Sunday, September 30, 2007


Gee, I know mentioning this will make me look like a sentimental old turd especially to all of you decadent geeks out there in real world land, but I'm so in love with my relatively new turntable to the point where I've spent a good portion of the past few months huddled in that special corner of the basement going through my not-that-humongous (but humongous enough to family and friends) stacks o' vinyl goodies listening to a lotta acquisitions both old and new just like I have been doing ever since being allowed near one of those things! Thus this latest in hopefully a long line of vinyl listening orgies that I know will continue to enthrall most of you dedicated BLOG TO COMM followers out as a word of warning let me tell you off the bat that many of these items have been reviewed before in the pages of my own doomed to obscurity fanzine but like it's been so long since I've last spun 'em that it's almost like I'm givin 'em an all-new playing so don't go comparin' what I mighta written about 'em 15/20 years back with my current opinions! In fact I'm not gonna comb through teetering stacks of unsold wares to glom my original views on these things even at the risk of sounding like a critical Benedict Arnold! Lord knows we've had enough of 'em o'er the years, but as the long-forgotten Torky Koenigs once said people have the right to change their minds, and who am I to argue with another reminder of just how lame the entire late-eighties/early-nineties critical fan base was and shall remain! So, on with the blow...

ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE 2-LP set (Affinity England)

When I first spun these elusive discs I was knocked out to the point where I actually believed in my brain of brains that I had at last uncovered the ultimate in Art Ensemble recordings which have (no contest!) toppled the entire backlog of AACM-related tuneage heard by my precious ears to the point where I proudly planned to say in no uncertain terms that this ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE (Affinity) twofer is the ONLY Art Ensemble you'll need! The second time...well, it was merely "very good" so I don't know if it was me or the Cajun rice and beans I had for dinner. Whatever, this is one I had been waiting to hear for a very long time in classic Fatty Arbuckle-speak...a rarity that is allegedly from the BYG catalog although one online source claims that it was released only in Japan and I guess it has been reissued on one of those Italian labels handling the BYG backlog, albeit in the same block lettering Affinity sleeve in which it originally was released back inna early-eighties! Confused? Sure, but you can't be as confused as the folks at Forced Exposure who continually have this item up for sale on their website even though I've ordered it umpteen times only to find that it's "out of stock," as if it was ever "in stock" to begin with.

But whadevva, ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE is yet another worthy to track down if you claim to be part and parcel to the whole early AEC sway and swerve that seemed to present the group at its best long before they became "thee" hipster measuring stick as to just how "far out" jazz could get. Disc one's nothing but one extended rave entitled "Oh Strange," a Joseph Jarman/Lester Bowie composition that reminds me a lot of "People in Sorrow" the way it slow burns a relatively soft-yet-intense underpinning to the solos of Jarman and Bowie while rec #2 "Bon Voyage" (Bowie) is a fantastic free play from the group performing over a bed of some of the best free drumming I've heard in a long time which leads me to believe what others do that this 'un doesn't originate from the same October 5, 1969 gig as the first elpee but from a later gig when Don Moye joined the group! Whaddeva, it's a wild trip through the nastier side of the even newer thing esp. when Malachi Favors starts plucking away on his zither like a kid inna toy shop and Fontella Bass contributes some fine sing/screaming that sounds like what Grace Slick thought she sounded like and Yoko Ono shoulda when she was mixing her rock and roll with the avant garde! One to keep both peepers opened for lest you settle back into the shocking complacency of Chick Corea!

Anthony Braxton-NEW YORK, FALL 1974 LP (Arista)

This is the one that got Anthony Braxton outta the free jazz ghetto and onto a major label, an upstart young budding major mind you but one that was more'n anxious to take chances on wild mavericks like Braxton and Patti Smith while raking in the long green with Barry Manilow and the Bay City Rollers. But then again, this was during that strange harmonic convergence'r whaddeva it was that made the mid-seventies such a fascinating place to live at the time (see previous post), an era where things were still so open and free that you could go into any record shop and pick up Amon Duul and Portsmouth Sinfonia albums with little effort, and I'm not even talking the import section either!

Oddly enough, on NEW YORK, FALL 1974 Braxton's not exactly the out-there abstractionist one might have expected from his earlier offerings, but the man does harken way back to the early-sixties avant garde of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy for inspiration and I guess that was good enough for most of the jazz audience still reeling from some of the sounds that had been coming outta the jazz world for the past few years. Even with the sax quartet and duo with synthesizer player Richard Teitelbaum Braxton avoids the outer realms that are most associated with the likes of the AACM and hey, one can easily enough hear how (within a good six months) this rising star could have sessioned with his longtime hero Dave Brubeck on the latter's own foray into avantdom for Atlantic. But still, I can hear a slight hint of, I dunno, that very same pomposity? which made Richard Meltzer call Braxton the new Brubeck for late-seventies hipster college kids. Can you???
The Nephews-BEATHAVEN 10-inch LP/EP (Flapping Jet)

While thumbing through a stack of 10-inch discs looking for the spiffy Bon Vivants mini-album (well, it was either that or my copy of Ravel's BOLERO), I chanced upon this forgotten platter that I can't recall if I liked or loathed (remember, I'm not checking on past reviews just so I can cover my hindquarters!). Throwing all caution to the wind I decided to give these Nephews yet another spin not only because the record looked so tasty with its typically alterno-nineties graphics and all, but because the label that put this out was named after an Electric Eels song and since I'm "getting back into" the Eels after a good few years of hibernating could the godz be dropping any heftier hints my way???

Hey, turns out that despite all of the easily identifiable underground reference points and typically moderne updating that usually dooms such offerings to the instant sell pile these Nephews were pretty snat after all! Nothing awe-inspiring or secret-of-life revealing bere and they certainly ain't the Electric Eels let alone the entire seventies Cleveland underground scene, but (fortunately) the Nephews don't take their garage license to the utter depths of kitsch corn. Covers of Ut, Godz and Berry intermingle with the two-track-sounding original compositions of one Tim Ellison, whom I assume was the leader of this groupage if only because he wrote the original numbers here and he's a famed rock critic, the closest anyone'll come to Richard Meltzer outside of Byron Coley these days (I'm tempted to type "...the closest anyone'll come to Richard Meltzer outside of Byron Coley and ME" but I won't out of false modesty). I'm trying to pick out which one he is on the back cover, but I dunno if he will ever let on as to who's who. After all, they all look kinda skateboardy, if you know what I mean.
Sproton Layer-"Lost Behind Words"/"Space Red", "Jam From Outer Space" EP (New Alliance)

Speaking of Ellison, I remember he was really gung ho on this late-sixties Ann Arbor aggregate which featured not only the Miller Brothers (future Destroy All Monsters [yay!] and Mission of Burma [zzzzzzz!]) but trumpeter Harold Kirchen, who happened to be the brother of Seventh Seal/Commander Cody guitarist Bill making Sproton Layer perhaps one of the truly forgotten nth-ranking bands on the Detroit area scene at the time. Come to think of it I also was hot on Sproton Layer around the time (1991) not only their long-unreleased "concept" album WITH MAGNETIC FIELDS DISRUPTED finally came out but this li'l clear-vinyl gem was released to an unsuspecing/uncaring public. In fact, I gotta admit to you thriving blogreaders out there that I prefer this seven-inch slab to the actual album mainly because it captures the late-sixties garage band anger a lot better'n any of us might've thought, complete with a Detroit attitude and typical weirdness that could jumble and jive the Stooges and Pink Floyd influences with seeming ease and still not look stupid! I wish New Alliance would've stuck these tracks onto the CD version of the album, and come to think of it I wouldn't mind hearing all the sessions these tracks came from in their entirety which might be a possibility considering how well established the Miller Brothers are in light of their underground credo, eh? Until then, we can just spin this 'un over and over the same way I play that Amon Duul live '68 mp3 fragment that's goin' 'round trying to imagine what it's like en toto.
Copernicus-"Pink Lips"/"Quasimodo" single (Smalkowski)

Here's the official debut Copernicus single mentioned in my Turner and Kirwan of Wexford review a week or so back. It's a plain item, no pic sleeve or anything and the label it's on happens to also be the guy's real last name if you can beat that! Although side two turns up on his stellar NOTHING EXISTS disc you'll also want it for "Pink Lips" which has Copernicus swearin' all over the place while the rest of the Major Thinkers start riffin' the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night." One disturbing image from this side has Our Hero threatening to kiss none other'n then prez Jimmy Carter on his big puffy lips! Now that image is enough to make me wanna toss more'n a few cookies into the poreclain confessional!
The Wailers-OUT OF OUR TREE (Etiquette)

Remember when Park Avenue Records (then home to the Wipers) outta Seattle was sellin' these cheapo knockoffs of classic Northwest punk rock albums in the early-eighties? Besides this notable reissue from Northwest KINGS the Wailers, Park Avenue was also selling the first two Sonics Lps (also on Etiquette) and the Paul Revere and the Raiders Sande album and for pretty hefty pennies as well! And to tell you the truth back in '80 I was lucky if I could scratch together enough copper to buy an import single let alone an entire album of this historical magnitude that was going for a whopping $10.99 per...but I managed to latch onto 'em all and relished every second of those great sixties slabs even if they did sound like they were recorded from "dubious" sources and were way overpriced t'boot. Of course within a few years alla this stuff was reissued legally (I think) and from master tapes as well making all of those early-eighties acquisitions obsolete, but I still cherished these albums to the utmost if just for the warm 'n toasty meaning behind 'em all.

This 'un's the classic mid-sixties Wailers offering that Norton wouldn't release in its entirety mainly because they thought some of the slower cuts like "Unchained Melody" and "Summertime" blew chunks royally. (They eventually released the more- pumped up portion of OUT OF OUR TREE along with tracks from the group's nationally-distributed offering OUTBURST on United Artists to make an all-new, and come to think of it all-rocking album more in tune with Norton's entire reason for being.) Well, I can see how some hot-to-rock label like Norton'd think that those slow tunes were absolute snoozers, but I like OUT OF OUR TREE in its entirety anyway, even if the slow stuff can get a bit obtrusive at times. The rest of the disc from their Sonics-sounding period (as the Bomp mailorder catalog once put it) has the Wailers sounding a lot closer to Gerry Roslie and the crew than Roslie and crew sounded like the Wailers, and besides romping into the familiar r&b territory that had been part and parcel of the Wailers sound since '58 be thankful that OUT OF OUR TREE has more of those patented Northwest wails and yelps on such screamers as the title track, "Baby Don't Do It" and of course the all-out punk yelper "Hang Up," a song I can relate to because way too many people think """""I""""" have one! Can you believe that?

The softer stuff that turned off the likes of Billy Miller is OK as well...actually I think "Hang on Sloopy" is a bit of instant douse and "Unchained Melody" sounds about as chained as it could get, but their version of "Summertime" is almost as good as Big Brother and the Holding Company's and that's getting pretty good! And of course what would this review be without a mention of their Beatles cover, "I'm Down" which is perhaps one of the better takes of the Fab Foes as anything to come outta the mid-sixties! Low-Fi or not, OUT OF OUR TREE is a cool winner no matter how you slice it!

Speaking of Big Brother, I realized that I haven't been listening to enough San Francisco rock as of late which prompted me to drag not only this 'un but the following item outta the mothballs. It's the consensus of most that this Mainstream debut really ain't the group's most "representative" outing but I like it even with the occasional flubs here and there (most notably "Easy Rider" which proved that James Gurley, although a fantastic guitarist, maybe shoulda kept his trap shut!). True this can't come close to such Big Brother highpoints as "Oh Sweet Mary" offa the much-improved CHEAP THRILLS but it sure has enough of its skewered Gurley guitar moments like the incredible "Light is Faster Than Sound," a free-screeching ode to amphetamine that sounds positively dull in comparison on all of the live bootlegs I've heard. The rest of BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY is upbeat enough from the dazed proto-punk of "Intruder" to the sweet fifties throwback "Call on Me" while the relatively light, everyday sorta "clean" sound of the thing holds up well even four decades after the fact. And true, Janis always kinda irritated me with her downhome farmgirl gone acid image, but in the company of Big Brother you don't mind that these guys're tied in the dye hippies one bit because the whole thing is so rock & roll to the point where Gurley's indian headress ain't even offensive like it should be!
MOBY GRAPE (CBS South Africa)

Here's a disc I got a long time back from this Texas oriented record dealer by the name of Darren Mencken. Mencken was originally from South Africa and I guess he brought a lotta records from down that way up this way when he made the trek, because back when we were doin' business I not only got hold of this South African issue of the class act debut Moby Grape disc but the equally legendary MOBY GRAPE '69 which believe-it-or-not was issued on Columbia subsidiary Date down Johannesburg way! I still have yet to dig that 'un out but I found this easily enough and yeah, it's just as good as I remembered not only with the great harmonies (which retain a sort of punk arrogance unlike those of Crosby Stills and Whatever's with the Grateful Dead coming a close second) but with the stellar multa-lead guitars and high-energy Southern Californian post-folk rock which was still firmly rooted in mid-sixties fun and games unlike the processed material most of Grape's intellectual competition was beginning to work up. It's too bad that these guys hadda let their libidos get in the way of their potential successes and Skip Spence hadda flip out into oblivion because ya know Moby Grape not only had the big label push but the uncontested talent to have made San Francisco a little more'n the hackfest market it eventually turned out to be.
Electrified Fukuko-GAMBLE '86 12-inch EP (Tokyo Telegraph, Japan)

Finally on today's schedule's this rarity that came out of the Japanese underground back inna mid-to-late eighties (not exactly a boon time for great soundscapading) featuring yet anudder one-a them all-gal groups that seemed to be the rage back then, or at least it would seem that way considering how alla them boneheaded critics were always on the search for something superficial to write about while ignoring all of the really innovative and exciting things that were happening right under their very nostrils. Anyhoo, this group is probably best known because it had Ikue Mori on drums, she once being a member of the infamous no wave group DNA back inna eighties and after that the drumstress for the less-known yet still revered by some Thick Pigeon. Also in the group is Emiko Mogi on guitar, another remnant of the olden days of Japanese underground and confidante of none other'n Reck of Friction fame, while some gal by the name on Non, past resume unknown, takes care of the bass playing as well as some rather girly-girlish vocals. It all sounds a lot like something you would have expected from the Japanese scene at the time, and given how Reck himself is thanked on the back cover you can imagine just how deep the underground roots intertwine. Actually it's kinda like Ut only more rock & rolling, with a fashion-conscious Japanese gal swivel to it 'stead of New York artsyness that makes it all the more tastier. I dunno (or care) what you think, but I always believed that Mori was a great drummer, sort of a naturally talented amateur perhaps, but another Maureen Tucker nonetheless who needed to find a good American suburban garage band to be in 'stead of wallow in that soul-less downtown art mire. On this disc she does show her true potential as a percussionist par (inspired amateur) excellence and playing in a rock & roll setting without any of the pretension that one might find in the New York "art" (yech!) world. Too bad she hadda get into electronic improvised music that always seemed like the best substitute for Sominex around!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Can any of you more attuned jazzbos out there explain to me just what was that strange harmonic convergence or lunar shift or whatever it was that was goin' on back in the mid-seventies that made Anthony Braxton the household name he most certainly was? (At least in jazz-attuned households, but hey, he was riding a wave so to speak!) Was it that very same sorta kultural jumble that got Patti Smith signed, or was it something a lot deeper than I or any true-blue BLOG TO COMM reader'll ever be able to comprehend??? The reason I'm askin' is that here's some guy, pretty OUT THERE esp. for a jazz world that was still staggering from the sixties new wave thing that gave us Coleman, Coltrane, Shepp and so forth who was part and parcel of the exceedingly fringe-like (and legendary even at that early stage) AACM recording relatively obscure but sought-after records at home and abroad, and by the middle portion of that oft-loathed seventies what else happens than he's up and signed to the brand-spanking new Arista label making albums that can easily be picked up in reg'lar non-specialty shops right next to all of those dinner club and bowtie jazz offerings! And what's more, even the stuff Braxton had recorded during much leaner times for small outta-the-way companies like Muse and Inner City were startin' to take up precious bin-space as well which really does (after a safe three decades later) kinda make me do a lotta head scratchin'! It got to the point where Braxton was such a Big Man on the Jazz Campus that I recall none other'n Richard Meltzer in his PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE article on 77 things about the year 1977 sayin' that Braxton as well as Keith Jarrett were nothing more'n the late-seventies phony-intellectual kid answer to what Dave Brubeck was in the early-sixties, a comparison I'm sure would have warmed the cockles of the Brubeck-loving (even appearing on his 1975 avant garde longplayer on Atlantic!) Braxton! I mean, stuff like that just isn't supposed to happen at all, though considering this was the time more/less when the Art Ensemble of Chicago could get signed to Atlantic and somehow the avant gardes of rock, jazz and classical were beginning to intermingle to the point of incestuousness who knows, maybe the planets were shifting with the force of lunar gravity because in a few short years with all of the vinyl shortages and sagging sales giving the industry sever shocks it wasn't like any label, not even an "adventurous" one like Arista, were gonna be catering to the jazz avant garde like they would the arena rock brigades and ginchy post-disco gnu wave, if you know what I mean.

But for a time yeah, it was enough so that a poor kid like me who spent more'n an inordinate amount of time drooling over all those unattainable discs in shopping mall bins county-wide got more'n enough kicks snooping through the jazz racks to get a look at the likes of these Braxton albums which seemed so beyond-the-ken, esp. after reading Richard Walls' various writeups in CREEM and eyeballing those weird graphic titles natch! And amongst the hoardes of free jazz that was suddenly making a surprise appearance on the racks (and even getting "featured" new release space on the walls just like all those heavy new rock platters) were these two albums by the Creative Construction Company, a working jazz co-op that somehow caught my eye way back in my stool days when I'd read DOWN BEAT at the library during study hall trying to act like some sort of hot stuff, at least in my own time frame. And after all this time I gotta admit that I dunno exactly what lit my ass re. wanting to hear this group with a might've been the list of instruments next to each player's name which seemed about as impressive as all of those Association and Frank Zappa records which displayed a wide array of exotic instruments I thought added zest to an already exciting music, or maybe it was the plain fact that this Braxton guy who had been getting mucho press was in the outfit. Most likely it was the group's name that turned me on even though it does sound like the title of some long-forgotten PBS children's show of the day.

Yeah I gotta tell ya that the mere idea of this ultra-free music even existing (and being relayed to anxious open-eared kids even via the ultra-staid DOWN BEAT) was more'n enough to get THIS not-so-dim bulb hot enough to actually dish out the $5.99 for CREATIVE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY on the ultra-miniscule Muse label. In retrospect it ain't hard to see just how much of an impact this 'un had on me, for this rec was the introduction of the entire AACM soundscapading oeuvre to this rabid teen and held such promise for those starved for new vistas to the point where, after coming home from the very same family vacation where I netted the thing (trip also rendering the likes of WIZZARD'S BREW, CHUNGA'S REVENGE, HOT RATS and A BEARD OF STARS amongst other worthies into my collection) I actually unwrapped my copy and played in full force upon my 4:00 AM arrival home even when the folks were tellin' me I should go to bed! Talk about unbridled devotion to the form!

Anyhoo, the entire concept behind these recordings was enough to keep me spellbound as much (if not more?) as the Coleman and Coltrane I had been listening to for the past year or so, as did a lotta the machinations behind what was going on in the avant garde jazz scene of the late-sixties on. And with Braxton's popularity on the upswing and his name appearing either as leader, sideman or as a member of groups such as the CCC or Circle (which also included onetime collaborator Chick Corea???) I was so glad to finally discover what the CCC was all about perhaps still thinking of out-there abstractions strictly in rock terms a la Zappa and Beefheart, but it sure was gonna be fun to find out all about it. Was this another AACM head-on attempt to create another cooperative (and attention-grabbing) group like the Art Ensemble? (As Robert Palmer's surprisingly good liners denote, the Braxton recordings of the previous few years were in fact CCC efforts released under the reedist's name because his was much more identifiable.) Whatever, when I plunked the needle down to hear what it was all about I certainly was surprised...this music was an incredible free, perhaps too cacophanous sound that at the time I found rather incomprehensible even after listening to the usual bigname attempts at creating a free music, usually getting hampered by major lable constraints in the process.

Oddly enough, after thirtysome years and many records down the crustacean tubes CREATIVE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY sounds a lot calmer and (to get hippie about it) "together" than the madness it seemed like that hot August night oh so long ago. Contrary to what a neophyte like I would have thought, this disc seemes to be led more by Leroy Jenkins' free violin (as well as his wheezing harmonica and various typically AACM-ish "small instruments") than it does Braxton's woodwind arsenal or trumpeter Leo Smith for that matter. Heck, "guest" pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, whom the LP-long track "Muhal" is obviously dedicated to, seems to play just as much a part in the direction this group is heading as star Braxton making me wonder why those other albums weren't properly credited as CCC offerings as well since the collective imput of even those seems to override Braxton as being the sole star of the series. But maybe I shouldn't ain't any worse'n some soon-to-be jazz hero getting the star treatment on an album he played as a sideman on only a few years prior.

And in case you're taking notes, the CCC, at least on these live tracks recorded at "The Peace Church" (yech!) was rounded out by drummer Steve McCall as well as guest bassist Richard Davis who way too many wonks out there will remember and remember only as the bassist on Van Morrison's MOONDANCE.

Strange as it may seem, the second volume from this live gig that got released a year later (entitled "No More White Gloves (With Sand Under Your Shoes Doing a Dance" [!], and that title is funny at least on a black consciousness level) doesn't quite zone me the same way the first volume does even with more of that fantastic Jenkins violin sawing (better'n Ornette and maybe even ex-student Billy Bang), but like some of these creative efforts I might have to let it to soak into my system a bit longer. Still, this entire live sesh (why it wasn't released as a double I'll never know, and why this as well as some of the other Muse/Inner City catalog isn't available readily in the here and now is also tantamount to somethingorother I'd care not to even think about these days lest it get my bile up!) is pretty snat in its own abstract AACM way and even this far down the line you can hear the reverberations echoing back and forth in the music of such interesting free jazz co-ops like Freedomland and many of those other long-forgotten aggregates I used to tune into via cybercast way back inna early-to-mid oh-ohs, a time I'm strangely feeling hunger pangs for considering how a lotta the verve and sway of the avant garde has been taking a back seat to...I dunno, a shallow shell of its former self? Heck, last time I looked there was this review of a show where Braxton was playing his avant scronk to some kid doing stand up comedy! And I guess progress is progress and all that, but did it all have to come down to this???

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Day Care Centre-A JUMPIN' JACKPOT OF MELODY 2-LP set (Czecher Records, Czech Republic)

J. D. King recommended this one to me, sayin' in his usual restrained way that it came off like a cross between the Velvet Underground, Syd and Sonic Youth, with maybe some krautrock thrown in there as well. And after such a recommendation as that why should I even review this thing? After all, King said everything about it that needs to be put to pixel so why should I bore you with my own opines onna thing!

Oh yeah, I guess you want me to imbue this review with a little bitta insight along with my usual long-windedness, eh? Well, I certainly am good for doin' it all, and I gotta admit that an item like this (not only a vinyl-only affair but a two-record set that comes in a gatefold sleeve!) is something that is worthy of my attention, limited span that it has. And considering that amongst the members of this Day Care Centre is none other than an honest to goshness former bandmate of King's during his Coachmen days whose name isn't Thurston Moore then maybe we're really onto something with this new release that's making pretty sure that 2007 ain't just another hum-drum ho-ho year filled with the usual blogfodder that might excite the usual pipsqueaks but not ME!!!

Extrapolating on King's description...yeah, the ever-pervasive presence of the once-sainted VELVET UNDERGROUND INFLUENCE is in full swing here, though thankfully it ain't the tiresome drone-on VU snore that way too many acts in this so-called "underground" have milked to a terminally eroded state thinner'n my own hairline (you already know the usual suspects!). Actually it's a pretty hefty sorta Velvets homage that A JUMPIN' JACKPOT OF MELODY oozes all over, and considering that a good portion of these platters evoke classic late-sixties garage band riffage a la Faust (think first LP, side two track one), Amon Duul II and a nice enough portion of the better krautrock groups during the day then may I even call this a true 2007 update on early Sonic Youth and F/i experiments in the same droneage twennysome years back? I'd also toss in the Coachmen themselves (at least the latterday variety) and hey, as far as Syd goes where would anything be without him?????

Oh yeah, the group consists of Rich Clarahan on guitar and bass, Dan Hill on bass and guitar, Laura Feathers on violin and Dave Keay on drums. I dunno who does that spoken word thingie on the only "vocal" track on side for but whoever he is, he sure sounds like a creep! Anyway, Keay is the guy who used to be in the Coachmen (hence King's initial interest in these disques) and he was also with Harry Toledo for a spell. Keay is also married to Feathers which I guess might put another li'l spin on this outing. Unfortunately, like the Coachmen this group is a studio-only affair so don't expect to see 'em playin' anywhere, that is if there's any place that would let them play this def. spaced-out repeato-rock. And if you wanna buy one for yourself, let it be known that although the usual outlets seem to be lacking New Yorkers might be able to snatch it up at Bleeker Bob's, Subterranean, Kim's Video and Mercer St. Books. Everyone else pray that the big time underground music providers get the hint and real soon.

The Light-TURN ON... CD (Ugly Things, click on link at left to order)

Ugly Things' recording arm continues to pop out these once-obscure six-oh garage band items like there was no tomorrow, and considering how these Southern Californian mop tops got their own humble feature in the latest ish of that very mag like what else would you expect? OK, you might think it some sorta incestuous tie up with the mag promoting the hootch its sellin' for obvious free pub reasons, but I sure find it a whole lot less offensive'n when ROLLING STONE was pumping the entire Taylor Family and in-laws as the next big hep trip while gobblin' up all that Warner Brothers money that was promotin' the saccharine likes of James, Livingston and Carly!

Anyway, for late-sixties So Cal fun and games (as opposed to the slick folkie trip that entire scene would mudslide into once 1969 rolled around) you can't beat TURN ON... which not only has a bit of the then-fading Music Machine sound and attitude (thanks to producer Brian Ross who as you may know also produced our one-gloved wonders) but a bit of the Moby Grape-derived "good timey" San Francisco feel and of course a general West Coast attitude that like I said wasn't gag inducing yet. Lotsa fun post-Byrdsian moments here, one brazen Beatles SGT. PEPPER (w/o the proto-prog hysteria) ripoff and loads of that great garage band negative energy that for some not-so-odd reason sounded so refreshing in light of the whole "kumbaya" trip of the day. Mike Stax, Alec Palao and the rest of the names involved of course need to be commended, though what should we give A&M for not stickin' by these punks while rakin' in all that Tijuana Brass moolah other'n one big RAZZ!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Remember this strange chain of events that started somewhere in the seventies? First off there appeared this maybe not-so-new music that was getting written up in a wide variety of mags 'n papers that going under the name "underground rock" or "punk rock" or even "garage band music" if you so prefer. We're talkin' early '76 or so, back when people outside of the hard rock loop so-to-speak were starting to discover the varying array of musics that seemed to've been birthed from the loins of the ones called Ig, Lou and maybe even Sky! It all seemed to fall into place like some puzzle, first with alla that hot news detailing an upstart avant-yet-retrogarde scene coming out of New York and then with records by the likes of Debris, Pere Ubu and the Gizmos and sure, much of it was "old hat" as Cap Beefheart said to a point, but if you weren't hanging around at Max's Kansas City or listening to MC5 records for the past five years it sure seemed like a new and refreshing experience to lend your ears to! Anyway, by the end of '76 another term describing this seemingly all new/all now music was being tossed about...what else but "new wave," a description that originally was considered synonymous with the usual punk/garage verbage that was part and parcel of many a college paperboy's critical vocab, but as time went on new wave seemed to take on a life of its own. Perhaps this "new wave music" was a tad more cultured and refined than the more trashy and caustic punk rock and/or garage band sounds that the FM-bred Anastasia Pantsios-fied dolts of the day hated with a raw passion, and considering how the sounds generally were ineffectual to the point where these same idiots merely upped their noses at it must've been a big step up, eh?

Which might have suited the big city rock crits and WMMS-FM listening public fine, but for someone following the underground scene since the mid-seventies I'm sure these developments came as a humongous shock! Can you imagine a rabid Cleveland-based punk sometime in 1975 engrossing himself in the finer aspects of rockism by supporting such truly stellar acts as Rocket From the Tombs, the Electric Eels and Mirrors while reading CREEM and wondering what all of those then-elusive New York bands sounded like suddenly going into a coma only to wake up six years later and finding himself stuck at the tail end of this dying underground scene with the comparatively restrained likes of the B-52s and Waitresses replacing the hard-edged gnarl of those groups he left behind? Heck, it would be enough to make ANYBODY with their heads on frontwards wanna take another coma-induced hiatus for who knows how many years before the music scene gets itself RIGHT! And frankly if that guy were me I'd STILL be goin' the Rip Van Winkle route waitin' for a time and place when rock & roll was meaningful to you as a rabid, snarling mammal!

But as far as new wave goes, exactly when it morphed into gnu wave (as Bill Shute most aptly put it in one of his old INNER MYSTIQUE fanzines) is still anybody's guess. Personally methinks it might have been some time during the original thrust of the music attaining some notoriety outside the confines of the big cities when the mode really began changing, and back then did anybody really think that the likes of the B-52s, Blondie and all of those other seemingly-unique groups popping up all over the place were gonna evolve into the rot that eventually permeated the early-eighties? Not really...I mean, these groups and their fan base were supposed to have known better esp. after seeing the bright stars of the sixties ending up in the tinkertoy twaddle they eventually plopped into. But hey, hysteria does repeat itself, and I only hope that all of the bright stars seen on today's underground scene (all TWO of 'em!) know enough not to "evolve" into the senseless prattle that just about every band that sticks around long enough will end up mired in!

But hey, I gotta admit that even """""I""""" find myself spinning a little of this gnu wave along with the meatier portions of my collection, mostly outta curiousity if anything. Like Tim Ellison, I can enjoy a lotta this stuff on a different level than I do the records and tapes I definitely am more "attuned to" that are floating around in the abode, and hey, maybe there was a little bitta worth in some of these more giddysome platters than a guy who saw the end coming sometime a few years after everybody else did would care to admit. Anyway, here are a few discs I've only recently acquired that fit into the gnu wave scheme of things which most BLOG TO COMM readers might or might not want to know about, but even YOU have to take the bad with the good when it comes to the under-the-counter rock histories I like to spew so don't frown. Let's just say that if you still wear your Stiff Records tee shirt and have your leather-bound back issues of TROUSER PRESS proudly displayed on your bookshelf, then you'll probably really go for these more'n I ever will even though I have a slight liking for 'em all in my own perverted sorta way.

Starting off today's soiree's a disc I'm sure a whole lotta you rock lobstering new wavers remember with a passion, PAM WINDO AND THE SHADES (Bearsville). I certainly remember it if only for the presence of Pam's husband, tenor saxophonist Gary Windo in the band, and (perhaps) naturally one would remember this guy not only for the reams of jazz sessions he partook of back home in Merrie Olde such as the ones with Ray Russell I reviewed earlier this year, but for his solo on Pink Floyd's "Money" which I'm sure earned the guy a hefty royalty every time that song played onna radio ever since DARK SIDE OF THE MOON's surprisingly strong debut way back in the early-seventies. In fact, you can't argue that it was the Windo name that even got this group a recording contract with Bearsville back in the new wave hopping days of '80...I mean, I remember when this group used to play CBGB and naturally under their moniker something to the effect of "featuring Gary Windo, ex-Pink Floyd" (!) was printed perhaps in the vague hopes that more people would flock to the club in the hopes of seeing an actual Pink Floydian group that night. Naturally nothing could be further from the truth, since Pam Windo and the Shades were yet another one of those lower-case New York bands that seemed to epitomise the rut CBGB had fallen into back in the very-early eighties when they were booking a lotta lackluster new wave groups before hardcore and other underground forms helped revitalize the place, thanks in part to Max's Kansas City closing up shop and alla those New York bands hadda play somewhere.

Those of you expecting some great music epiphany will be let down as much as the dorks who might've thought the Shades were gonna be reminiscent of Floydian space rock but as the old saying goes what else is new? Whatcha get here's standard patented early-eighties rock with a halfway-decent attempt at a New York sound and style (perhaps thanks to the saxophones?). Pam Windo is about on par as far as those "I'm my own bitch" female singers of the day were, perhaps a step above the whole Pat Benetar swagger and brashness that was oh-so chic at the time, but nothing more. Vocals are more of the same strained whine o' the times as Patty Donahue's and if you think you're gonna be entitled to a little slab of avant sax thanks to Windo (better yet, thanks to James Chance since it was he who put saxes onna En Why map!) then you're in for a rude awakening! Maybe I should 'fess up to the fact that some of this seemed to be reaching for the right sorta underground ideal at times, but the lack of verve coupled with a halfhearted attempt at capturing the essence of all that was good about early-eighties underground rock makes PAM WINDO AND THE SHADES another mere reference point as far as New York City goes.

While Windo and her Shades were nurturing their act at CBGB others were busy trying to catch a gnu wave at competitor Max's Kansas City, Get Wet being amongst 'em. Judging from their colorful cover snaps Get Wet, or at least frontpieces Sherri Beachfront and Louie LePore, were aping the same waveoid cool pose that many other groups were copying at the time...I'd call it the early-sixties dago look for wont of a better term because the two kinda look like Frankie and Annette after being left in the spin cycle a little too long. A whole slew of gnu wave acts had that same sorta retro attitude in their look (and perhaps their music) at the time, even to the point where the early-eighties edition of Kongress (who certainly had the late-sixties garage band look and sound down pat well into '77) got the barbershop treatment even if their music wasn't quite in the gnu wave realm. But there's one thing I will say about Get Wet, and that is their rock & roll was pretty enveloping with a neat warpage of early and mid-sixties reference points with a fashionable gnu wave wrap that holds up well enough all these years later. Coming off sorta like a cross between the Fleshtones and early Blondie, Get Wet had the power and emotion on their Boardwalk label album (produced by Phil Ramone!) to have made some interesting inroads into the general record buying populace, but considering the whole staid trip that was going down at the time even this stuff was considered way too avant garde by the same people who were beginning to make REO Speedwagon and Foreigner the spokesmen for their generation. (Which translated means: can you imagine how a dude like I felt living amidst people who thought that Chicago and Journey were great on one hand, and the only "alternative" to that drivel was the whole Clash/B-52s/Blondie route that sold its soul for what little fame they got long after the fact on the other!?!?!? Like blasting FUNHOUSE out the window while driving down Main Street, that's how I felt!)

But GET WET is a pretty good attempt at capturing new wave transforming itself into gnu wave before the likes of Madonna began taking all of those pop reference points and rehaping them in her own vile image. They rock harder than the B-52 ever could, plus Beachfront is an energetic enough belter who might've gone places in a different time or space at least to the point where even their updated version of "Where The Boys Are" is catchy enough to listen to again and again. I only hope that Beachfront has the good sense to use all the door locks next time she goes to some motel! But anyway, I gotta admit that GET WET ain't your standard gnu wave album, and the fact that both Lou Reed and Peter Crowley of Max's are thanked in the liners is at least one tipoff that this one might be better than your standard ginch parade!

Finally on our gnu wave survey is a platter that doesn't quite fit into the category, but if you want me to be a bit more accurate in describing this perhaps I could refer to it as being proto-gnu wave. And frankly, I wasn't exactly expecting to peg Turner and Kirwan of Wexford as being a gnu wave band as much as one of those interesting eccentricities that appeared on the New York scene inna late seventies thus catering to a gnu wave audience while not exactly being one of its minions. These guys' histories are rather well known in some circles, they being two Irish expats who made a name for themselves playing Irish folk tunes (with some rock thrown in) at the Bells of Hell club in the mid-seventies garnering a fan base of sorts, amongst them being Hilly Kristal of CBGB and a Polish poet named Copernicus who eventually joined and took charge of the two. By '78 Turner and Kirwan of Wexford were performing on the CBGB/Max's circuit and, with the addition of more musicians to their rank as well as frontman Copernicus, became the Major Thinkers probably because it sounded more in tune with the times and that other name was way too long anyway. Of course the saga continued with Pierce Turner of the two eventually forming the successful Black 47 and hey even Copernicus is still making records so who says that the early-eighties are really that dead after all!

I never knew that the Turner/Kirwan duo had released an album, and when I discovered so I decided to search for this platter thinking it would at least be a nice aside as far as any New York rock histories went and at the worst an oddity along the lines of THE MOVIES or City Lights' SILENT DANCING, the first two albums to pop out outta the CBGB scene back in '75 long before the great rush of big label activity to the clubs only to sink without a trace because frankly, they weren't what anyone was expecting.

What a surprise I got when the item actually made its way to my door not so soon after...the first thing that hit my eye was that ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY came out on the Peters International label, a outgrowth from the record importing company whose wares mostly consisted of US pressing of rare overseas progressive discs that the big labels passed on over here given the lack of a big European rock audience on these shores! The second thing to strike me was the pic of Turner and Kirwan on the cover...two longhairs with beards who, while dressed rock flashy enough, looked more or less like the reams of progressive rockers of the day not forgetting their fans who probably kept labels like Peters afloat not to mention the import bins emptying while on the search for some Vertigo extravaganza hopefully on the swirl label!

But as Bo Diddley once said you can't judge books by looking at the covers and even I have to say that there are many moments on ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY that kept my interests up even while reading fanzines or old comic books or whatever I do while listening to records such as these. Actually you could call this proto-gnu wave progressive I guess, but only if you think of the better aspects of that dread genre like perhaps the Move or even early ELO. Nothing heady, although a good portion of side one might suffer from pomposity by association for coming a bit too close to classic rock bombast. Actually side two's the kicker with a Sparks-ish "The Girl Next Door" (funny lesbian deca-rock) and other things that seem to recall the aforementioned Move as well as perhaps some of the solo Cale outings of the day. Not really something you'd wanna listen to on a yearly basis, but I was surprised, especially since I thought this record was gonna be filled with Irish folk ballads!

After the gnu wave began to affect a lotta people who were maybe just two or three steps up from FM-bred dunces on the rock evolutionary scale (not much, but ya gotta give 'em credit) Turner and Kirwan added former Teenage Lust bassist Peter Collins and drummer Thomas Hamlin and became the Major Thinkers. Anyway the four released "Back in the 80's"/"Farewell to the Coast" on their lonesome, and although Copernicus is not to be found anywhere on this platter even though I was under the impression he was a full-fledged member don't fret, because the guy did get to put his own single out (one side being the same "Quasimodo" which appeared on his magnif NOTHING EXISTS album) and I guess the others wanted to do one by themselves and really who can blame 'em? Anyway both sides are gnu wave supremo really not that far removed from the Turner and Kirwan album, only with the new sounds affecting the still English Sparksy moves and Kirwan now appearing under the name Larry Lucifer! Actually an interesting self-produced artyfact of the times that should snuggle nice next to Nervus Rex's single on some late-seventies PEBBLES comp or even one of those Hyped To Death disques since it does have enough of a rock & roll kick to make it a lot more'n just another British copycat move. What is most interesting about this 'un is the pic sleeve showing the fashionable quartet decked out in early-eighties attire, with the once proggy-looking Kirwan now clean shaven with a late-fifties ducktail looking more like some hood in a British crime film and much younger than the Gentle Giant aspirant he used to be! Of course Brad Kohler will think that both records were vanity projects recorded with all of the deposit moolah the landlord swiped but we know better, I think...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

TEE-VEE TOO-DAY! (or at least the past week or so)

I remember once mentioning in my own fabled fanzoonie a loooong time ago somethinorother to the effect that while Billy Miller's first love was the radio and he wouldn't rest until he and that once-magnif/now utter trashoid medium saw "eye to eye," my first and foremost was the television and I woudn't rest until I saw eye to eye with that now-monstrosity either! Years later, I can still find a lotta substance regarding this typically hot-headed statement especially considering how that entire industry, which used to cater to every imaginable whim and fancy of the oft-loathed mid-Amerigan family unit, seems to spew abject venom and hatred towards the same people it once uplifted in a way that would have put a smile on every dissident beatnik/hippie's not to mention Josef Stalin's, well-collectivised face. From its newscasts and "forums" (usually hosted by a Phil Donahue/Bill Moyers-clone with a panel of nine liberals trying to coax the sole conservative to come over to their side, or worse yet mercilessly berates Catholics and now even traditionalist Jews for being so against the grain of societal evolution yet begs 'em all to "vote our way") to the entertainment which usually ended up about as grim as can be which could be a douser for your average workaday fellow looking for some escapism, television sure ain't the bastion of FUN like it was back when I was a kid when although there were only three stations to choose from, at least you had more of a choice (for unrepentant suburban tubba-lard brats!) than with a whole slew of stations offering the same-old for an audience I wouldn't have thought even existed a mere twenny years back!

I sure do miss the days when I could very well click on my set and tune into a McHALE'S NAVY rerun or DEPUTY DAWG cartoon (on your fave-rave local UHF station) without much effort, and yeah, I'll admit that it's hard getting that lump downna throat 'n admitting that them days are gone forever even if that does tend to make me look like Joe Square in the face of today's unrepentant decadence! However, with the advent of a satellite dish onto the abode at least I have a few more excuses to sit in front of the boob tube these days, and although it ain't like it was back in olden times when tee-vee was made for the aforementioned every day slob out there, at least I can PRETEND to be one by merely flickin' on the box and settling back with some programming that's seemingly goin' the way of the dodo bird and various alternative ensembles led by J. Neo Marvin.

But sadly enough, a lotta the shows that were part and parcel to many a station's late-night and weekend schedules in the seventies/eighties only to make the trek to cable inna nineties can't be found anywhere as of now, a change from even a good three years back when it looked as if mucho b&w Eisenhower/JFK/Johnson-era tee-vee was pretty easy to latch onto thanks to the smart program directors at a number of these upstart cable nets. At least the choice of watching THE RIFLEMAN on the Hallmark channel or LEAVE IT TO BEAVER on TV Land (with a classic thirties snoozer on TCM) was akin to the old days when you had the same dilemma re. your local broadcast tee-vee stations, but even now it seems as if many of the classic (and not-so) fifties-through-seventies faves can't be found anywhere no matter how hard you go looking through your on-screen guide. Now, it ain't like I'm expecting a goodie like DECEMBER BRIDE let alone CHECKMATE or all-time fave NAKED CITY to pop up on the schedule any day soon, but sure-as-shootin' I gotta admit that I liked things a lot better back when HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and GUNSMOKE were vying for my precious viewing time, and (strange as it seems) who would have ever thought that I would actually be nostalgic for 2003 anyways???

So obviously this piece ain't gonna be one of those Robot Hull in CREEM surveys of the 1975-76 tee-vee season (which was a classic on both the network/PBS and local station levels) nor will it be as good as, say, Mark Jenkins' own interesting early-seventies tee-vee observations in HYPERION, but I would consider it much better'n any of the eighties-era CREEM's lame attempts at documenting culture both past and present which only proved that "going with the flow" and keeping up with the times just doesn't work if those said times are strictly dungeonville, as Maynard G. Krebs once put it. Naw, this piece is gonna be about the very little television that I watch, and considering how I've declined from about five/six hours a day as a goofball kid to about four/six hours a week (depending on whether or not there's a good moom pitcher on) NOW, maybe this piece ain't gonna be as long as it should be but it's sure gonna be about as good a summary of tee-vee (on a modern day anti-intellectual slob refuses to die! level) as yer likely t' get from anyone whose braincells are as fine-tuned and rockism-inspired as mine!

For the old necessities it's TV Land all the way, though even they certainly have been slipping with less classic fifties/sixties wares and loads of more-recent drivel like LITTLE HOUSE, A NEW BEGINNING and M*A*S*H that certainly hasn't stood the test of time unless you're one of the millions who consider KNIGHT RIDER classic tee-vee programming (and calm down, Shute!). Now I'll admit that I find the earlier M*A*S*Hes funny at times, like when the show was trying to be SGT. BILKO with a bad case of seventies liberalism tossed in (I caught the one where the guys ran the home movies of Frank Burns' wedding a few weeks back and thought that scene was a hoot before doing a quick channel surf away from the rest of the thing!), but as the series progressed and became so self-conscious of itself it was hard to tell where the episode ended and the socially-relevant workings of its actors began. I'm sorry TV Land, but when I think of classic television I'm thinking 1957-67 with a few sidesteps before and after, not this seventies swill that seems to have set the pace for way too many snoozers that have appeared since! Still, TV Land is the place for all of those BLOG TO COMM-approved high-energy television shows still finding an audience even this late in the game like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, THE MUNSTERS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY even thought I find that it was a lot healthier watching these programs in the post-school afternoon hours and on those same stations that now run OPRAH, DR. PHIL and marathon news broadcasts during the pre-dinner hour! Sheesh, if such local "programming" was part and parcel of my own educational process back during my growing up days I'd probably win an award for time spent in front of textbooks on school nights!

Of course TV Land does offer a few tricks up their usually staid sleeves like a few Mondays back when they ran a BOB NEWHART SHOW marathon that really brought back the memories of classic Saturday Prime Time viewing, and yeah I know I should've been out with the rest of the red-blooded kids running around drinking red-blooded wine and engaging in general red-blooded ruckus-raising, but at least credit me for staying outta trouble and settling back for some of the classier tee-vee viewing of the era before the late-seventies hadda come in and ruin just about everything tube-wise! Some of you might prefer MARY TYLER MOORE for your seventies humor yaps but frankly I gotta say that Moore's inbred perkiness does tend to annoy and (at least for me) the show only really worked when Ted Knight as the high-larious anchorman Ted Baxter was a featured character on whatever particular episode had him playing against either Moore or Ed Asner with extremely up-chuckling results. Oddly enough it's the low tone of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW that holds up especially these days, strange since it was exactly that same reservedness that practically ruined sitcoms for a good many years but back in the seventies it sure seemed like a new and refreshing idea!

Elsewhere on the dial there's Turner Classic Movies, a station I hate tuning into because of its very namesake but since said namesake owns just about every movie made before the year 1970 its like I have little choice. Naturally this net runs too much in the way of "class" MGM material I can do without, but if one looks hard enough there might be a prime-cut Warner Brothers offering to soak yerself into or perhaps a low-budget surprise you never would expect, or better yet some silent film that isn't going to be shown inna middle of the night even though ya usually hafta put up with the geeky new soundtracks that come off about as contemporary to the films bein' run as John Williams conducting the Boston Pops would, which come to think of it is what the music used for these silents usually sounds like. And if you ignore host Robert Osbourne's typically stodgy intros/outros and squint your eyes a bit, maybe YOU TOO can pretend you're some normal kinda guy watching this film onna late show sometime in 1963 and revel in all the greatness such fantasies would therein entail!

But for total tee-vee kicks here inna late oh-ohs you just can't beat Boomerang! Yes readers, I really have stepped up in this world for a guy who couldn't even snatch up these stations a good five years back, and just now have I dished out the extra beaucoups for this "premium" I guess it's called network which really is a hoot in a handbasket! This is where all of those old obscurities they used to run on Cartoon Network went, and although you do have to put up with a load of more present-day (which for me is anything after 1975!) gunk along the lines of WACKY RACES or worse yet THE SMURFS and their cheap knockoff clone THE SNORKS there still is more than a fair share of classic tee-vee watchability left on this net to sate the souls of more than a few overgrown BLOG TO COMM readers whose hearts are still firmly set in 1962! Like CN, Boomerang is Hanna-Barbara backed which means that a good 90% of the programming here comes from their studio (the other 10% consisting of old Popeye and Warner Brothers cartoons which don't get aired as much as they should), and although it seems strange enough for one to have to pay extra to glom what was once free network and/or later-on afternoon rerun television it's sure great seeing such uncontested winners as TOP CAT (reconstituted BILKO), THE JETSONS (BLONDIE in outer-space) and THE FLINTSTONES (dunno where they derived this show from, but don't YOU see a strange resemblance between "Yabba Dabba Doo!" and "And away we go!"?????) available for viewing in the here and now. Of course the original Hanna Barbara cartoons made especially for the tee-vee huddled baby boomers (back when that word had all the innocence that one would have originally thought!) are what really get my psyche drooling. Having not seen any Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound caroons in almost thirty years I was amazed just how much they took me back to my turdlin' kiddie days while later efforts such as Yippie, Yappie and Yahooie, while not as jam-packtus as their earlier forebearers, still had some of that great dunce-like charm that I'm sure fueled many a local kiddie show back in the latter portion of the sixties. The canned music for these is great (I discovered a few riffs also used on Howdy Doody cartoons and OZZIE AND HARRIET!) and if you can believe it the viewing of these classic late-Ike/early-JFK-era artyfacts really have the power to zoom me back to my playpen days when such tee-vee viewing was pretty much mandatory. Good thing I kept control of my bladder! (And Boomerang, how about bringing back RUFF AND REDDY!)

And for you fag readers out there, what's best about these Hanna Barbara cartoons is that they're just laden with homo overtones to the point where they come off about as camp as Jack Benny romping around in his bloomers in CHARLIE'S AUNT! Sure the presence of Cindy in the Yogi Bear cartoons might make you think that he's a 100% hetro kinda guy, but she's such a zilch-level personality in these 'toons to the point where Cindy ain't really nothing but cartoonland's answer to Lou Ann Poovey! Just enough fodder to keep the police off Yogi's back so to speak, and perhaps animated cartoondom's original fag hag! Sheesh, Yogi and Boo Boo sleep in the same bed and you know what kinda hay Wertham made outta Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson doin' the same thing! (And while I'm onna roll, guess what this all makes Ranger Smith...a downright homophobic representation of authority, that's what!) Taking the Wertham route to its logical conclusion Pixie and Dixie are the ideal fag marriage that is constantly being thwarted by "society" in the role of Mister Jinx! And worst of all, how about the seemingly innocent YAKKY DOODLE cartoons! Fibber Fox is such an outwardly (and perhaps outed) gay character who, besides wearing a turtleneck sweater (!) wants to "eat" Yakky, definitely the "kept duck" of Chopper, the typical bulldog who like Offisa Pupp in the old KRAZY KAT sorta represents the butchier aspects of gay cartoondom. Hmmmmm, maybe these Hanna Barbara cartoons aren't as innocent as I was originally led to believe, so if you want anyone out there to blame for your fag brother or the confusion that set into your sister after she joined the softball team look no further than these!

IT PAYS TO INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER! And that include bloggers from all points of the globe too! Today's case in point are the words "revenge" and "justice"...and while we're at it let's toss in the term "asshole"...look 'em all up!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Susan Alcorn-AND I AWAIT (the resurrection of the pedal steel guitar) LP (Artist's Own Label, I guess)

As some of you devoted bloghunters may remember, I reviewed a cybercast of a gig performed by this steel guitarist of some reknown way back inna day, and if I recall correctly I even pondered when some sorta recording of hers would make its way to my doorstep. But that was then and this is September 12 '07 last time I looked at the calendar and whaddya know, but Alcorn's got an actual vinyl el-pee out for us to toss around like we have been for the past umpteen years of our lives waiting for that next big sonic excursion to weedle-deedle into our "doo-wah classic"-riddled minds. Dunno if AND I AWAIT is exactly the kinda platter that'll rattle our collective beanies, but it just might be. Alcorn starts off slow and steady playing this one-note guitar line as the rest of the strings glissando all around, and pretty soon the whole thing erupts into this holiday for mucked-up strings as Alcorn careens and plucks away in a fashion that seems to owe more to the newer, sorta crossover jazz/avant stylings than they do straight-ahead avant jazz proper. It certainly is entertaining enough for me to keep it from being another tossed out into the sell pile loser from when so many albums have been ground into macadam. A nice aside from the usual "new music" that lately seems to sound older'n any of us would have guessed.

Art Ensemble of Chicago-CHI-CONGO LP (Paula)
Recently I've been writin' back 'n forth with a longtime pen pal about some of the great used record finds I've not only bought, but passed up on ever since my rabid flea-market roaming days commenced back in the seventies. Most of this retroactive browbeating was spurned on by my Yardbirds review a few weeks back, and if you don't think that the thought of passing on a lotta fifty-cent goodies back then because fifty cents was sure a lotta money and you just weren't sure that Standells album was worth the try, well then you've never been a kid having to live on depression wages because your folks somehow still thought things were worth as much in the seventies as they were in the thirties! But here's a flea market purchase from the early nineties that only set me back a measly $3.00 (which at the time was probably worth about fifty cents as far as mid-seventies flea market exchange rates go) and hey, I gotta pat myself on the back and for once pride myself on being smart enough at the time to snatch this winner up without having to worry about my bank balance taking that dreaded fifty-cent, or three dollars for that matter plummet!

Anyway I got it from some guy who had the usual rows of used platters neatly segregated in typical flea market fashion, and most of 'em going for pretty good used disc rates mind you (I bought my second copy of Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR from the same guy, a deejay copy at that even though it sounded as groove-damaged as my earlier acquisition) but the recent acquisition of CHI-CONGO really surprised said dealer because Paula was a blues label and here they were handling this free jazz oddity! The way he was talkin', I thought this used bin mogul was gonna wanna part with the platter for way more'n the pittance I paid for the thing but anyway, I still consider myself lucky for snatching up this rarity for the price I did, something I truly consider a steal in a world where such elpee bonanzas were certainly becoming rarer and rarer due to the mass populace wizing up 'n discovering the unmitigated joys of GOLDMINE.

Enough reminiscence (this lookback to days of flea market finds through rose-colored rear-view mirrors is even making me sick), and let's get down to the brass tacks of CHI-CONGO, a platter that's not only fueling my lust for those early Art Ensemble wares recorded during their French glory days but an impetus that actually made me go and dish out some beaucoup bucks for the rare Affinity reish of their double live set which always seemed to elude me even after twenty years of feh search. "Chi-Congo" (the title track) is a typically skewered Malachi Favors bass solo surrounded by that patented-yet-great AACM small instrument clatter and percussive saw being produced by the rest of the Ensemble, while Roscoe Mitchell's "Enlorfe" is a manic, intense saxophone free-play in the best Art Ensemble tradition complete with the gongs rattling and sirens blaring as the trio of Mitchell, Jarman and Bowie sound like they're trying to induce brain aneurisms in themselves, in each other, and in the listener. Why they hadda split this one up between two sides is a mystery, and perhaps the Cee-Dee reish rectifies things though I doubt it. Mitchell's "Hippparippp" closes things out, though the real mystery about this piece is where does it really begin? I mean, there's a pause between various musical movements and all, but no groove seperation to actually denote what this track really entails. No matter what, CHI-CONGO's a manic winner in the already-stellar early Art Ensemble oeuvre and I gotta say that I used to think Don Moye brought these guys down a bit but he really fits in snugger'n a Lang inna fug with the rest of the guys.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Something that I'm sure Crozier is still trying to explain himself for in the afterlife!

Mad Magicians

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I'd say that I'm sorry for missing my usual midweek culturally-significant posting for all of you gathered BLOG TO COMM fanatics out there but really, I'm not. True, this cavalierness with regards to keeping you lumpen lumps updated about various smart-set doofus listening/reading/viewing material ain't exactly anything that would endear me to some of you rabid blogwatchers out there but frankly, it's not like I always have the energy, time or inclination to sit down at the ol' keyboard and peck out exactly what I'm thinking of subject "X" at any given time like I'm sure a lotta you younger bloggers can with relative ease. And although I'm sure many of you reg'lar readers out there are just living to see what I may think about said subject (being the hotsiest to trotsiest thing on whatever's left of the underground scene) it's not like I'm at your beck and call each and every hour of the day to satisfy your needs! Hey, back inna old days when I would actually take anywhere from two weeks to two years to crank out the latest ish of my own crudzine there may have been months when I'd spend upwards of six weeks away from my tried 'n trusty word processor, only to return to the beast with a rabid ferocity once the IMPETUS (mostly a new album or p'haps videotape courtesy Bill Shute) would wing its way to my door. So don't go 'round sayin' that I'm just another shirker on the blogscope, because what I'm giving you (bi)-weekly is something that woulda taken me a hefty three weeks to write back inna old days!

But just because I'm that sorta guy (no, not that sorta guy you silly thing!), I thought I'd deliver an extra-large hunking/heaving blogpost your way this weekend just so's you faithful (hah!) readers will still wuv me! And yes, I'm gonna try my darndest to make this vinyl/Cee-Dee/reading material orgy one of the biggest and bestest blogs that I've ever had the pleasure of dishing out at you rockism-starved readers out'll be a doozy that you can bet on, and to punch it up a bit I'll even throw in a lot of invective or even the usual wind-bagginess I know you all love and at no extra charge! Believe-you-me, this BLOG TO COMM post is one for the archives 'n what's best about it the whole thing comes free of charge, unless you're reading this at a public library and you get fined for tuning into such "subversive" reading material! But until the Miss Prissies catch you, just settle back and get ready for a real fun ride into rockism's seedier, less slick side...

The Electric Eels-THE EYEBALL OF HELL CD (Scat)

Amoeba (raft boy)-BAD FUGGUM FROM THE MYSTERIUM (Smog Veil)

Wanna hear something funny? A few years ago this guy, in what turned out to be yet another example of the usual build up/knock down mentality often seen throughout the "benevolent" underground, berated (in his usual distortion-of-reality way) this very writer (me!) for alledgedly being tres redundant over-and-over ad infinitum onandon to the point of self-righteous nausea with regards to various underground postmarks of the under-the-counterculture rockism scene! Main cases in point according to the Materialist One were my so-called repeated cheerleading of such important happenings on this aforementioned "scene" as BACK DOOR MAN magazine (a fanzine I'm sure most of you would never have known about had it not been for my article on 'em back in issue #22) and none other than Cleveland early/mid-seventies proto-punk wunderkind the Electric Eels if you can believe that! (Said writer also dismissed my tastes matter-of-factly by belittling my general rah-rah attitude regarding such enlightening acts as the Plastic People of the Universe and Von Lmo, the latter a musical entity that said "critic" once saw live and even raved about before making his abrupt 180! I guess the effect of bad eighties alternative rock in the bloodstream coupled with the uncompromising delusional fury of Christopher Hitchens does have its downsides.) Anyhoo what really smacked of said "writer" not doing his homework (maybe the wife/dog/same thing ate it?) was the plain and simple fact that I had not written anything about the aforementioned Electric Eels in my mag or elsewhere (remember, these were the pre-blog days) since at least the very-early nineties and in fact I hadn't even LISTENED to the Eels for just as long a time, only mentioning them in very brief passing on rare occasion! How this chowderhead brought up the Eels as some sorta group I was writing about and mentioning to the point of flogging their cold meat into hamburger I do not know, though it sure did seem suspicious for a guy to belittle me for namedropping/overpraising these guys when I haven't when HE'D rant and rave about Mission of Burma and the Flesheaters to the high heavens (oops...sorry I forgot you don't believe in that!) and back and that sure smacks of something that I've been called more'n a few times, and by this imbecile as well!

But snooty bloggers doing the all-important cut-down or not (and trying to cover up their crimes by playing it all down to nada), I gotta say that it wasn't until NOW that I got hold of these now-ancient (re)issues of class Electric Eels sputum, and why I've waited so long is really hard to say. Well, not really, since I must be the first to admit that even I have tired of the whole Cleveland First Wave retrogarde fandom, especially after listening to the same tracks over and over to the point where they began losing their "demonically intense" (as Charlotte Pressler put it in her great Andrew Klimek article) sway over me. Heck, it got to the point where even the new to my ears stuff that was coming out in droves by the nineties wasn't thrilling me as much as it did in '80 when underground rock (whether it be punk, new/gnu wave, garage or even heavy metal if you will) was still a matter of testing one's true mettle in this upstart youth world of ours, and though I'd still like to hear more Milk and can only imagine what the original Crocus Behemoth/Charlie Weiner-led Rocket From The Tombs sounded like it wasn't as if I was just digging this stuff up in ohmigosh wonderment like I was when I was a kid reading an old comic section of the newspaper comparing the styles of then and now. I mean, I've always felt jaded like a whore, but sometimes I can put on a demeanor and attitude towards music, books and life that would have made Josef Stalin look like Ozzie Nelson in comparison.

But sheesh, I dunno but lately that ol' vim and verve has been returning to my system to the point where I can take this music and on its own levels the same way I did when I was fifteen or twenty, and whaddya know but after a good decade or so of avoiding the Electric Eels like the plague they suddenly have meaning in my otherwise iffy existence! And so I purchased these two platters which I know will cheer me up even more'n watching old YOGI BEAR cartoons have, and given their sonic bombardment can you think of a better way to resensify yourself after being submerged into a lifeless/loveless pit of alternative music doldrums that have been permeating our world these past two decades?

THE EYEBALL OF HELL, the latest in hopefully a long line of Electric Eels exhumations, is perhaps the best of the lot as far as these Eels homages go. Oh don't get me wrong, I really like all of the other Electric Eels LPs and CDs that have been crawling out of the alternative gutter ever since the word about 'em being perhaps thee self-defining moment in underground hoo-hah got out in the eighties (and I just wonder who it was gettin' that word out, if you know what I mean!), but this package has got it all from not only the great selection of Eels lore both previously-released and not, but having Eels co-leader John Morton write the liner notes was an act of pure genius (from what I've been told, a lot of it being "hush-hush" an' all, this guy ain't exactly an "agreeable" fellow, but what other kind of person could make a music such as this without sacrificing some shard of sanity?) and the information spewed by both he and fellow Eel Brian McMahon is what I would call engrossing. And hearing the single version of "Agitated" after all these years sure brings back the memories (to the day and time in January '80 when I first gave that 'un a spin, and on the same afternoon I bought the cutout Troggs VINTAGE YEARS set which was yet another all-important psyche-booster)! Of course with the detailed liners and the general snaz package we also get to hear that boss old as well as enlightening new material which at least for me sends thus humble blogger back to the seventies and very-early eighties when the underground/punk/no wave/whatever it was called that eventually ended up as that dross called "alternative music" was truly an awe-inspiring, adventurous to young upstart suburban kiddies like myself affair. True a whole hunkerin' lot of this is on them other Electric Eel disques which are now hopelessly outta print and you probably have all that tasty tench in your collection already, but who would dare pass up the likes of the cover of "Dead Man's Curve" (which is presented here as a loft recording though I thought it came from the tape of the Eels' last live gig recorded at the WRUW-FM courtyard September 9, 1975!) or the reduction of free jazz to its basest form called (what else but) "Jazz Is (Part 2)"! Yes every track is a winner and if you wanna show your knowitall kid what rock & roll is all about I suggest you slip one of these in with his pablum and teach him a two or thing!

Those of you BLOG TO COMM readers who didn't quite care for John Morton's post-Eels band Ex-Blank-Ex probably won't care for Amoeba (raft boy) either. And frankly I don't think the Amoeba guys, even with the presence of such Clevo standbys as Paul Marotta and Paul Lawrence, are as boffo as the Electric Eels or even Ex-Blank-Ex remain, but I still like this early-nineties give-it-a-go a lot more than a lotta pointy-heads looking for the past in the present and not being satisfied ever could. Lead vocalist Christian Brown is wild but not Dave E.-esque enough; however he comes off as a believeable frontman for this group sorta reminding me of Warren Stahurski of Manster in his braggadocio manner, and the re-dos of old Electric Eels, Styrenes and Pagans numbers really fits the bill well 'nuff even if they do have that nineties approach rather than a seventies kinda shake to 'em like the Eels and Ex-Blank-Ex certainly had. But why should I complain? Morton still plays his guitar like he was being chased by a rabid pack of PC police just rarin' to beat him up again, and if he were smart he woulda billed this aggregate as "The New Electric Eels" or better yet "John Morton's New Electric Eels" and raked in the well-deserved cash! But whatever, it all fits into the main underground vision fine enough and I'm glad that Morton was (and in fact "is") still active in rock music, even if he has to now fight amongst droves of less-talented acts for that precious stage time that was all-so elusive thirty-five years back.
Noah Howard-THE BLACK ARK CD (Bo Weevil, available from Forced Exposure or Vocanic Tongue)

I'm still not sure of all the whys and wherefores as to why THE BLACK ARK never did get reissued until now, but had this disc had only made it out with the rest of those great Arista/Freedom platters during the mid/late-seventies avant-jazz surge we sure woulda had fun finding copies popping up all over the place in used bins nationwide! And why not, for this set, like a good portion of the Arista/Freedom (or just plain Freedom) collection was pretty adventurous music from a time when it seemed as if music prided itself on just how far outside the realm of "acceptability" it could go, without sounding like the total jagoff anti-human wallow of way too many self-produced experiments in terror one comes across these days. But whaddeva the holdup was the tiny Bo Weevil label has finally secured the rights, and as anyone who's latched onto an original or perhaps the way-too-expensive Japanese reissue knows this one is a great second-generation avant-jazz screamer.

Perhaps the true star of the show is none other than current free-jazz hero (thanks to Rudolph Grey and the Blue Humans) Arthur Doyle making his recording debut in such a strong "NOTICE ME!" way that I'm surprised that they didn't reissue this monster under his own name to capitalize on his ever-growing fame. It probably would've sold mountains more, but I know these guys ain't in in for the moolah and really this is Howard's trip all the way even if Doyle tries to upstage him with some of the more feral, atonal buzz squonk heard on an avant-jazz dish like this in a pretty long time!

If you go for the more out-there late-sixties/seventies sound that seemed to burst forth from the ESP and BYG labels into the Sam Rivers loft jazz scene through the eighties up to the Vision Quest Festival and the CBGB Lounge series of the early/mid-oh-ohs then you'll definitely go for this. I was reminded a bit of Frank Wright, but that's probably because of the Asian influence on "Mt. Fuji" which reminds me of Wright's side-long mangling of Far East forms on his "China" which come to think of it had Howard as a sideman and was recorded relatively around the same time as THE BLACK ARK as well.
Lou Rone-PLASTIC PISTOL CD (download it from ITunes, Napster, Sony Connect,
Rhapsody, Emusic and wherever good music can be swiped!)

Hey it's finally out, and it's a winner as you'd probably already know. I've been a fan of Mr. Rone's for quite a long time, and as you may remember I gave his debut solo outing ALONE a mighty hefty rave in these very, er, pages a few years back. However, the man has a new, downloadable album out and PLASTIC PISTOL continues on where Rone's prior effort left off. It's yet another "I played all the instruments" kinda affair, yet this ain't no hipster borgasm we've come across way too many times o'er the years. It's electric, yet electronic with Rone's perhaps unpatented guitar lines mixing and swaying with a synth background that strangely enough reminds me of some of those early-eighties krautrock efforts that Connie Plank was involved with (ZERO SET and RASTAKRAUTPASTA come to mind). The snootier-than-thou crowd will undoubtedly up their nostrils at it, but wiser BLOG TO COMM aficionados are gonna be more than eager to lap this great slice of electro-metal up like so much Kal-Kan. Fave track, the second one where Rone's guitar erupts into pure metallic flange that kinda sounds like strange messages being received from the furthest reaches of Planet "X" are somehow entering your brain through Uranus.
Tim Buckley-STARSAILOR LP (Four Men With Beards, available through Forced Exposure)

Way too much has been written about this once-reviled but now praised (mostly by ineffectual little snoots trying to pass themselves off as rock historians) album so why should I add to the fray even more? Because it remains a hot mofo of a platter, thaz why! Yeah, I gotta admit that I liked the thing (on and off depending on the wind shift I'll admit) ever since I got my paws on a copy back in '78 (though I was really tempted to pick up an 8-track cutout found at a shopping mall hi-fi shop a year before even though I didn't own a player, so at least gimme a li'l credit for that!), and what's more it's great hearing a vinyl copy that doesn't sound like it was thumped out on retreads like the two original pressings long-wallowing in my collection do. It, like most of the Straight/Bizarre line of instant-cutout quap, literally reeks cheap-o Frank Zappa tax write off (I mean, what kinda hipster in 1970 woulda wanted to buy an album with that cover?) but nowadays it sounds like another great album outta the past that you just KNEW was gonna influence a whole generation of numnuls thirty years down the line.
EMTIDI LP (Wah Wah, Germany)

I dunno if you remember that SAAT album that came out on Pilz over in Germany back inna day, but that was a disque which I certainly would call a krautrock sleeper. This group, the duo of Canadian Dolly Holmes and local goosestepper Maik Herdschfeldt, played what could only be described as a cross between late-sixties English folk boom music and the electronic rock of the day making some interesting proggy-spew music that seemed to have way too much to do with the more aierie-fairie aspects of the progressive scene yet it managed to be saved by a general feeling of Fairport Conventionesque smarts 'stead of Emerson Lake and Palmer "Look how clever we are with all these instruments listed next to our names!" smug superiority. I recall one online critic dredging up the sacred name of the Velvet Underground as if Emtidi were mixing their prog nature with late-sixties garage band aspirations like Can and Amon Duul were...not really, but I find myself spinning in once in a blue ball anyways.

This self-tited effort's their debut from about a year before SAAT's heralded entry into import bins nationwide, and if anything EMTIDI shows that even without the electronic gadgetry and Dieter Dierks' production these two had that English folk trip down pretty good. Of course they don't sound quite as commercially avant garde as I'm sure the average bin watcher of the day woulda liked, but at the time I'm sure that the duo of Holmes and Hirdschfeldt were lucky enough to record this platter with the instruments they had let alone the latest in electronic gadgetry. Still they do manage to get avant garde at times, such as on elpee closer "Flutepiece."
Various Artists-SOUNDSVILLE! LP (Design)

Yeah we've all heard those pre-Velvet Underground Lou Reed tracks over and over via a wide array of Velvets bootlegs that have made their way to our doors lo these past thirtysome years, but have any of you ever given a listen to the rest of this once-flea market staple that's probably now going for upwards of fifty-five smackeroos? The early Reed stuff via the Roughnecks and Beachnuts tracks is of course priceless and certainly point the way towards future Reed excursions both with and without the Velvets (I mean, remember that Honda ad Reed made back inna eighties? As Eddie Flowers mused, or something like that, they shoulda used "Cycle Annie" 'stead of "I Love You Suzanne" onna soundtrack!) but the rest ain't no slouch either. Jeannie Larimore's "Johnny Won't Surf No More" sounds like it coulda been an early Velvets track with that hammering guitar line and a wholesome Amerigan gal singin' the tuneage 'stead of that kraut Nico, while I'm more'n positive that it is Lou playin' the geet-box on almost all of these exploito numbers makin' 'em hot swagger in a world of crank-out sausage. The only dowser inna pack's the elpee closer "It's Hard For a Girl in a World Full of Men" by some Connie Carson character who sounds like one of those neat-o college kid folksters that used to pop up on HOOTENANNY because they wore turtlenecks and seemed clean, but you knew that the HUAC was lookin' out for 'em every chance they got! Other'n that, this just might be worth the megabux you'll bid on it via ebay!

Well here's a surprise. I shoulda known after reading Eddie Flowers' apt review of these guys, but let's just say that there was this li'l debbil on my shoulder tellin' me not to fall for the hype like I've tended to these past twennysome years. Y'see, I've been around the block and back so many times I've gotta admit that some of these so-called hot flashes in unnerground rock just ain't what they're cracked up to be, but with a guy the caliber of Flowers hypin' this Home Blitz group tellin' us how they come off like the best of everything seventies rock stood for with oh-ohs intelligence added to it, well, I just hadda fall for the thing and I'm glad I did. Home Blitz is perhaps the surprise of the season, and given that way too many of these self-produced yammers are about as exciting as that early-eighties "amerindie" crap Robert Christgau was pushing on us all I gotta say is that it's sure wunnerful listening to something that's good, and finding out that the thing's a here and now proposition to boot!

From what I can tell, Home Blitz is led by a guy named Danny DiMaggio plus some cohorts...not too sure who because I can't locate my Flowers-penned hypesheet and I'm too lazy to read the interview posted on the guy's website until I post this thing and can easily click the link-up myself, but whatever they are they sure do evoke the best parts of the seventies underground scene, and what's tippy top about the whole thing is that unlike what Eduardo Flores doth writ I can't find any real eighties/nineties/oh-ohs "update" on the sound meanin' that if someone told me this actually was some long-long archival dig I undoubtedly would believe 'im!

Anyway this Dimaggio kid sounds just like that...a kid kinda like Jonathan Richman always had and the music seems to have that sorta early-seventies Modern Lovers-meets-Big Star sorta romp feeling to it and as if the thing were recorded in Greg Prevost's basement on Distorted Levels' discarded equipment as well. Some have slung the Half Japanese name into the mix but since I gotta admit to not being as hotsy on those guys as I once was (probably because of their association with, uh, less-savory elements in the alternative rock world) I think I'll just forget about mentioning 'em in Home Blitz's presence at least for now. But whaddeva, this disque is a true knotty-pine basement suburban teenage winner featuring the group's early self-recorded/produced singles as well as maybe some previously unreleased booty in order to drag the hardcore fans into buying this disc, and yeah I sure am lost without a hypesheet to guide me but you won't be lost with this truly indie offering on your laser launching pad!

And oh yeah that cover! It's sure great to know that Home Blitz spared no expense in getting some blind third grader to do the artwork for this disc! At least the little brat will be able to eat tonight! And with the likes of this and the Bon Vivants EP coming out in the here and now proving that there is good rock & roll being made without the sick dinge of "art" or "social relevancy" all I can say is...who needs the Vines anyway?
Teiji Ito-MUSIC FOR MAYA 2-CD set (Tzadik, available from Forced Exposure)

Most BLOG TO COMM readers probably don't know who Teiji Ito was, and I'm sure that most probably wouldn't care to know who he was even if they had the chance, but since you've read this far and I forked over a lotta dough to buy this set maybe you should humor me for once. Ito was an avant garde musician who used his talents so to speak to make soundtracks for a whole variety of films that weren't exactly part of your normal moom pitcher diet. Most of them were underground/avant garde films done for wife Maya Deren, but others were for documentaries and even instructional films which I'm sure were trying to benefit from the austere world music-ish sounds that Ito was dabbling in at the time. This two-disque set, the third in Tzadik's series of Ito recordings, consists of nothing but such soundtrack music. Almost all of it, like for Deren's films such as MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (an interesting piece of home-made avant filmwork even if it seems to be made just for wishy-washy college girls who ooh and aah over such detailed mystical twaddle as Brad Kohler would say) seems just as cold and austere as the films and people it was made for. The reason I bought the set was to hear Ito's foray into avant-jazz for Willard Maas' 1967 alledged rave-up ORGIA, and that was just as staid and unmoving as the rest of this stuff which made me feel like I was watching a classroom film back in grade school and the only thing on my mind was three o'clock that afternoon. Maybe in a million years, but not right now.
Wurm-"Time Has Come Today"/"We're Off", "I'm Dead" EP; FEAST LP (SST)

Okay, I know I'm treading upon some other people's territory writing about these staunchly eighties offerings, and since I've never been what might be called a "keen" fan of that decade and that music maybe I shouldn't be reviewing this 'un at all. And while I'm at it maybe I'm not exactly that big a fan of Wurm's record label SST for a myriad assortment of reasons...y'see, I must admit to you that I do feel "slighted" that, of all the fanzines (excuse me...'zines) that had sprung up outta nowhere dealing in contempo rock culture in the early/mid-eighties mine was the only one not to score any much-needed SST adspace, and this is when they were advertising in just about EVERY crudzine that came down the pike thus bolstering the coffers of a lotta unworthies out there! Sour grapes indeed, and why should I forgive 'em, especially that whatzizname guy Farrell who was doin' a little badmouthin' about me behind my back after a few reviews of mine didn't quite reach up to his lofty expectations! But then again what could you say about a label that started out in this world shining oh-so-brightly, only to devolve into an utter mess of trashy tossout alternative drivel coupled with some of the worst jam band hippie musings one could imagine? In all, I guess that the relatively shoddy treatment I've received from not only SST but a wide range of underground heavies (and who could get heavier than Gerard Cosloy?) hadda do with me just generally being a hard-workin' suburban rock & roll fan from Nowheresville who didn't fit in with any of the perversion-crazed, ultra-left, pro-PC anti-humans making and recording the music who had unfortunately began calling all of the shots once the eighties began rollin' on by.

But fortunately none of this derisive anti-SST splatter I've been spewin' has anything to do with these Wurm fellows. Famous only because they were Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski's band in those pre-punk rock days, Wurm had the notable distinction of having reformed in 1982 as a performing and recording vehicle for the reknown bassist when legal hijinx made sure that Black Flag could not logically exist for a good many years (well, at least it seemed a good many years!). Before that, Wurm were yet another one of those lost-in-the-grooves underground bands that hadda fight it out with the Pablo Cruise gang for precious stage space to perform their original material, and if I can trust my handy-dandy cassette tape of a 1973 rehearsal sent me by an underground notable who has remained true and blue throughout the years these guys were pretty fierce in their performance and attack even then, surely a fitting antidote to the music that Southern California was making itself known for thanks to the likes of the Eagles, David, Joni, Jackson and a whole slew of pampered and privileged WASP menials who were born with silver spoons places sideways up their already-expansive buttocks.

Wurm's '82 debut EP is undoubtedly their best, capturing the same spirit of pure heavy metal mania that was present on that aforementioned cassette of mine (which I'll have to dig out and transfer to disque so it will be preserved for all time, or at least handy enough for my next heavy metal panic attack), strangely enough a sound which was ironically pretty much tres-feh! with a good portion of the HM listening audience in the late-seventies who were more interested in fancy guitar work and neato-hair than they were with music as a force to bludgeon. The cover of "Time Has Come Today" is faithful enough to the Chambers Brothers hit, and it is a great ditty and all that serves its purpose well but gosh-it-all I say an original would have been a better choice considering the importance of this platter. However the flip's an outright killer on contact with a short, more hardcore punky number ("We're Off") followed by the metallic stomper "I'm Dead" which is a survivor from the group's early days and has all of the power one would associate with a band that was weaned on Black Sabbath, King Crimson, the Stooges and...Yes??? But it's really powerful rock that just goes to remind one that the seventies from which this sonic blare was first spurted was certainly not that vast wasteland that disaffected leftoids and snooty upper-crust English bloggers make it out to be.

The FEAST longplayer arrived a few years later 'round '85, and I strongly recall a review of this 'un getting prominently slapped in the fourth issue of my very own crudzine as well which only goes to show you what kind of editorial tastes I've always had. I recall it if only because of contributor John Stanton's very on-target closing comment where he chides THE BOB magazine for their putdown of said disc, stating that perhaps the name of their rag meant that these guys like to "bob for logs in the toilet"!!! After twenty years, who can forget such a line as that? I should have been able to get enough ad-space from SST for that alone, but before Jay Hinman chides me for crankin' on about how jilted I've been lo these many years lemme just say that having listened to FEAST after stashing it in the back of the collection for maybe too long a time was certainly a resensifying experience in the truest Detroit fashion, making me wonder why these guys hadda break up again 'stead of churning out a few more for the SST label which was about to take their swan dive into the mung! I mean, I woulda rather had more Wurm in my collection than SWA, that's for sure!

I could question the inclusion of Dead Hippie's Simon Smallwood as lead vocalist 'stead of guitarist Ed Danky or bassist Dukowski, but Smallwood warbles well enough in that early-seventies hog-chortle style so suitable for bands both metal or not, while the selection of music on the platter was rather well-defined and a whole lot better'n most of the metallic flange that SST was tossing out by that time. I did notice a little bitta attention/energy loss once side two started rolling on, but then again things started to pick up by the time (I believe) "Jimmy's Song" hit the needle. Or at least that one with the harmonica scronk (courtesy Dez Cadena!) had me hoppin' and boppin' across the basement floor and yeah, it is a lot better'n I remembered and I remembered it being a pretty hot ticket to say the least.

Kinda makes me wish that Bill Shute would have finished that interview with Dukowski that he was attempting for his own fanzine back in '82 right around the time Wurm was reforming. (Bill tells me that Dukowski was a real gent, though he hadda hang up the phone when he realized that he was calling long distance on someone else's bill! I guess Dukowski just didn't know where he was living at that time or something, but it did seem a funny enough anecdote to include here!) I think there was going to be a Wurm track taken from the aforementioned cassette to have appeared on one of Bill's INNER MYSTIQUE EPs as well if only the interview went off hitch-less but whaddeva, at least we have these two discs to seriously contend with, and why they just ain't in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame while a lotta unworthies are getting their egos and other things stroked by the horrid tastemongers at hand is only testament to the fact the Amish say people just don't know what good is!
AMAZING FANTASY OMNIBUS VOL. 1 (Marvel Masterworks, 2007)

And finally on today's agenda (I can hear more'n a few of you breathing heavy sighs of relief even this far away!) comes this new book that some enterprising soul tipped me off to a few posts back when I pondered just when Marvel was gonna reprint their old Dr. Droom (considered the first Marvel Age superhero) stories from the old AMAZING ADVENTURES title that appeared on the stands sometime in that hallowed year of 1961. Well, it turns out that not only the entire run of AA but its followup AMAZING (ADULT) FANTASY has been collected in boffo hardcover format complete with full color glossy pages to suit the more discriminating amongst us, and if you look hard enough maybe you can get it cheaper than the $75 cover price just like I did!

AMAZING ADVENTURES was indeed a transitional title that undoubtedly took the Marvel line from the old late-fifties Atlas monster/sci-fi themed comics that Stan Lee had been churning out with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and to a lesser extent Don Heck and Paul Reinman into the sixties superhero idiom that made Lee a star and put comic books on the hip-de-la-chic map ever since. I mean, there's no denying that AMAZING ADVENTURES did begin as a typical Marvel monster title with the back-page addition of a new superpowered continuing character, and it ended with the appearance of Marvel's very own Superman (Spiderman) so what else could you call it! Anyhoo, issue #1 (June '61) featured the debut of that aforementioned Dr. Droom, a long-suppressed by Marvel series which I for years thought dealt with the noted Fantastic Four villian Dr. Doom, an error which in fact indented into my little beanie thanks to Les Daniels' excello comic book history COMIX sometime in the early seventies. Those comic book histories always seem to have one or two factual errors in 'em so you could write in hoping to get a mention in the next (non-existant) printing of the thing, but until Larry Boyd told me otherwise (like two decades after the fact) that this series was about a Dr. DROOM I sure was wonderin' just what that short-lived series featuring the ironclad one was like considering he was a man of such extreme evil and all!

Turns out that these Droom sagas were pretty good in themselves, sorta like an unsold pilot for the comic which would eventually become Dr. Strange before they fine-tuned the thing and fired the leading actor. Of course whether or not you could call Anthony Droom a Marvel superhero per se is open to question given the guy merely roamed around in a trenchcoat and seemed to battle the usual alien creepage that the Fantastic Four and Thor were battling in their early issues, but just for being a continuing character who interestingly enough made his last appearance the exact month the Fantastic Four were making their first Droom has earned his place in the Marvel Universe even if his seventies reappearance as Dr. Druid seemed to be done only out of the goodness of Stan Lee's heart. (I guess the guy was hurting for work, but sheesh having two Masters of the Mystic Arts under one publishing house was sorta like when Hulk Hogan and Superstar Billy Graham were both wrestling for the old WWF back inna eighties!)

The rest of the AMAZING ADVENTURES run seems pretty much part and parcel to the standard pre-hero Marvel lot, with those great Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers monsters like SSERPO!, MANOO!! and worst of all LANGGG!!! terrorizing the populace only to get outwitted by some teenager or other early-sixties example of tough manhood who as usual uses his brains while the rest of the populace wanna fend off the alien creeps with rocks and logs! The Steve Ditko stories are boss as well...I always loved looking at his art back when these pre-hero sagas were being reprinted in a wide array of Marvel specialty titles in the seventies, and seein' 'em again (or for the first time) is always a treat for the eyes even if you just knew that Ditko was cringing over Stan Lee's scripts dealing with heartless businessmen and altruistic and lowly yet humble characters going again the entire capitalist and individualist thrust of Ditko's personalist works of the late-sixties and beyond!

With issue #7 the mag became AMAZING ADULT FANTASY, a title which I'm surprised was ever used at all due to the "durty" connotations which the word "Adult" would obviously imply that I'm sure had blue-haired mothers covering up Junior's eyes (hee!) upon passing the comic book rack. And the questionable title still seems apt even to this day...when unwrapping the book from its package Jillery even remarked to me "Where you gonna hide this one?" speculating that I've been keeping a whole lotta things outta view of the Wardens' watchful eyes in the past! Well, after reading these comics all I gotta say is that if these titles were especially "adult" in any stretch of the word then BAMBI should garner an "R" rating, for these sagas were nothing but the same quirky Lee/Ditko stories they had been doing for the past three or so years only gathered into one neat title that somehow also signalled a new change in direction for the company along with the superhero titles that were starting to spring up.

Now I gotta admit that some of these stories were in fact downright gag-inducing, but Ditko's art saves 'em no matter how much he himself must've been gagging at the prospect of drawing something he no doubt felt contrary to his own personal beliefs! Still I can read all of these comics over and over thanks to that great, mostly underappreciated artwork which, although seemingly simple, show a great deal of Kirby/Eisner influx that seemingly has slipped away from the form over the past few decades to the point where it's all pastafazool to me. (That's the Kurtzman influence in me!) At least by #15 "Spider-Man" was introduced and you could tell that all of the fantasy fillers were gonna be drawn by Larry Leiber from now on because it was pretty plain to see that, after years in the biz and lotsa late-night fears over being outta work, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had finally made it!

So where does that all put this book? For fans of the Marvel comics of the sixties these are yet more great archival offerings featuring two of the best artists to hit the comic boards, and for a guy like myself who continues to buy old seventies reprint titles featuring this stuff it's sure great to dig in once again. As for you...well, I can't tell if you're of the uppity snob variety or a comic book bum like myself, but if you're of the latter you don't have to be told anything because ya already know!

(Oh, and before I go did I ever tell you about the time Brad Kohler wrote me after my mini-article on the pre-superhero Marvel monster/sci-fi books in BLACK TO COMM #22 and he admitted that he too used to gobble up all those early-seventies repro titles? The odd thing about Kohler's remarks were that at the time he didn't know that those stories were reprints of early-sixties works but assumed that they were actual early-seventies sagas seeing the light of day for the very first time!!! For some odd reason, Kohler couldn't discern through the hairdos, automobile styles and clothing that these were old comics which baffles me to no end! I mean, sometimes Jillery will surprise me when she asks what year some TV show or movie was made, and when I ask her what she thinks [I usually can guess correctly within a few years myself judging from the styles to even the quality of the film stock] she's usually way off course anywhere from seven to fifteen years! But the fact that Kohler actually thought some obviously Cold War-era/themed comic was then-contemporary really boggles the mind! I dunno what to think, but then again I'm sure more than a few of you perusers out there think I'M daft!)