Monday, April 18, 2011

Scott Morgan: A li'l discography

I've been listening to Scott Morgan since I was 14 and found the Rationals' album for a buck in an E.J. Korvettes' bargan bin (having read John Sinclair's review of it in Jazz & Pop). I read about Sonic's Rendezvous Band in Creem but never got to hear 'em until the '90s when I hooked up with manic fans/tape traders via the intarweb. It was a big kick observing his late-'90s resurgence (thank you, Larry Harrison), getting to meet him at SXSW in '98, and seeing him play two shows with Powertrane in 2002. It's hard to keep up with his discography because so many releases are on itty-bitty labels that evaporate overnight. But worthwhile. I'll do my best to help.

1) The Rationals - Think Rational!: Long awaited by fans, this brings together sides originally released on the A-Square, Cameo-Parkway, and Capitol labels, as well as tracks from the legendary and now-vinyl-available Fan Club Album, and some sides that have never been commercially available anywhere. Follow their trajectory from bedroom surf-music jammers to Brit Invasion-inspahrd garage kings to blue-eyed soul brothers supreme, with nary a bad cut on the double CD. What's missing, unfortunately, is anything (besides a couple of early demos) from the self-titled Crewe LP, their sole album release during their existence. For that, you'll have to seek out a used vinyl copy or a late-'90s Italian bootleg CD. Here are some reasons why you might wanna:

2) Sonic's Rendezvous Band: Easy Action records, of course, did the business with their 2006 box set, which used some of the SRB history I penned for the I-94 Bar as liner notes. Unfortunately, it's out of stock for a minute. You can still get a double CD of a show from the Second Chance in Ann Arbor, or Bomp's release of the Masonic Auditorium show from the box set on CD or vinyl.

3) Rock Action: Released on the French Revenge label in 1989, this suffered from the curse of '80s amp/production sound, but the songwriting's all first-rate, including the signature tunes "16 With a Bullet" and "Detroit." The SRB rhythm section is here, as they would be for another decade or so when Gary Rasmussen wasn't playing paying gigs and Scott Asheton wasn't working construction in Florida.

4) Revolutionary Means: Good luck finding this one, released on tee-tiny Schoolkids Records (an affiliate of the Ann Arbor record store of the same name). Second album under the Scots Pirates rubric, this one featured another batch of great songs and much-improved production sound (wah-driven guitar grit having become fashionable again, post-grunge).

5) Dodge Main: This band combined Morgan's talents with those of ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer (who was just starting his relationship with Epitaph Records) and Scott's fellow Ann Arborite Deniz Tek (who'd imported the Detroit rock virus to Australia in the '70s and founded Radio Birdman there). Scott sang SRB's "City Slang" and two MC5 songs ("Future Now" and "Over and Over"). Dodge Main played a few shows around the Midwest with various rhythm sections. When I met Scott in Austin, we spent an afternoon walking around while he tried to remember the lyrics to "Kick Out the Jams." When he sat in with Wayne that night, he only got to sing two verses before Wayne bogarted it back for the the big finale. Feh.

6) Hydromatics - Powerglide: After Dodge Main, Scott hooked up with Swedish rockers the Hellacopters for some guest shots on shows and recordings, raising his profile a bit for a minute. Scott got together with head Hellacopter Nicke Anderssen (aka Nick Royale) and Dutch punk-rock pioneer Tony Slug to record the SRB canon under the rubric the Hydromatics. In Austin, he gave me an unmastered cassette of their first album, which was released on the Swedish label White Jazz in 1999. I thought their second album, Powerglide, released on the fly-by-night Italian label Freak Show, was a step up, including some R&B flavored material (a vein Scott and Nicke would further mine as the Solution) and young Ann Arborite Andy Frost on drums.

7) Medium Rare: My buddy Geoff Ginsberg released this now-hideously-rare collection of obscuro treasures on his currently-moribund Real O Mind label. It included four tracks from the 1991 Rationals reunion and four others he recorded in L.A., 1998, with the Jones Brothers, including this cover of Al Green's "Full of Fire":

8) Ann Arbor Revival Meeting: Geoff also released this live document of the best show I've ever seen in my life -- Scott's band Powertrane with Ron Asheton, Deniz Tek, and Cult Heroes singer Hiawatha Bailey, on their home turf at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Again, good luck getting a sniff of this.

9) Scott Morgan: For this 2010 release on Alive Naturalsound, Morgan put down his Telecaster for the first time since the '60s. Backed by a bunch of young Detroit guys, he lays down a bunch of R&B-inflected rockers in a set that goes down like a good blues album (as I wrote on the I-94 Bar). Since Alive doesn't appear to be going anywhere, this is probably the best place to start once you have the Rationals comp and _something_ by SRB. It's vinyl-available, too.


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