Saturday, December 31, 2011

12.31.2011, FTW

In October 1979, I was living in Austin when an old ally from Long Island called, inviting me to come up to Aspen, Colorado, to make a rock 'n' roll band -- a fool's errand. I didn't tell him that I hadn't touched a guitar in a year. Instead, I went out and bought the heaviest strings I could find (.013 to .056), gave up my apartment and started sleeping on a coworker's couch to save money, and practiced relentlessly until I had enough for a bus ticket plus a couple of weeks of walking around money. I drove my car up to Dallas, where I left it with some shady upstate New York expats, and boarded a bus to Aspen with my SG, tweed Deluxe, a Kerouac biography, and a suitcase.

When I got there, it took me a whole day to find my friends, who informed me that they'd found another guitar player -- a child prodigy cellist and pianist from Dallas, whom they'd found busking swing music on the street. (My oldest daughter still has the acoustic guitar he was using.) His name was Jay Hardesty. It pissed me off that he was a better player than I was, and we circled each other like panthers through that extremely dissolute winter. He even kicked my ass a couple of times (I provoked him). Eventually, I was run out of Aspen on a rail (long story) and wound up back in Fort Worth around the time Jay wound up back in Dallas.

Then a funny thing happened: he became one of my best friends, which he remains to this day, even though we only see each other every five years or so. He invited me out to jam at his band's rehearsal space, and to sit in on one of their gigs. We stayed in touch as life took me first to Memphis, then to the Air Force (mainly in Texas and Louisiana). He moved to New York City and every time I'd visit him there, he'd give me another piece of musical equipment (all of which I wound up selling to eat, I'm sorry to say). I was in his wedding in 1999.

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, including a move to London for Jay and his wife, but this year, he and Kate, who now live in Switzerland, had their first child. (My eighth grandchild was born this year.) It's funny, but I still think of him as "the kid," even though he was born on this date in 1961. I'm sure glad he was.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Les Rallizes Denudes reconsidered

About four years ago, I was waxing ecstatic on this very blog about a recent discovery (thanks to Jon Teague and Julian Cope): enigmatic Japanese psych rockers Les Rallizes Denudes. Cope's Japrocksampler, published that year, had been an eye-opening portal to a musical world I'd never dreamed existed (even though I'd witnessed a performance, at NYC's La Mama Theater, of the Tokyo Kid Brothers' rock musical Golden Bat back in 1970, when I was 13 and had no context in which to place it).

Cope's narrative starts with Japan's vibrant experimental music scene dating back to the early '50s and winds its way through the surf-influenced eleki style and the Brit Invasion-aping Group Sounds movement to the Japanese rock underground that coalesced around the Tokyo production of the rock musical Hair -- which brought together forward-thinking jazz and rock musos for months of rehearsals and relatively few performances (authorities closed the show after only two months) -- and came to fruition in the masterwork of proto-metalheads like Flower Travellin' Band and Blues Creation, inspired genius-madmen like J.A. Caesar and Magical Power Mako, and the sublimely spaced Taj Mahal Travellers.

True, I was less than impressed when I finally heard some of the discs listed in Cope's valuable Top 50 discography. (Speed, Glue & Shinki? Not so much.) But the good stuff was astonishing, and Les Rallizes Denudes in particular were a Rawk obscurantist's wet dream: a band that based its whole sound around White Light/White Heat Velvets and Vincebus Eruptum Blue Cheer, whose recorded output consisted of hideously rare (and pricey) bootlegs.

Les Rallizes delivered on the promise of the feedback, yelling, and Godzilla-roar glissandos on the MC5's Kick Out the Jams: either a freak's delight, or music as endurance contest. They're probably the only band in the world to make amp hum an integral part of its sound. In Japan, they spawned legions of imitators -- Fushitsusha, High Rise, Mainliner, Acid Mother's Temple -- all of them monochromatic and, ultimately, boring in comparison to Les Rallizes.

While their followers pumped up the intensity and velocity of their jams in a kind of noise arms race, Les Rallizes' music derived its impact from the contrast between Takashi Mizutani's feedback guitar blast and the rhythm section's laconic backing, as they repeated Mizutani's primally simple riffs, one per song, for mind-numbing expanses of time. They favored slow and medium tempos, the whole band's sound awash in oceans of reverb, tremelo, and (when they became available) phase shifters. The perpetually black-clad Mizutani hid his eyes behind dark shades, perhaps to protect them from Les Rallizes' seizure-inducing light show -- a shadowy and mysterious figure crying out from the abyss in a sub-Neil Young yelp.

Ultimately, it got to be too exhausting, not to mention expensive, trying to track down Les Rallizes' catalog, and I drew the line at the relatively inexpensive compilation Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go and the live 2CD Le 12 Mars 1977 a Tachikawa, which the Psychedelic Noise from Japan and NZ website hailed as "the ultimate Rallizes and arguably the ultimate Japanese psychedelic document."

The former ultimately proved unsatisfying, as it contained a 19-minute version of "Smoking Cigarette Blues" that was mastered at a considerably lower volume than the rest of the disc, which either meant that the track sounded like subliminal white noise when you listened without adjusting the volume, or like an indistinct maelstrom of dimly-registered whooshing and thumping noises if you turned it up. Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go did, however, provide my first exposure to Rallizes classics like the mid-period Velvet pastiche "Enter the Mirror" and the ominously lumbering "Flames of Ice," not to mention the highly atypical garage rock pounder "Otherwise My Conviction."

Le 12 Mars 1977 a Tachikawa, on the other hand, lived up to its hype, although it took me several spins and a careful reading of Cope's text to deduce that the second and third tracks on Disc One were, in fact, "Night of the Assassins" (on which Mizutani famously appropriated the bass lines from Little Peggy March's early '60s hit "I Will Follow Him") and "Flames of Ice," since not all the song titles on the CD slick were translated. The ten minutes of what I finally figured out was "Deeper Than Night" that opened Disc Two hit like dub psychedelia, while the 25-minute version of Rallizes' customary set-closer "The Last One" that concluded the disc was an exorcism on a par with Coltrane's Ascension.

Recently, a lot of Cope's Top 50 albums, including a couple of the most desirable Les Rallizes boots, have become affordably available, on CD and sweet, sweet vinyl, via Phoenix Records. Don't snooze on 'em too long, or they'll be gone, as is the way of these things.

Blind Baby Has Its Mother's Eyes collects three performances from the '80s that provide examples of what's best and most infuriating about Les Rallizes. The opening title track proves to be an updated version of "Flames of Ice," and is recorded in unusually high fidelity, with lots of separation between the instruments. Cope wrote that this was the same version of the song that appeared on Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go, but that one had a different bass line and Link Wray "Rumble" chords that are absent here. "An Awful Eternity," split between two vinyl sides, has a sustained drum groove that holds its own against the guitars and bass to create an effect like meditating to deep funk. The version of "The Last One," however, is marred by a shrill overlay of shrieking feedback that can be rendered more listenable by boosting the bass, but isn't conducive to repeated spins.

Heavier Than A Death In the Family, #3 on Cope's Top 50, shares three tracks with Le 12 Mars 1977 a Tachikawa, but Phoenix's twin slabs of manhole-cover-like 180-gram virgin vinyl give their sound a depth and immediacy that it lacks on shiny silver discs. The opening "Strung Out Deeper Than the Night" is the same track as the aforementioned "Deeper Than Night," but the closing "Ice Fire" isn't another version of "Flames of Ice" like you might suspect. Rather, it's a whole 'nother side-long catharsis entahrly. Here the feedback isn't an irritant the way it is on Blind Baby's "Last One." Instead, it's cleansing. There's some boss uptempo stuff here, too: "The Night Collectors" is a space boogie you can imagine Hawkwind blaring to the lysergically addled masses at Glastonbury, while "People Can Choose" is a hypnotically frenetic rave-up from '73, sounding like something the Warhol-era Velvets or early Mothers of Invention might have essayed.

Further consumer guidance is available on the Les Rallizes Denudes Record Reviews blog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Van Morrison - "Cyprus Avenue" @ the Fillmore East, 9.23.1970

One of the most riveting performances I have ever witnessed, even if only on TV.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mo' Rationals vinyl

Released back in 2009, Ace Records' Think Rational! was that rare thing: a 2CD compilation with nary a bad cut, in the manner of The Story of Them, Sun Ra's The Singles, or Westbound's Funkadelic comps Music for Your Mother and Motor City Madness. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible if the Rationals -- Ann Arbor, Michigan, natives who were voted the most popular band in Detroit while still in high school -- hadn't been a remarkably consistent recording unit, even though they only released a handful of singles and one album during their existence. But the plethora of previously-unreleased tracks on Think Rational! were equally worthy, as I was reminded recently when I got my hands on a couple of vinyl artifacts that Ace released in 2010.

The Fan Club Album was a brainstorm of Rationals manager Jeep Holland which actually got to the test pressing stage before the band left his tutelage in 1968 and the idea was shelved. (Three copies still exist; I have a cassette dub that I got from Rationals frontman Scott Morgan in 1999.) Since the master tapes no longer exist, this is Bay Area scribe/garage historian Alec Palao's best effort to reconstruct the album -- hence the instrumental alternate take of second single "Feelin' Lost." No matter; it's still one of the sturdiest slabs of sound to emerge from the teen clubs and VFW halls of '60s America, on the same exalted level as A Session with the Remains. It's also the sound of four kids growing up together through music: one of my favorite stories of all.

The opening triptych of instrumentals show them finding their musical feet. "Irrational" is a rather hamfisted take on the blues, but still shows imagination in the tempo change it employs. "Wayfaring Stranger" is also clever, a hootenanny staple that the Rationals probably heard a lot around their sleepy college town during the folk boom, recast in a surf style. "Strawberry Jam" is a step forward, with guitarist Steve Correll using a sharper, more trebly tone as he cranks out the Chuck Berry-via-Keef-Richards double-stops.

As 1965 progressed, Scott Morgan got up the nerve to sing, and they started writing vocal numbers in the same mold as the Beatles, Kinks, and Zombies of the time. "Look What You're Doing To Me Baby," the B-side of their first single, incorporates some hallmarks of early Kinkdom -- the VII-I chord change, the racka-racka rhythm guitar. "Someday" and "Be My Girl" feature jangling 12-string and showcase Morgan, Correll, and bassist Terry Trabandt's developing facility for harmonized vocals. On the latter tune, you can hear them moving toward the kind of R&B testifyin' that would soon become their stock in trade. Curiously, the least distinguished original here is "Gave My Love," their first single's A-side.

Turn the record over and you get to hear second single "Feelin' Lost" sans vocals, which only throws the song's interesting Beatlesque chord progression into more dramatic relief. "I Want To Walk With You" is another early vocal original which was demoed at college ratio station WBCN, and one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Things start to toughen up with a cover of "Gloria" that holds its own against Them's original and the Shadows of Knights hit cover. I originally encountered the next two tracks on the late-'90s Michigan Mayhem garage compilation (thanks, Larry Harrison!). "I Need You" isn't the Chuck Jackson cover the Rationals released on Capitol in 1968. Rather, it's an explosive Kinks cover, complete with raging guitar solo. "Little Girls Cry," the flipside of "Feelin' Lost," was penned by the Rationals' fellow Pioneer High alum Deon Jackson, who went on to soul-singing success with "Love Makes the World Go 'Round." The medley of "Smokestack Lightning" and "Inside Looking Out" that closes the album applies some psychedelic spice to Brit Invasion-inspired material, showing the clear influence of the Butterfield Blues Band's East-West.

By '67, the Rationals had abandoned Brit Invasion copyism for a garage soul sound, with Morgan and Correll trading lead vocals a la the Righteous Brothers, Sam & Dave, or the Temptations' tonsil-tearing tandem of Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. Out On the Floor -- Ace/Palao's attempt at assembling a simulacrum of A-Soulin' We Go with the Rationals, another Holland concept that never made it even as far as the Fan Club Album -- documents this phase neatly, kicking off with "Leaving Here," one of two version the Rationals recorded of the Eddie Holland hit that was also covered by Brit Mod R&B plunderers like the Who and the Birds.

The remainder of Side One is given over to bawlin' and screamin' Stax-style Southern fried soul, including "Turn On," recorded as a promotion for a local clothing store; a rather lugubrious and literal cover of "Knock On Wood;" and a hot version of Little Richard's "Poor Dog (Can't Wag His Own Tail)," sung by Correll, that encapsulates all the best elements of the Rationals' approach to this style.

Side Two finds the Rationals in more of a vocal harmony-rich Northern soul bag -- their great strength, to these feedback-scorched ears -- opening with the aforementioned Chuck Jackson hit "I Need You." The dance-jam "Listen To Me" is next, and my favorite track on the album. "Temptation 'Bout To Get Me," an earlier version of the Knight Bros. hit that was a highlight of the Crewe LP, is just as fine here, while the versions of "Sunset" and "Ha Ha," also re-cut for that album, don't hold up to the Crewe versions, their arrangements not quite fully developed at this point.

While I find Out On the Floor a tad less magical than the Fan Club Album, there's still a lot to like in its grooves. And the joy of finally possessing the Fan Club Album in vinyl form is indescribable.

R.I.P. Sam Rivers

Jason Moran & Sam Rivers - Black Stars Recording Session Blue Note Records 2001 from jason moran on Vimeo.

Just learned that Sam Rivers died. He was 88 and had a good long life, but I'm still sad to learn of his passing. Sam came out of Boston, was a familiar of Jaki Byard and Tony Williams. Recorded for Blue Note and Impulse, was a key player in the '70s NYC loft jazz scene. Saw him at Stony Brook ca. '76, opening for Mingus in a trio with Bob Stewart (tuba) and Bobby Battle (drums). Sam started the set on piano, moved to flute, then to soprano, finishing on tenor, sustaining an improvisation for an hour. Later on he moved to Florida, led a big band packed with musos who made their living playing in theme parks, and had another trio with two multi-instrumentalists. I'm glad I got to experience his music.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tyshawn Sorey interview

Good int with the great composer-drummer. I'd say he's the new Tony Williams. Thanks to Phil Overeem for the link.

ADDENDUM: And here's another one you can read.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Yardbirds' "Glimpses 1963-1968"

As I've written elsewhere on this blog, I've been a Yardbirds obsessive for decades, and owned their catalog in myriad forms over the years. Still, I was excited to hear that Carlton Sandercock's Easy Action Records was putting together a multi-disc Yardbirds compilation. His old label, New Millennium, had released two estimable Yardbirds collections: Where the Action Is (1997), a compilation of recordings made for British and Swedish radio, and Cumular Limit (2000), which brought to light a bunch of hitherto unheard live and studio tracks from the band's Jimmy Page era. (Full disclosure: I've written liner notes for two Easy Action releases.)

Five years in the making, Glimpses 1963-1968 is an impressive achievement and a must for Yardbirds completists. Sumptuously packaged, as is Easy Action's wont, it comes in a 7-inch box like the ones they used to use for 45 rpm vinyl albums back in antiquity (I particularly remember the Broadway cast of My Fair Lady that my sister used to like to spin when we were kids). Inside are five CDs, a vinyl 45, some replica gig flyers (one of which advertises a show where the Pretty Things were billed over the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds!) and a booklet containing lots of photos (uncaptioned) and two sets of liner notes, by compiler and Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave Up author Greg Russo and Mojo scribe Mark Paytress. The emphasis is on live and broadcast recordings, including some that were taped off-air. Interview snippets with band members give the discs a nice audio verite feel, but don't detract from the listening experience.

Disc One covers the years 1963-64, when Eric Clapton was the Yardbirds' lead guitarist -- my least favorite period, but Keith Relf's favorite. Their early demos, which were released on vinyl 7-inches in the '70s, are pretty sedate-sounding, except for "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover," which captures some of the raucous excitement that the band was capable of live.

The seven tracks that Castle released as Live Blueswailing in 2003 are here, with upgraded sound. Recorded at London's Marquee Club in August 1964 -- a month after the Five Live Yardbirds LP -- the performances and especially the recording quality compare favorably with that historic set, with the rhythm section clearly audible in noticeably improved fidelity. Relf's stage patter while Clapton tunes includes an amusing discourse on the Yardbirds' equipment woes. Easy Action has included a re-edit of the aborted "Someone To Love Me" -- a song the Yardbirds didn't record in the studio until Clapton was out of the band, and wound up recasting into "Lost Woman" -- from that date, that makes it sound complete.

Versions of "Louise" and "I Wish You Would" from a Peter, Paul & Mary (!) TV show in April '64 are on a comparable level, technically and performance-wise. Rawer sounding but even more revealing are seven tracks taken from the Yardbirds' energetic performance at the 1964 National Jazz & Blues Festival, with Mick O'Neill fronting the band in place of an ailing Relf, highlighted by an aggressively assured "Boom Boom." A storming "I'm A Man" from the Crawdaddy in Richmond, July '64, is similarly ragged-but-right sonically.

The Jeff Beck years are well represented by the second and third discs. Disc Two, covering 1965, has the gold: six tracks recorded for the BBC, and another nine from "lost" UK radio sessions. A version of "Smokestack Lightning" from 16 November has a tape splice in the middle which appends a home-recorded segment to the BBC's master tape, but it's worthwhile to hear how this piece had evolved since the Five Live Yardbirds version. Several musical devices heard here -- the bass line, the bolero riddim under the solos, the modified rave-up crescendo that concludes the instrumental jam -- would later reappear in "How Many More Times" on the first Led Zeppelin album, so Jimmy Page was clearly paying attention. The Yardbirds had a relatively small repertoire, so you get to hear multiple versions of many tunes; "You're A Better Man Than I" from the same 16 November session and "Train Kept A-Rollin'" from a different November broadcast are the ones to beat.

Beck's playing at this early stage in his career is brilliant -- fiery and risk-taking -- in contrast with Clapton's during his Yardbirds tenure, when his style was still developing. Beck particularly shines on the June takes of "Jeff's Boogie" and "Steeled Blues." "Love Me Like I Love You" from 9 August wipes the floor with the version released on BBC Sessions, and Freddie King's "The Stumble" is welcome because it's never been heard on disc before. "I've Been Trying" is a Curtis Mayfield number that gets an inspired reading from Relf & Co., in marked contrast to other recorded forays they made into vocal R&B (cf. "Sweet Music").

You can hear how much the Yardbirds' popularity had grown in a year by the teenage girls' screams that practically obliterate their 1965 National Blues & Jazz Festival performance, which was broadcast in the U.S. on Shindig and is viewable on Youtube. They wore striped short-sleeve shirts like the Beach Boys, and played "My Girl Sloopy," their version of the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy." So much for blues purism.

Disc Three covers 1965-66, and it's a mixed bag, starting off with the complete released output of the dual-lead Beck-Page lineup: "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," its B-side "Psycho Daisies" (with Page on bass), and "Stroll On" ("Train Kept A-Rollin'" with new words) from the Blow-Up soundtrack. Three Youtube-viewable tracks from the Music Hall de France also feature Page on bass.

There are three alternate versions of tracks from the Roger the Engineer album. "He's Always There" and "Turn Into Earth" are hybrids of the mono and stereo mixes to provide the most complete versions possible. To these feedback-scorched ears, the lead guitar on the latter seems fainter than on my stereo vinyl version, but the alternate "I Can't Make Your Way" remedies the muddiness of the original track. I wish Easy Action had included "Lost Woman" and especially "Hot House of Omagarashid" (for Beck's _insane_ guitar solo), but the liner notes inform us that it wasn't possible to remaster those tracks because they used phasing.

The live performances of the two songs the Yardbirds performed at the 1966 "Festival of Italian Songs" in San Remo are superior to the studio versions, since they include some recognizable Yardbird gambits (Beck introduces "Questa Volta" with a stolen Buddy Guy riff!), but they're still kind of embarrassing. Two songs from the 1966 NME Poll Winners concert will be familiar to Youtube viewers, who'll have to imagine Beck sliding across the stage to turn on the fuzz box with his hand before the solo on "Shapes of Things." Another unreleased UK radio broadcast from 9 April 1965 yielded previously unheard versions of "Spoonful," "Bottle Up and Go," and a solo Relf take on the folk song "All the Pretty Little Horses (Hushabye)."

Disc Four documents the 1967-68 Jimmy Page era. The four tracks from March 1967 (the German Beat Beat Beat TV show, the video version of which is included as a bonus feature on the 2008 Story of the Yardbirds DVD) previously appeared on the now-unavailable Cumular Limit. One wishes the post-Little Games studio tracks from that set could have made it onto Glimpses; as is, we only get the sound of Relf talking through a wah-wah pedal that closed the Little Games track "Glimpses." Between the eight tracks recorded in Stockholm in April 1967 (which made up the second disc of New Millennium's Where the Action Is) and three from France the previous month, you get most of the set -- minus the overdubbed bullfight cheers -- that the Yardbirds played during their 1968 Anderson Theater performance which Epic released and quickly withdrew in 1971.

Disc Five contains a remastered version of the BBC sessions as previously released by New Millennium, Warner, and Repertoire, with four tracks that appear on Disc Two supplanted by three from March '68 and an interview with Relf.

At 55 bucks American, Glimpses is certainly a considered purchase, but one worth making if you're into Yardbirds obscurities -- if for no other reason than the knowledge that Easy Action always pays its artists (unlike, say, Castle). While Easy Action's website warns prospective buyers off Glimpses if they're expecting high end audiophile sound, do any Yardbirds fans really care about that? Even if you already own BBC Sessions and Live Blueswailing, there's enough top-notch material on Glimpses that's otherwise unavailable on disc to make it a worthwhile investment. For a comprehensive survey of the Yardbirds' entire live trajectory, this is the place to go.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Kinks live in Paris, 1965

Fort Worth expat Mike Buck of Fabulous Thunderbirds/Leroi Brothers/Antone's Records fame found this. Amazing!

Setlist: Bye Bye Johnny / Louie, Louie / You Really Got Me / Got Love If You Want It / Long Tall Shorty / All Day and All of the Night / You Really Got Me (slight return) / Hide and Seek

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see the complete "We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen" doco?

Pssst! Hey, kid! Want a James Williamson bobblehead?

Got mine today, autographed by the iconic Stooges guitarist himself, with packaging copy adapted from the intro to the interview I did with James for the I-94 Bar in 2001. You can get one here, but hurry: there were only 500 made.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HIO's "Denton Dance Remix 2"

Here's T. Horn's remix of what we played behind Big Rig Dance Collective at the Black Box Theatre in li'l d last weekend.

The reviewer from wrote, "The promise of live music provided by the Hentai Improvising Orchestra is somewhat exciting…until they start to play. Using a plethora of household items and some other non-traditional instruments, the musicians create a sound score which sometimes has a sense of melody and direction, but mostly contains a bunch of random sounds." Oh well.

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear some unreleased P-Funk from 1973?

Via Grooveshark, with a "bonus track" here. Thanks to Sam Damask for the links.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Doom Ghost's "Demos"

Who are those guys?
- Butch Cassidy

The Italian kid sent me the link, along with the recommendation, "very old-school, non-gratuitously retro and full of life." He weren't just whistling.

First track, "Wink Wink," invokes the spirit of Roky Erickson via its "You're Gonna Miss Me"-ish chorded intro before the singer proffers the invitation, "Let's go steal a van and drive away" like a punk Broooce Springsteen and laments that "the sky is always so fickle with her rain," neatly encapsulating teen anomie in just 2:12.

"The Antideluvian Misadventures of Doom Ghost and Wizard Cat" sounds for all the world like Joe Strummer fronting the Standells, howling the best Foat Wuth-referential ditty since Pablo & the Hemphill 7's "Little Man and Chiva Joe." (Sample lyric: "Live in the shadow of Cowtown ... And yesterday was a touch poetic / But now I'm stuck with a car full of jaded assholes.") The protagonist and his crew cruise for cheap beer, survive an attempted mugging, and drive off into the night exulting, "Blood looks black in the moonlight ... It ain't my blood, it ain't your blood, it ain't our blood."

"No Tagbacks" has the live-in-the-garage sound of the Nomads' Stagger In the Snow cassette from 30 years ago, and like Solna, Sweden's bid for the greatest rock 'n' roll band on Earth, these Funkytown brats sound like they swallowed the entahr history of the Rawk (well, the cool parts anyway) whole and are now belching it back up infused with their own spin and poisoned spirit.

Not everything here operates on such an exalted level, but every tune contains at least one classic riff and killer lyric -- the four-flusher's boast "I never learned to listen / I never learned to run" on the minor key slow drag "Goddamn I Hate the Blues;" the tossed-off line "Too much love is worse than nothing at all" on the surf-or-"Secret Agent Man" simulacrum "Grace of God" -- until "There Is No Score" takes it out with a grinding Velvet Underground-ish riff and indecipherable vocals that make it sound like a Back From the Grave leftover.

Now I've gotta hear these guys live.

ADDENDUM: Like a candygram from the gods (or Santy Claus), they're playing at Lola's Friday night with War Party and Bits of Kids. Hooray!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Darrin Kobetich's "The Longest Winter"

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a decade since guitarist Darrin Kobetich left the metal he'd played in Hammer Witch and Amillion Pounds behind and embarked on a journey as a solo acoustic performer. Three years ago, he released the hour-long improvisation The End of One Enchanted Evening, a statement of some heft that showed the impressive range of his expressive abilities on the axe.

Since then, he's honed his compositional chops, collaborating on some dramatic pieces at Hip Pocket Theater with artist/writer John Carlisle Moore, and explored electronic ambience in The Panic Basket, a duo with Darryl Wood (Confusatron, Parasite Lost). Now, with The Longest Winter -- due for release in January, with a few tracks available for free download via Soundcloud until then -- he takes a giant step forward, showing how the scope of his artistry has broadened and deepened.

The album consists of a whopping 27 tracks, a dozen of them previously released online in different versions for the RPM Challenge, in which participating musicians create a complete album in a month each February. Those songs were inspired by the memorably cold and snowy winter of 2010 in Fort Worth and recorded quickly in single takes so Kobetich could remember them. As he continued tinkering with the project, Kobetich expanded the array of instruments in his home studio (which now includes a drum kit), and found ways to integrate his disparate influences -- '70s hard rock and metal; the solo acoustic masterwork of John Fahey, Michael Hedges, and Jimmy Page; experimental sounds; and folkloric strains from both America and Europe -- via overdubbing.

"Frontier of Fallacies" gives you an idea of what he's been up to. It starts with a bluesy melody, essayed initially by a reverb drenched electric backed by acoustic chords, over a high-stepping martial beat -- as if Dick Dale were to take up cross-country skiing. When a distorted guitar kicks in, playing long, sustained notes against the melody, the effect is reminiscent of Matt Baldwin's cover of Judas Priest's "Winter" from his album Paths of Ignition a few years back. When Kobetich further orchestrates the melody, adding a mandolin to the mix and kicking the drama and intensity up even further, you can hear his arranger's ear developing.

Even more astonishing is "Without," an Eastern European-sounding melody that, after an initial exposition of the theme, explodes into a full-blown metal rampage worthy of Kobetich's '70s exemplars Scorpions and UFO, complete with shredding leads and squealing harmonics. It follows the album's first peak, "On A Cold Winter's Night," wherein Kobetich adds kick and hand drumming to the acoustic mix, along with layers of ambient psychedelic murk that recall John Fahey in his '90s "hotel room" phase.

Kobetich's acoustic playing grows ever more expressive, the performances richly detailed as he explores every crack and crevice in the soundscapes he creates. "Primordial Soup" and "Playing in the Hedges" are dark, ruminative pieces that feature his Hedges-inspired percussive tapping and use of harmonics, as does "Mother Time." The things he does with this technique are amazing to hear and even more so to witness live. "Stuck In Standby," another live highlight, is a loping breakdown with some knuckle-busting flatpicking.

"Twin Falls" winds its way through several tempo changes, alternating chunky chords with cascading flurries of deftly-picked lines. "Across from the Afar" is a Near Eastern-flavored workout for Kobetich on the cumbus, a banjo-like Turkish instrument that's strung in courses like a 12-string guitar. The banjo feature "Gypsy Rag" is overdubbed with scratchy noises to make it sound like an old 78. "Have Banjo Will Travel" is a sprightly overdubbed banjo-mandolin duet.

Kobetich's theatrical work has taught him much about programming and sequencing. In between the big statements on The Longest Winter, he'll string together a series of pieces to create a sustained mood or "scene" -- as in the triptych of "Canyonlands," "Desert Wind," and "Deep in the Meadow," which form an island of heartbreaking pastoral beauty in the middle of the disc.

Taken in toto, The Longest Winter is an engaging mind-movie that you can use to warm up the house on cold winter nights. Or approached in sections, there's enough here to provide you with a whole year's worth of discovery and exploration. It's a sound-world that's worth visiting anytime.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rocket From the Tombs on the road in 2011

coelecanth's remix of HIO @ Doc's

For years, T. Horn has been soliciting remixes of HIO's recordings he posted online. Now we finally have one, with fretless bass improv by Chris Vaisvil. Listen here.

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see a 43-minute Faces set from the BBC in '72?

Some good jazz records, mostly on Clean Feed

I said I wasn't going to write a lot this month, but then in the middle of a John Fahey binge (Georgia Stomps, Atlanta Struts and Other Contemporary Dance Favorites and Womblife), an envelope arrived from Lisbon bearing the latest from Clean Feed, the Portuguese label that's established itself as the Blue Note of the 'teens, including a couple that I just had to hear right away.

Live in L.A. documents a performance from a trio consisting of trumpeter Bobby Bradford, bassist Mark Dresser, and trombonist Glenn Ferris. Bradford's a Mississippi-born, Texas-bred Californian and familiar of Fort Worth eminences Ornette Coleman (he's all over Science Fiction) and John Carter who's led his own Mo'tet since the early '90s. Dresser's worked with Anthony Braxton, among others, while Ferris is an Angeleno who's lived and taught in France since the '80s. Together they play a cerebral brand of chamber jazz, with Bradford -- heard here on cornet -- and Ferris intertwining contrapuntal lines and Dresser moving seamlessly between arco and pizzicato attacks. On "Bamboo Shoots," all three instruments play vocally-inflected lines, to which one of the musicians adds a sung response. An intimately alive and organic set.

So Soft Yet is the latest encounter between redoubtable Dallas trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez and Portuguese pianist Joao Paulo Esteves da Silva, with whom he shared a previous Clean Feed release, 2009's Scapegrace. On this 2010 reunion, Gonzalez employs the electronics (mainly an octave splitter) that he eschewed on their first meeting, and Joao Paulo divides his time between acoustic and electric pianos and accordion. On the electric instrument, he sometimes plays percussive and modal figures that give the music the feel of a two-man Bitches Brew. His accordion gives the sound a lyrical lilt. On "El Destierro," both men play unusually sparsely, using silence and space to heighten the impact of the notes that are played. Impressive artistry, beautifully registered.

Frog Leg Logic is the latest outing from reedman Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet. The ebullient title track explodes out of the gate, showcasing the group's orchestral heft -- impressive for such a small unit -- and improvisational aplomb. Cellist Hank Roberts can function as a timekeeper or a third melodic voice, as needed. "Ballade" is a lovely lament that breaks down into a blues following the initial thematic statement. Trumpeter James Zollar plays a solo that shifts seamlessly between muted growls and post-bop angularity. When the theme returns in a wash of lyrical beauty, it gives the track a nicely complete feel. "You Can Beat the Slanted Cards" features a seductively circuitous melody, with nicely spare trap-kicking from drummer Michael Sarin. Ehrlich's an ace improviser on alto, soprano, and flute, but his true strength is as a composer and bandleader.

In that regard, he's a direct descendent of his mentor, Fort Worth native Julius Hemphill, who made his initial impact in St. Louis in the early '70s before heading to New York to found and lead the World Saxophone Quartet, as well as his own sextet and big band. Hemphill's masterwork, Dogon A.D. -- which he originally self-released in 1972 and Arista Freedom subsequently reissued in 1977 -- made its first appearance on CD this year via International Phonograph, Inc., in a beautifully-packaged edition (heavy cardboard gatefold sleeve) that includes all four tracks from the original session ("The Hard Blues" wouldn't fit on the original LP and so had to wait for 1975's Coon Bid'ness to see the light of day). There are many elements and aspects of Dogon A.D. -- the complex themes, Abdul Wadud's cello, drummer Philip Wilson's minimalist backbeat -- that are echoed on Frog Leg Logic, but that's no slight to Ehrlich. The Hemphill album's influence on the last 30 years of creative jazz has been as inescapable as, say, Out To Lunch's, making its reappearance the most welcome jazz reissue of 2011.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna read an interview with David Thomas from Rocket From the Tombs/Pere Ubu?

From the Village Voice. Short version: He gets to do what he wants. And he's currently grooming his replacement in Ubu. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Doom Ghost

The Italian kid pulled my coat to this glorious six-song demo by a shit-hot garage-rock outfit from right here in the Fort. I don't know anything about these guys, but I'd sure like to see 'em live.

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see a complete John Fahey show from 1997?

Monday, December 12, 2011

HIO gets some virtual ink on

Photog/scribe Steve Watkins of was present at Doc's Records last Saturday for the "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics 2" show. Here be's his report.

Darrin Kobetich - "The Longest Winter" free downloads

Da Kobe's new _27-song_ CD will be out in January. He's offering four songs of home-recorded string-shredding wizardry for free download via Soundcloud to whet your appetite. Get 'em here. If you're familiar with Darrin's work, you might well be surprised.

HIO @ Doc's Records, "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics 2," 12.10.2011

True to form, our video camera failed, but thanks to Kavin Allenson, at least we have audio of our performance (via Alonetone).

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Rationals

I originally bought the Rationals' self-titled debut LP for 99 cents out of an E.J. Korvettes bargain bin after reading about it in Rolling Stone and Jazz & Pop when I was 13 -- about a year after its initial release in 1970. (The J&P reviewer was none other than then-incarcerated ex-MC5 manager/White Panther overlord John Sinclair.) I foolishly parted with it one of the times over the years when I sold my whole collection, but I could still remember every song on it in '97, when I paid $25 for a copy from an ad in Goldmine so I could have Larry Harrison dub it to a cassette for me. During SXSW 1999, I got to meet and spend a couple of days hanging out with Rationals frontman Scott Morgan, and he signed my copy at 3am outside his motel room, where he'd just played me a tape of the then-unreleased first Hydromatics album.

Big Beat, the Brit label that brought us the magnificent career-spanning Think Rational! 2CD comp back in 2009 and a coupla vinyl artifacts since then, just reissued the "Crewe album" (so-called because it originally appeared on the mostly-MOR label helmed by Bob Crewe of Four Seasons songwriting/"Music To Watch Girls By" fame) -- the first time it's ever been legitimately available on CD (a bootleg Italian version was briefly available in the late '90s).

The cover photos were taken by Tom Wright, who'd been Pete Townshend's art school roommate before getting deported from the UK for pot possession, and went on to serve as official tour photographer for the Who and the Faces. In between, Wright managed Detroit's Grande Ballroom for a spell, during the time when the Rationals, who'd been voted the most popular band in Detroit as high schoolers back in '66, were having to open shows there for bands they'd previously headlined over, like the MC5 and the Stooges. (Jim Osterberg had done session work on one of their singles, as had Bob Seger, and Scott Asheton was once considered as a replacement for Rationals drummer Bill Figg.)

It's hard to say what made this record so resonant for my teenage self. Perhaps it was the vocal harmonies, which made the Crewe association seem less incongruous. In the German, Irish, and Italian working class neighborhood where I grew up, the Four Seasons, the Young Rascals, and the Vanilla Fudge, in turn, were all more popular than the Beatles, because of their Italo-American roots. All of those groups based their sounds on the vocal harmony-rich Northern soul tradition that appealed to white kids like those from my 'hood, who would have been terrified to encounter an assertive African-American male like James Brown or Wilson Pickett in person (although they all dug JB and the Wicked One as much as they did Mitch Ryder and the Rascals).

Scott Morgan is surely one of the best blue-eyed soul shouters of his generation, in the same league as Steve Marriott and Rod Stewart, with less of the former's histrionic tendency and more of the latter's wistful edge. In the Rationals, he was Eddie Kendricks (smooth) to guitarist Steve Correll's David Ruffin (rough). Scott played a lot of instruments on the album -- guitar, keyboards, harmonica, flute -- after a period when he'd concentrated on straight standup singing. The late Terry Trabandt on bass and drummer Figg formed an engine room worthy of the Motown hitmakers with whom the teenage Rationals shared stages.

The Rationals' exuberant cover of Robert Parker's R&B classic "Barefootin'" explodes out of the gate like a secular revival meeting, in the grand manner of Motor City bands whose mission was to kill in their first 15 minutes onstage (think of the first side of the MC5's Kick Out the Jams). Trabandt's stuttering bass line locks it in the pocket with Figg's drums, Morgan roars with controlled fervor and lays down choppy chords while Correll zips up and down the fretboard. Their version of the Knight Brothers' "Temptation 'Bout To Get Me" is blue-eyed soul at its finest, and one of my all-time favorite recordings. It's funny the things that stick in your mind after several hundred spins: in this case, the kick drum hits that lead into the second verse, as well as the singers' passion.

Besides supplying the intro that's been my sound check noise for the past five years with Stoogeaphilia, the Rationals original "Guitar Army" is the polar opposite of the MC5's revolutionary rabble-rousing: a celebration of music for its own sake. You can hear the influence of West Coast outfits like Big Brother and Moby Grape in Morgan and Correll's guitars, in the same way you can on the first SRC album. The bass-and-drums break that leads from the instrumental jam into the out-chorus is classic. The revival continues with Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold On Me," highlighted by a tonsil-tearing vocal by Correll. The guitarist also sings lead on the odd, melancholic acoustic number "Deep Red" that closes side one.

The West Coast influence really comes to the fore on "Sunset," which opens the second side with an extended meandering jam that culminates in a transcendent harmonized guitar part. The next two songs are the album's zenith: Dr. John's existential rumination "Glowin'" in a Curtis Mayfield-like arrangement, and Mike d'Abo's "Handbags and Gladrags," which Rod Stewart also covered on his solo debut (and was supposedly scared to death when he heard the Rationals' version during a visit to a Detroit ratio station). In a just universe, both of these tracks would have been huge hits, instead of winding up in the discount racks within a few months of their release.

The closing "Ha Ha," snippets from which served as segues between the other tracks, is a contemplative slice of acoustic-guitar-and-flute-driven R&B, with lead vocals by Correll on the verses and Morgan on the bridge, sketching an evocative city scene: "Under the streetight / He sat on the curb / Fast moving headlights / Try to disturb him / Walk and don't walk lights / Help with the words / Chalk on the sidewalk / Really absurd."

The Flash Italian bootleg was filled out with a dozen tracks from singles that subsequently turned up on Think Rational! Big Beat's CD, curated (as was their previous Rationals release) by ace scribe and garage rock historian Alec Palao, includes alternate single versions of "Guitar Army" and "Sunset," and studio recordings of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" from Disney's Song of the South (the latter of which was previously heard on Real O Mind's long-unavailable Morgan comp Medium Rare) as bonus tracks. If you've ever bought a record on this scribe's recommendation and not been disappointed, then trust me now: You need this.

Darrin Kobetich and Harry Hoggard - "Spoonful"

Live at Arts Fifth Avenue. Darrin will be performing solo and with The Panic Basket at the second "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics" show at the new Doc's Records and Vintage location (9522 Camp Bowie West) from 5-9pm on Saturday. Also on the card: Breaking Light, HIO, and Drift Era. C'mon!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Take the Stooges Bowling

Ray Liberio artwork for the li'l Stoogeband's next soiree, Saturday, January 14th at Cowtown Bowling Palace (4333 River Oaks Blvd). A ten spot gets you unlimited bowling, including shoes, plus our noise. C'mon! (Wear earplugs.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bindle - "State of Girl"

Wow. Here's some YT of my favorite FTW band that I never saw. In this incarnation (um, Mk III): Tony Diaz, Matt Hembree, Kevin Geist, Steffin Ratliff, and Justin Pate. I love this band beyond all reason.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Deep Purple's "The BBC Sessions 1968-1970"

Although I often forget, Deep Purple were my first favorite band, even before the Who and Yardbirds. Back when I was 11, the "Hush" single was the second record I ever bought, after the Beatles' "Revolution," and I owned all three of the Mk I DP albums when they were new. The Rod Evans-Nick Simper lineup remains my fave; I disliked the murky sound on the Mk II edition's defining triptych of albums, although like everyone else I was quite enamored of their live apotheosis Made In Japan when it was new.

Reading the history of the Mk I DP, you can't help but be impressed by the incredible cynicism with which they were brought together: recruited by management for what was to have been a backing group for ex-Searchers singing drummer Chris Curtis, who subsequently fell out. No matter: They were hungry, pro, and ready to go.

Keyboardist Jon Lord was a classically-trained blues fanatic and Hammond B3 specialist who'd played in the R&B-heavy Artwoods, done session work on the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," and led a proto-Purple dubbed Santa Barbara Machine Head that also included Ron Wood. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was a protege of session ace Big Jim Sullivan, and had earned his stripes in Joe Meek's studio and on the European circuit of Reeperbahn toilets and U.S. military bases, backing rockers like Screaming Lord Sutch and Neil Christian. Bassist Nicky Simper had played with Johnny Kidd of "Shakin' All Over" fame, while singer Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice came from a band called the Maze.

Their first album, Shades of Deep Purple, was recorded in a weekend. Over the next year they'd record two more (The Book of Taliesyn and Deep Purple), plus a non-LP single, as quickly and cheaply. Very much influenced by the Vanilla Fudge, they had the audacity to record bombastic covers of the Beatles, Cream and Hendrix, featuring Lord and Blackmore in fiery instrumental workouts. By the time the third album was released, the core of the band had already been rehearsing in secret with Episode Six singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, with an eye toward moving from pop and psychedelia toward a harder and heavier sound.

The 2CD release of Purple's BBC sessions comes belatedly, following similar releases by practically every contemporary Brit band of comparable stature, and was occasioned by the 2010 discovery of two Mk I sessions (from June 1968 and July 1969) previously thought to be lost. The five tracks from a February 1969 Top Gear were included as bonus tracks with the remastered editions of the first three albums. "Hey Bop A Re Bop" from that session is a prototype for "The Painter" from the eponymous third album (two BBC versions of which are also included here).

The rediscovered July '69 session, recorded with the Mk II lineup waiting in the metaphorical wings, shows the Mk I band still playing material from Shades. By the following month, when DP returned to the Beeb's studios to cut two tracks for Symonds On Sunday, they were still playing Mk I material ("The Bird Has Flown") but also lifting the curtain on material that would appear on the groundbreaking Deep Purple in Rock ("Ricochet" is an early version of "Speed King"). It's interesting to note that Blackmore's solos still employ his clean, sitar-influenced tone on both songs; he remains the last great straight-through-the-amp guy in Brit rock.

Compare the August '69 "Ricochet" with "Speed King" from three months later. Blackmore's tone is harder-edged and the whole band plays more aggressively. "Jam Stew (aka John Stew)" from that session is a little more diffuse. By April 1970, though, the new direction has solidified, with Gillan (the original Jesus Christ Superstar) unleashing his blood-curdling shriek -- a harbinger of metal mania to come. The Mk II lineup played like the musos' musos they were. They wrote riffs as solid as the ones Page was penning for Led Zep, and Ian Paice combined the heaviosity of Bonham with the fleetness of Mitch Mitchell.

A September 1970 session, recorded especially for foreign broadcast, showcases the mature Mk II lineup. "Black Night" (which includes the signature riff from the Blues Magoos' "We Ain't Got Nothing Yet" in its intro; surprise!) and the instrumental "Grabsplatter" feature Blackmore playing with the impressive velocity that characterizes his Mk II work. "Child In Time" includes lyrics my sister misheard as "See the blind man / Shitting at the world" the several hundred times I played the Made In Japan version during the spring and summer of '73. In Concert/Texxas Jam superstardom were just around the corner. All in all, a worthy reminder that there was more to Mk II DP than "Highway Star" and "Smoke On the Water."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

R.I.P. Hubert Sumlin

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Nik Cohn's Last Stand?

My favorite writer on Earth is at work on what he says will be his last book: an epic novel called Dirty Pictures. Here's an int with him from the NYT.

Psst! Hey, kid! Wanna see the "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" Sonny Sharrock tribute?

From WFMU via Gary Melton.

Mark Growden and Marc Ribot @ The Kessler Theater, 12.1.2011

Jeff Liles vid.

Friday, December 02, 2011

12.1.2011, Oak Cliff

I'm not gonna write a lot this month. Have a bunch of HIO activity planned, and it's been awhile since I gave up trying to write blow-by-blow descriptions of our shows, since my sense memory of those events is evidently not that acute.

However, tonight my sweetie 'n' I did traipse over to Oak Cliff to check out Mark Growden and Marc Ribot at the Kessler Theater. Terry and Hickey will be sad to hear that the BBQ joint next door from the Kess closed its doors last night, but we had dinner at Norma's, which is always a delight, and I ran into Tony Sims, who sounds not averse to performing on one of our "Improvised Silence" gigs at the Cellar next year (assuming management doesn't get cold feet and pull the plug), and graciously laid on me a DVD of the Sex Pistols' performance at the Bronco Bowl in '78, and a coupla noise CD-R's, including one he taped off KNON when he was 13, wa-a-ay back in the '80s.

Mark Growden almost made me cry with a new song he performed acapella, inspahrd by the recent passing of his grandmother and operating off the phrase "Memory my fading/fickle/feathered friend." It's part of a song cycle in progress but might just wind up on Mark's next New Orleans album (the one after the still-unreleased In Velvet).

Marc Ribot is quite a different proposition as a solo performer than as a sideman (which is how I know him best, from his recorded appearances with Waits, Costello, Zorn, et al.). He opened his set with his most challenging material -- 17 minutes of extrapolations on Albert Ayler's "Holy Holy Holy" -- and worked his way back to more lyrical stuff (a cover of his former Lounge Lizards bandleader John Lurie's "Blow Job"). Ribot has prodigous technique but isn't afraid of accidents or "bad" sounds (as Kessler talent curator Jeff Liles points out, Ribot will hammer away at mistakes until they become part of the piece). Other set highlights included an emotionally intense abstraction on Coltrane's "Dearly Beloved," a romp through Bix Beiderbecke's "Singing the Blues," and a ragged-but-right Ribot vocal on an evocative original unknown to me.

Production manager Paul Quigg makes every performer that graces the room sound stunning. The Kess is probably even a greater _listening_ venue than Caravan of Dreams was back in the day, for it's managed by folks that have a sense of proportion, as well as impeccable taste. Too bad somebody didn't tell the _chatty_ folks behind us, whom I was tempted to ask if they could talk louder, since I couldn't make out their conversation over Ribot's playing. A minor blip in an otherwise stellar evening.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see a "lost" FZ interview?

From ca. '89, by Miles Lesh. In seven parts on YT.

The XPTs - "Sickle Clowns"

Ex-Pretty Things Wally Waller, Jon Povey, Skip Alan, and Pete Tolson revisit the Pretties' classic Parachute album. Dig it!