Federal Duck - S/T CD (Radioactive) When I get my time machine working, maybe the eighteenth or nineteenth thing I m gonna do is port back to the studio where the Federal Duck were making their (I assume it s on Radioactive, so notes there s not) sole album, grab hold of the pseudonymous producer s lapels and hiss, Listen, bub, you got an ace mournful New England garage pop songwriter in this George Stavis kid so drop the rest of the repertoire and focus on the band genius and in 35 years fanzine writers will cream all over this disc instead of giving middling reviews that rely on that tired old time travel gimmick. The Stavis tunes really are strong enough to recommend the whole album, which when not working this haunting, wintery academic sound ala the Rising Storm plays around with neo-Vaudeville, heavy acid rock, old time banjos and a smattering of head humor, all played with sophistication and imaginatively arranged. Surprised I ve never heard of these ducks before.(Kim Cooper)
Irving Fields Trio - Bagels and Bongos CD (Reboot Sterephonic) Inaugurating a label dedicated to spotlighting great Jewish contributions to avant-pop is this frisky, Latin-tinged set of Hebraic instros. While piano trills are more prominent than the titular hand drums, it s a fun set of cocktail music sure to pique the interest of your inner Esther. Pick hit: Havannah Negila. (Kim Cooper)
Paula Frazer - Leave the Sad Things Behind CD (Birdman) This here s the newest offering from Tarnation s Paula Frazer. The overall sound conjures up a dreamy k.d.laing cowgirl walking down Carnaby St. with the non-Hot Tuna members of Jefferson Airplane on the way to see a Spaghetti Western or maybe different atomizers of sixties essence spritzed into the air and mingling pleasantly. What a lovely voice this gal has and she weaves her own cloth! (Brooke Alberts)
Fresh Maggots - S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) Originally issued on RCA in 1971, this rural teenage English duo (Mick Burgoyne and Leigh Dolphin) might have found an audience with a less repellant name. It s hard to imagine many girls picking up the album without hearing it first, though it s full of charming original songs and was well reviewed. Their aggressive, finely-arranged orchestral folk with fuzzed-out guitars, trilling tin whistles, glockenspiel and violin occupies an intriguing middle ground between the Incredible String Band s dreamy weirdness and Donovan s pop sensibility, with sustained flashes of pure punk energy, and surely deserves a reappraisal. (also recently reissued on CD) (Kim Cooper)
Mike Furber & the Bowery Boys - Just A Poor Boy CD (Radioactive) London-born and finely-coiffed, Furber was just what Brisbane garage band the Bowery Boys wanted in a singer well, aside from not having a great voice. On their sole LP, the band displays a fine hand with the jangly and punky stuff, which is unfortunately interspersed with some pretty dopey blues covers. Highlights are the deliciously messy, Easybeatsy take on That s When Happiness Began and a snotty Diddy Wah Diddy, both better suited to Furber s range. Later in his brief career, Furber was a Barry Gibb prot g , again to no great notice.(Kim Cooper)
The Gentleman Callers - Don t Say What It Is CD (Wee Rock) Snarly, Farfisa-laced, girl-done-me-wrong garage R&B from St. Louis. Occasional undercurrent of swirl, or chime, but by and large it s that four kids start band in Midwestern garage after hearing the Yardbirds for the first time, 1965 sound what flips the miniskirt crowd and has you bobbing your head feeling all, you know, cool. (Nathan Marsak)
Goblin Market - Haunted CD (Camera Obscura)... When last we heard from this Green Pajamas side project, on 2001 s excellent ghostland, Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller were crafting deliciously spooky songs inspired by the work of pre-Raphaelite poetesses Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal, Poe and Emily Bront . This album finds them hopping the pond and a century later, with a cycle of moody and emotional tunes inspired by the novels and stories of Joyce Carol Oates. I don t know her stuff except in passing, but even out of context this is a strong album, delicately wrought but not at all fey, with gorgeous twining vocals, hypnotic melodies and pained themes that cut deep. Literate pop fans will be ensorceled.(Kim Cooper)
Carlos Guitarlos - Hell Can Wait CD (Nomad) Guitarlos second solo release (he s an eighties veteran of Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs) proves that after a stint as an indigent street musician, he s back to the music world in full force (and with an album title to prove it). Seemingly at ease in a variety of rootsy genres, his vocals are raw, heartfelt and natural, and his guitar-playing simply astounding. Adding to the mix are complementary vocals on some tracks by Marcy Levy and David Hidalgo (who also plays accordion on the zydeco-like Keep Me Satisfied ). Here I Come is a stand-out R&B swinger, and he begins and ends the CD with potent solo acoustic songs, the bluesy Love Me From The Start and the plaintive lament I ve Been Dead Since You ve Been Gone. Varied and accomplished, Guitarlos songs (like the man himself) will stand up to the test of time. (Julia Devine)
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester - Farewell Aldebaran CD (Radioactive) This is one of those legendary lost records that everyone talks about, where after you finally hear it, you have even less of an idea of what it is than before. Brutally aggressive when it s not being elegantly folksy or bubblegummy, then in turns decadent, satirical, apocalyptic, histrionic and demonic, these young marrieds a folk-blues goddess and an ace journeyman with ties to the Spoonful and TMFQ created a truly unpredictable m lange of pop, antipop, subpop and artifice. With so many disparate facets, the whole of Farewell Aldebaran (1969, Straight Records) can only appeal to the openest of minds, but odds are at least one part of it will blow all of yours.(Kim Cooper)
The Hi-Frequencies - Money Isn t Everything CD (Teen Regime) If the Cavern Club had been in Motown early sixties rockin from Pittsburgh, by men in narrow suits and a gal in a nice off-the-shoulder number, made all the better by the obscenely soulful singing of Jayson Brooks (he s black, so it sounds good on him). And also having thrown some dreamy surf instros into the mix, the HFs elicit that too-rare put your feet up and consider your life well-lived feeling. (Nathan Marsak)
Gary Higgins - Red Hash CD (Drag City)... This pastoral, hypnotic self-released stoner folk disk from 73 gets the deluxe reish treatment with lyrics, photos, mastering from the original tapes and bonus tracks but no liner notes. Still, the facts of the dope-related prison term Higgins served right after his album was released add and subtract little to the whole. He has a lovely, boyish voice, warm and whispery, complementing the low key arrangements swelling with cello, flute and mandolin. He also had a more aggressive and humorous side, as shown in the Beefheart-voxed Down on the Farm. The songs have that rare mix of quietness and great force that demand attention, and while they become a bit monochromatic over the course of the whole album, the best are simply much too good to stay lost.(Kim Cooper)
The Loud Family - What If It Works? CD (125) Six years on from Attractive Nuisance and the brilliant, self-effacing Scott Miller returns with a revamped Loud Family, now something of a Go-Betweens-styled partnership with singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau. By kicking off with a punchy, new wave take on the Stones Rocks Off, it s immediately clear that Miller+Barbeau are a real band, not a wooden one, and the record is strong and playful straight through. Following close is Miller s reflexive Song About Rocks Off, just the sort of twitchy, nostalgic, brainiac pop of which he s master. Barbeau s lush, twining tunes and adenoidal tones are good company for Miller s, and the sole co-written number ( Kind Of) In Love is more than kinda swell. The title song, by Barbeau, feels like a sweet, high-energy update of Bowie s Kooks. Covers of the Zombies Remember You and a proggy take on Cat Stevens I Think I See the Light are charming, but might miff fans hungry for new originals. Still, a most welcome and overdue return.(Kim Cooper)
H.P. Lovecraft - Dreams in the Witch House CD (Rev-ola) The subtitle of this disc is The Complete Philips Recordings. It is comprised of the albums H.P. Lovecraft and H.P. Lovecraft II, plus four songs taken from singles. I have owned the group s second album since the mid-seventies. I picked it up during a frenzy of sixties music collecting, but it never grew on me like all the Chocolate Watch Band, Thirteenth Floor Elevators-type stuff I was so gaga over. For some reason it sounds a whole lot better now, and I quite enjoy the other material as well. Taking their name from the horror/fantasy author, the band blended elements of folk, rock and various other musical strains to come up with a sound that is moody and atmospheric without being macabre. The vocals shine brightly and the production is spot on. (Edwin Letcher)
Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom CD (Gnomonsong) To be honest, I ve never been terribly impressed with the so-called lo-fi movement. This movement probably best exemplified that a good song is a good song, whether it was recorded well or otherwise and in fact helped prove, at least for my money, that lo-fi should have in some instances, been no-fi (if you catch my drift ). Fortunately, we have a new breed (Neo-folk? Anti-folk? You pick your own label--not interested in helping on this one) dedicated to catching the essence of good songwriting (think Woody Guthrie) and letting the words and music speak for themselves. Note: if you are a musician you should have just gotten a chill down your spine, as this is a scary proposition indeed imagine there s no Duran Duran it s easy if you try If you are at all following this you have hopefully realized that what I am trying to say is that Jana Hunter has managed to turn lo-fi into, well high art. I sincerely doubt the genre will ever get any better than this. (Jackson Del Rey)
Kingsbury Manx The Fast Rise and Fall of the South CD (Yep Roc) Pastoral, carefully-crafted piano pop that evokes the Kinks, Beach Boys and Zombies but too personal, unpredictable and eclectic to get tossed in the retro copyist shoebox. Charming.(Kim Cooper)
Lavender Diamond The Cavalry of Light CD-EP (self-released) Lavender Diamond offers up an EP that wears a pretty dress of string & piano arrangements with soothing vocals. Think Scott Walker if he were a girl and had a limited budget. Even though the lyrical content doesn t quite resonate, the delivery is precious and comforting. I hope Lavender Diamond get a chance to make a full-length soon they are dreamy. (Craig Ceravolo)
Lazy Farmer S/T CD (Sunbeam Records) Ah, they had me at the first dulcet tones of the 1970s Britfolk flute. Here we have a recording issued in Germany in 1975 by English folkie guitarist Wizz Jones, his wife Sandy on banjo and vocals, Don Coging on banjo, COB s John Bidwell on flute, flageolet, guitar and vocals, and Jake Walton on dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, guitar and vocals. These folks were inspired by John Burke s classic instruction book Fiddle Tunes for the Banjo as a jumping-off point for some great arrangements. On Railroad Boy, for example, they ve used the hurdy-gurdy to give it a medieval edge. There s a song by Ralph McTell as well as one by the influential American banjoman in London, Derroll Adams. (Brooke Alberts)
Lost Sounds S/T CD (In The Red) A few months ago, when a friend in Memphis mentioned that the Lost Sounds had disbanded, I was more than a little disappointed. Rarely do I like, let alone love, bands that wear their influences on their guitar straps, but these guys (and gal) were just too damn good at what they did to dismiss offhand. Like their other releases, this self-titled album is a curry filled with the most recognizable punk/new wave flavorings out there: Screamers, Missing Persons, Runaways, Devo and Gary Numan. Pick your spice, it s here seamlessly blended into a fine, fine platter. Each listen is more enjoyable than the previous. (Margaret Griffis)
Troy Lukkarila Unsafe Structure CD (lukalips.com) If Daniel Johnston had a wife and kid, he might sing cranky pop songs like these. The warbly, mannered vocals have that acquired taste outsider quality, and nearly every song runs long, but the pop sensibilities keep things from getting impossibly self-indulgent. Still, the song from the POV of a flasher should have tipped me off that a love song to a baby daughter couldn t stay sweet straight through. I kinda hope the daughter is an imaginary character, because no real kid should have to deal with a dad obsessed with preserving her virginity from the teenage boys of the future, much less singing about it!(Kim Cooper)
Terry Melcher S/T CD (Collectors Choice) On this 1974 debut, the Byrds/Raiders producer spins his own web as a Beverly Hills country boy, soothed by strings, loping cadences and harmonies (including those of mom Doris Day), racked by the existential anxieties that fill Joan Didion s west coast tomes. The darkness might be read as post-Manson stress (Melcher s house on Cielo was the first creepycrawl target), or just post-paradise anomie. Either way, it s a tense and provocative mix, and an interesting oddity to be filed between the Burritos and Jimmy Webb. (Kim Cooper)
The Mentally Ill Gacy s Place: The Undiscovered Corpses CD (Alternative Tentacles) The Dead Boys had their Son of Sam, and the Child Molesters their Hillside Strangler heck, even Santa Barbara s Church of Hanna-Barbera recorded The Ballad of James Oliver Huberty. Which still seemed easier to get than the infamous eight-song 1979 scum-and-insanity effort Gacy s Place, whispered and giggled about on schoolyards ( they re fucking your kids! They re fucking your kids now! ) nationwide. Sure, there s eBay now, but some of us have to do things like buy a car or pay the mortgage instead dropping that coin on one of the 300 original 45s. Fear not, though, the original eight StarBeat Studios tracks are here, plus eleven crawlspace uh, basement tape tracks that deliver more ugly, sloppy punk rock (whatever happened to squirts of horrible saxophone in music?) about padded cells and tumors and Stalag 13. (Nathan Marsak)
Mirkwood S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) From 1973, bad trip post-garage boogie blues with an occasional apocalyptic, Asian feel. The band was a Dover (U.K.) combo featuring Mick Morris and Jack Castle, who d been playing together since 1967 in a covers band, but got bit by the prog bug and started writing their own moody material.(Kim Cooper)
The Misteriosos S/T CD (Triptone) The debut from this tuff little Philly-by-way-of-Boston trio kicks off in impressive ticked-off fuzz garage traditionalist mode, but quickly slips into psychedelic experimentation highlighted by Tula Storm s dreamy singing and some very nasty acid guitar by one Jelly Roll, who also handles the snotty male vocals. Trippy and unpredictable, if all over the map.(Kim Cooper)
Modern Skirts Catalogue of Generous Men CD (Self-released) There are more bands than UGA students in Athens, GA. That is just the way it is down there. Statistically speaking, there is more bad music coming out of that wonderful town than good, but God bless them all, doggone-it. Luckily, Modern Skirts is on the good side of the tally sheet. The musicianship on Catalogue of Generous Men is too accomplished to be indie. Be that as it may, Modern Skirts released this one all on their own, yet had the good fortune of nabbing a crafty producer and mixing engineer. The resulting 11 sugary musical treats offered here are fantastic. Jay Gulley s vocals have a soothing tone in much the same way as a Bruce Hornsby or Ben Folds. Yeah, you heard me right, Bruce Hornsby. When Jay croons Let s move to Pasadena, you start reserving U-hauls. The execution, arrangements and lyrical content are so strong and mature you are left scratching your head wondering how these guys aren t selling CDs in every Starbucks across the country. It s as if Burt Bacharach demanded greatness from Matthew Sweet. The harmonies float above electric piano and harmonica on one song, then strings, piano and sunburned vocal layers on the next. Oh, how it hurts to smile this much. (Craig Ceravolo)
Moon Flightlogs CD (Zone 8) As soon as I saw on the one-sheet that main Moon man Mark Poole had played with the stellar Boys From Nowhere, I was curious to hear his band. Their noisy (yet tuneful) garage-psych doesn t disappoint. These West Virginia home recordings are warm and punkily aggressive, crossing Anglophile influences with a loping country ease. (Kim Cooper)
The Moore Brothers Murdered By The Moore Brothers CD (Plain) More like cuddled by the Moore Brothers and their sweet Holliesque harmonies swinging along with a mild bossa nova beat, hushed, autumnal and steeped in adolescent emotion.(Kim Cooper)
Mott the Hoople Family Anthology double CD (Angel Air) Aptly titled 32-track sampling of rare, vintage Mottisms intermeshed with high quality pre- and post-band tracks from various associates, with the results unpredictable, but quite listenable. From tough live band performances to new wavey solo turns, sinister experiments to important demos, there s a world to explore. Highlights include Mick Ralphs Gary Glitteresque 1970 demo for Can t Get Enough, a mournful Mad Shadows outtake that presages Wildlife s sound, Dale Griffin s lecherous scat take on Lady is a Tramp, and a psychotic Joe Meek-inspired instro by The Paper Bags, a punk-era Morgan Fisher lark. With extensive liner note interviews and fannish passion tempered by connoisseurship, this is a terrific sampling and a strong tribute to an underrated band.(Kim Cooper)
Mouzakis Magic Tube CD (Radioactive) The opening track is Magic Tube, some sort of eight minute prog-funk that we can only suppose concern s the singer s penis. If you like that early seventies spacey chunka-chunka wikka-wikka rock by longhaired guys about picking up longhaired girls, and partyin til the broad daylight, well then, you ve seen plenty of those message movies where there s a band in the background as the poor heroine is convinced to do something she shouldn t but let me tell you, without those visuals, this is stuff for only the serious fans of serious crap. Tempted to list the amazing lyrics here, but am afraid that paying any closer attention to them would kill off thirty or forty IQ points. I dare you to come face to face with Mouzakis Magic Tube. (Nathan Marsak)
Murder Your Darlings Murder Your Darlings CD (Reptilian) Ooof. People in Ohio are fucked up. You d like to picture these fellas in vintage Challengers, or at least rape vans, but they ve probably got rusted-out late-model Montclairs, and they are not happy about it. Not one bit. No jobs, bad drugs, abusive dads who are thereafter mirrored by the litany of abusive girlfriends, yes, Ohio is a special place. Something about it is resolutely Southern, despite being so far North, and you can hear that schizophrenia in MYD s music as much as the tension between punk crunch and metal squeal. Fifteen relentless tracks devoid of humor but replete with harmonizing guitars, it s music best suited for cleaning the house to, or just getting a headache, or both, as I did, gladly. Standout track Too Old To Die Young sums that up pretty nicely. (Nathan Marsak)
Nausea The Punk Terrorist Anthology Vol. II: 1986-1988 CD (Alternative Tentacles) Nausea were NYC s premier Nazi skin band, who purported a seemingly contradictory allegiance to corporate America. Plus, they had a hot girl singer! (Oh wait, none of that is true. Except that Amy was really hot.) If you go for late eighties squatterpunk crustcore with a debt to Crass and Discharge, there s 31 tracks here that smash the fascist overlord, destroying his death culture of racism, sexism, and, you know, fascism. Now, I think such activity should be joyous, and so will take Culturecide over all this yelly-noisy business, though MTV (Feeding of the Fortune 500) is still one of the premier slabs of the genre. This is pure Tompkins Square Riot rock, from before the days of the Profane Extinction album chock full of early Nausea demos, live tracks, and even a video, this is a textbook in teaching your local gutter kids about pro-class war Anarch (though what they really need to learn is how to better treat their dogs). (Nathan Marsak)
The Negatones The Negatones CD (Skylab) Big loud dense nutty electropop-n rock party record from this legendary band of NYC studio scenesters, here Mooging it up and picking banjos and playing bongos and getting all jiggy wit it at that. No, really, is it quirky technospazz art rock or badass rip-it-up swankrock? No one knows who or what they are, though that they re a national treasure is inarguable. (Nathan Marsak)
Nervous Norvus Stone Age Woo: The Zorch Sounds of CD (Norton) Jimmy Drake was a self-trained musician who loved Red Blanchard s kid s radio show and started composing original novelty tunes in tribute to the DJ. Blanchard liked what he heard, and transformed Drake who just thought he was a demo man--into the wild Nervous Norvus performing character. This daffy comp includes Norv s sole hit, the 1956 auto-crash ballet Transfusion, and scads of unheard primitive oddities that flesh out Drake s uniquely unsettling take on the American pop songbook. From the leering I Like Girls to the hysterical Does A Chinese Chicken Have A Pigtail? to the first person tale of a sexy space alien called The Fang, Drake s lo-fi rockabilly paints a picture of a deranged, yet strangely gentle, hillbilly maniac. You just want to hug the nut.(Kim Cooper)
Phil Ochs All The News That s Fit To Sing CD (Collectors Choice) The title of his debut record for Elektra and the cover photo paint Ochs as a topical folksinger and songwriter, a somewhat academic observer of his somewhat trying times. He s already found a couple of unsung heroes to laud (Lou Marsh and Medger Evers), tosses a sweet nod at Woody Guthrie in the memorial tune Bound For Glory, but he also has a tendency to preach. So there s welcome levity when The Ballad of William Worthy kicks in, a funny, sing-song catchy chronicle of a reporter who went to Cuba and had his citizenship stripped for the privilege. A promising debut, but stiff. (Kim Cooper)
Phil Ochs I Ain t Marching Anymore CD (Collectors Choice) On his terrific second album, Ochs no longer comes across as an uptight young singer of issues, but as a loose and inventive composer using the folk/storytelling conventions to express a more personal vision--one that would reach its full flower after he left New York for the reinvention capital of Los Angeles. In the first two tracks, the title song and In The Heat of the Summer, he slips fluidly from the role of universal soldier to topical troubadour, explaining the summer s riots through a sympathetic class analysis married to a lovely cyclical melody. His confidence, intelligence and the sweetness of his voice make him a fine tour guide to the psychic map of young, left wing America in 1965, and its interests in civil rights, the death penalty, division between the states and the rise of militarism. One flat point comes with That Was The President, a predictable and tedious dirge for Kennedy, but even that becomes interesting when placed beside the incredibly powerful song The Crucifixion that he d write a few years later, once he d processed his grief and disappointment and found metaphors to express how important JFK felt to Ochs and his peers. (Kim Cooper)
Oosterdok Twilights of the Weary Soul CD (Brown House) Electro-pop, but dark, if not a little sinister. Atypical Britsynth the legacy of Ladytron and Stereolab, if not Yazoo and early Human League, is evident, but Celt banshee Becky Naylor s spillings on I Am Not a Nice Girl shows the aortal branch of her black heart venturing into Nick Cave territory. (Nathan Marsak)
P:ano Ghost Pirates Without Heads CD (Mint) P:ano created a very ambitious album last year entitled Brigadoon that had all of the Bacharach/Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, etc. elements to make it an impressive, if not stylistically well-worn effort. The follow-up of sorts (they call it a mini-album ) strips it down maybe to show that they are more than elaborate arrangements and instrumentation or maybe just because they wanted to record an album in one afternoon. Armed only with a ukulele, accordion, bass clarinet and various percussion toys, P:ano created a jaunty collection of ditties and dirges that sound like the set list at a sailor s campfire sing-along. The boy/girl harmonies are as crisp and clear as the most perfect weather conditions a ship captain could hope for. Few bands can reference HMS Pinafore and not get beaten up P:ano is able to pull it off. Look out Decemberists, P:ano have your library card and apparently your number. (Craig Ceravolo)
Tommy Peltier featuring Judee Sill Chariot of Astral Light CD (Black Beauty) Tommy Peltier was a jazz trumpet player who in the early seventies suffered an injury and had to put down his instrument. Encouraged by the incomparable Miss Sill, he transformed himself into a singer/songwriter and lead guitarist, all the better to lead jam sessions at his house in Echo Park. On these previously unreleased tracks, Peltier s passionate voice sounds a lot like Tom Rapp s. While Sill doesn t turn up until track 7 (and the next five) with some gorgeous backing vocals, her influence shines through the spiritual themes and ambitious, sprawling arrangements. A cool document of a swinging scene that might not have come out without the Sill association, but that works perfectly well on the Sill-less tracks. The CD includes video footage of two songs from Peltier and Sill with occasional Zappa sideman Dave Parlato on bass and harmonica player David Bearden.(Kim Cooper)
Chuck & Mary Perrin life is a stream CD (Rev-Ola) Think of a trippier Carpenters, with the sibling duets wrapped in lush orchestration. Only in this family unit, it s the big brother who has the exceptional pipes, and on solo turns like Eversince, Chuck taps into a very appealing romantic British folk vibe. Still, Mary has her own moments, as on the wasted and solitary sounding This One s For You. These early seventies Chicago recordings are gentle, sweet and eclectic. Pick hit: the silly neo-Vaudeville rave up Mildred Metz ( get out of my life ).(Kim Cooper)
The Rezillos Can t Stand The CD (DBK Works) Pretty much the greatest new wave outer space Scottish monster goofball pop combo of all time, and this 1978 Sire release is their debut, swan song and masterpiece. Vocalists Faye Fife and Eugene Patterson were magnificent postmodern creations, hyperkinetic comic book kids made flesh, while the band laid down spastic rhythms on delicious confections like Top of the Pops and I Can t Stand My Baby. What used to be called side two lags a smidge, but the hit to miss ratio leans heavily to hit. It s all silly yet strangely menacing with the album s final grunted line making it clear that these spacepups are not to be trifled with. (Kim Cooper)
Alastair Riddell Space Waltz CD (RPM) In 1974, far from the gritty urban Glam strongholds of London and NYC, New Zealand birthed its own Ziggyesque character in the form of A. Riddell, a corpse-white, hollow-eyed jeepster whose clever, robotic pop provided an excellent balm for local kids jonesing for David. While extremely dramatic and silly in spots, packed with zero-gravity battle sounds and arch prose declamation, Space Waltz does that most essential Glam thing: it rocks. The band shattered not long after these tracks were recorded, with a couple members joining Split Enz.(Kim Cooper)
Biff Rose The Thorn in Mrs. Rose s Side/ Children of Light double CD (Water) These two 1968 records, curiously, were albums one and two in my collection: a friend of my dad s found them on top of a trash can in Venice and passed them on. I loved them to excess as a tyke (especially CoL) and was pleased to find on re-making their acquaintance that the hooks haven t dulled. Biff Rose is an unjustly neglected humorous piano popster whose quirky lyrics, frenetic riffs and sweetly broken voice are quite distinctive, but not for everyone. Bowie borrowed Fill Your Heart for Hunky Dory, though in Biff s screwball hands it s hardly the catchiest tune around. The orchestral arrangements suggest a psychedelic Vaudevillian ala Van Dyke Parks, and VdP himself makes a cameo on the second disc. CoL offers a more stripped down sound, and tender, provocative tunes like the Aquarian Age masculinist statement Just Like A Man. The package includes reprints of the back cover socio-political aphorisms that blew my tiny mind, and the suggestion that the New Orleans-bred artist has plenty more work to explore.(Kim Cooper)
Rosemary s Babies Talking to the Dead CD (Ghastly) Nature or nurture, there s no mistaking Eerie Von & Co. s elemental place and purpose: the Green Hornet theme, Attack of the 50ft Cowboy, Becky Bondage the elements of Straight Outta Lodi psuedo-Misfitsiana are there, up to and including the Misfits chord progression and rhythmic pacing, but without the singalong lyricism or the songwriting. Don t get me wrong, Let s Molest is still a shocker, and That s Alright, That s OK is still the benchmark of angry Jersey shlubrock. There s a lot to love here in the Blood Lust EP and other slabs, and the five live tracks from an 83 CBGB s show have bits to recommend over Evilive. Nevertheless, still the domain of completists and other obsessed parties, and as such, we could benefit with some liner notes and/or lyrics just for fun.
Bridget St. John Songs for the gentle man (Cherry Red) Imagine a Nico of the buttercups, all sunshine, smiles and cautious optimism. On her second album, Bridget St. John s voice is eerily similar to Nico s Teutonic burr, with the same warm timber and oddly precise enunciation. She even brings out the harmonium for the tiny final snatch of a song. Affected, adenoidal, plying a formal language so narrow it recalls Dorothy Parker s jibe about Katharine Hepburn running the gamut of emotions from A to B, the effect is nonetheless quite captivating. St. John collaborated with producer-arranger Ron Geesin (Pink Floyd) on this little sweetmeat for John Peel s short-lived Dandelion label, a set of cool, pastel originals garnished with a pinch of John Martyn and a splash of Donovan. The chamber group and vocalists that accompany her lilting folk-rock meanders are utilized in unsettling ways that highlight the record s understated weirdness. On the opening track, A Day Away, the players subdued burble rises gently like the sound of a band just downstream, while the listener floats closer, not knowing who or what he ll see there. Elsewhere, they hum like bees in the garden, just out of reach, sometimes buzzing along with the lady, sometimes in opposition. Through it all, St. John slides along unflappable, a Fernand Khnopff sphinx on the River Cam. A small record, yet one that fills the room and lingers. (Kim Cooper)(this originally appeared in the book Lost in the Grooves: Scram s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed)
Bridget St. John ask me no questions (Cherry Red) I came first to St. John through her second album Songs for the gentle man, and coined the phrase a Nico of the buttercups to describe her subtle sunny charms. How odd then to finally hear her debut, where she sings of literally eating buttercup sandwiches or perhaps not odd at all. This is another lovely folksy record filled with nature worship and small mysteries. Its production is less baroque, creating a more intimate and lonesome atmosphere for St. John s gentle originals, and a husky, dreamy take on Leonard Cohen s Suzanne. (Kim Cooper)
Siloah S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) Limited edition vinyl reissue of a rare and weird Munich band s sole 1970 release. While the English titles are deliciously absurd ( Krishna s Golden Dope Shop ), these primitive, jammy Krautrockers were hardly a joke band. Road to Laramy is a loping TV western-theme instro with an undercurrent of grimy urban intensity that explodes when the wasted vocals finally kick in, while the eighteen-minute Aluminium Wind is an atonal meander through sonic darkness, briefly illuminated by creepy flute and moans. File under: bad trip at the beer garden. (Kim Cooper)
Spirit The Model Shop CD (Sundazed) Since Jacques Demy s pretty and brainless The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) was an international hit, Columbia bankrolled his 1969 U.S. debut despite an underslung concept and the French darling s near-total unfamiliarity with spoken English. The Model Shop was one of many pop-art buzz-bombs Hollywood majors financed in the late sixties. Once Roger Corman, Richard Lester, Dennis Hopper and others appeared to discover a winning anti-formula, the international big-money all took flyers on the youth/drug/rock & roll movie. Some of these grotesqueries later found audiences (Performance, The Magic Christian, Head), others survive as winningly wonky curios (Candy, Skiddoo), but The Model Shop is as insipid and featherbrained now as it must ve been thirty-seven years ago. A fateful day in aimless life of an L.A. counterculture drone after an induction notice appears in the mail, the studio insisted on Gary (2001) Lockwood, a stick of unsympathetic furniture, for the lead (Demy s choice of then-unknown Harrison Ford would ve brought an interesting naturalism to an even worse film). Despite some superb footage of a now-dead Sunset Strip, what one hears on the soundtrack is infinitely more involving than what s happening on the screen. Demy wanted the ominous throb of a brightly horrible city, and so brought in L.A. pysch maestros Spirit after seeing their live act at the Kaleidoscope. The band (formed in 1967 out of the Griffith Park love-ins) was in the middle of recording their sophomore LP (1968 s The Family That Plays Together) when Demy offered them the score and small roles in the movie. Some of the tracks wound up on Clear, the band s next release, and the perceptible chill of that album hits absolute zero on this soundtrack. Spirit s one national hit, the joyous I Got a Line on You, climbed into the Top Twenty just before the Model Shop sessions, and future prospects were excellent. Spirit s jazzbo/psych sound is indispensably Angeleno in its hard-edged hippie drooginess, evoking the skullbake irreality of the city s pink sunsets and unhinged loners. Here the wit and cynic mysticism expressed in songs like Fresh Garbage and Silky Sam is bypassed in favor of cold atmosphere and improvisation. Usually given to mixing and matching songwriters, band compositions predominate on this disc, with hypertrophied solos and gnomic lyrics bobbing in an icy groove. Jay Ferguson was the band s signature vocalist, addressing the Cahengua Ave. mob on Now or Anywhere in his doomfreak Yippie politician s yawlp and returning to blister again on a spare version of Family s album closer Aren t You Glad. John Locke s keyboards form the spine of these sessions, with Ed Cassidy s drums and Randy California s freakish guitar slapping brawler s muscle onto the melodies. Tracks like Fog and Green Gorilla are revelations as to where soundtrack jazz might ve gone had not Isaac Hayes invented soundtrack funk soon after. Spirit s discography can well stand as the loose-limbed American answer to late-sixties Traffic and Pink Floyd, with this missing piece as essential for jazz and movie-score enthusiasts as the original lineup s first four albums are for everyone else. (Ron Garmon)
Stained Glass Aurora CD (Radioactive) Released in late 1969, Aurora was the finale of a two-album career at Capitol (Crazy Horse Roads came out earlier that year), but this San Jose trio had been a singles act on RCA as far back as 1966. This is supposed to be the better of the pair, but that recommendation is good only for 1) a few joyful minutes of fine Lennonesque disdain on The Kibitzer, 2) some nice phasing and reverb on Inca Treasure and 3) a loose-but-definite air of late-sixties punky improvisation. The band is admirably tight, but their material largely confined to Beatle-scrapings with a pellet or two of Moby Grapeshot. Jim McPherson wasn t the worst singer a big-label sixties psych act had on offer--Mad River s Lawrence Hammond had a voice to crisp an aardvark s nosehairs--but he s wildly uneven and hippie-hammy. To say the cover of Lincoln Chase s swamp-rot standard Jim Dandy was ill-advised would be to detonate a twenty-megaton understatement. Stained Glass cracked up about the time this record hit the shops, but McPherson managed to retain enough of Capitol s interest to record a solo album. In 1971, he and John Cipollina (late of Quicksilver Messenger Service) formed Copperhead, who was signed by Columbia s Clive Davis for over one million dollars. In 1973, their eponymous lone release sank like the Empress of Ireland. (Ron Garmon)
The Strawberry Alarm Clock Good Morning Starshine CD (Collectors Choice) This was the band s last effort at returning to the charts and it failed to yield any hits. The personnel had changed considerably and the new members helped bring about a shift to a hard-edged blues-rock sound. There are some trippy, almost psychedelic moments and the title track is just about as cutesy poppy as the version of this Hair staple that Oliver scored with, but the rest of the album sounds more like Iron Butterfly. For fans of late sixties/ early seventies, this set offers up some tight musicianship, especially that of founding member Mark Weitz on keyboards, and very manly vocals. (Edwin Letcher)
The Strawberry Alarm Clock - Wake Up It s Tomorrow CD (Collectors Choice) This is my favorite Strawberry Alarm Clock album. My favorite song--everyone s fave, Incense and Peppermints --is on their first album, I haven t heard their third album and their fourth album is basic blues-rock instead of psychedelia. All of those qualifiers aside, though, this sophomoric effort is the ticket for me. It s good enough that I will give their third album a listen at my earliest convenience to see how it stacks up. The music here is playful, upbeat, inventive and catchy. I saw the film Psych-Out recently and dug the scenes with these flower power poppers. Thankfully, this set has Pretty Song from Psych-Out on it, so I can revisit with my mind s eye the image of a young Jack Nicholson clumsily trying to look like he knows which end of a guitar is which whenever I want. Surprisingly good musicianship from a group of teenagers and strong songs makes for an enjoyable trip back to the wild and wacky sixties. Love beads are optional. (Edwin Letcher)
Sub-Division - The Primos CD-EP (Hard Soul) Ambient yet pummeling, strange messed-up music from some Mexico City twins named Amir and Amed. Experimental postpunk for the discerning. (Nathan Marsak)
Subway - S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) 1972 release by an international psych-folk duo comprised of English violinist Malcolm and American singer-songwriter Irv Mowrey. Their delicate, finely meshed sound clearly denotes hundreds of hours of jamming, yet largely avoids self-indulgence. On Song For Sinking Shelters, the eerie, bottom-of-the-well arrangement and confident, precise vocals leading into mad primate laughter is really striking. By layering their tracks with unexpected and powerful acoustic effects, the smallness of the band is never an issue, though their Gypsy psychedelia sometimes loses steam. Side two s Enturbulation-Free Form highlights a much heavier and darker instrumental vibe,s with intense percussion. An interesting and very distinctive combo.(Kim Cooper)
Sun Dial - Other Way Out and Zen For Sale CDs (Acme) OWO is drony, phase-heavy dream-psych from 1990, drizzled with carnival keys and obvious drug imagery ( colours exploding in your mind ). They sound like a band Greg Shaw would have signed. A pleasant disk, with a high point the spaced-out Crazy Horse style instro Slow Motion, but I was somewhat put off by the hyperbolic Mojo quote on the cellophane, proclaiming this the greatest unheard psychedelic record ever. Where d that come from? Zen For Sale is the current incarnation of the band, demonstrating how they ve mellowed into a warmer and less mannered animal, capable of witty, aggressive psych-punk flourishes. (Kim Cooper)
Sweetwater - S/T, Just for You, Melon CDs (Collector's Choice) VH-1's Sweetwater: A True Rock Story, made punters familiar with this L.A. collective's abbreviated career. Rhino Handmade's Cycles: The Reprise Collection provided a nice taste of the act's distinctive sound, but one wonders why their first three albums took this long to be reissued. Well, here they are and the best on them is still good for a long time to come. Sweetwater grew out of a series of impromptu performances at L.A. City College in 1967, with hippie-chick Nancy Nevins stepping out of the audience to wail an angelic "Motherless Child" over the band's kandy-koated jamming. The crew picked up a rock drummer, put a classical cellist in the lead guitar-player's seat and gigged in Silverlake coffeehouses before hitting the Strip. Reprise already heavy with Hendrix, the Electric Prunes and the Dead, signed the octet and David Hassinger (the label's acid-rock guru) produced their debut. Sweetwater (1968) brings to mind the jazzy lighter-than-air feel of early Spirit, but with that act's king-hoodlum Angelino drugginess replaced by a ten-feet-off-the-pavement amiability, as Nevins' high-princess vocals take "Motherless Child" and the superbly creepy "My Silver Spider" into dainty crevasses of inner space. The album also compares to Love's epochal Forever Changes, with Arthur Lee's refined L.A. cynicism shouldered aside by a butterfly wing of elegant L.A. cheeriness. By late 1968, a drunk driver wiped out Nevins' car on the Ventura freeway and Sweetwater's appearance was being cut out of Woodstock. The lead singer's recovery was prolonged and painful, but the band had built up a large following through touring with the likes of the Doors and Frank Zappa. On Just for You, Nevins' damaged voice doesn't command as before but the jamband sensibility makes a roaring return. The centerpiece is a hippie-tonk rework of the McCann & Harris version of Gene Daniel's "Compared to What;" the stony pessimism transmuted into come-to-Jesus generational boo-yah. Melon, the notes remind us, was the last entry in Sweetwater's "three-album trilogy" and, given the tensions within the group, sounds better than it should. The formerly just-for-fun jam co-op was down to recording instrumental tracks at different intervals. Nevins' voice recedes still further, with "Don't Forget" serving as a clipped dirge for what the group had been. Most of the rest of the album is hippie howzat on degraded par with Delaney & Bonnie. A gnawed scrag-end of one of the more promising debuts on the late sixties, this album is partially redeemed by the dorky good-humor of "Take It From the Splice, Boys" and the overdone hoodoo finale of "Join the Band." Sweetwater got back together in the late nineties, minus three original members, but plus Ms. Nevins. Late in the day, perhaps, but not entirely futile. (Ron Garmon)
Tarantella - Esqueletos CD (Alternative Tentacles) Esqueletos is theme music for a surrealist carnival where the calliope plays all night long for an audience of inanimate objects. Picture a skeletal cowboy kicking an old tin can down the fairway and you've got the makings of a video. At first you might think Mazzy Star (and I also hear Adam Ant and the Feelies), but Siouxsie Sioux is clearly the chanteuse most absorbed into singer Kal Cahoone's repertoire. The band runs the gamut from sentimental waltzes to rocking alt country. Street cred dept.: features members of Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Blood Axis. (Margaret Griffis)
Thor An-Thor-Logy 1976-1985 DVD (Smog Veil) Watching a blonde moustached, caped and bikini-briefed Thor strut across Merv Griffin s stage in 1976, transitioning from inflating a hot water bottle to bursting to lounge crooning in half a beat, is one of the more surreal experiences contained in this odd, yet charming video sampler. Jon Mikl Thor was a successful Canadian bodybuilder who made the unexpected switch to heavy metal in the mid-seventies. Where the cats in KISS required stack boots and face paint to approximate superheroes, Thor s physique, handsome face and Gorgeous George-like locks present a much more impressive starting point. Slap on studded shoulder pads, lycra trousers and put a war hammer in his hand and dang! that s theater! The DVD contains vintage news features, commercials, TV appearances (Uncle Floyd, Channel 72), primitive early videos, and scads of live footage of the campiest Vancouver act this side of Canned Hamm.(Kim Cooper)
Toothfairy - Formative CD (Hush) Portland s Chad Crouch and friends have cracked open the journal of a high-school junior in anywhere suburbia, USA and put the contents to music. These nine tracks can be described as songs much in the same way as Suzanne Vega s Tom s Diner. The formula is essentially the same: a matter-of-fact description of events talk-sung over a phat garageband drum loop and Casio-keyboard melodies. Sounds awful, doesn t it? Well, for whatever reason, it works brilliantly. Maybe it is the Stuart Murdoch-esque vocals that can only be described as sweet, or the unapologetic one-take delivery of stories that are both familiar and boring. Whether it is a story of driving around housing developments and stealing lumber for skate ramps or trying to get to second base with the girl-next-door, you can t help but appreciate the honesty. (Craig Ceravolo)
Turn Me On Dead Man - God Bless the Electric Freak CD (Alternative Tentacles) Space being a black silent vacuum and all, it serves it right that all space-themed bands are replete with lush and thundering heavydelic riffs. TMODM are the most foot-stomping Rexian/Ziggyesque anthemic freaks to ever write a song about the Hale-Bopp, and that s saying something. In another universe, this is where Redd Kross would have gone after Neurotica. Still plenty of metallic hooks here, but soaked in DMT instead of the nicer stuff. (Nathan Marsak)
V/A One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girls Group Sounds Lost & Found 4-CD box (Rhino) Melodrama gets a bad rap, but there are few emotional experiences that are as pure, as enervating. American teens in 1963 didn t have opera (light or otherwise), pulp horror magazines or the Grand Guignol, and they couldn t have cared less about their mother s soaps, but they did have the radio. And in two minute increments, the radio fed out miniature urban operas packed with enough misery, longing, pain and conflict to satisfy their every vicarious desire.
Revisionist pop memory sometimes obscures just how ubiquitous Girl Group music was in the early sixties the Beatles were even star struck over Ronnie Spector--but since many of the groups were interchangeable puppets fronting for producers and songwriters, albums were a rarity, and women s voices get short shrift on oldies radio, relatively few of the acts are remembered by non-collectors. But as One Kiss makes immediately and forcefully clear, there was much more to the GG sounds than the Ronettes, Shangs and Supremes.
And what One Kiss is mostly is thrilling, pushing track after marvelous track of unknown, impassioned, instant teen pop into ears that too rarely find such a concentrated bounty. I m personally most pleased to see the Goodees, the exquisitely tasteless Southern-fried Shangri-La s, find a wider audience with their Leader of the Pack cop Condition Red especially when the record sounds so great but there are dozens of acts that deserve spotlight treatment. Like the mysterious Bitter Sweets, turning in a clinically hysterical Shangs routine penned by Brute Force or the very fine (and finally gaining notice) Reparata and the Delrons the Lovelites, authors of the most agonized somebody ple-eeease ever laid on tape Dawn s relentless, paranoid I m Afraid They re All Talking About Me Toni Basil s washed up lament I m 28 and teen guitar goddess Char Vinnedge, whose Luv d Ones were riot grrrls in 1966. Then there s Peanut Duck, an utterly mad, irresistible slice of Philly Soul recorded by a nameless singer, discovered on an unlabeled acetate, and subject of a growing cult.
The set s greatest strength is its lack of orthodoxy, so rather than a tour of the Brill Building and Spectorland (Phil s ouput is conspicuously absent), the Girl Group definition is expanded out in distant ripples, not just to Memphis Goodees but to England for Andrew Oldham discovery P.P. Arnold s lovely early recording of The First Cut is the Deepest, into the rockabilly raunch of Wanda Jackson, from soul to surf to and all around the pop bubble.
This is a gorgeous box, a worthy tribute to the women who are on it. The package s conceit is that it s a black and white striped, velvet-lined hat box with a cord handle. Inside, each CD mimics a different vintage compact, complete with a mirror and photo-realistic pat of powder. Each CD is a powder puff. But that s where the soft and floppy metaphor ends, because these dolls are tough and artful, and they come bearing great gifts to all who have ears to hear. Essential.(Kim Cooper)
V/A Only in Canada, Eh 77-81 Volume One CD (Punk History Canada) Outside of DOA or Teenage Head, early Canadian punk rock was practically and unjustly ignored south of Vancouver. They wouldn't get their just say until the mid-eighties when the DIY revolution had effectively set up networks that would introduce the music elsewhere. But despite a selectively deaf international market, the Canuck scene was remarkably strong and loud across the provinces. Quite a diverse group of bands are represented here. Just like in the US and UK, the styles quickly evolve from proto-punk and punk, through new wave and post-post, and on to oi and hardcore. It's all quality stuff too. (Margaret Griffis)
V/A Sugarlumps: A Psychedelic Selection of Groovy Movers and Sweet Freakbeat CD (Hard Soul/Acid Jazz) An unexpected but homogenous mix of new and vintage sounds from the guys who had those great shirts custom made in the first place, and the guys young enough to be their grandkids who paid too much for them in 2003. Highlights include Andys Lewis and Ellison s sneery minimalist psych collaboration, a trashy Barry Tashian-produced frat raver by the Argonauts, Groovy Ruben s shaggy hepcat tale and a lost and luscious proto-Faces jam. Pan-generational grooviness and a cool party disc. (Kim Cooper)
V/A Thai Beat A-Go-Go Volume 3 CD (Subliminal Sounds) This is the final volume of an archeological reckoning of Thailand s neglected pop archives, which is some of the oddest stuff you can stick into your earholes. Kicking off with a greasy porn-funk celebration of kickboxing, the comp delivers sassy covers of familiar faves from the McCoys and Troggs, an Elvis impersonator, sub-Santana wanking, hyperactive disco, a Black Power testimonial, what sounds like a musical comedy routine, and a memorable tribute to Soul Dracula. It all suggests that the Thai scene was fertile and inventive, and while the results can be appreciated for their novelty value see: Panatda s Ramones-meets-outer- space-pony synth opus Let s Go! many of these tracks swing quite wildly on their own terms. Fun!(Kim Cooper)
V/A Zoot Suit Riot! Instrumental R N B Smash Hits of the 1950s CD(Rev-ola) The late forties/early fifties was the era of the sax soloist. This spectacular collection showcases the range of these instrumental winners, from jazzy and big-band-like to raunchy, raw and dirty honkers. The obvious hits are here, like The Hucklebuck (Paul Williams), The Deacon s Hop (Big Jay McNeely) and Night Train (Jimmy Forest) along with more obscure selections like Johnny Otis Latin-tinged Mambo Boogie and instrumental versions of pop standards like Easter Parade (Freddie Mitchell) and The Tennessee Waltz (Stick McGhee). The 28 cuts are all winners, and the comp includes bonus tracks of vocal versions that were later recorded based on the popularity of the instrumental originals. (Julia Devine)
The Wackers - Wackering Heights CD (Collectors Choice) These hairy Northern California popsters, led by Bob Segarini, are the country cousins of urban wannabe Beatles peers like the Flamin Groovies or Big Star. Their sometimes sleepy sound is packed with chiming guitars, introspective lyrics and a wall of fine harmonies on which producer Gary Usher worked his Byrds-honed magic. Very nice boys, but at heart they re rockers, unafraid to cover Elvis in 1971. (Kim Cooper)
Jimmy Webb - Words and Music, And So On, Letters, Land s End and El Mirage CDs (Collectors Choice) Most folks are only aware of Jimmy s songs that were massive hits by others. Glen Campbell scored with Wichita Lineman and Galveston, but that was just a fraction of the Webb tunes he recorded. Up Up and Away was a huge boost to the career of the Fifth Dimension and it s doubtful anyone would remember Richard Harris had a singing career at all if it weren t for Jimmy Webb s epic MacArthur Park. As the sixties came to an end, Jimmy decided churning out pop hits for others wasn t all he wanted out of life, so he tried his hand at setting the world on fire as a singer/songwriter ala Elton John and James Taylor. Unfortunately, he never quite connected with enough of the record buying public to become a household name on his own. He made a noble effort, however, and Collectors Choice has just released the five albums he put out in the seventies on individual CDs (they were previously available as part of a Rhino Handmade boxset). He could have been a lot more successful if he had concentrated on two and a half minute long love poems set to a saucy beat, but that was out of the question. Throughout this era he was concerned with heady social issues such as drugs, pollution and an immoral war overseas (hmmm, we re in the same leaky boat now) and those were the issues he chose to sing about. He started on Reprise Records and put out three critically praised yet commercially ignored albums, Words and Music, And So On and Letters. He then went to Asylum Records where he recorded Land s End. His last album in the seventies was El Mirage, on Atlantic. The music throughout is well produced, the songs are interesting and innovative and Jimmy is a fine vocalist. Some of Jimmy s songs such as P.F. Sloan, The Highwayman and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress were very popular, but none of them made their way to the top of the charts. If you are a fan of introspective seventies singers, you might want to find out why so many record reviewers of the day rated Jimmy Webb s work among their faves. (Edwin Letcher)
Wide Right - Sleeping on the Couch CD (Poptop) This rockin trio (which also includes Dave Rick on guitar and bass and Brendan O Malley on drums) from Brooklyn is fronted by Leah Archibald, a mother and native of Buffalo whose songs still reflect her life and friends in that town. Huge mouthfuls of words combine in unpretentious stories writ large. Banal everyday experiences are backed by forceful melodies. Her vocals are at their best effect in the throaty angry growl of Flicker Film about an aging avant-garde artist who moves in and raids the fridge. Even with the beer-powered straight-ahead rhythms there are some pop moments, like the catchy guitar riff in Blue Skies Ahead. Junior High School Dream is a fun girl-musician anthem. And every bar in her hometown should be required to have a copy of Buffalo Fight Song on its jukebox. (Julia Devine)
The Wingdale Community Singers - S/T CD (Plain) This indie-lit supergroup (David Grubbs, Hannah Marcus and novelist Rick Moody) makes real urban country, a stark and intense blend of familiar old timey elements and disconcertingly topical imagery, as the lovely, sad vocals ply their tales of New York metro characters, animal totems and anxious dialogue that goes nowhere. (Kim Cooper)
Adrienne Young & Little Sadie - The Art of Virtue CD (Addiebelle) With packaging almost as much an artistic creation as the music itself, this second release from Young and her band (which includes consummate musicians Will Kimbrough, Matthew Combs and Tim O Brien) is full of charms and treasures. A bit slick at times, perhaps, but the Celtic, country, bluegrass sounds are energetic and boisterous. Most of the songs are originals written by Young and her collaborators in an old-timey vein, with a few well-chosen traditionals, an Uncle Dave Macon cover and The Grateful Dead s Brokedown Palace. Some of the best are the moving and joyful Hills & Hollers, the playful Wedding Ring and Jump the Broom, and the dark tale of Rastus Russell. Expect to see her name around for a long time. (Julia Devine)
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Keith John Adams - Pip CD (HHBTM) Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records continues to distribute top-notch fare, as the latest example, from Englishman Keith John Adams shows. These are well executed, smartly produced pop songs that could give XTC or Robin Hitchcock a run for their British Pound. The opening cut, Inconsequential Thought rocks the toy piano hard enough to erase the cuteness of using such an instrument. Just to show that it isn t a gimmick, the tiny piano makes another appearance on Breathe. It s not all nursery fun, however. This record contains enough fuzzed-out bass and affected backing vocals to be given the sixties britpop influenced tag, but KJA is British, so you know it s no act (but so are Oasis, so I am going to have to rethink that theory ). Anyway, yes there is nothing new on Pip, but KJA writes a good tune, and you can t find fault in that. (Craig Ceravolo)
Angels of Light & Akron/Family - Akron/Family & Angels of Light CD (Young God) The last thing I'd ever expect to write about a Michael Gira record is "imagine a great Beatles record" and yet: imagine a great Beatles record! Okay, so the aforementioned Merseydelia might be heavier on the Akron/Family side of the split, but even taking that out, Gira is still left with the same backing band. (The first seven songs are theirs; the last five are A/F with Gira.) The Liverpudlians aren t the only classic rockers to make an appearance. The Stones, Beach Boys, Amon D l II, Japan and Lou Reed stumble through--there's even a Dylan cover--a collage of world, folk and skronk sounds presented in an acid-washed, often hillbilly groove. The lessons of the last forty years of rock have been learned, but don't make the mistake of believing this is easily-accessible radio fodder or a platter bereft of noisier elements. It's a mature offering with engaging soundscapes and lyrics that merit deeper investigation. Perhaps, Akron/Family are to blame or laud for what at first might seem incongruous to fans of the heavier Swans or lighter Angels of Light releases, but this unrelated foursome of noodly multi-instrumentalists provide an exquisite soapbox from which Gira can quietly scream his dreams. Imagine Gira as Dorothy reaching Oz to discover kooky chums wrapped in infinite colors, then realizing that Oz is home. The clean production does wonders, adding an immediacy and intimacy that previous albums never quite got. It ll be interesting to see where the yellow brick road takes them from here. Wonderful! (Margaret Griffis)
Appaloosa - S/T CD (Collectors Choice) Of all the albums celebrated in the Lost in the Grooves anthology, this is the one that drove our central thesis your favorite album is in this book, and you ve never even heard of it! home to me. MVP essayist Brian Doherty picked this exquisite 1969 LP, and wrote so eloquently on its sophisticated charms that I knew I had to hear it. Happily, Edwin Letcher had bought it new, and sure enough, I fell in love. It s neat to replace my poppy CDR with this official reissue (though the mix sounds a little sweeter and I suspect there were some uncredited shenanigans at the mixing board). John Parker Compton might just have been the most effortlessly upper crust songwriter of the sixties. His band sounds like the Left Banke filtered through the Social Register and smeared on a blini. These charming, arch, irresistible melodies, baroque, loping and very clever, will blow the mind of anyone who digs the Kinks and Zombies, and who longs for something that good that they ve never heard. This is it, lost in the grooves and found anew. (Kim Cooper)
Eddy Arnold - Cattle Call CD (Collectors Choice) Arnold s was the easy-listening version of the country sound, the kind that everybody s parents who couldn t commit to the more twangy and raw stuff could embrace. That s why this collection of cowboy standards (a reissue of the 1963 release) is perfectly suited to his velvety crooning style. Invading the territory staked out by such immortals as Tex Ritter and Roy Rodgers, Arnold hit #1 in 1955 with the yodeling Cattle Call. Most of the ballads here are better known from recordings by others, like Cool Water, Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie. The oddball here is (Jim) I Wore a Tie Today, a song Cindy Walker wrote from a story by Arnold (the same collaboration that had produced You Don t Know Me ). Cool and easy renditions to enjoy around the campfire. (Julia Devine)
Baby Mongoose - Enter the Baby Mongoose CD (Dionysus) They are Japanese. They wear fetching military uniforms. They make their own instruments with names like action guitar. They sound like well let s see if Prince wrote the sound track to all the Nintendo video games in the nineties. Baby Mongoose are a band with a love of all things electronic and musical they are five Jeff Lynnes rolled into a karaoke machine on Neptune. If you aren t dancing after the first thirty seconds of Human Emotions, then you need to go stand in the corner. There is no parking on this dance floor. Actually, they remind me of Robert Schneider s newest Marbles project, Expo, which is equally brimming with enough funky 1s and 0s to make you want to wear something shiny and have everyday conversations through a space echo and Vocoder. You can t deny a bass-slammin cover of Fifty Ninth Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy) that closes out this fantastic record. Go ahead, try to deny it. I dare you. Did I mention they wear military uniforms? (Craig Ceravolo)
Lori Burton - Breakout CD (Rev-Ola) Yeahhhhh, no boy s worth the trouble that I m in. That s the perfect first line of the Whyte Boots classic death rock anthem, a sexy, shocking, deliriously catchy girl-fight-gone-wrong raver that takes the Shangri-Las template, pushes every musical and emotional meter into the red, and leaves you feeling like you re the one face down on the hall linoleum. Well, forget about those sexy Whyte Boots gals, because they were a fraud hired to play at being a girl group, and their oft-comped Nightmare just one of the fantastic tunes penned and sung by Miss Lori Burton and her British writing partner Pam Sawyer. This release compiles Lori s sole album (Mercury, 1967), the mono single version of Nightmare and a non-LP single, and it s essential. For while the Burton-Sawyer team were highly skilled soul-pop craftswomen providing hits to the Young Rascals, Lulu and others, Lori Burton had the vocal chops to sell songs that would have tried the best singers of the day. Raunchy, breathy, emotional-yet-controlled, eating stupid boyfriends like hors d'oeuvres, hers is one of the great forgotten voices, and the big Spectoresque production serves it beautifully. Nightmare s isn t even the best first line on the disk. If you dig distaff sixties pop, you want to hear this.(Kim Cooper)
Barracudas - S/T CD (NDN) Joy! The cudas were the cream atop the eighties garage revival, and their Drop Out With disc scratches my every rock and roll itch. This new album, their first in a decade plus, shows that they re still masters of pop precision, tough, melodic, distinctive and a little twisted (the first song is a Killer Inside Me riff sung in the voice of South Carolina serial killer Pee Wee Gaskins). The addition of Flamin Groovie Chris Wilson to the lineup ratchets the sweetness and jangle up to rare levels. Please let em tour.(Kim Cooper)
Black Time - Black Out CD (In The Red) Noisepunk from some London kids obsessed with every ugly and obnoxious element of America. Just thank Christ they re not angry, which got old a long time ago. No, the guys and gals of Black Time love analog and not sleeping and probably smoking too much and likely nice cups of Earl Grey, but most of all the making of impossibly loud slop rock ditties like Mass Production of Corpses and Cold Lips Taste Better. (Nathan Marsak)
Chubby Checker - The Best of Chubby Checker: Cameo Parkway 59 63 CD (Abkco) The king of the dance floor had a lot more to offer than just the most definitive version of The Twist. There was a while there when he was behind more crazy body gyration inspiring rhythms than you could shake a stick at. This collection contains 24 of Ernest Evans (his given name) most chubby hits from his rather checkered past. Actually, aside from the pun value, checkered past is a very flawed assessment of his days in show business. Chubby Checker had a fairly even career and produced a whole slew of recordings that had a rather homogenous sound. If you like his hits, such as Let s Twist Again, The Fly and Slow Twistin, you ll probably like the obscure material even more. It s all in the same general vein, the songwriting and performances are superb throughout and the tunes will sound fresh to you. Who else can you dance The Hucklebuck to these days? (Edwin Letcher)
Chesapeake Juke Box Band - S/T CD (Rev-Ola) In 1971, NY songwriters Steve Sawyer and Freddie McFinn sequestered themselves in the Record Plant with Archies keyboard whiz Ron Frangipane and engaged in arcane alchemical rituals focusing on the letter B. The Beach Boys, the Beatles, the sensibilities of Broadway and the British are just the most blatant elements blended into the sole release by the CJBB, a lush and schizoid demonstration of studio wizardry featuring a scattering of Wings sidemen. From the name-dropping opening track, it s obvious that we re in meta-territory, where pop eats it own tail. There aren t many records that leap about so frenetically (or comfortably), a little Doo Wop here, five seconds in Nashville, or is that the Hollies Manchester, and whoops! now we re in a radio drama. It s pop as Disney ride, speedy as reading Burroughs on a train, also glib and ridiculous and elegant and finely-honed. Of course it sank like a juke box, but thanks to this reish, new generations of tail-tasters can unpeel its layers. (Kim Cooper)
Ray Charles - Friendship CD (Columbia/Legacy) This reissue of Charles 1984 duets album with both old-time and then-contemporary country artists is slick and enjoyable, the sound reflective of the country hits of that time period. Highlights include We Didn t See a Thing with George Jones (and Chet Atkins on guitar), Friendship with Ricky Skaggs, Little Hotel Room with Merle Haggard and Crazy Old Soldier with Johnny Cash. The first-class backing band includes such veterans as Pete Drake on steel guitar and Henry Strzelecki on bass. Also featured are non-country bonus tracks recorded just after this album was originally released, with Tony Bennett and Billy Joel. Not classic Charles, but an interesting side-note to his multi-faceted career. (Julia Devine)
Cluster & Eno - S/T CD (Water) Attention all Enophiles: if you do not currently own a copy of the first Cluster & Eno collaboration you must immediately 1) burn your vinyl copy of Another Green World and 2) destroy your set of Oblique Strategies cards. This is an enormously important work in the development of he who is Eno. Much more than his collaborative work with Robert Fripp, the Eno/Cluster axis led the way for Eno s subsequent foray into the realm of ambient music, which led to several crucial recordings, probably culminating in his work with Harold Budd (Plateaux of Mirrors being my personal favorite). For their part, Cluster is still probably the most overlooked electronic band of the Tangerine Dream-era of German rock. Never afraid to infuse melody and melancholia into their music, Cluster uses these aspects of their craft to give a kind of gentleness or perhaps playfulness so sorely lacking in Eno s earlier collaborations with Fripp. Again, if you don t own a copy of this recording, don t let me catch you wearing that pink feather boa again, buster (Jackson Del Rey)
Cobra Verde - Copycat Killers CD (Scat/ Scam City) These raucous Clevelanders flip through their ever-so-eclectic record collections in a witty and unpredictable covers party. Careening from Iggyish crooning to swirling disco/metal before coming to rest in that sloppy Stonesy groove where they seem most at home, CV visits Pink, the Troggs, Fall, Undertones, Leonard Cohen and even Donna Summer.(Kim Cooper)
Comet Gain - City Fallen Leaves CD (Kill Rock Stars) So much of contemporary indie rock has the sound, but there s no heart or thought inside. But Comet Gain always come across like smart, cool, complicated friends you can t wait to meet again. Their marzipan harmonies feed lovely washes of organic chaos building off of fine melodies, and really, you d have to be pretty greedy to ask for more.
Diana Darby - The Magdalene Laundries CD (Delmore Recording Society) Diana Darby s album is inspired by the Irish social institution of the same name, which is in the long tradition of the Medicant movement founded by Francis of Assisi. In the Laundries women are sentenced to a life of slavery under the supervision of nuns; forced to work six days a week in the laundry of the Church, in an attempt to wash away their sins. The album was recorded and mixed on a 4-track device in Darby s home--its malfunctioning was the impetus to end the album. Diana sings in hushed tones, lost among the strings and strums of a muted electric guitar. The opening ballad, "The Magdalene Laundries," sets the stage. It is a voice we all recognize, the plaintive tones of someone whose soul is naked before god. "Pretty Flowers" is a lullaby to the women, with their cracked and bleeding hands, calloused elbows dripping soapy water, to give them succor through their long, bitter meditation on the nature of virtue. A black swan appears in the fourth track, lovely, lonely and terrified that someone will come to her small pool and see just that. "Kierkegaard" is a track where nothing is what it should be, cat in the trees, birds on the porch a dead girl resting in bed with her book, bringing us to the edge of reason and the leap of faith. This is Kierkegaard s Choice, which once you realize exists, are left with none but to continue to pound on the doors to the monastery in the pouring rain, already three days at your task. It was this image which Francis choose for his mediation on the true nature of happiness, which brings us to track ten, there s no leaving now, and Ms. Darby s own words on her composition, it was me slamming the door on me. Telling myself that I couldn t escape/run from the feelings and sadness I live with. There comes a point where you have to just sit down and feel what you re feeling. I wanted to take my audience with me. I wanted them to know that they can t run away either. They re on this ride with me. And there s no leaving now. (Richard Schave)
Mark de Cerbo & the Four Eyes - Sweet on the Vine CD (Zip) Okay, I m going to get this out of the way: they sound like Squeeze. From what I read about Mark de Cerbo, he gets it all the time. But, hey, it s a compliment. Apparently it is not really fair to make that comparison, anymore than it is fair to call Emit Rhodes out on the McCartney likeness. Each is contemporary to the better-known artist, but for whatever reason didn t get the spotlight, only the accusation of imitation. Four Eyes have been on the scene in San Diego since 1979, and on their new CD make the smart choice of staying true to the power pop genre that they helped cultivate. If you didn t know better, you d think this record was released around the same time as Nick Lowe s Labour of Love. Bands like the New Pornographers and the Shins should be sending Mark de Cerbo a check, or at least nodding in his direction when they hear a song like Little Cloud. (Craig Ceravolo)
Creepy Clyde The Country Vampire - Spooky Town CD (creepyclyde.com)... Those of us who cotton to horror schlock and Hallowe'en hack are routinely subjected to the endless parade of dreadful vintage "Frankenstein at the Hop" do-wop or some ubiquitous surf track with its addition of "creaky door sound effect #11." Oh yeah, and a hatful of grindcore. But slip on the title song of CC's Spooky Town and you'll be bobbing your head along with what's a surprising baritone over some pretty sophisticated arrangements. Nothing challenging, but it's the most finger-snapping fun I've had with the genre in a good spell. Sea monsters suggestively grab girls by the hips, there's champagne glasses filled with blood, oh, and blood drops from the ceiling onto the blouses of young ladies, and did I mention Clyde's admonition to take up weaponry against the impending zombie attack? There's no end of the fun when Creepy Clyde ("The Country Vampire," though there's a distinct lack of steel guitars in favor of swingin' saxophones) belts out these and other tales that are intended for the good children of Dearborn. Bless their hearts. They probably think they're cooler listening to Exhumed, sure, but they'll never be haunted by that as they will by Clyde's rather strange Jethro Tull-meets-Stanard Ridgway tale of the "Twisted Man." (Nathan Marsak)
The Creepy Clyde Show Presents - House on Haunted Hill DVD (Burke Video) We may never return to the days when Ghoulardi blew shit up to the roulades of the Rivingtons, and so from where the Crampseses and Pere Ubi of our future will get their terrible souls, I don't know. But God willing, the odd history of TV horror hosts has maintained its importance to American young'ns. Creepy Clyde's gags are self-consciously terrible, the sets worse, and while Clyde's acting-class-reject vampirettes lack Elvira's giant breasts, there're three (sadly underused!) of these Brides of Clyde. No great surprises: Clyde sings along to his own cartoons and has puppet pals, so yeah, the great head scratcher here is, again, he's a frickin' poetry-writing Country Vampire. In Michigan. And if that isn't your bag, then go back to watching Robert Osborne, ya pansy. (Nathan Marsak)
Pete Dello and Friends - Into Your Ears CD (Hanky Panky) Diehard Honeybus fans will not want to miss out on this lovely platter. Pete Dello was joined by Ray Cane, Colin Hare, Pete Kircher, Bobby Henrit, Mick Green, Jim Kelly and others for these wistful, early 70s toe-tapping ditties. Mr. Dello had come too close to stardom for his liking when Do I Figure In Your Life and "I Can`t Let Maggie Go" caught the fancy of British radio fans, so he dropped out of sight for a few years and dropped the Honeybus name. After a while, though, he had amassed a bunch of new songs, so he got back together with his old mates and recorded an album of material in the same general vein. The album is augmented on this release by ten bonus tracks featuring the same basic musicians using a variety of pseudonyms: Lace, Magic Valley, Magenta and Red Herring. (Edwin Letcher)
Dolenz Jones Boyce & Hart - S/T CD (El)... So it s 1976, you used to be a Monkee, and you re bored and broke. A promoter offers to finance a reunion, but Mike says feh and Peter has fallen asleep in a cupboard. Enter the ringers, Kirshner-annointed songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who flank Micky and Davy while touring amusement parks and release this peculiar album that suggests no one involved really understood what it meant to be a Bicentennial Monkee. The studio cats are a stellar crew among them Jerry Yester, Keith Allison, Ron Hicklin and Chip Douglas but the disk is completely disjointed, with some disco, fifties remakes, soft pop and one great, punky Stepping Stone rewrite called You Didn t Feel That Way Last Night (Don t You Remember). In my alternate reality, this record was entirely comprised of Boyce-Hart compositions about hating girls, and DJB&H toured with the Sex Pistols and blew em off the stage. In the real world, this one s for the die-hards. (Kim Cooper)
Shari Elf et al. - The Shari Elf Tribute Album CD (sharielf.com)... When not singing with her seamstress band, Miss Elf makes art from trash (quite successfully), so it s hardly a surprise that when so resourceful a gal had the inkling that she deserved a tribute album, she promptly sent out a call to musicians to make it happen. The results are a two-disc set, cleverly packaged in a folded piece of cardboard pierced with wire, in which artists from all over the US (and England) offer their affectionate reinterpretations of Elf s clever, catchy outsider pop tunes. You know how most tribute CDs have one song each by twelve bands, and they all do a different song? Well, who says that s how it has to be? On this 45-track comp, there are four versions of Jerk-A-Lator, Doug Newman does three songs, and Shari pays multiple tributes to herself (including a duet with R. Stevie Moore, on the self-effacing and charming Kansas City Star ). By the end, you have a sense of the deep affection which the players feel for their subject, and will definitely have Jerk-A-Lator stuck in your head!(Kim Cooper)
Espers - The Weed Tree CD (Locust)... Oh, what a Pentangled web they weave, and that s a good thing, the way I see it. This band of folkadelics from Philadelphia does a lovely job on the traditional fair-maid-knocked-up ballad Rosemary Lane as well as a Vashti Bunyan-style take on Nico s Afraid . The vocals on Black Is The Color are evocative, but for some reason there were chimes throughout, like an insensitive neighbor s house in a stiff breeze. It might have been a nice accent, but between that and the relentless shuffling chink of a jinglestick it felt haunted, not in a good way. Their cover of Michael Hurley s Blue Mountain contains instrumentals that sound like the theme from Doctor Who I would like to have heard more--the CD contains only seven tracks. (Brooke Alberts)
The Everly Brothers - The New Album CD (Collectors Choice) Collectors Choice has released a whole bunch of albums that this hit-making duo released after the majority of their audience had shifted their attentions to more modern acts. It s a great thing that Don and Phil continued to record, because all of the albums I ve heard so far--six I believe--are top notch. This one is a bit of a misnomer, because the music was not new when it was released in 1977; it had just never been made available yet. The recordings span the decade the brothers were at Warner Brothers, 60 to 70, and represent a solid peek at the changes music underwent during that turbulent time as filtered through a truly great folk, rock and pop act. Whether it s Brill Building leftovers, a smattering of Everly originals or examples of songwriting by young upstarts the boys met through the years, all of the material here is first rate. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Gone Gone Gone CD (Collectors Choice) It s a good thing the Everly Brothers didn t let something as petty as a few years without hits deter them from putting out album after album of high quality material. This is one of the best records they did in the mid-sixties. Gone Gone Gone was a return to rock and roll after four years trying their hands at everything from Christmas and country music to adult contemporary fluff. The songwriting is superb throughout. Don and Phil struck paydirt many times with tunes by the Bryants, so it s only natural that five of the twelve songs here are theirs. But someone should do a collection of Everly-penned tunes someday. Three of the twelve winners on this disc are theirs and they shine just as brightly. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - It s Everly Time CD (Collectors Choice) This is a killer diller album, the first in a whole string Don and Phil recorded for Warner Brothers. They had a somewhat better track record on the independent label Cadence, but hit the ground running for the WB. And while their audience might have quit buying the records in the same gigantic quantities, the boys never slacked up any on their end. The songwriting team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant were responsible for half the songs on this effort and their work stacks up well against past glories like Wake Up Little Susie and Bye Bye Love. All the material is strong, with Don s So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad) one of my faves on this set. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Roots CD (Collectors Choice) This was the last studio album Don and Phil did with Warner Brothers. The boys and the label heads pulled out all the stops and put together a wonderful country-rock record. Unfortunately, there just weren t very many folks clambering for such an animal, and this became yet another well-intentioned and executed project that went nowhere. The lads did a couple Merle Haggard songs, and covered Jimmie Rodgers, Glen Campbell, Ray Price and George Jones. Ron Elliott of the Beau Brummels was heading in the same neo-country direction and supplied a couple songs as well as some guitar and production work. There are some orchestral, almost psychedelic touches sprinkled throughout that add an otherworldly quality to the material and give it a nicely cohesive feel, even though the album mixed state-of-the-art 68 rock with clips of the Everly Brothers act circa 1952. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Sing Great Country Hits CD (Collectors Choice) I can t think of much of a better review than the title, but you deserve a little more. If you are an Everly Brothers fan, you will get a kick out of the treatment the duo lend to a bunch of yee haw classics. If you are a country fan, you might not be as delighted. A lot of what made the originals so popular was the ragged edge and (supposedly) honest emotional feeling the dusty cowpokes brought to the songs. Hearing Don and Phil s angelic crooning on Hank Williams I m So Lonesome I could Cry and Johnny Cash I Walk the Line might seem a bit like hearing Pat Boone sweetening up urban R&B. There is a strong tradition of harmony in lots of country music, though, and if you are curious as to how smooth Oh, Lonesome Me, Born to Lose, and some other chestnuts could sound, check this baby out. As always, the musicians are second to none and the production values are high. (Edwin Letcher)
Bill Fay - S/T CD (Eclectic Disks) Tucked inside the lushly orchestral arrangements (overseen by Pete Dello of Honeybus) is a sensibility that s theatrical, fey, very British and a little seedy. Such high drama pop is an acquired taste, but Fay s confident tone and deep sympathy for his characters (including Cockney war veterans, junkies) demand attention. A compelling, offbeat voice, originally released in 1970. Don t miss the bonus 1967 45, the Dylanesque existential hate screed Screams in the Ears, which is the strongest thing on the disk.(Kim Cooper)
Paul Vanase: Inside The World Of Baby Bones
Interview by Robert Dayton from Scram Magazine #22
I was on tour with my act Canned Hamm in Philadelphia. On one rare off night we were over at Tom of the record label Siltbreeze’s home listening to his primo collection of vanity pressings and other ephemera. At least I think it was Tom’s pad in Philly, there was a lot of beer haze. I do remember that sometime somewhere one record stood out amongst all the other curios for its’ hard to miss “IT” factor. This record had a black and white cover adorned simply with the hand drawn bubble letters “Paul Vanase in The World Of Baby Bones.” On the back cover were photos of this moustachioed man dynamically performing in lame, glitter stars on his nipples, makeup adorning his cue ball head. Who was this guy???? The copy loudly proclaimed “Baby Bones Is Here! Cosmic Spunk Is..Disco-Caba-Rock!” When the record played we knew that its’ self-described pastiche catch phrase couldn’t begin to describe the larger than life nature, a nature that naturally should be stature to match its’ grandure. Oh Lord. The song “Sticking Needles In Paper Doll Eyes” was delightfully and giddily disturbing, it made me want to dance around the room like Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” This tarnished glam with its’ strongly minced theatrical vocal fabulousness and aggressive ivory tinkling was difficult to forget. Fast forward a few years later, Canned Hamm was on tour playing LA. On an off night we were over at Gregg of the record label Amarillo’s home listening to his primo collection of vanity pressings and other ephemera… and so it goes…
I was lucky enough to have been given a copy of “Baby Bones” from Scram editrix Kim Cooper due to much pleading on my part. Turns out she had found an inexplicable bounty of 25 copies in a thrift shop!
There was no denying the alluring mystery of this record and the pull that it had on me. Such records can be like that, records that seem to encompass their own identity, that come out of nowhere, well, somewhere but it’s a time and place that seems distant, records that shine out from the mire waiting to be plucked, some made more mysterious through their low budget black and white covers and their most decidedly non-major label status.
Whilst strolling through a Klaus Nomi Yahoo group one day I asked if anyone had any info on this Paul Vanase as he and the Nomi seemed to share certain commonalities. I honestly thought that I was grasping at straws as I had found very little info on the world wide web about him. My asking for info was a dim, near random hope. Yet through my posting weeks later, shock of shocks, Paul’s own boyfriend contacted me. Not too long after that I heard from Paul himself! This was exciting news! I truly didn’t expect that I would be able to locate such a man. All is fine and tickled pink! Paul Vanase currently resides in Las Vegas after residing in LA and, prior to that, New York City for many years. The following interview with him was conducted through various e mail conversations during December 2005 and January 2006. Gentle readers, I must advise you to brace yourself for this interview’s tone, rendered in three sessions, as we will be floating in The World Of Baby Bones, brace yourself then relax and cast yourself adrift into this unique sphere.
RD: Your album has turned up in far flung geographical locales.
Vanase: After sparkling in the gutter glitter theatre and rock scenes how appropriate to end up in thrift stores coast to coast. My audience loves trash lol.
RD: Would you know why dozens of your albums have turned up in individual caches in thrift stores in LA several years apart?
Vanase: It seems to be timed to my moving about LA.
RD: What else have the musicians on the album done?
Vanase: Who knows.
RD: My copy says “Special Collectors Edition”- were there other editions?
Vanase: The first album prints for Baby Bones were the collector ones, the rest ran without the special words on it.
RD: The record says 1975 and 1978, why is that?
Vanase: Some of the songs were written in 1975 and some in 1978, and some from my Broadway show "Wonderful Woman."
RD: How many copies were there?
Vanase: There were 5000 pressed if i recall.
RD:Tell me more about the Baby Bones stage show.
Vanase: Every now and then i make comebacks and give a new twist and sample of Baby Bones to the new generation that looks in wonder. My stage show was summed up by one critic, “A trendy new trend encompassing all the pop, camp, neo-dada and hypersexuality of the broadway and glitter rock scenes rolled into one.” I was an audiovisual fling with decadence. We gave sleeze a bad name lol. It was like a troupe of high school brats weaned on too many hustler magazines and rocky horror picture shows presenting an extravaganza under the direction of the marquis de sade.
RD: What exactly was the character of Baby Bones?
Vanase: Baby bones was a cosmic cartoon kinda character changing costumes and moods every minute to create various results.
RD: How was the Baby Bones character different than you?
Vanase: He isn't.
RD: When you toured the show where did you take it?
Vanase: Yes, i toured the Baby Bones show in Boston at the Rat, Philadelphia, Provincetown, Fire Island, Virginia, Rhode Island, the Catskills and a homecoming in my hometown in Connecticut which they were not ready for. When NewYorkCity had nothing happening i would sneak out and take the show on the road.
RD:What types of venues would you play?
Vanase: We took the show to just about every top night club in nyc including at that time the Copa Cabana, Max's Kansas Vity, Hurrahs, Studio 54, we were a house band at CBGBs playing there lots.
RD: It seems like you could have one foot in and one foot out of a multitude of scenes, am I correct in that assumption?
Vanase: The purpose was to bone all kinds of audiences from punk rockers to disco bunnies to sophisticated broadway and cabaret audiences. We just glitterized the populace wherever we performed. All the music was original so where we played didn't matter. We just couldn't play copy tune venues and lounges. In the punk clubs id start the show as a heavy rocker long hair and rip the long hair off and expose my skinhead and put slashes of blue on my eyes it was time to indulge in a cosmic orgy of boner music.
RD: Does anyone approach you today about Baby Bones?
Vanase: Only New Yorkers and LA people who want to be in a new show, or if i'm out and about in lame.
RD: Tell me about your love of lame.
Paul: I loved the lame, esp silver...it’s so bright and shiny. i wore it in all my shows. My favorite full body jumpsuit was made out of this wild latex material that was coated with gold lame and cut down to the crotch. Others showed tits, I bared my navel. It was the closest to being fully naked on stage. It was like wearing a playtex living glove.
RD: How much lame did/do you own?
Vanase: Enough to fill a broadway stage.
RD: Do you still wear silver lame?
Vanase: Only to the Miss America 2006 pageant. It’s the first glamorous affair Las Vegas has hosted.
RD: Vegas must be a goldmine for lame! I hear that the thrifting there is amazing!
Vanase: Not really, LA is still the thrifting mecca unless you are into old casino uniforms.
RD: What exactly is the song “Sticking Needles through Paper Doll Eyes” about?
Vanase: It's about my childhood.
RD: I notice that there’s a song called “Broken Chances 2” on your album. Was there a song entitled “Broken Chances 1”?
Vanase: Yes, it was much slower with a haunting melody.
RD: Did you release any other records?
Vanase: We did a 45 rpm called “electroshock me baby”- very headbanging scream.
RD: You had also told me that you were picking up master tapes of some recordings! What recordings are these?
Vanase: I have master tapes for a whole new opera, I’m working on getting cds made and doing a babybone show in vegas at the Onyxxx theatre. It will have a lot of video and art I’ve created also intertwined in the production. I’ve been asked to DJ at the liberace museum- now that could be an interesting event lol. More later I’m off to Planet Hollywood where I now work. Also I work at Luxor, I’m in the Attractions and Entertainment dept. We have Carrot Top and Dame Edna right now with Hairspray opening in Feb. It will be fun to see Harvey Fierstein since we both go back to the Glines Theatre. I remember I was doing “Glamour Glory and Gold.” I took over Robert De Niro’s role cuz he was going to Hollywood to do Taxi Driver talk about years ago lol. I opened the Glines Theatre with my show “A Drop In The Pudding”, a gay morality play. When I left nyc for hollywood Harvey worked with John Glines on his show. OK I’m off for now.
(Before the next interview session happened I was contacted by one Richard Holm. He found me through the exact same posting that I had made on the Nomi group where Paul’s boyfriend had found me! Richard’s e mail was most informative. He wrote, “Paul was one of the leading gay-glam actors/singers in NY of the late 1970's and was part of the scene that included the Cockettes, Brenda Bergman, Candy Darling, Divine and Jackie Curtis....
He was Robert DeNiro's understudy in an early off-off-Broadway play and then produced several musicals - culminating in Wonder Woman...
I was fortunate enough to camp-out on his sofa when I first went to NYC (we both went to the same high school in CT). Baby Bones was more than a 'vanity album' - since there were no commercial opportunities for obviously gay acts at that time - everyone self-produced. I produced his Electroshock single, but his standout work was 'Sticking Needles through Paper Doll Eyes'. He had lots of gigs in the punk/glam scene at the time and he got some airplay - so it was definitely more than just a vanity pressing...
My personal favorite memory of Paul was the night that he took over the role in "Women Behind Bars" that Fanny Fox originated at the Truck and Warehouse on E. 4th Street.... The show featured Divine who always took her final stage bows dressed in the gown she made famous in 'Pink Flamingos'. Well, Paul had found a fabulous second-hand baby blue gown that was even better than Divine's and, since he took his stage bow first, stole the show in his 'more-than-divine' gown... so when Divine finally came out for her bows - there was nothing more than polite applause....
Paul was fired before he even left the stage... but he had made his point...
Paul moved to LA in the 80's and I haven't heard anything since but its great that people have re-discovered him...”
With the arrival of that delightful e mail our next interview started ecstatically:)
RD: Paul, this fellow named Richard Holm emailed me and he wants to contact you.
Vanase: Wow, i can’t believe you found Rich, he knows the baby bone saga as he was my right hand man and the most wonderful friend i love and have missed for years thinking he was lost in a mist. I can’t wait till I tell him my new album is ready to go. I smell a creative juice. If you get his email or phone please forward it to me and vice versa, we need to make an obscure new film. Since I’ve been in hollywood my expertise lends itself toward that mode. Well i’m more than excited. You should write my biography and I have lots of connections in the publishing field after writing episodes of Fantasy Island with my other producer Charlene Keel. She brought me to la to do my rock opera “Cosmic Spunk” at the odyssey theatre. Those were the days- the mayor Tom Bradley came to see my midnite premiere, the Oingo Boingo Danny and the go mickey Toni Basil protege Janet Roston got my show up and running, all helped my endeavors. Oh yeah, “Torch Song Trilogy” was Harvey Fiersteins’ show that John Glines produced after i left nyc. Not bad, huh?
RD: What caused you to move to LA? Was it to do the “Cosmic Spunk” opera?
Vanase: My agent shipped me to LA to open my new opera “Cosmic Spunk” in ‘82 maybe. LA was ready for something different....
LA people know of Baby Bones and Club Fuck and The Ass Club. Baby Bones did lots of raves in the late 90’s. The Weekly gave it hot pick of the week in their music picks. That stage show featured a costume for every song with so many props that the stage caught fire one night- a stuffed dog poodle got accidentally placed on a floorlamp lol oops. We dedicated our shows to things such as rain, Paris, and ants that went marching one by one.
RD: What is the Cosmic Spunk world?
Vanase: Cosmic Spunk was a new wave shock rock opera that opened to rave reviews, a double page welcome in the LA Times announced the shockido, my new wave haircut at the time. It was my Babybones spit curl in pink, sometimes blue. The show ran for months. The Sheiks of Shock backed up the insanity. Guest stars were Darlene Love (of Phil Spector fame), Zelda Rubinstein (the Poltergeist lady), Rita Jenrette (the Wilbur Mills White House steps concubine). I was then on the TV show "The Book Of Lists" with Bill Bixby, Leslie Uggums and Ruth Buzzi. That’s where I found my good fairy LA Weekly founder and editor Cindy Randall. Then my producer Charlene Keel was doing the series "Rituals" and she suggested I write for TV. Which led to my writing for “Fantasy Island.” Herves' ranch was at my disposal.
RD: You co-wrote episodes of "Fantasy Island?" Whaaaat? Tell me more!
Vanase: I ghosted scripts for my producer, Charleene Keel, for 2 seasons.
RD: Do you have any anecdotes about working with Divine? Jackie Curtis? The Cockettes? It seems like an interesting exciting scene sprang up from that period that you were very much a large part of.
Vanase: Anecdotes by the millions.. do you mean who was sleeping with who or quality entertainment at its’ best? divine was divine, i wasn’t eating no dog shit. It seemed you had to eat shit to be a star in those days. Jackie Curtis was flying high as usual and never changed her panty hose, he was a brilliant writer and I was blessed being on stage every night with the Warhol elite. The Cockettes arrived in nyc and I found myself in some limo going to the jungle putting dresses on over our combat boots. Anyone could be a cockette you just needed the --------- etc lol. I was hanging with Ruth Truth and Roller Rina in the angeles of light posse. nyc had Charles Ludlum and Hot Peaches in the spotlight. During that time i was covered in glitter during that minute. I remember having to go to the local corner store to buy 3 gallons of homogenized milk so Candy Darling could take her infamous milk baths. More in a minute, I gotta go to the fashion mall.
(Natch, the interview had to take a break and that’s understandable as good fashion is important, especially when it is from a mall that caters to such needs, we resume-ONE WEEK LATER- like nothing happened though something must have happened, something like fashion purchases!)
RD: A new Baby Bones show? Wow! Will you be performing live with a band? Is the music operatic? Or is it an opera in theme? What’s the theme of the new opera? Can you give away any tantalizing details?
Vanase: More. All i have to do is take my master tapes to the studio and turn them into vinyl or cd. The new album is textured opera music that ranges from hard rock to industrial opera if ever there was. The theme is searching for lost combat boots while sitting in a past circle. The opera takes place in circles of color past, present, and future; sort of a man of la mancha gone astray. There’s a psychedelic fly that lands and under its’ wings protrudes a me me fashion show all done in silhouettes of chartreuse green. Other details include a Bonnie and Clyde gangster scene ala 1920s flapper. The song “Bring Me Back My Dixie” is honky tonk cabaret .
RD: Tell me more about the new recordings.
Vanase: I feel like i’m gonna end up like Edith Massey The Egg Lady, running an antique store in Silverlake someplace where fans will come, sort of like a pilgrimage to view past decadence. So i should gild my combat boots silver and begin act one and create the 06 scene lol. The new album was created live in the backroom of a famous sex club in Silverlake la. I would arrive at 3 am and musicians would be everywhere plugging in wires and kinda pushing me outta the way. When they finally got set up they would hand me a mic and begin playing live and i created the melody lines and words. Along with my producer Leon we labeled the sessions from a to z so there’s 26 live sessions from the studio. I remixed the best takes and created the story line and i think only I understood where the concept was being developed into. Bands like Ethyl Meatplow and Drance and Sean De Lear and X and The Cramps even Sade visited the studio. Even Johnny Depp was around. It was the la underground scene lol.
RD: When was all of this done?
Vanase: The new stuff was created late 90s while i was running the ASS club in la. We were featured in National geographic as a tribe like culture of people. Now find that one in your excellent investigative exposes lol. The new album is created live- so live it took hours to edit. There’s so much material on it, choosing the songs was kinda mind blowing. The cast will be spontaneous and whoever is in the now will become the apparent cast. I love to cast people who are themselves already and just need a bit of fine tuning.
RD: When did you DJ in LA?
Vanase: I’ve djed every club in la from the early 90s till 2001 then i became a recluse and resurfaced 4 years later in vegas. I was offered an airline job yesterday so ill be able to fly around and glitterize america and all its foreign ports. You decide: coffee tea or baby bones. It’s all insane wild and wonderful and i’m just waiting to land into the hearts of all who need a touch of glitz to their lives.
RD: Anything else you want to add?
Vanase: There will be a last question I’m sure. I love digging into my past and pulling people out of the woodwork. Your excitement brought friends back into my life i thought were dead. And I also found out some were actually dead and that was sad. But it’s like a 25 year gap so i send out love to Charlene Keel my producer, Marcos my guy who got me my first dj job, Mark Mullhal my video producer, and Robert who picked up on a babybone whim and wrote an article that got me off my butt and back into the studio. Oh yeah, i can’t forget Dane who answered the yahoo posting, who brought us together and started this whole event, and Kim who has a great mag for this kinda stuff. That's all for now, thanks, Paul
(Paul has recently sent me a postscript/life scoop telling me, “I got a job at Wynn las vegas in the entertainment dept. I’ll be working the shows “La Reve and Avenue Q and the new Bette Midler Theatre, too. I guess that’s why i love vegas. It’s fast furious and back in show biz lol. Now that’s up to the minute, Paul.”)
GET YOUR OWN SLAB OF BABY BONES WAX! Original sealed vinyl copies of "Paul Vanase in the World of Baby Bones" from the Los Feliz Goodwill Store stash can still be yours, but we have a very limited number left. Contact us to inquire.
Thanks to Sharpeworld for the link.
Visit Charlene Keel's Tantalizing Tales.
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