMOND collects a whole slew of previously published Beefheart reviews and crams 'em all into one book for your easy access in case you wanna read all those Lester Bangs reviews yet don't wanna search through dozens of papers collected about over the years. For me this was a much better sit down and kick your feet up book because it captures the entire Beefheart feeling that was still soaking up the musically-minded person's psyche back when the man was considered a living and breathing musical entity. Rather than having to read about the bloke through years or rose-colored hindsight which has marred many a rock appreciation (such as the kind you see via many a Velvet Underground or Patti Smith retro-look where some dizzy chick reduces both's body of work to tepid memories of friends past and Glade air freshener rheumy reminiscences which belie the power and energy that these acts were best known for) you get to see up front just why the Magic Band and Beefheart in particular were such a vital force for depression-era wage kids like me who hadda pick up pennies off the street in order to buy some flea market find. A handy reference in case you're interested in finding some Langdon Winner appraisal or just can't remember what that Bangs interview around the time of DOC AT THE RADAR STATION was all about after lo these many years.

Naturally my own personal fave of the batch (no, I'm not gonna make the obvious joke!) is this little neo-fanzine collecting even more Captain Beefheart articles and such, only this time these were taken from the original clippings so you get to read alla these writeups as the originally appeared in the pages of such hallowed publications as THE NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS or CREEM. If THE LIVES AND TIMES OF CAPTAIN BEEFHEART might look familiar its because the people who did this also put out those similar-minded Frank Zappa and Lou Reed collections, so's it naturally has that real earthy sorta appearance that appeals to me as it should given the life and energy that were poured into these writeup in the first place. Lotsa rare snaps, fan art, stuff you mighta missed (after all, were many of you readers [like me!] still pouring through ROLLING STONE inna seventies fighting your way through tons of Linda Ronstadt and Eagles worship in order to get to the meatier pieces?) and sheesh, if you're the kinda guy who'd turn down the opportunity to read a Charles Gillett or Tim Souster appreciation of the man called Van Vliet why are you tuned into this very blog inna first place? 

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

CEE-DEE REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! JIMI HENDRIX-ABTONE SESSION (Jimco Records, Japan)

If you want to dive into a deep and confusing mystery, try researching the pre-Experience recordings of Jimi Hendrix, many of which were not even thought of as finished masters and would never have seen the light of day had Hendrix not become a superstar and then passed away so young. For the most part, intrepid Hendrix researchers have tracked down and cataloged each separate and unique recording and each variation of it which found release somewhere on some dodgy rip-off LP or CD before the Hendrix estate clamped down on such releases. I’ve spent some time in the past scouring online Hendrix sessionographies and the like, which do provide some answers, but mostly give the reader a headache. Maybe it’s best that the provenance of these sessions stays a bit murky. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, every used record store would have three or four different albums of pre-Experience Hendrix sessions sitting in the racks (and there were dozens to choose from if you hit a lot of stores), and with the retitling of material and the lack of specifics on the covers, you never knew exactly what you were going to get. It probably provided the Hendrix fan of the day a bit of excitement, like a safer version of the thrill of an anonymous drug transaction or an illicit sex hookup. Or maybe like an exploitation-film double-bill at your local drive-in of two films you’ve never heard of….would they be retitled versions of something you’ve already seen, would they be an exploitatively titled release of some unreleased zero-budget dog that had been sitting on the shelf for 5-8 years and was picked up cheaply as filler for a double-bill, would they be some foreign film taking us into some exotic netherworld? Who knows….

I remember playing such an LP way back when, and a friend dropped over and asked, “what’s that you’re playing.” I said, “early Hendrix,” and when he inquired as to what exactly the material was, I replied “formless grungy R&B jamming.” That pretty much sums up most of the recordings in circulation, and I said those words with the greatest of respect. Hey, I would have salivated over some LP on a European budget-label called JIMI HENDRIX—FORMLESS GRUNGY R&B JAMMING, if only the labels had been honest enough to present the material that way. Or even better, FORMLESS GRUNGY R&B JAMMING VOLUME 5! They’d really be scraping the barrel on that one, which would make it even more delightful of a listen to someone like me.

On some of the recordings I’ve heard (not so much this album under review), Hendrix is clearly playing rhythm guitar in a group but for the release of this material he is mixed WAY up-front, which creates an odd effect. He’s mostly chording, but being the creative guy he was, he would have been bored just chording, so he kind of de-constructs the chords as he plays them, figuring that will add some nice unexpected touches to the ensemble, which it no doubt did, but when his playing is taken out of context and forced upfront, it becomes kind of odd, especially since on some tracks there was clearly a vocalist who was mixed OUT of the recording. It’s like those Beatle bootlegs where you hear ONE of the backing vocalists and maybe Paul’s bass, but nothing else. Imagine if that’s all you heard, but you’d never heard the actual song before. It would take on an odd quality, wouldn’t it? And you’d not really be able to “hear” what the original recording was like (having to rely on bleed-through on the other instruments and singers, if there was any). Take a plunge into the earlyhendrix.com website when you’ve got some time to kill—it’s fascinating, and these folks have been researching this stuff for decades. I just went back in for a few minutes to jumpstart my memory, and read some court testimony where Lonnie Youngblood admits signing Hendrix’s name to a contract, after Hendrix had died, for the production company/label run by Johnny Brantley (who produced the sessions on this CD, which feature Youngblood—see the LP pic of an earlier release of some of this material, and notice the cutout hole in the corner), so that a record could be released under Hendrix’s name after his death, and they could claim he was “signed” with them pre-Reprise/Warners. That’s just scratching the surface. There were also guitar overdubs made later by persons unknown (though not Hendrix) on some of the material on some albums. Wow!

This body of material from Brantley/Youngblood/Vidalia Productions was dipped into for many LP’s, cassettes, and later CD’s (undoubtedly 8-tracks too!). Discogs lists 21 variations on the sessions found on the CD under review, all with different running orders, different track selections, and differing track titles to some extent. Remember the dodgy “Accord” label in the early 80’s? They put out a sampling of this material under the name FREE SPIRIT (see pic), and you can get a copy of that LP for 92 cents (plus postage) on Discogs. It’s great that an album like that is not a big-ticket collectable, but actually an album you can buy for less than a dollar, something that no one wants, like an displaced animal wandering around who is not cute enough for any human to want to feed, sitting out there in the cold and the rain and staring at the “People…All going somewhere! All with their own thoughts! Their own ideas! All with their own personalities!” (to quote Ed Wood). The early Hendrix sideman material is the music equivalent of that unwanted homeless animal.

In the early 1990’s, there were some entrepreneurial types (the kind of people who today would be flipping houses in neighborhoods they themselves wouldn’t live in) who thought Emu ranching would be the next big thing. The Emu, a tall, awkward three-toed bird (second tallest bird, next to an ostrich), was speculated to be the next big meat source. It was low fat, full of nutrients, and considered healthier than other kinds of red meat. Briefly, you would see Emu sausage, Emu jerky, etc. at off-brand stores, and they even created Emu-based health products, like Blue Emu lotions, which you can still buy today, containing “Emu oil.” I remember seeing baseball great Johnny Bench shilling for Emu health products on TV ads. Up in Central Texas, people started large Emu ranches to raise these things for the expected huge meat market. Guess what? It didn’t happen. No one actually wanted these Emu birds, they couldn’t be sold, and some people just cut their fences down and let the gangly birds loose to run wild (I once met someone at a bar who told me that he’d raised emus once in his checkered past, and after a few rye and cokes he confessed that he abandoned his emu herd to run wild on the plains and in the hills). There was actually a problem in the late 1990’s of wild emu scavenging and causing problems in Central Texas. I even saw a few running around on rural roads back then. Those wild emu are like the Hendrix FREE SPIRIT album….you can’t give it away, but hey, give it a chance and it may be delicious. I have tried Emu smoked sausage, back when you could get it at Texas convenience stores, and it tasted fine, although you could probably put ANY meat (or even ground-up shoe leather) with those spices and oil and it would taste fine.


It’s a shame I don’t have any Emu jerky to eat while listening to ABTONE SESSION (in case anyone cares, I am eating boudin with an egg and jalapeno juice mixed into it while writing this), but the album is quite satisfying on its own. 14 tracks of somewhat-formless, grungy R&B jamming, with guitar that’s recognizably Hendrix on the first track (of course!). According to Youngblood, this material was recorded in a studio (Abtone) that had eight tracks, so it’s entirely possible that some of this material could have had two or three of the best minutes cut out of it for someone to lay down a vocal track on later (maybe that was the original plan, before Hendrix’s posthumous fame entered the picture. Having an eight-track master made it easier, after the fact, to bump up Hendrix in the mix, lower other players, add a new guitar overdub to make it more Hendrixy, remove a vocalist, etc). Something like “Soul Food” here could have been created that way….a good riff kicks in and Youngblood raps the names of Soul Food delicacies over that. There’s a long history of that food-naming in blues/R&B recording, going back to the 1920’s. Incidentally, Soul Food was issued as a single, backed with Goodbye Bessie Mae, on Cameo-Parkway’s “Fairmount” subsidiary in 1967 (see pic), the third of three singles Youngblood issued on Fairmount in 66-67. The first one doesn’t include Hendrix. The second one did include Hendrix, but is not on the album.

The first 12 tracks are from the same “Abtone Session” in June 1966. After that, there are two other tracks. One comes up a blank when I research it. The other seems to be from a 1966 single by The Dealers (see pic), on the Big Bunny label, and this track also comes from the same Youngblood/Brantley orbit. Is Hendrix on it? Even the Hendrix experts are mixed on that. However, YOU GOT IT by THE DEALERS is on You Tube, as I write this, posted as a Northern Soul track (why not!), and it’s been up there for ten years, so I’d guess it will still be up when you read this. Listen for yourself.

The good thing about all this material is that whoever is playing on it, it’s excellent anyway. If you found a 45 with this material under the name “Joe Smith” or “The Jersey Soul Agents” and never thought of Hendrix, you’d think they were great journeyman R&B workouts. That’s why I’ve always picked up any albums of this sort if the titles are new to me and the album is cheap. And we haven’t even mentioned the black-hole that is the PPX/Ed Chalpin material (I’ll save that for another write-up), most of which is great too….if it’s formless grungy R&B jams you’re looking for. I picked up this Japanese CD about ten years ago at a used bookstore in Kansas. Based on the tag, I could tell it had been sitting there for five years or more and it had been marked down three separate times. I scored it for $2----they were originally wanting $12, then $8, then $5. I’ve blasted my copy many times in those years, taken it on road trips (don’t remember if any wild emu were wandering around, though), and listened to it three times today. I really don’t care who is playing on it….it sounds great loud, and I got more than my $2 worth.