Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last walk home from Doc's

Made me feel like
Jim Jarmusch
Smoking his last cigarette
With Auggie Wrenn in Smoke.

Or myself when I was 11
Walking home with a record
To be played continuously
Until it drove my mom and sister nuts.

Back then my feet
Or my bike
Took me everywhere --
Sustained my vinyl habit.

Looking back, it's why the medic
That gave me my induction physical
Asked if I was a runner, even
After I'd smoked for eight years.

Today, 11-year-olds have
The whole history of recorded music
At their fingertips without leaving home.
Every man his own radio station.

I miss being schooled by
Guys that loved music like I did
And always had something they knew
I'd like, based on what I'd bought before.

But mainly what I miss
Is the walk home, anticipating
What I was about to experience,
But hyper-aware of my surroundings.

It was a pleasure I thought
I'd never experience again
Until a couple of years ago
And one I'll likely not enjoy again.

(Unless somebody opens
Another store on Montgomery,
Or Vickery, or Camp Bowie.
I'm not holding my breath.)

Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project's "Seriously"

Owner/operator of the most imposing muttonchops since Neil Young ca. 1966, Akronite Ralph Carney is a multi-instrumentalist (started on banjo, plays sax and a whole orchestra's worth of other axes) and familiar of Tom Waits (sideman since 1985), Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs (has recorded with both), Pere Ubu and Devo (played in the seminal '70s Ohio avant-prog outfit Tin Huey). To de yoof, he might be best known as uncle to the Black Keys' Patrick Carney.

On his new album, Seriously, he blends stylish Ellingtonia, honkin' and shoutin' jump blues and R&B, and just a smidge of postmodernism in a stew that comes across like a midwestern Bonzo Dog Band with chops.

It's gotta be challenging to perform music that most people living today were first exposed to via Betty Boop cartoons. It reminds me of the film professor I had back in antiquity who used to painstakingly restore prints of D.W. Griffith epics and project them at their original speed -- a very different viewing experience than the herky-jerky, speeded-up form we'd seen them in previously. While I generally view purist practitioners of old-timey musical styles in the same way as I view people that go to Renaissance Faires, or Civil War re-enactors, Carney and his cats have a real feel for these anachronistic musics (in the same way as, say, Scott Hamilton).

Carney himself does yeoman work, seamlessly overdubbing a dozen instruments in a way that sounds like a complete, swinging section. He also sings, sounding oddly like a Vocoder on "Linger Awhile." (I understand he also does Japanese Noh singing.) Only on the set's sole original, "Echoes of Chloe," does he bring things into the modern era, sounding like Eric Dolphy sitting in with the Sun Ra Arkestra on _all_ his axes. I'd like to hear Carney mix it up a little more, like Henry Threadgill taking on Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton on Air Lore. But Seriously is an achievement on its own terms.

8.30.2011, FTW

1) The Italian kid reports that Doc's Records and Vintage is moving to the Wild West Side (9522 Camp Bowie West, to be exact), closing up next weekend and reopening in early December. It'll be a bigger location, it's only a seven minute drive from the current location, yadda yadda. But it's also too far for me to walk from my house, and on my days off next week, I'll be going to Jo Kelly School to hear Mark Growden and Eric McFadden doing a special performance one day, recording and rehearsing with HIO and Home Made Dance Project in Denton the other, so today will be my last chance to walk home from Doc's with a rekkid in my hand. Plus Jenkins posted on his Facebook page that he has the entahr Tom Waits catalog in new arrivals. Hope they're still there when he opens today.

ADDENDUM: They _are_ building an indoor stage at the new location, which perhaps bodes well for future "Cavalcade of Unpopular Music" giggage.

2) Speaking of Growden and McFadden, they'll bring their duo tour to fonky Fred's on Friday, 11.4, starting at 7pm. There's no cover; you'd be a fool to miss this.

3) The Italian kid also reports that Moustache Brothers, a charity group run by Josh Pivin, who works with my daughter in the deli at Central Market, is hosting some events in the Curmudgeon Zone to benefit M.D. Anderson Center's prostate cancer research. It's a-happening at the Wild Rooster on Tuesday, 11.8, and at the Grotto, Lola's, and Poag Mahone's on Sunday, 11.20. Details in the first link above. Please consider helping 'em out, why doncha?

4) Finally, the Fort Worth Weekly's cover story this week is a profile by Steve Steward of the magical Ash Adams, who was recently installed as president of the Fort Worth Magicians Club. Good onya, magical Ash!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Who Live At Leeds

I bought this the week it came out back in May 1970, when I was not quite 13, from the camera shop where my first crush sometimes worked behind the counter when I walked to town with my lawn mowing money to buy singles and later, bargain bin LPs. To this day, it's one of those albums I can replay in my head note for note (as I recently did while running), even though I haven't owned a copy of the original vinyl in 22 years (since my future ex-wife donated my records to Goodwill in Shreveport).

My interest was piqued by Nik Cohn's preview in the New York Times, wherein he pronounced it the best live rock album ever and promised a setlist that included John Entwistle's "Heaven and Hell," Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller," "Tattoo" from The Who Sell Out (still my favorite Who song) and then-unheard-by-me early Who gems including "I'm A Boy" and "A Quick One While He's Away" -- none of which were on the LP when it appeared, and which I'd have to wait for the 1995 remastered CD version to hear. Cohn's description of the album's aural impact clicked with the live pics of the band I'd seen -- they looked like they'd sound lethal -- but not with the incandescent and magical, light and airy sound of Sell Out, the album of theirs I'd discovered and become obsessed with after being underwhelmed by Tommy.

It was packaged like a bootleg (plain brown wrapper with stenciled lettering), which was fitting, because it was meant to foil the bootleggers. It smelled like an art book; in the pocket on one side of the gatefold were replicas of memorabilia including bills for equipment and pyrotechnics (evidence that for the first five years of their existence, the Who were like a furnace that burned money), typescript lyrics with hand-scrawled notes in the margins, a rejection letter from EMI, a photo from the session that produced their first U.S. album cover (with Townshend looking like a gargoyle in his pudding-bowl haircut), the contract for their Woodstock appearance and another photo of boiler-suited Townshend leaping with his SG held aloft as the sun rose. Best of all was the Marquee Club "maximum R&B" poster with Richard Barnes' iconic photo of Townshend with his arm about to swoop down on his Rickenbacker, which stayed on my bedroom wall until I moved to Texas, eight years later.

The label info, hand-written by Townshend, included the injunction, "Crackling noises OK - do not correct!" (Apparently Entwistle had a noisy guitar cable.) I dropped the needle on the first side, and the snarling guitar chords that introduced "Young Man Blues" pinned me to the wall. In some ways, I am still there. Mose Allison's original had been a relatively subdued, piano-driven jazz number, really just a snippet of a talking blues.

But in the Who's hands, it was transformed into a taut, tense explosion of frustration and anger -- and a living example of Townshend's claim that rock 'n' roll is about triumph, not rebellion.

Townshend had come a long way since he developed his "ridiculously demonstrative" stage demeanor to compensate for the fact that he couldn't play like Eric Clapton. With a few years of touring under his belt at 25, he'd managed to develop an original and highly aggressive approach to guitar strangling out of an unlikely set of influences: John Lee Hooker, Steve Cropper, flamenco, a little Barney Kessel. On "Young Man Blues," he made his guitar (strung with absurdly heavy gauges -- .056 to .013 -- because he hit them so hard) bark and snarl like a mad dog. (If this doesn't sound like an accomplishment, try bending a wound G string a full step sometime.)

Entwistle and Moon, undeniably the most explosive of the vaunted Brit power trio riddim sections, backed him to the hilt, and Daltrey -- who'd struggled to come up with a frontman persona after the band shifted their focus from R&B covers to Townshend's compositions -- finally found his feet as the Who, with Tommy, progressed from the intimacy of clubs and ballrooms to the larger stages of sheds and stadiums, which required grander gestures. When he ends "Young Man Blues" with a scream of "They got SWEEEEEEET fuck-all," it carries real weight and authority.

Townshend later claimed (in his Rolling Stone preview of Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy) that "Substitute" was intended as a parody of the Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown," but what it really sounds like is an attempt to write a Motown song, loaded with hooks: the chorded guitar intro, the buoyant bass line, Moon's tom-tom fills like the whole stable of Funk Brothers drummers going off at once.

Of course, The Who had plenty of experience covering what were referred to in the UK as "Tamla Motown" artists. At different times, they recorded Martha and the Vandellas' "Heatwave" and "Motoring," Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't Do It," and Eddie Holland's "Leaving Here." Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp's 1964 footage of the High Numbers, which surfaced in 2007, shows them performing Smokey Robinson's "I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying."

On the Leeds version of "Substitute," they omit the instrumental verse from the single, and Daltrey sings the original lyrics ("I look all white but my dad was black") that were re-recorded as "I tried going forth but I keep walking back" for the U.S. release.

"Summertime Blues," the Eddie Cochran rock 'n' roll song, was featured in the Woodstock movie and was an AM radio hit the summer of Leeds. What struck me the most about the Leeds version was the way the 3rd interval of the D chord stood out, although I wouldn't learn those terms until I snaked the Music Theory 101 text from a buddy who was taking it at community college a few years later. You could really hear the sound of Townshend's SG-through-Hiwatt, and the acoustics of the university student union where they recorded. I insisted on playing this song in every band I was in between ages 16 and 19. Although I didn't realize it until I heard the '95 remaster, this was actually the first song of the encore, following the Tommy songs.

"Shakin' All Over," by early Brit rocker Johnny Kidd, opens with a stinging guitar line and proceeds with slinky menace into a shuddering jam. What I originally thought was a steal from the Beatles' "Get Back" was actually the Who's take on Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful," which Daltrey avoided singing so as not to have to pay royalties to Willie Dixon. (I'd learn this when I saw the video of the Who's 1970 Isle of Wight performance a couple of decades later.)

Turning the record over, "My Generation" -- a song that started out as a Dylanesque talking blues and wound up being the Who's defining hit until "Won't Get Fooled Again" supplanted it -- begins with a roar of audience approbation. The original single started out in the key of G, but by Valentine's Day 1970, they'd transposed it to A. You've gotta hear the vinyl, because the remastered CD versions tweak out Daltrey's scream before he sings "Just because we get around," and two bars where Entwistle fluffs a line in his iconic bass solo. Instead of smashing their instruments at the end, they go into a reprise of the Tommy finale, with nifty double-stopped lead from Townshend, then the outro jam from "Naked Eye," a song they wouldn't release for another 20 years.

From there, Townshend takes off on a little fingerpicked fantasia against a droning D, playing off the room's echo, before reprising the "Sparks" theme from Tommy. They jam on it for awhile, then Pete noodles some more, hits a heavy chordal lick that sticks, and they ride it until he cues a stop, then they're off into the Tommy "Underture." When that, um, peters out, Townshend gets into something that sounds like a nervous John Lee Hooker boogie, which gallops along until the final rush of feedback and crashing drums.

In the 30 Years of Maximum R&B video, Townshend says that "Magic Bus" is the Who song he loves to play above all others, while Entwistle avers that he hates it because it's "30 minutes of A." You can hear both of their points in the Leeds version, which omits most of the lyrics in favor of a call-and-response routine between Daltrey and Townshend. Townshend sounds absolutely abandoned, while Entwistle gets to ride the Bo Diddley shave-and-a-haircut beat, for a lot less than 30 minutes -- the whole track is under eight on the LP. You get another little taste of Howlin' Wolf -- "Smokestack Lightning" this time -- before they collectively go off in an aural orgy that's the sonic equivalent of wrecking the house.

Sure, much of the second side is formless and self-indulgent in a way no band would dare attempt today, but that's part of its charm. My track-running, bass-playing second college roommate and I, growing up in different towns on Long Island, learned the whole thing by rote, including the mistakes, to the point where we could sing all the parts, and this became the basis for our friendship the night we met. Over the next few months, he slowly and laboriously schooled me in musical structure, and we practiced relentlessly together, all the while abusing substances indiscriminately.

Four years later, I was living in Austin when he called me from Colorado and invited me up to make a band. I didn't tell him I hadn't touched a guitar in a year. Instead, I went out and bought the heaviest strings I could find and practiced like I hadn't in years. When I arrived in Aspen with my SG and tweed Deluxe, he told me, "You're better than I am now. I used to think you were terrible." (He'd frozen his hands and feet, falling asleep drunk while winter camping in New Jersey, and reinvented himself as a punk drummer before learning how to play bass again. The doctors had wanted to take his fingers and toes.) One of the songs we played, before I got run out of town on a rail, was the "My Generation" medley from Leeds.

By now, the thing has been reissued four times: the initial crappy MCA CD from '85, the '95 remaster, the 2001 "deluxe edition" with all the Tommy songs restored, the 2010 40th anniversary edition with all that plus the complete Hull show that was supposed to be released before they discovered that Entwistle's bass didn't record on the first four tracks and assumed the whole recording was flawed (now compensated for digitally, of course -- and "Crackling noises have been corrected!"). While I was happy to hear what Cohn promised in the '95 remaster, I don't think the original six-song LP has ever been surpassed by any of the subsequent CD releases. (For one thing, I'm still kind of indifferent to Tommy.)

That said, if I want to experience the fury of the '70 Who nowadays, I'll reach for a DVD, not a CD or even an LP. What made them great in their heyday was their majestic and ridiculous physical presence, and without it, you're missing half the show -- not just the outrageous ham showmanship of three out of four musos, but also the onstage interplay (and hilarious between-song hijinks) of Townshend and Moon.

Murray Lerner's film of the Isle of Wight performance has been released in a few different video configurations, and its editing actually allows you to enjoy all the good stuff without having to skip through the Tommy bit. True, by August, when the Who played IoW, a lot of the pre-Tommy material had been dropped from their set in favor of inferior later songs like "Water" and "I Don't Even Know Myself." If you're a hardcore fan of the early stuff, you can see a lot of those songs performed in the 1969 London Coliseum show that's included as a bonus disc with Live At Kilburn 1977. But the crappy 8mm video, full of gaps where cameras were being reloaded, is no match for Lerner's snazzy cinematography.

Live At Leeds remains the classic, though. If only due to familiarity, the set sounds formally perfect in a way that none of the filmed ones do. To these feedback-scorched ears, what makes it really resonate is the rough edges and rawness, combined with the cockiness of players performing at their peak, and beginning to comprehend their own power. By their nature, moments like Leeds are fleeting, and if they're documented, we're fortunate to have them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tom Waits' "Bad As Me" (Part Three)

On Reflection

At this point, Tom Waits is a genre all to himself. Orphans proved that he's mastered 100 years of American songcraft, from Stephen Foster through Tin Pan Alley to blues, gospel, and jazz. (As I mentioned in the last installment, he seems to have let go of the overt Kurt Weill influence that permeated Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones, and theater pieces like The Black Rider.)

But on Bad As Me, he's much more than just a genre chameleon; he's using his varied palette of musical effects in service of a vision of a new weird America that extends far beyond mere topicality. His freak vocal range -- more off the wall than Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Don Van Vliet, Mack Rebbenack, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, or Japanese folksinger Kan Mikami -- is more than a vehicle for acrobatic sangin'; rather, it serves to make you feel the plight of his broken down, beaten-by-life characters in your bones and viscera.

The jumpy, nervous cacophony of horns on "Chicago" opens the album on a note of discombobulation and anomie, with a narrative could be from 70 years ago, or last week. "Raised Right Men" explores the same theme as Captain Beefheart's "Nowadays A Woman's Got To Hit A Man," and reinforces some suspicions I've recently held of my gender.

"Talking At the Same Time" is a mise en scene for the troubled economic times we live in, sung in a crying falsetto, as if the shade of Skip James was haunting your copy of Bobby Bland's Two Steps From the Blues. "Get Lost" transmogrifies a horn-dog's lust into spiritual desperation, backed by the band from a Holy Roller church. "Face To the Highway" tells the eternal tale of separation and loss -- which can be painful even if it's volitional. "Pay Me" is a melancholy, accordion-driven waltz, the sole vestige here of Waits' end-of-the-world cabaret.

The echo of what I thought was Chicano rock the first couple times I heard "Back In the Crowd" proved on subsequent spins to be the Drifters -- although Lieber and Stoller never penned a lyric as heartbroken as "Take back your name / Take back these wings / Take my picture from the frame / And put me back in the crowd." (Even "Save the Last Dance for Me" was infused with hope.)

The title track is an archetypal latter-day Waits song, a minor key blues with histrionic voxxx, driven by Casey Waits' massive crash 'n' thump -- like a boho John Bonham. "Kiss Me" is a blowzy bar-room blooze, with Waits importuning his inamorata to "Kiss me like a stranger once again."

"Satisfied" is, of all things, a tribute to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" lyrically (replete with allusions to "Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards," the latter of whose guitar is all over this album) and the everlasting glory of Nawlins R&B musically.

"Last Leaf" ("...on the tree") is the most sympathetic song about the loneliness of the elderly since Paul Simon's "Old Friends," only Waits even denies his protagonist the buddy that the younger Simon imagined for himself at the age he turned this year. "I'll be here through eternity," Waits sings. "If you want to know how long / If they cut down this tree / I'll show up in a song."

"Hell Broke Loose" puts the sound experiment of Real Gone to work depicting the inner world of a PTSD-suffering combat vet and wins points for writing a song from a soldier's viewpoint that's clear-eyed but compassionate, in a voice that echoes the poet Vachel Lindsay. "New Year's Eve" finds Waits back where he started, propping up the bar observing the passing scene, singing lines that can move you to tears even if you haven't lived 'em, but especially if you have.

Of the albums released since I picked up the Waits thread, Real Gone was an experiment, Orphans a summation, and Glitter and Doom either a tour souvenir or mere product. Bad As Me is the goods -- a piece of work that's of its time and out of time. It's enough to make me want to go back and give Alice and Blood Money another chance.

(Read Part Two here. Read Part One here.)

Home Made Dance Project Tour

Terry and Hickey, along with Big Rig Dance Collective's Whitney Boomer and Amanda Jackson, tour the space at 418 Texas St. in Denton where we'll be performing with Whitney and Amanda's Home Made Dance Project on 12.8.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HIO Drinkie Talkie 10252011

T. Horn uploaded some audio of us banging on glasses and annoying other patrons at Ye Olde Bull & Bush here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see a complete live Husker Du show from '85?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Big Beat reishes Rationals' Crewe LP

Finally! A (presumably) legit reissue of the Rationals' 1970 debut LP, from the Brit label responsible for the estimable Think Rational! compilation of a few seasons back. One of my favorite albs of all ti-i-ime, and if you dig blue-eyed soul or Dee-troit ramalama, you've gotta have this, papa. Drops on 11.8.

Tom Waits' "Bad As Me" (Part Two)

First Impressions

We pre-ordered the deluxe 2CD edition because my sweetie's preferred listening media are CDs and iTunes -- hopefully not because she fears that I'd transform into the Daniel Stern character from Diner if she touched my records. (I mean, I'm OK with Auggie the Russian Blue using the turntable as a springboard onto/off of the mantelpiece, which, thanks to the instability of the table it sits on, doesn't cause the record that's playing to skip. Seriously.) Plus, it comes with three extra songs that aren't on the digipak single CD, and it's bound in a hardback book with photos and lyrics in a typeface that's easily readable even by nearsighted old folks like us, unlike most CD slicks.

It arrived in the mail today (one day before the official release date) and we waited until she was done doing some school paperwork after dinner to sit down and give it our undivided attention.

The first time through, it sounds like a survey of the state o' the world today -- not as literally/topically as Ry Cooder's recent Pull Up Some Dust & Sit Down (although Tom can't resist a dig at the one percenters in "Talking At the Same Time"), but in a more experential sense. Because as great a journeyman muso as Cooder is, and obsessed with the Great Depression since the '70s to boot, he's not as adept at thinking his way into the inner worlds of his characters as Waits. From the Sun-Elvis-in-heat protagonist of "Get Lost" to the absent lover in "Face to the Highway," the anomic touring muso of "Pay Me" (sounding like Waits his own self before he dried out), the lonely aging narrator of "Last Leaf" or the shattered war-on-terror vet in "Hell Broke Luce" (maybe the same kid from Real Gone's "Day After Tomorrow," a few deployments later), these songs resonate with the complexity of real live humans with all their failings, missteps, and regrets.

While there are a lot of different sounds here, including a couple of beautiful ballads -- a great relief after Waits' last "regular" album, Real Gone, which was heavy on sound experiment, light on songs -- this is basically a blues album. The accompaniment is cinematic, dense, and rich, with solid, seamless support from Waits' usual suspects and a few surprising additions: Marc Ribot (whose cosmopolitan take on Hubert Sumlin, Pat Hare, and Otis Rush has been a highlight of Waits recordings since Rain Dogs), Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, and noted author Keith Richards on guitars; Canned Heat stalwart Larry Taylor, Flea, James Whiton (Eric McFadden Trio), and Les Claypool on bass; Texas Tornado Augie Meyers on organ, piano, and accordion; harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite; and Waits' son Casey on drums. Some of the most striking instrumental work here is by Tom himself: the tremolo guitar on "Kiss Me," f'rinstance, where you can almost feel the heat and see the blue fluorescent glow from the amp tubes.

The most astonishing thing about Waits, though, is how he's managed to avoid blowing out his voice with his highly idiosyncratic vocal approach. He still hits all the notes in that phlegmy roar that can be downright sinister and menacing when he's in his Weillian apocalyptic cabaret mode (notably absent here). On "Talking At the Same Time," I mistook his falsetto for another singer's until well into the second verse. So far, the faves at mi casa are the bittersweet Chicano rock slow jam "Back In the Crowd," the loose-limbed NOLA second line of "Satisfied," and the barfly's singalong "New Year's Eve" (replete with "Auld Lang Syne" snippet that reminds me more of the barroom scene in Kurosawa's Scandal than it does "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis," for some reason). Not sure yet whether or not this is classic Waits, but it's sho' 'nuff a goodun.

More impressions when it's had a few more days to sink in.

To be continued...

(Read Part One here. Read Part Three here.)

The Red 100s' "Live Off the Floor"

These three wiseacres, whom I mistook for teenagers when the li'l Stoogeband recently shared a bill with 'em but are actually in their mid-20s, recently won the Dallas Observer Music Awards "Best Blues Act" category in spite of the fact that they come across more like psychedelic punxxx than bluesmen. That said, they display an awareness of I-IV-V progressions that's a generational anomaly, and even closed their set at Lola's with, um, "Johnny B. Goode," which I grew tired of playing in shitty bar bands but sounded positively refreshing coming from such youthful, energetic mofos.

Their six-song EP Live Off the Floor is downloadable from Bandcamp for whatever you think it's worth, or available in corporeal form for a five spot -- and worth every penny. For a superannuated devotee of the hard stuff like your humble chronicler o' events, it's the best kind of wish fulfillment. These guys sound like they swallowed the history of Rawk entahr, from '60s garage punk to '70s hard rock to '80s hardcore, and spat out something that's as wholly their own as it's evocative of past manic thrills.

Raul Mercado, who provides the majority of the guitar damage, and Robbie D. Love, who divides his time between guitar and bass duties, are saturated enough with the litterchur of their axes to evoke both surf music and Funkadelic within a single song, and are into distortion and feedback as a way of life. These young cats are out to lunch: Same place I eat at. When Raul starts rapid-fire thrashing away at the double-stopped lines, it's as though the spirits of Brother Wayne Kramer and Sonny Sharrock were inhabiting the body of a skinny-jeans-wearing Messkin kid from Big D, an awesome sound. And "Coffee at Midnight" is the best early Fleetwood Mac hit that Peter Green never wrote.

Kyle Scheumach kicks the traps aggressively while singing like, well, the guy from Blink-182, which is actually a lot more honest than if he tried to sound like John Lee Hooker with a mouthful of marbles. Plus their brown-black-'n'-white Mod Squad mixture appeals to the Utopian in me. These boys are bold as brass and ready for the sheds. See 'em now so you can tell your grandkids you saw 'em back when. They'll be at the Wherehouse this Friday, 10.28, with the Hanna Barbarians and Whiskey Folk Ramblers. Admission is $10 with a costume, $15 without.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ex-Fugazi guy to Texas cometh

It seems like all the old post-hardcore 'Meercun underground guys are back on the boards these days: Keith Morris (ex-Black Flag/ex-Circle Jerks) with OFF!, Greg Ginn (SST Records/ex-Black Flag) performing solo with looped samples under the rubric "Greg Ginn and the Royal We" (returning to the Fort, specifically Lola's, with Brooklynites Cinema, Cinema on Thursday, 11.3), and now ex-Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, who'll play Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin on Saturday, 11.5, then visit the Metromess for a stand at Big D's Bryan Street Tavern the following evening, Sunday, 11.6.

Depending on your perspective, Fugazi -- vets of the D.C. hardcore scene and founders of the straight-edge movement, fightin' the corporate powers that be before Pearl Jam took on Clear Channel -- were either principled or po-faced. A favorite, if apocryphal, story from a Sonic Youth bio I read had De Yoof's tour bus passing Fugazi's broke-down van on the side of the highway and Thurston, Kim and Co. throwing five dollar bills out the window at them. I missed out on all of the above in their heyday because I spent the decade '82-'92 guarding freedom's frontier and winning the Cold War. When I got out of the service, I went to my old rekkid store in Fort Worth and asked John Bargas, "What'd I miss?" He said, "The Replacements, the Minutemen, and Husker Du." My loss.

So until recently, Joe Lally was known to me principally as the impresario behind Tolotta Records, which released CDs I dug by Spirit Caravan and Stinking Lizaveta around Y2K. On his third solo CD, Why Should I Get Used To It, released on his Fugazi bandmate Ian MacKaye's Dischord label, he purveys a skronky, minimalist line in post-punk anomie, featuring his own bass and Everydude vocalismo alongside a pair of Italian musos (Lally currently resides in Roma): guitarist Elisa Abela and drummer Emanuele Tomasi. (For the U.S. tour, Allison Chesley from opening act Helen Money on amplified cello and Ricardo Lagomosino on drums are his bandmates.) The music has a nice brittle tension to it, like something's about to snap -- the kind of low-key psychodrama that'd go well in a small room like the Tavern.

Tom Waits' "Bad As Me" (Part One)


In anticipation of the release of Tom Waits' new album, my sweetie 'n' I are listening to his music exclusively for a week. Derek Anderson, bless him, offered me a download of Bad As Me, but we're electing to, um, wait for Tom. It's kinda like waiting till morning to open your Christmas presents, even though online leaks and downloads have become the post-Millennial equivalent of '70s FM radio previews. And before digesting this new work, I wanted to contextualize.

I've only ever written about Waits once: a review of an underwhelming live album that came with a bonus disc that was Tom's equivalent of Having Fun With Elvis Onstage. It took me a long time to really hear his music -- until I met my sweetie in 2003, to be exact, which is perhaps fitting, given the pivotal role Waits' 1980 marriage to Kathleen Brennan played in his career.

When his first albums appeared in the early '70s, I was working in a record store, but couldn't figure what to make of a cigarette 'n' whiskey-voiced boho barfly bellowing "Waltzing Matilda" (surely the saddest song on Earth, between On the Beach, the Pogues, and his borrowing its refrain for "Tom Traubert's Blues"). Not enough loud electric guitars, and he was tarred by the brush of having a song ("Ol' '55") covered by the Eagles. More to the point, I was still too young and dumb to understand the grief and loss in a song like "Martha," or the fact that we're all just visiting here.

I even had an encounter with him once, around '75 or '76. It was summer in New York City, and my guitar mentor and I had been walking around Manhattan with our instruments. (I got mistaken for the lead guitarist from Jefferson Starship, and told some kid that we were playing for free in Central Park and to bring all his friends.) We were sitting at the bar in the long-lived (still there, in fact) Greenwich Village dive called Kenny's Castaways when Waits walked in the door. With typical good judgment, my buddy looked up, noted his presence, and announced, "Look! It's TOM WAITS!" to the entahr bar. My memory is shaky, so I'm not certain whether or not Tom actually screamed like a little girl before he ran out of the bar and disappeared into the night. And from my consciousness, for a couple of decades.

Then one night in '98 or '99, I turned on the TV at my then-girlfriend's pad and saw Tom on some late night show, growling into a bullhorn like he was Captain Beefheart channeling Charlie Patton via Howlin' Wolf and wondered "What the fuck?" For Kathleen had introduced Tom to Don Van Vliet as well as Kurt Weill, and his cocktail of Kerouac, Bukowski, Ken Nordine and Hoagy Carmichael had gotten distinctly weirder. He'd gotten involved in theater (collaborations with William Burroughs and Robert Wilson) and film (a turn as one of the lowlifes, alongside ex-Lounge Lizard John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, in Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law; his "Innocent When You Dream" providing the backdrop for "Auggie Wrenn's Christmas Story" in Wayne Wang's Smoke).

His music had gotten bluesier with his last couple of Asylum albums, but to these feedback-scorched ears, the highlights of those remain Blue Valentine's cover of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story showstopper "Someday" and Heartattack and Vine's "Jersey Girl," the best Broooce Springsteen song that the Boss never wrote. My sweetie opines, and I agree, that the truest romantics are those who've experienced loss and pain, rather than the saccharine, starry-eyed kind, and nobody does heartache like Waits. For proof positive, spin Bone Machine's "Little Rain (For Clyde)" or Mule Variations' "Georgia Lee."

While Waits' theater pieces, of which there have been many (Frank's Wild Years, The Black Rider, the simultaneously-released Alice and Blood Money), don't always make the best records, their creator's track record is still way better than, say, Uncle Lou -- approximately equivalent to, say, Spike Lee's or Oliver Stone's in the cinematic arena.

For my two cents, his best albums are probably Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones, Bone Machine, Mule Variations, and the sprawling, encyclopedic Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards. Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years provides a convenient way to hear all the highlights of the period it represents, although it draws heavily on Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones. I'm partial to the stripped-down sound on the two volumes of The Early Years, which precede and, I think, compare favorably with his first couple of Asylum albums. And as Will Risinger points out, even the soundtrack to One From the Heart (the project on which he met his future wife while collaborating with Nashville diva Crystal Gayle) is worthwhile.

We'll continue spinning, and watching the Magic Mailbox.

To be continued...

(Read Part Two here. Read Part Three here.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Panic Basket - "Acoustic Test 2011"

Darrin Kobetich on sitar, cumbus (that oddball instrument the name of which I can never remember) and distorted guitar solos, Darryl Wood on everything else. Listen here.

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see some live John Cale vids?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Susan SurfTone's "Shore"

Surf music was the gateway drug that lured loads of American teens into the rock wars back in the '60s, and Susan SurfTone was one of 'em -- unusual for a girl back then. (I'm not saying it's right, or that her guitar prowess is some kind of anomaly; I'm just stating a fact. I'll also say that I saw Joan Jett wipe the floor with Iggy at the Palladium in Dallas back in '80. Rock, and rock _guitar_, hath no gender. So there.)

Myself, after I got over trying to imitate the drummer on the Surfaris' "Wipe Out" back around 6th grade, I always kind of looked askance at surf guitarists. Those clean, albeit reverb-laden, tones didn't _move_ me the way distortion and blues-based raunch did; why, most surf guitarists wouldn't even bend a string more than a half-step, most of the time. I started thinking differently when I saw the late Robin Sylar (whom I mistook for Cowhide Cole from KNON's rockabilly show when I heard him speak) do his "Surfabilly" set at Borders when I was moonlighting there around '97, and started connecting some of the dots between the minor key exoticism of Dick Dale with stuff that was more familiar, like John Lee Hooker. With Shore, her _eighth_ full-length (most of 'em released in Europe, go fig), Susan helps to connect some more of those dots.

For you see, Susan's far from a formulaic surf-guitar gal; in fact, purists might scratch their heads listening to parts of this record and wonder if she isn't actually using a li'l distortion here and there. The title track starts out with the classic "Gloria" chord progression (garage-surf?) played by bass and organ before Susan takes off on a classic double-stop-laden Kingsmen-via-Kinks ride, albeit more controlled and less frenetic than either its Yank or Brit precursors. "Jade" is a more archetypal surf number, with the buildup drum roll swelling up under held chords, before Susan gets down to business. (Lately it seems like I'm hearing echoes of this sound in all the new young bands I dig: Spacebeach, Fungi Girls, Red 100's. What is it about this sound that makes it so timeless?) Then on "Tide," Susan unashamedly kicks on the fuzztone as if to say, "Why not?"

My own fave track on the album is "Compression," which sounds like nothing so much as an early Talking Heads song in search of a singer, and indeed, Susan 'fesses up to digging "late '70s/early '80s new wave/punk" as well as the Velvets. "Agate" has the same vibe, and reminds me of the way a lot of bands at the ass-end of the '70s were evoking the early '60s as a way of, um, reaffirming their faith in the innocent spirit of those days. Shore's not that kind of nostalgia trip, although you can frug to a toon like "Chance" if you're motivated that way. You get the sense that surf is Susan's native tongue, and any other musical material she wants to use is going through that filter first.

The album's ace in the hole is a seven-minute version of the Doors' "Riders On the Storm," which reveals how much of that SoCal band's mysterioso vibe was borrowed from surf music -- it's not that big of a jump from Robbie Krieger's flamenco roots to Dick Dale's Arabisms, or from Ray Manzarek's Vox organ to a surf band's Farfisa. Dig, too, the way Susan interpolates the melody from "Pipeline" in the middle of "Riders." What's most striking about Shore is that it's not a party record -- more of a listening album, with an air of moody melancholy hiding behind the thumping surf beat.

Side A's "A New Margin"

When I first slipped this shiny silver disc in the player, I felt my '60s Blue Note sensor being activated, but not in the way I usually experience -- e.g., via echoes of Out To Lunch, the '60s album that seems to exert the most inescapable influence on today's exploratory jazz musos.

Rather, A New Margin's confluence of a reedist who's adept on a number of different axes and thus has an array of tonal colors and effects at his disposal, a pianist with a percussive attack and powerful technique in service of ideas that are alternately abstract and melodic, and a polyrhythmic drummer who never lets his thunder overwhelm his musicality, put me in mind of Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures, even though that estimable album was the handiwork of a larger ensemble than a mere trio like Side A.

But maybe I'm selling these fellas short. All three of the members of Side A -- prolific Rhode Island-born, Chicago-based multi-reedman Ken Vandermark; Norwegian pianist Havard Wiik; and Vandemark's fellow Windy City denizen Chad Taylor, who's also drummed with guitarist Marc Ribot's Albert Ayler tribute band and indie rockers Iron and Wine -- are accomplished composers as well as adept improvisers. Side A is a collective in the best sense of the word: Vandermark and Taylor each contributed four compositions to A New Margin, while Wiik supplied three.

Like Unit Structures, the music on A New Margin is ruminative, winding its way through a variety of moods in a series of episodes that sound through-composed, although they leave plenty of room for expressive interpretation. The intentionality of the group's attack and the musicians' ability to stir both the intellect and the viscera with their performance are stunning. Side A was a brand new outfit when this album was recorded last October, but they emerged fully formed. I look forward to hearing further installments in their odyssey. Cop via Clean Feed.

The Godz in 1966

Beloved of St. Lester, once considered by those who care about such things to be in the "so bad they're good" category, the Godz now seem like a portent or precursor of the indie age. Bless them.

10.15-19.2011, NJ

Always dig the East Coast change of seasons and New Jersey is enough like Lawn Guyland to feel like home. Lots of color in the leaves, and sounds from flocks of migrating geese at night.

Express parking is the best kept secret at DFW. Going forward, we plan to use it even though it's two bucks extra a day. Our flight got things off to a less than auspicious start with a never-ending bumpy descent, and the first rental we got was a hybrid car-of-the-future with an electric key that we couldn't figure out how to operate, necessitating a return trip to the rental desk to get something from the past that was more satisfactory.

An extremely good trip from a culinary point of view. My big sis cooked meals that tasted like our childhood -- pork ribs, cabbage salad, broccoli with sesame, and rice the first night was a special fave, as was the Italian dinner (chicken parmigiana, spaghetti bolognese, asparagus, salad, and garlic bread) she cooked at her friend's house on Tuesday. D'Angelo's Italian market in Princeton had panini sammies on bread that was crusty but not hard, and black and white cookies that reminded me of being a kid. It's a new favorite, along with Tandoori Bite, which we discovered on our last trip.

We'd tried to check out DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies on a previous visit but the lines were too long. This time we only had to wait a few minutes and it was well worth it. Their salads are big enough for two people and incredibly flavorful, while the pies have a thin, crispy crust like pizzas I had in Italy, with _just enough_ ingredients on top. Not what I typically look for in a pie, but a surprising winner. Only the Chinese lunch our last day was a disappointment.

Using my sister's iPhone (uncomfortably), I was able to do a little "rock 'n' roll secretary" action. Francisco Cruz from The Symptoms of Stereophonic Transmissions reached out to let me know about their Prophet Bar gig tonight, which T. Horn might attend (I'll be closing at the market).

Heard of the Red 100's victory in the Dallas Observer music awards "Best Blues Act" category (sorry Will), and their bassist/guitarist Robbie D. Love reached out to the li'l Stoogeband to see if we wanted to play with them at the Moon on Friday -- curious, as there are already two other bands on the bill, and it looks as if Robbie reached out to every band he likes (RTB2, Stella Rose, Quaker City Night Hawks, etc.). No dice, as Ray is gigging with Epic Ruins and Hembree with PH7. My sweetie wants to take pics of them, though, so she and I might catch the show, at least.

Discovered that the Queers, with whom the Stoogeband will play at Lola's on 11.27 (Sunday after Thanksgiving) are my Army nurse son-in-law's very favorite band on Earth, which means I'll get to be both the annoying guy from the support band _and_ the annoying fan parent. Not a bad way to end our Stooge season.

Crate digging at the Princeton Record Exchange, I found the new Rocket From the Tombs LP I'd been seeking and one of the two Artist House Ornettes I was trawling for, but no reissue first SRC album and no Rocket Redux (which Doc's wants $45 for). Best of all, I found a discounted copy of the Kleenex/Liliput vinyl box set for Hickey, in appreciation of his watching our cats. A trip to the Record Collector in Bordentown proved to be abortive, as they're closed on Tuesday (!). Another time, perhaps.

Finally, showing up stupid early at the airport in Newark meant being able to get on an earlier flight when ours was delayed. They called it as soon as we arrived at the gate. Lucky we decided to forego the airport seafood. Home with our cats three hours early (as opposed to an indeterminate period late) was a nice way to end our trip. Hooray!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Systems of Stereophonic Transmissions

At the Prophet Bar in Dallas on Thursday, 11.20.2011:

The Symptoms of Stereophonic Transmissions is a two-piece all-instrumental collective consisting of Francisco Cruz (electric guitar, electric piano) and Jose Torres (drums). Our sound is a self-expressive mixture of many different styles of music, with emphasis on break beats, avant-garde jazz, free jazz and free improvisation over complex drum and bass rhythms. Our music is loud, noisy, abstract, artistic and dense. We use a wide array of effects pedals, looping pedals, samplers and electronics in conjunction with an assortment of homemade instruments to create an innovative sound that is both undeniably individual and original. We also implement varying dynamics, tonal textures, time signatures and extended improvisation within the context of unconventional song structures.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

10.14.2011, FTW

Played our friends Jamie and Linda's birthday party at Lola's with the li'l Stoogeband. Lately, Lola's is seeming more and more like the old Wreck Room -- a plus in my book. Last night Carey Wolff was tending bar; he said the next Woodeye reunion show will be there 11.19, so must remember to save the date. Our gig was originally booked at the Wild Rooster, but apparently they don't like loud bands, which is fine. Lola's always seems like home, more so now.

The Red 100's are the most exciting band I've seen since the first time we played with the Dangits back in 2009. It's trippy seeing kids that were born in the '90s who have absorbed so much of what made rock great back in the '70s. They play a brand of Rawk that's infused with both blues grit (nominated for a "Best Blues Act" award by the Dallas Observer) and punk energy. I'd seen video of them online, but nothing that prepared me for their live assault.

Raul Mercado and Robbie D. Love are all over the stage like they were the Clash or something. Raul has _every pedal Boss ever made_ lined up onstage in front of him (no pedalboards for these boys) and shreds on his axe like SRV, but raw and not blatantly imitative of anybody. Robbie switches between bass and guitar, says "and shit" more than anybody this side of Dan McGraw, and likes climbing on/jumping off things (amp, kick drum) more than any muso I've seen since Chet Weise of the Immortal Lee County Killers. Robbie splits vox with Kyle Scheumack, who gives the lie to the truism that singing drummers suck. They're all monsters, and we had to work our asses off to follow 'em.

Since we started late (the Red 100's hit about half an hour after they were scheduled to), the li'l Stoogeband played an abbreviated set that was light on actual Stooges music, heavy on Cleveland action (Rocket From the Tombs, Dead Boys, Pere Ubu), with two Dicks songs in the mix. Nobody complained. Branden Smith's SG sung real sweet. While ops checking my rig at home, I made the mistake of side-by-siding it with Frum's Epiphone, and now I really want a guitar I can't afford.

Afterward, we unassed in a hurry, before STEW! had even set up. I hope we got paid. We'll be back at Lola's on 11.27 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving) with the Queers and a cast of thousands.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Move's "Anthology 1966-1972"

The Move are a band I've never really stopped listening to since getting infatuated from reading about 'em in Nik Cohn's Rock From the Beginning when I was 13, although the Stateside scarcity of their records meant that it'd take years for me to hear everything he was talking about.

Initially, I let myself be talked out of purchasing Shazam! in favor of the first Led Zeppelin album by the slightly older, "hip" guys at the music store where I used to record-shop. Consequently, the first Move album I heard was Message From the Country, which was a long way from the scowling, gangster-suited, TV-smashing ruffians Cohn had described. Through '71 and '72, I bought and played the shit out of all their UA singles until a second-hand copy of "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" showed me the true Way and Light.

Their catalog has been compiled and reissued innumerable times, and while I passed on this 4CD box back in 2008 when it was new and expensive, Dallasite and Josh Alan Friedman familiar Kevin Kunreuther recently pulled my coat that it's now Amazon-available for around five bucks a disc, which makes it a worthwhile and damn-near-irresistible purchase if you're a fan like me.

About half of the 61 tracks are previously unreleased, and while a lot of those are alternate mixes and demos, the set is particularly valuable for three significant inclusions: 1) a five-track hometown radio session that predates their debut single; 2) the as-complete-as-possible Marquee Club recordings which, with re-recorded vox, yielded the 1968 Something Else by the Move EP, here with the 'riginal vocals painstakingly restored; and 3) two tracks from the frequently-bootlegged board tape of the 1969 Fillmore West show. To these feedback-scorched ears, it's the best comp of its kind since the Faces' indispensable Five Guys Walk Into a Bar.

In the fullness of time, the Move fit very comfortably in the song-driven '60s Brit rock pantheon alongside the Beatles, the Who, and the Kinks. Sure, they weren't as adept at making albums as any of the above, but Roy Wood was every bit as skillful a songsmith as Lennon/McCartney, Townshend, and Davies, and incidentally, his wah-infused raga-influenced ramblings on guitar, banjo, and sitar were a significant influence on your humble chronicler o' events when I was stumbling around the 'shed back in the early '70s. Roy's falsetto covered the high end of the Move's four-part harmonies, and he could sing lead in a gruff (if audibly forced) growl or his own naturally reedy voice.

But Roy was far from the Move's only musical asset. Chris "Ace" Kefford, immortalized by Cohn as the "Singing Skull," founded the Move with his buddy Trevor Burton after touring London muso David Jones (later Bowie) encouraged them to try their luck down in the Smoke. Ace sang in a soulful yelp not unlike his other teenage pal Stevie Winwood, best heard on the January '66 radio broadcast's "You're the One I Need," a feedback-laden slice of Mod R&B, penned by Wood but based on "Baby Please Don't Go."

The tracks from that session -- including a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Respectable," familiar to Anglophile music geeks via Five Live Yardbirds -- reveal the embryonic Move as a totally different band than they would become, but already boasting the strength of four singers who could sing in tune live. Ace also had a distinctive whistle that was used to good effect on debut single B-side "The Disturbance" as well as "Grass," and was the first of several bassists to play the monstrous bass lines that Wood used to color Move songs like cello sections, starting with the "1812 Overture"-derived "Night of Fear."

For his part, Trevor sang lead on the Eddie Cochran-style rockers (with a wiseguy smirk and a Brummer's idea of an American accent), as well as "Watch Your Step," the vehicle for frontman Carl Wayne's live TV-and-automotive-destruction antics. Roy wrote "The Girl Outside" on the first Move album to showcase Burton, who proved to be an exemplary utility muso, switching from rhythm guitar to bass when his acid-eating accomplice Ace freaked his way right out of the band in between the two live sessions that produced Something Else.

The wonders of digital audio processing allowed Anthology's engineers to boost the PA vocals from the audience track of those recordings and mix them with the better parts of the unusably distorted vocal track, and the resultant 39-minute live set (only missing a couple of songs where the vocals weren't salvageable) is a great testament to the original Move lineup's stagecraft.

It's instructive to remember that drummer Bev Bevan, whose thunderous solos with the Move and ELO come across as comedy relief more for the way they're recorded than his actual ability, was regarded as in the same league as fellow Brummer John Bonham, who declined the Move drum chair, and indeed, Bev once drummed in Black Sabbath for a season.

The real hero of the piece, though, is Carl Wayne, who died of esophageal cancer in 2004 -- a natural leader and businessman who kept his pre-Move band the Vikings (whose lineup included Ace and Bev) together when they were starving through brutal month-long gigs in Germany, and went on to a post-Move career as a radio personality, musical theater actor, in-demand jingle singer, and Allan Clarke's replacement in the Hollies.

Wayne had a classic crooner's voice, and was vilified by Wood for taking the Move into cabaret in a '71 Rolling Stone interview (while the truth, as Anthology's liner essay reveals, was more complex), but he was also notably magnanimous about sharing lead vocal duties with his bandmates, and his advocacy for the band long after their demise led to the latter day reissue program that culminated in Anthology's release (four years after his death).

It was Wayne who had the foresight to obtain a copy of the board tape of the Move's performance at the Fillmore West on their sole U.S. jaunt in 1969, when they were scarcely known here and had no album to promote (although several of the songs they were performing on that tour wound up getting recorded for Shazam!).

A bootleg of those shows was one of the items that disappeared from my iTunes when it took a dump a couple of years ago and sent most of my downloaded music to the widowmaker, but Anthology includes two songs from that tape: the Move's cover of the Nazz's "Open My Eyes," which reveals their inordinate fondness for the song's bridge, and a ten-minute-long "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" that meanders, Live At Leeds-like, through territory that includes "Born To Be Wild" and "Peter Gunn."

Looking On, the album recorded after Wayne split and was replaced by Jeff Lynne from Idle Race, is pretty uniformly lousy, marred by muddy sound and misguided experiments, but Message From the Country and the last run of singles still hold up, albeit in a very different manner from the earlier stuff. It's ironic that after spending so much time putting the Move to sleep and bringing Electric Light Orchestra to life, Wood was out of that band in less than a year, off to paint his face green and produce the string of perennial UK hits that, to these feedback-scorched ears, can't hold a candle to the Move's best work.

While I'm not going to throw the rest of my Move records out, it's nice to have all this stuff together in an eminently listenable form that gives me a new way to hear a band that I've loved for 40 years now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10.12.2011, FTW

Went to the big rock show at Lola's: Supersuckers/Me-Thinks/Dangits. I needed to go, if for no other reason than to return Branden Smith's SG, but neglected to get tickets until the last minute, when I heard it was sold out. Luckily, Sir Marlin Von Bungy (bless him) called and said he had a ticket in my name at the door, which he'd bought before he knew he was playing the show.

Got there 20 minutes into the Dangits' set. Wish I'd known they were starting at 9pm -- probably a good idea for a Wednesday night show, when almost everybody in attendance was thinking about having to go to work or take kids to school in the morning. (The rockaroll audience in this town is getting older.) Mike Noyes and the boys were on fire with fierce energy and tore through their set with scarcely a moment to breathe between songs. Their cover of Deep Purple's "Highway Star" (which Mike sung by audience request in the manner of B-52 Fred Schneider, "which can turn into Jello Biafra very easily") has become a set highlight.

The Me-Thinks' set was a good opportunity to watch Jon Simpson drum, since he was set up closer to the front than usual (the Supersuckers' gear was backlined) and there was less smoke than usual from the Me-Thinks' smoke machine. (Now the time Marlin's son Marlon ran the machine -- that was a smoky night.) Their new material is heavier than the carryovers from the Will Risinger days, but "Burnout Timeline" was still probably the high point for me, and "God Bless Haltom City" was conspicuous by its absence. The large audience was surprisingly sedate, saving their enthusiasm for the Supersuckers, I suppose.

The Supersuckers were very slick and pro. After their first two songs, Eddie Spaghetti said, "Now it's time to get this thing started," and proceeded to introduce his band as "the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world." The crowd went nuts and stayed there for the duration of the set. I walked outside, where I'd run my tab with Elvis to facilitate both getting drinks and tabbing out, to talk to Dre Edmonson and Justin Robertson. It was nice seeing so many old friends from the Wreck Room daze -- as Steve Senich said, "A lot of family here tonight." It was over by around midnight, but I unassed early and walked home with Branden's SG, since he told me I could borrow it for the Stoogeshow this Friday (also at Lola's). A good night.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011





Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alice in Blunderland

Speaking of Beefheart, here's a version of his '70-'71 live highlight "Alice in Blunderland" performed on fuzz mandolin at a Beefheart tribute show in NYC back in June.

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear some rare Henry Kaiser recordings?

They're here at The Henry Kaiser Collection, including a two-hour live show by French, Frith, Kaiser and Thompson, and Henry's ace 1989 album Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It, which includes Grateful Dead, movie/TV show theme, and Captain Beefheart covers, including "Mirror Man" sung in Dutch. As Reggie Rueffer would say, you gotta have this, Papa!

ADDENDUM: Feh. Only one or two tracks per album are streamable. Still...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sonny Rollins' "Road Shows Vol. 2"

As much as I love Sonny Rollins' '50s records like Worktime, Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West, and A Night at the Village Vanguard, and as impressed as I was by Sonny when I saw him live at Caravan of Dreams a few weeks after I got out of the Air Force, I've never bought a new Rollins record until this one. I was skeptical of Robert Christgau's effusive praise of 1987's G-Man, although I finally understood it when I saw Robert Mugge's documentary Saxophone Colossus (the source of those recordings) on video earlier this year. But my pal Phil Overeem pulled my coat to this release, tantalizing me with the prospect of hearing an encounter between Rollins and Ornette Coleman, and I had to check it out.

The critical consensus on Rollins since he returned from his second musical hiatus in 1972 is that his records don't do justice to the quality of his live performances. To remedy this, in 2008 he initiated the Road Shows series, designed to present highlights from his archive of decades of live performances. But then a funny thing happened: Rollins was so pleased with the results of his 80th birthday concert at NYC's Beacon Theater that for the second volume, he selected four numbers from that date, along with a couple from a Japanese tour a month later.

On all but one tune ("Sonnymoon for Two," where Sonny and Ornette are sympathetically supported by Christian McBride on bass and the great Roy Haynes on drums), the backing is by Sonny's current touring outfit, which includes bassist Bob Cranshaw, who first performed with Sonny on The Bridge in 1962. (He's also in the Mugge documentary, and was in the lineup I saw at Caravan in '93.) Jim Hall, who played guitar on The Bridge, was a guest artist at the Beacon and here gets featured on a curiously Rollins-less "In A Sentimental Mood." Dallasite Roy Hargrove plays trumpet on "I Can't Get Started" and Worktime highlight "Rain Check," and is a worthy stand-in for the spirit of Clifford Brown, with whom Rollins memorably collaborated in the mid-'50s.

The real story, though, is Rollins, whose melodic imagination and physical stamina were as impressive in 2010 as they were in '87 (the year of Mugge's documentary) or '57 (the year of my genesis, when Sonny waxed the records of his that I most revere). Only when he speaks can you hear the ravages of his age. And the meeting with Ornette on "Sonnymoon for Two," a blues that Sonny first recorded at the Vanguard the year before O.C. cut his first sides for Contemporary in L.A., delivers everything that the idea -- our greatest composing improviser locking horns with our greatest improvising composer -- promises.

Some folks will tell you that Rollins' first "retirement" in 1959 was to "make room" for Ornette (and John Coltrane). Whether or not that's true, Sonny was definitely affected (as were Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and lots of others) by Ornette's emergence, and in 1963, Rollins surprised the jazz world by hiring Don Cherry and Billy Higgins from Ornette's "classic" quartet and paying them to play his music Coleman's way. But until 2010, the two men had never performed together.

On the Beacon Theater "Sonnymoon," Sonny starts out essaying the tune in his trademark theme-and-variations style, then announces Ornette's presence in the house without naming him. You can hear the crowd go wild when Ornette -- always a distinctive dresser -- appears on stage and begins to solo, taking a more oblique approach to the tune's tonality with his searching sound and unique blues cry. Then Sonny returns and takes another solo, in Ornette's style, that's both a nice homage and a surprising stretch from his comfort zone for an 80-year-old "developing musician." It's a stunning performance, and proof positive (as if any more were needed) of the continuing vitality of both jazz as an art form and these two amazing octogenarians. More, please.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

10.7.2011, FTW

First "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics" show at Doc's Records and Vintage. HIO played first to practically no one, but by the time Underground Railroad was ready to hit a little before 8pm, I counted 18 people there who weren't in bands, and there'd been a couple of folks who drifted in and out earlier. So much for my theory that if, for example, 27 people on a Facebook event page say they're going to show up (as they did for thisun, adjusted to remove band members), then nine will actually show up, and they'll be different from the ones who said they'd be coming.

Terry forgot the input connection for his computer, so he played his first-ever HIO show with no F/X. At my request, Darryl Wood played a spoken word recording over his PA during the first part of our performance. We borrowed a table from Doc's and had a full array of cigarbox guitars, plus electric kalimba, recorders and percussion implements, and another cigarbox guitar that Hickey ran through his synth. Terry sprung for pizzas for the crowd and musos, and I found two Don Cherry albums I'd been wanting, so we both lost money on the gig.

Darrin Kobetich chimed in on a jaw harp app and followed us with a set of solo acoustic guitar wizardry. Of all the music I heard that evening, Darrin's opening song "Primordial Soup" resonates in my mind the most. The middle part of the show was really a showcase for his multifaceted improvisational acumen (interrupted only by an interval where Bill Pohl's former guitar student Haley Taylor got up to perform a nice version of Bert Jansch's "Black Waterside" and an original vocal piece).

Terry and I agreed that The Panic Basket took the show with their combination of electric and acoustic instruments (including a 12-string, banjo-like instrument that Darrin has probably told me the name of but I forgot) with found sounds and samples. Bill elected not to play with Strung Drawn & Quartered, so Darrin soloed at length on electric and acoustic guitars over beds of atmospheric effects that Kavin Allenson conjured from his Telecaster and array of devices.

Unfortunately, I had to split before the Railroad played. Between running, working in the yard, and spending four hours outside at Doc's, I'd evidently breathed in a lot of ragweed, and my sinuses protested by inducing a 15-minute sneezing fit that sent me hoofing it back to mi casa for a shower. A disappointment, as I was looking forward to hearing the Railroad's new material, some of which features Bill playing onstage keyboards alongside Kurt's sequenced keyboard parts. Another time.

Everyone involved seemed satisfied with the event, and HIO plans to do another Cavalcade at Doc's once they move to their new location, with Drift Era (members of which were in Friday's audience), Spacebeach, the Fungi Girls, and Year of the Bear. Also in the audience were Ralph White and Justin Robertson, enroute to Ralph's gig later that evening in (I believe) Denton. Ralph will be back in DFW in November and we talked among ourselves about the possibility of doing something with him, Darrin, and maybe the Big Rig Dance Collective down the road. All I ever need is something to look forward to.

HIO @ Doc's Records, "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics," 10.7.2011

Camera by Sanjiv Doreswamy.

Calvacade of Unpopular Music from HIO on Vimeo.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Rocket From the Tombs' "Barfly"

The return of pioneering Cleveland proto-punks Rocket From the Tombs was one of the nicest unforeseen consequences of the resurgence of interest in early '70s American underground rock that followed in the wake of Clinton Heylin's 1993 overview From the Velvets to the Voidoids. A large chunk of Heylin's text focused on the Cleveland scene that produced RFTT, the Mirrors, the Electric Eels, and ultimately Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys. He even compiled Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, a 1994 release of archival recordings by RFTT founder Peter Laughner, an estimable guitarist, singer, songwriter, and music scribe who drank and drugged himself to death from acute pancreatitis at age 24.

It took a few more years -- until 2002, to be exact -- for Chicago-based but CLE-focused indie Smog Veil Records to release The Day the Earth Met Rocket From the Tombs, a definitive document of the band's trajectory, compiled from rehearsal room demos and live radio broadcasts. In a surprising turn of events, the surviving band members -- singer David "Crocus Behemoth" Thomas (Pere Ubu), guitarist Gene "Cheetah Chrome" O'Connor (Dead Boys), and bassist Craig Bell (who'd also played in Mirrors) -- regrouped and toured, with ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd filling the slot Laughner vacated and Pere Ubu drummer Steve Mehlman rounding out the lineup. They even went into Lloyd's studio to register proper recordings of RFTT's repertoire (released in 2004 as Rocket Redux) that some folks (your humble chronicler o' events included) will tell you trump the 'riginals.

In the spring of 2010, a new RFTT single ("I Sell Soul"/"Romeo & Juliet") appeared, and it was announced that a full-length album of new material was in the works. Now Barfly is here, on Fire Records CD and Smog Veil vinyl in the U.S. (you can cop via Pere Ubu's online store or order from your local).

While the original RFTT was blazing trails back in '74-'75, today they're revisiting forms that some of 'em (Mr. Thomas in particular) might have thought they left behind years ago. Mainly, it seems that they're enjoying the collaboration and camaraderie with musos they've known for 40 years (their publicity's allusions to "late night dust-ups in the parking lots of cheap roadside motels" notwithstanding). The "art" and "rawk" factions within the band, so fractious the first time around, seem to have made peace musically.

Together, they come blasting out of the gate with "I Sell Soul," a churning rocker that borrows its title, but nothing else, from the song Roky Erickson cut with the Spades before joining the 13th Floor Elevators. The band thrashes away at the song's ascending three-chord riff, topped by Thomas' characteristically pinched nasal vocals and lots of red-hot guitar action from Lloyd. The addition of the guitarist, who always got eclipsed by Tom Verlaine in Television but went on to do noteworthy session work (including one of my all-time fave solos on Matthew Sweet's "Sick of Myself," which sounds even more like the world falling apart than Jimmy Page's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" ride), is a fortuitous one. His facility and unconventional ideas are a good fit with the songs, and he and Cheetah have a division of labor like Fred 'n' Wayne in the MC5, or Keef 'n' Brian in the early Stones.

"Birth Day" is a slightly different take on relationships than the one Thomas had on Ubu's "Nonalignmnt Pact: "I plan to change the way I feel about you / Plan A, I won't run away / Plan B, I'm a comedy / Plan C, I bang my head / I bang my head against an ever-lovin' wall." Cheetah chimes in with a classic straight-from-Chuck-Berry's-garage double-stopped solo. "Anna" has a crazy stop-and-start momentum and call-and-response vocal exchange that'll take you right back to '76. Thomas quotes Bo Diddley: "Should have heard just what I seen / I'm on the trail of a human being." "Butcherhouse 4" features ultra-creepy extreme-close-up Thomas vocalismo and a backward guitar solo that sounds like a Ring-modulated trumpet, in service of a tale of alienation with charnel-house imagery. "Romeo & Juliet" is the closest thing to a soul ballad that you'd ever expect to hear RFTT play. Thomas as Otis Redding? Lloyd as Steve Cropper? Well, um, yes, but _their way_. Unlikely, but it works.

But wait! "Sister Love Train" features a horn section, in the blaring soul band style of the Saints' "Know Your Product." Curiously, it appears back to back with "Love Train Express," which is the same song played sans horns at '76 punk tempo. "Good Times Never Roll" resuscitates the "Sister Ray" riff with some stops 'n' starts, a Thomas vocal like something that slithered out of a swamp, an apathetic Greek chorus of backup vox, and nicely splintered notes from Lloyd.

"Six and Two" is the most Ubuesque song here, with Thomas singing, "I wrote a song about you / I asked my friends if they recognized you," a mutated "I Wanna Be Your Dog" riff popping up (the same way it does on "Nonalignment Pact") under the line "I'm at sail on the ship of fools / On the bloody waves of a thousand wounds," and what sound like synth growls during the brief lull before Lloyd's climactic solo. "Maelstrom" boasts smart-dumb lyrics ("I got a phone call / I said 'Yes'") on a par with the ones from the first Stooges album, which even Jim Osterberg seems incapable of writing these days. "Pretty" closes the album with Thomas channeling an end-of-the-bar drunk's closing-time come-on as sweetly as Bukowski (or Waits) might, over a bed of R&B arpeggios. Hence, I suppose, the album's title.

At this point, the resurgent Rocket From the Tombs has nothing to prove to anybody. They're not out to change the world; they did that the first time around, although it took the world (or at least those of its inhabitants who care about such things) a few years to figure it out. But unlike most bands that regroup and record 30 or 40 years down the road, they're making new music that can actually stand up to their history. And that's saying a hell of a lot.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear the new Rocket from the Tombs album?

You can stream Barfly here. But only for a week. Go!

10.5.2011, FTW

Went to see one-man bluegrass band Ralph White at Fred's. For a while, it seemed as though the cafe was booking all the same generically-named bands that used to play at the Fairmount, but now with Overtone handling the bookings and Carl Pack's hand on the tiller, formerly fonky Fred's has become a good place to go hear music again (even though I know that neither of my bands will ever play there again -- too loud/too weird).

Hickey and I met T. Horn and his buddy Sanj, whom he's known all his life, for burgers 'n' brews. Ralph showed up with Justin Robertson, who hustled the gig, around 7pm and quickly soundchecked. Cat can play anything: banjo, guitar (he calls it his "git-banjo"), kalimba, fiddle (which Justin said he broke out with Dim Locator in Denton the night before), even accordion.

He uses loops and samples seamlessly, so it'll surprise you the first time he puts down the banjo to pick up the kalimba and you can still hear him picking. His riddimic patterns on kalimba make me want to get better at playing that instrument. He doesn't hit you over the head with his virtuosity, but you can't help but notice, f'rinstance, the multiple picking attacks he applies to the banjo, or the way he constantly beats on its face with his thumb.

Ralph's singing is otherworldly, with a nicely imprecise intonation that makes you feel as though you might be listening to some dude from Appalachia a hundred years ago, or from England a few hundred years before that. There's beauty and purity to this rough, rustic music. Carl tried to get his son Zack, who's having success playing the banjo after previous dalliances with drums and electric guitar, to come down and learn something. Hickey said we should try to get Ralph on the next "Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics" show (whenever Doc's moves to its new location), but I have other plans for thatun. Myself, I'd like to hear him on a bill with Mark Growden.

His CD The Hanged Man captures his thang nicely, with what sound like some overdubs, but listening to it, I kind of miss spareness of his live sound and especially the transitions when he switches instruments. Worth checking out if you get the chance.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

R.I.P. Bert Jansch

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The Nazz were the Anglophile's American rock band of '68-'69, and by the time I got hip to 'em, a couple years after their demise, I was surely one of those -- a dyed-in-the-wool Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press reader, totally geeked on the Who, the Yardbirds, the Move, and the Small Faces. I recently copped Rhino vinyl reissues of their first two albums at Doc's, and was surprised at how much I still find to like in both of 'em.

The Nazz were from Philadelphia but based out of Great Neck, Long Island, where my uncle used to live, which accounts for Richard Meltzer's early advocacy (around the time he was at Stony Brook, trying to get the Soft White Underbelly off the ground). They had the misfortune to be managed by a couple of guys who figured it'd be a good idea if they gigged infrequently and only in large-capacity venues, reasoning that scarcity would make them a hotter commodity, ignoring the fact that it's hard to garner such bookings without having a track record as a draw.

Perhaps the management wizards were thinking that if it worked for Dylan and the Beatles, it'd work for their charges, ignoring the fact that the aforementioned artistes had recorded and toured extensively for three or four years before dropping off the scene. Most of the band's promotion was aimed at Tiger Beat-reading teenage girls -- kind of like the Monkees, except that the Nazz didn't have a TV show and could actually write and play their own toons (although Todd Rundgren was probably as big a weirdo as Michael Nesmith). But they were well-respected enough among musos that when the Move made their sole visit to the U.S. in 1969, they had not one but two Nazz songs -- "Open My Eyes" and "Under the Ice" -- in their repertoire. High praise indeed.

Back in my 45-spinning daze, when I still had a record player (not a stereo -- I think it must have been '76 or so before I could actually afford one of those) up in my room, the Nazz's "Open My Eyes" got as many spins as the Music Machine's "Talk Talk" and the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow." It's a song that still quickens my pulse every time I hear it, starting out with the cleverest appropriation of the signature chord sequence from the Who's "I Can't Explain" (substituting a IIm chord for the IV chord that Townshend played) until the Clash borrowed it for "Guns On the Roof."

The attention-grabbing intro is followed by a bludgeoning heavy unison guitar-bass riff, in the manner of Blue Cheer, before the lead vocal enters (sung by one Robert "Stewkey" Antoni, who supposedly adopted said appellation because it sounded English). There's an instrumental break that sounds cribbed directly from "Another Country" from the first Electric Flag album, which the Move omitted from their cover so that they could sing the bossa nova-sounding bridge a couple more times than the Nazz did on the 'riginal, picking at it like a scab because Carl 'n' Roy probably dug singing it so much. The final chorus rides out in a whirl of mind-bending phase effects.

It's a great little psychedelic nugget, and indeed, "Open My Eyes" was included on Lenny Kaye's original Nuggets compilation, although it has a lot more in common with, say, the Millennium's studio orchestral pop than the Count Five's garage-snot fury. It was also the lead-off cut on the Nazz's self-titled debut album, released on Atlantic subsidiary SGC in October 1968.

Todd Rundgren, the future wizard/true star and the Nazz's lead guitarist, songwriter, and guiding musical intelligence, was equally influenced by contemporary Brit rock and his hometown's vocal group soul music. As a result, the Nazz records remind me a little of one of my other favorite records from my high school daze, the Rationals album on Crewe. What they have in common: the sound of Northern white boys harmonizin'. Todd was still finding his feet, though, songwriting-wise, on the first Nazz album's slow songs like "See What You Can Be" and "If That's the Way You Feel."

(Todd was basically laughed out of the band for liking "girl music" -- specifically, for digging and emulating female songwriters like Laura Nyro and Carole King. There's a song on, I think, Hermit of Mink Hollow where his breathless reciting-the-Manhattan-phone-directory delivery sounds like no one so much as Joni Mitchell, anticipating Prince, speaking of multi-talented little guys with big egos.)

As a hard rock band, the Nazz were still going for the "exciting club band" model, rather than the "slow it down and pump up the bombast" angle that was popular in the post-Vanilla Fudge, pre-Black Sabbath time they inhabited. Rundgren, who once had the temerity to suggest to a Rolling Stone interviewer that he might be "the best American guitarist," was really nothing more than a really good Eric Clapton copyist, who had "God"'s tone and attack circa Disraeli Gears/Wheels of Fire down pat and a bassist (future Disney animator Carson Van Osten) who could burble like Jack Bruce with the best of 'em. Drummer Thom Mooney was clearly influenced by Brit bashers like Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and Kenny Jones, but sounded as though he might have had a better command of fundamentals than any of 'em, although he wasn't as distinctive a stylist.

Besides "Open My Eyes" and the original, super-slow version of "Hello It's Me" (later re-recorded to much better effect by Todd on Something/Anything?), my favorite song on Nazz is "When I Get My Plane," a bit of freakbeat whimsy worthy of the Who or the Move circa '66-'68; all that's missing is the Pop Art plane crash. "Back of My Mind" is as close to a generic hard rock song for its year as Humble Pie's "The Fixer," Mott the Hoople's "Momma's Little Jewel," and Bad Company's "Rock Steady" were for theirs. "Wildwood Blues" and "The Lemming Song" are just kind of pedestrian, and "She's Going Down" takes an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach (including a drum solo) that's kind of fatiguing to listen to.

The second album, Nazz Nazz, was originally supposed to be a double album called Fungo Bat. (The remaining tracks were released as Nazz III -- not Nazz Nazz Nazz; so much for consistency -- in 1971, after the wheels had come off the cart.) It's really their best album, although it bogs down toward the end of the second side, just like its predecessor. The first side, though, is bulletproof, opening strong with "Forget All About It," which boasts a melody and chords reminiscent of the Association, of all things, propelled by a jangling 12-string that recalls the Byrds, as does the whooshing jet noise that ties some of the songs together. "If you haven't got time to rest, then take the record off now," Stewkey sings in the bridge, and you get the feeling he means it.

Nazz Nazz is the album that reveals Todd the writer as more than a pastiche artist, although there are still plenty of contemporary musical allusions (the Small Faces' "Afterglow" in the intro to "Not Wrong Long," Cream's "White Room" in "Rain Rider"'s opening chords). You can hear Rundgren's mature ballad voice beginning to take shape in "Not Wrong Long" and "Gonna Cry Today;" it's a short distance from those songs to Runt and Something/Anything?. "Meridian Leeward" has some of the whimsy of "When I Get My Plane," but this time the joke's too heavy-handed and there isn't enough musical substance to sustain it.

"Under the Ice," which closes the first side, just might be the Nazz's finest moment, and is certainly the best use ever made of the descending riff from Traffic's "Paper Sun." Near the end of the closing jam, you can hear the intro to Cheap Trick's "Surrender," which is perfectly appropriate, as one of Stewkey's post-Nazz projects was the band Fuse with Huntz-Hall-of-rockaroll Rick Nielsen.

The triptych that opens the second side feels like the Nazz's "back to the roots" move, a gambit that was in vogue when the album appeared in March 1969. "Hang On Paul" is the Nazz's tribute to The White Album, while "Kiddie Boy" is a blues shuffle with horns that authentic Memphis-to-Chicago blues cat James Cotton actually recorded on the album (Taking Care of Business) Todd produced for him in 1971. "Featherbedding Lover" is more pedestrian sub-Cream blooze.

"Letters Don't Count" opens and closes with beautifully ethereal "music of the spheres" effects. In between, it's the kind of ultra-complex choral pop song that led to Todd's exit from the band. The closing "A Beautiful Song" goes through more movements than "She's Going Down" on the first album, with lots of bluesy lead over jazz-inflected vamps, and orchestrated sections -- sort of a "MacArthur Park"-meets-Savoy Brown.

What's clearly audible in every one of these songs is Todd Rundgren's ambition -- which, in the fullness of time, would be realized. It's his inability to resist reaching _just_ beyond his grasp that makes these records, surprisingly, stand up better than lots of '60s faves.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna see some rare music vids?

Music Machine (damn, and I always thought that drummer used double bass), Baris Manco (Turkish rock!), Steppenwolf (a song I don't recall from 7), Fleetwood Mac (Jeremy Spencer!), Frumpy (very early Deep Purple-like), MC5 (brief snippet that was in the True Testimonial doco), Iggy (solo acoustic "Nightclubbing"). Yeah!

The Video Underground from fun bubble on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

10.2.2011, FTW

Next two weeks: Ralph White at Fred's Wednesday 10.5, Fort Worth Magician's Convention to see our friend the magical Ash Adams installed as president Thursday 10.6, Cavalcade of Unpopular Musics with HIO at Doc's Friday 10.7, Stooge prac Monday 10.10, Supersuckers/Me-Thinks/Dangits at Lola's Wednesday 10.12, Stoogeband at Wild Rooster Friday 10.14. Whew!

Mo' OC

The Ornettemania continues at mi casa. Like Radio Raheem with his Public Enemy, it's all I want to hear. Just re-read John Litweiler's Ornette Coleman: A Harmolodic Life and the relevant portions of Valerie Wilmer's As Serious As Your Life and A.B. Spellman's Black Music: Four Lives to get '90s, '70s, and '60s perspectives on the man and his art. I'm realizing that in the same way as Hendrix was the water I grew up swimming in, Ornette is the artist who, for me, most defines the years from '75 (when I stopped being able to listen to Jimi's music because so many people I knew had harmed themselves with drugs in the name of "being like him") to '89 (when my future ex-wife donated all my records to Goodwill in Shreveport).

There were a lot of changes in my life over those years. In '75, I'd dropped out of college and was living at home, working at the record store where I'd worked during high school, and starting to check out some of the jazz and 20th century classical musicians mentioned in the list on the inner sleeve of Frank Zappa's Freak Out! or read about in Creem. Nat Hentoff's Jazz Is was another signpost. I'd started buying the Village Voice to read him, Gary Giddins, Greg Tate, Robert Christgau, and later, St. Lester.

Ornette's Science Fiction really resonated for me, and I started checking out his classic Atlantics and the 1962 Town Hall Concert on ESP-Disk. I bought Dancing In Your Head when it was new and suspected Ornette might have been losing his mind, but kept being drawn back to the record. In a weird way, it reminded me of Beefheart's Magic Band, which I was shocked to discover (when I saw 'em live twice in '77) was playing through-composed pieces, for the most part.

I discovered a radio station in Connecticut, near the left side of the crowded Tri-State Area FM dial, that played four hours of music by Ornette and his sidemen every Sunday afternoon. I collected all the Don Cherry and Charlie Haden records on Horizon, and later, the ones Ornette, Haden, and Blood Ulmer released on Artists House, too. I wrote away to get a New Music Distribution Service catalog so I could hear Cherry's Relativity Suite and the first Old and New Dreams album after reading about them in the New York Times. That was also how, later on, I got to hear Shannon Jackson's first Decoding Society album and his work with Cecil Taylor and Blood.

I had a ticket to see Prime Time at, if my shaky memory serves, Avery Fisher Hall, but the concert was canceled. (The closest I've ever come to seeing Ornette was seeing Old and New Dreams open for Arthur Blythe at Town Hall in '79, on my first visit back home after moving to Texas.) By the time I moved to Texas, Creem and rockaroll in general had started to suck, so I switched my allegiance to Trouser Press (which had evolved from a xeroxed Who-Yardbirds fanzine to a slick-paper journal dedicated to punk and New Wave stuff) and Musician (where Rafi Zabor, Chip Stern, and Bob Blumenthal provided good jazz scrawl).

I was living in Fort Worth during the heyday of Caravan of Dreams, when Ornette, Shannon, and Blood were all regular visitors, but I was too involved with being in the Air Force and starting a family to pay it any mind. This was the time when I put down the guitar (except for singing to my kids) for seven years, after playing with an R&B showband in Korea. I did, however, manage to lay hands on a copy of In All Languages, and I actually bought my first copy of Shirley Clarke's doco Ornette: Made In America from the venue's store when I was working for RadioShack downtown in the early '90s.

I haven't bought a new Ornette record since Virgin Beauty, but now I'm motivated to hear Sound Grammar. I like the way he, Cecil Taylor, and Sonny Rollins are showing how you can stay creative into your 80s. I also think it's interesting that although there have been plenty of other people whose work I dug, there really hasn't been another performer who had the same impact on my thinking about music as Ornette and Jimi.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

HIO - "The Hannah Montana Remix Album"

Jonathan O'Connor of Drift Era/JoCo fame -- one of the two people who bought HIO's Sustrepo from Doc's -- asked me about this, so I'm reposting the link in case anybody else is interested.

The Hannah Montana Remix Album was recorded on T. Horn's phone at my house. It's sort of our "blues album," as the first three tracks have a lot of me dinking around on an open-tuned guitar in the manner of the Trout Mask Replica "house sessions." (If you've ever wondered what the front door to my house sounds like when it slams, you won't want to miss this.)

There's a long droning modal section with a lot more fingerstyle guitar improv from me and Hickey playing slide and percussion on a cigarbox guitar. (We were trying to wean him off his electric gopichand, fools that we were.) Then there's a bit that sounds like a demented cuckoo clock. It all culminates in an episode where Hickey and I play toy Hannah Montana guitars in pretty much the same way as we play regular guitars. A must for fans of ultra-low fidelity and droning monotony.