Thursday, August 31, 2006
The Tears of a Clown
Viv Stanshall - Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
I wasn't ready for this album when I first heard it. I'm still surprised every time I listen to it, even though I know what to expect.
You see, I'm a big Bonzos fan. Especially, I'm a big Viv songs by the Bonzos fan. And I expected this album to be one long jokey Viv song. Not so.
Viv is kind of unhappy for a lot of this disc. Maybe bitter. Certainly incoherent. This is not a joyous romp, by any means.
I see this record as a bit of a piece with Lucky Leif and the Longships. Both are by notoriously eccentric guys who ended up pretty well over the edge soon after. And both are absurdly diverse when it comes to the stylistic shifts from song to song. This is better than the Calvert one, though.
This is a traded copy from the halycon days of Napster, when 128 was just great. I've been holding out for a better copy, but none is forthcoming. What do you want for nothing, a rubber biscuit?
Note: check the comments, as a generous reader put up a version in better quality.
Gabor Szabo - Gypsy ' 66
My earlier Szabo post got a lot of attention, and a couple calls for more. Here's more.
This is Szabo's first as a leader for Impulse, so first as a leader anywhere that I'm aware of. This is pretty different than the other stuff I have of his. It's way more in a straight ahead boppish vein than the quasi-Eastern modal stuff he's famous for. It does tip his hand toward the pop covers that would dot his discs from here forward, though.
I really don't have much more to say about this. I've not seen it reissued, nor does it seem to be that easy to find.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
How Could I Have Forgotten This One?
Vinnie Bell - Pop Goes the Electric Sitar
I ripped this album to put up two months ago, then forgot about it. I don't know what got into me - this is among the first couple that made me think about setting up this damn site in the first place.
Vinnie Bell was (is?) a session guitar player who dabbled in instrument design. Together with Danelectro, he put out a couple of instruments. One was the first widely available electric sitar. This record was a tie in product, clearly made to promote sales.
It is what it is - a cheesy as hell lounge pop look at some of the hits of the day. Played on electric sitar. Originals are hard to come by, so download away and give it a listen.
Kim Fowley - Love Is Alive and Well
The San Francisco groups started this flower power thing. That's pretty undisputable. They were all into grooving together, getting high, not bathing, scraggly clothes, etc, etc.
LA was never going to go for that shit. People down there are too good looking and too rich to look like that. This is a great example of how the peace and love message got twisted as it left the backwaters and went mainstream.
I particularly like the self-aggrandizing fake interviews with the groupies and Rodney. A very funny statement, that.
Tower Records at this time must have had a hell of an A & R department, as they put out some bizarre stuff right at the end. Pink Floyd, Jake Holmes, CWB, the Smoke, Scorpion.... No wonder they went out of business. Imagine a major label today putting out stuff half this weird.
There is involvement of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band on this one, including early member Michael Lloyd. If you care.
This album is maybe the shortest in my collection. 21 minutes. I paid about a dollar per minute, then. It'd be a bargain at twice the price. Let me know if you want any other OOP Fowley records - I've got a few.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Road of Blue - The Campus Singers
This is the other album by this early '60's Michigan-based folk duo (the other one was posted here). Again, this is a piece from its time - pure voiced, cheeky, traditionally based songs. If you go for that sound, it's a really good one.
Two years later, some producer would have taken Road of Blue, put a little reverbed electric guitar on it, maybe some harmonica, and walked away with a chart hit. Johnny Pate, who plays bass on this, did a lot of arrangements for the Impressions, so he would have been a good choice. A lot of folk-rock bands had big careers without being able to sing half as well.
Jim Brignall, the tenor singer, died 20 years ago today. He was a hell of a guy. After this record, he became involved in civil rights, the anti-war movement, and politics. He and Ted Kistler (bass singer, still with us, also a hell of a guy) used to do one-off shows up until Jim's health failed in the early-'80's.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Simon Finn - Pass the Distance
The above quote is paraphrased from about the press this one got when it came out in 1970. I guess we're all entitled to our opinion - mine is that the guy who wrote the above is a dumb-ass. He was probably looking for Sweet Baby James, instead.
In the reviewer's defense, this record is a tough listen. Our man Finn is clearly at the edge. Sometimes, the combination of the bizarre production, Tolkein lyrics, and over-the-top singing gets a little grating. But still, this record kicks the shit out of what passed for good at the time.
A lot of music from the time gets compared to Syd Barrett, and this one is no exception. In my opinion, noone ever sounded like Syd Barrett - that's why Syd was one of the best. But Simon does go in that direction with some of the better numbers here. I'd say Oar might be a better comparison, although again a superior record.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Jeff Monn - Reality
There were a bunch of albums that came out in that brief '67-'68 period that sort of define a genre. Forever Changes is the biggest and probably the best. There's also Emotions by the Pretties (a little earlier, but roll with me here). Between the Buttons. Village Green. And lots of knock-offs.
The theme is garage band + full band arrangements = mature sound. I've heard these records called baroque, but that's not really accurate. Baroque period classical was all point / counter-point stuff. But what the hell, why be a pedant about the shit. It's a good and short-lived sound.
This one is not the best of the bunch by a long shot. But I do like it. Jeff Monn was the singer of the Third Bardo, a garage band with a single great song. On his first full-length he comes up with a fistful of pretty good songs, and a fair amount of filler and covers. The arrangements, by PDQ Bach, are really nice - not overbearing, and retain the snarly edge.
This is a mediocre vinyl rip from my old burner. I'd do a better one, but it was a borrowed record. I'd love to see this one get reissued right - there's a lot of inferior stuff that gets pushed back into the market. And it's damn impossible to find an original.
Oh, sure, you come and take the albums, but you don't even say thank you. The reason I do this is to hear the feedback from other people about the records I put up there. No feedback, no fun. So come on, click the comments button. For me.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Like Gordon Lightfoot, After He Lost His Mind
David Ackles - Five and Dime
This is the last album David Ackles made. His first three Elektra records got the remaster / reissue treatment a couple years ago. This one is still waiting for rediscovery.
I'm not sure why this one doesn't get the respect the others do. I think it is every bit as good as his last two Elektras, and better than the first one.
Getting through one of Dave's records can be a bit of a chore. He can veer a little close to Billy Joel territory on some of his torch songs. But listen a little closer, and this is some dark stuff.
By this time, he's gotta know that he'll never make it. So he let's loose with some of his most bizarre stuff yet. Surf's Down and Jenna Saves, in particular, are pretty sardonic little toe-tappers. They may superficially sound like AM radio hits of the time, but they are pretty damn unhinged.
The only time I ever saw this record was the time I bought it. It can't be too plentiful. So, if you've enjoyed any of his other stuff, give this a try. If you haven't, try Subway To the Country next. It's a monster.
Modulo 1000 - Nao Fale Com Paredes
Most of the US focus on Brazilian music from the late '60's - early '70's has been on Tropicalia sounds. Cute, fuzzy, pop-psych stuff with a bit of a tropical lilt. This on the other hand..
This album is heavy as hell. Big organ and guitar sounds. Heavy 4/4 beats. Only the Portugese tips it off as being Brazilian.
It's also rare as hell. There have been a couple reissues over time, none that I can tell are legit. Mine is burned from a boot lp from probably the late-90's. The sound is not super - kind of bassy and muddy. There's even a part where I could swear there's a skip in the master. That's what you get when you master from a vinyl copy, I guess.
I wouldn't call this great all the way through, but it's a solid B+. Have fun with it.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
He's not really a lord, you know
A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat - Lord Buckley
Lord Buckley wasn't a musician, but he knew a lot of them. He was sort of a comic and sort of a poet. Kind of like Jack Kerouac with a sense of humor, I guess.
He was ahead of his time in many ways. He was one of the first show biz types to experiment with acid, long before Stanford got Kesey and the rest of the beats involved. He was using naughty words (albeit disguised in hipster patter) before Lenny Bruce had a criminal record. And he was blasphemous before blasphemy was cool. You could even argue that his creative use of language was a precursor of the best rap music. If his Lordship hadn't have died in 1960, you could picture the following decade to have been his oyster.
But he did die. And has languished in obscurity since. Frank Zappa put out this archival recording in 1969, but it was more than ten years old by then. This doesn't contain his most famous bit - the one about Jesus being the Nazz - but it's got some good stuff.
In Buckley's world, Albert Einstein is the Hip Einie, and the Marquis de Sade has been getting bad rapped all the way. It'll take a few listens to unravel the direction of the narrative, but well worth your time. Give this one a try, as you like it.
Don't Blame It On Lee - Milman / Brignall Enigma
This is a giveaway single that came with the first pressing of the MBE's Bafflemania album that came out earlier this year. To my ears, they are one of the few modern bands that have the balls to go out on a limb and risk making complete fools of themselves. And by risking looking foolish, they actually pull off a rarity - an album not bound by genre or slavish devotion to their record collection.
You'll immediately hear how this single didn't make the album. The intonation and tempo are a bit, erm, dodgy. But that's part of the fun. This song sounds like a drunken blow-out at the country and eastern bar down the street.
How many bizarre features can we spot in this song? Let's list 'em:
1) The harmonies, or unisons, if you are a music snob. The lead is a basso profundo. So they decide to double the note AN OCTAVE LOWER. I'm not sure if it's tape manipulation, or real, but it's damn weird.
2) Sitar / pedal steel combination. These two instruments work surprisingly well together, as both are drone producers, and both bend up and down from true pitch. These two push and pull against the simple cowpunk melody like the bed spins.
3) Guitar solo. What else to do with a solo in a sitar country song but go all Brian Goddam Eno? Dude plays the first few bars like he's wringing pus out of an open wound. The notes are all in key, but they cut through like nothing you've heard before. Freaky deaky.
I'm curious what others think of this one. If people dig it, I'll consider posting the whole album.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The Human Breakdown of Absurdity
This is a compilation of mail-us-your-lyrics-and-we'll-make-them-into-a-record songs. For those of you not familiar with this genre, well, it's a genre. There are a lot of incredibly patient or weird people who sort through these things looking for diamonds. Then, they put out short-run compilations like the one we've got here.
I've seen writer's discuss this genre in two ways. First, there is the "hee, hee, aren't these people funny" angle. Then, there is the "these people are cracked geniuses" shtick. To a certain extent, these are both true. They are also both condescending as hell.
It is undeniable that many of these songs are written by nutters or morons. There are several examples on here of just crappy poetry. But you'll find that in the top 40, as well.
It is the cheapie arrangements that make me a fan of this genre. I don't know if they did it to break up the monotony of recording a crappy new song twice an hour, or if it was to try to ape the prevailing style, but there is never a straight two guitars, bass, drums set-up here. Backwards instruments, strange electronics, crazy falsetto, etc - these songs are like cheapo-symphonies. If not a wall of sound, at least one of those dividers from your cubicle at work.
The master of the genre, of course, is Rod Rogers/Rodd Keith/Rodney Eskelin. He's very obviously a big fan of soft psych and psychedelics themselves. There is a comp of the more serious end of his art called I Died Today. It's widely available, and I recommend it to anyone who likes this one.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Armand Schaubroeck - A Lot of People Would Like To See Armand Schaubroeck Dead
This is a sociology thesis disguised as a triple record set. This almost certainly got Armand a PhD in criminology. With honors.
For a lot of you, this record is probably familiar by reputation. If you haven't heard of it, it is a recollection of a mid-60's prison stint for armed robbery. It includes all of the greatest hits of prison life: suicide, homosexual rape, parole, violence, religion, psychiatrists, etc. And not one of them comes off as cliched.
When I first heard this, I was expecting a punk rock sound. This record is earlier than that, though, perhaps as early as '71-'72. The sound is more garage rock than what you'd expect from that date. And very menacing in a way other records from the time were not.
Like William Shatner's album, this is arranged as skit > song. Unlike Shatner, the skits feel serious as a knife to the mid-section. And Schaubroeck has way better hair than Shatner, anyway.
This record is part of a loose group of ones that came out between the end of psychedelia and the beginning of punk. I'd put it with the Dolls, Rocket From the Tombs, Debris, Simply Saucer, etc. Someday, someone smarter than me will come up with a name for this sound. And give it the retrospective it deserves.
I've heard pretty much everything else the guy has put out, and while I like them, none can touch this one. I hope you all enjoy it.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I Am Sitting In a Room - Alvin Lucier
Back in town after vacation, tanned rested, ready for a new post. Dig it - here's a rare one from the NWW list.
I Am Sitting In a Room is a piece rather than a song, meaning it is pretentious. In fact, this might be the most pretentious modern classical / electronic music CD I've yet heard. No small feat.
This recording consists of a guy, sitting in a room, recording his voice and playing it back. By the fifth or so time he's re-recorded his voice, it becomes indistinct. A few more times, and it is just washes of sound. Nice and relaxing, with some of the cadence of the original speech.
My biggest beef with this is that it could be about 30 minutes shorter. It goes pretty quickly from speech to sound. I get the point by then. After that, not much happens - there's nowhere to go from pure sound.
I'm curious what others think of this one. Please leave some comments. And watch this space, because I'm about to drop the triple lp bomb.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Phil Ochs - Greatest Hits
Phil Ochs is one of my favorite underrated rocker types. If he's remembered today at all, it's for one of two things:
1) Phil was kind of like Bob Dylan at one time. He sang topical folk songs. They just weren't nearly as good as Bob's were.
2) Phil played at the Festival of Life at the '68 Democratic Convention. Some people got beat up that day. This showed some balls.
While these were both true, I invite you to think that maybe there was more to the late Phil Ochs than two factoids. With this invitation, I humbly submit his last album.
This is a kick ass platter. It contains some up-tempo country rockers, some folky protest, some poignant ballads. Everything you need, then.
The players on this album are enough to make Phil Spector jealous. Most of the Byrds, a few Elvis sidemen, Merry Clayton, Van Dyke fricken Parks. But the tasteful playing never overshadows the good and varied songwriting.
For some damn reason, when (big reissue label) decided to reissue Phil's A&M catalogue, they left this one out. Like some sort of pariah. Wrong answer. This one is the best among them. The others all have great moments, especially Pleasures of the Harbor. But this one is the best top to bottom. And the gold suit on the cover is the icing on the cake.
Phil never really found his muse again after this album. The story of what happened to him after this recording is worthy of a long Mojo article, if not a two-hundred page paperback. Too bad - America could sure use his voice right now. Enjoy this one.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The Walflower Complextion
Nice boys make above average garage rock.
The oldest one is about 16. He tried to grow a beard.
I like this record. You should download it and listen to it a couple times.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Taist of Iron - Resurrection
Hearing 1984 and metal in the same sentence probably doesn't sound too promising to regular site visitors. Visions of overproduced and overplayed records and the smell of hairspray are almost certainly your first thoughts. Keep reading, though.
This CD is the first '80's metal CD I've liked since, well, a long time. I like it because it is different in a lot of key ways from the going style (Ratt, for instance).
First, the singer is a woman. Not only is she a woman, but she is a tough woman. With female singers, the temptation is always to compare to someone else, but she doesn't really fit any of the types. Not Pat Benetar, like most rocker women at this time. Not Joan Jett or Chrissy Hynde, like the rest of them. Mayyyyybe, a little Janis, but with better pitch and no blues phrasing. Anyway, she's good, and it's a shame she never made another record.
Second, the production on this album is strictly muddy basement sludge quality. In a good way. This makes the album sound either older or more recent than its vintage. To me, it sounds a lot like that kick-ass Pentagram First Daze Here record (what do you mean, you don't have Pentagram). Yeah, the guitar player plays a lot of notes, but the tone is bigger and dirtier than the rest of the Van Halen clones from the time.
Did I mention Van Halen? This is 1984, so there are a couple of Eruption-style instrumentals. They are pretty good to my ears, nice echo work, good technique. They don't overstay their welcome. Just enough to give the singer time to catch her breath.
If metal gives you a headache, you probably aren't going to like this as much as I do. But if you've got a rockin' itch, this is a great way to scratch it. This is probably the rarest record I've put up here yet, so get it here or get it nowhere, rocker.
Files are from a bootleg CD from an lp copy. It doesn't matter though, the low-fi burn only makes it sound better.