By: Tom Schulte
Exclusively distributed by Forced Exposure are two new "RMX" releases from The Residents. The group asked German sonic alchemist Paralyzer to apply his studio wizardry to The King & Eye resulting in The King & Eye: RMX. Amped up and made more accessible by the frantic beats and bleeps mixed in by Paralyzer, this album still loses none of its magnitude as dramatic theatre about The King of Rock 'n' Roll... Even more interestingly, we finally get an official release (of sorts) of the group's debut 1971 album, Warner Bros. Album. The Residents decided to release this album as a remix of the unheard original, rather than release the mix that Warner Brothers' Harve Halverstadt famously rejected and sent back to "Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco". Halverstadt thus inadvertently named the group and perhaps set up a rejection complex that caused the reclusive geniuses to perpetuate a fetish-like obsession for obscurity and a love-hate relationship with pop music reflected in The King & Eye: RMX...
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE
THE MAGIC STICK, Detroit
MAY 26, 2004
Japanese guitarist Mokoto Kawabata led the current incarnation of his musical collective through a sonic freakout delivered with tongue-in-cheek humor and psychedelic sincerity. Rich in oriental complexity, the varied show given to us in what often seemed a switching mirror where often we wide-eyed Westerners were the show. At one point an obvious drunk hulked his graceless mass over the short Japanese with his unwanted stage presence. One of the musicians quizzed us on their hated enemy, MTV. The group gave us a "pop song" with furious, death metal elements. However, string together all your explosive moments of rock, such as The Doors' "The End" and the peak of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and you will get a feel for the epoch of excess that was much of the AMT experience. That's it, it was not a show, but a sonic experience pushed by a crisp and loud John Bonham-inspired drummer. (What's that, wadded aluminum in his traps?) During a flute-led interlude came one of the more comedic moments. The quadruped-featured menu of a barbarian was the introduction to an Asian cowboy song. But, get this; it was impossible to buy a CD from the group's staffed merchandise booth. The reason given was the band wanted to meet anyone buying its CDs. I suppose this does not apply to Web and distributor sales (at least it has not for me). Now, that is putting one's art above commerce.
Brian Woodbury is a mad genius putting offbeat humor and great post-jazz into a winning package. Two new releases on ReR/Some Phil (http://www.rerusa.com and http://www.somephil.com) give testament to Woodbury's unique vision. Consider on Variety Orchestra the mostly instrumental "Threnody for Kennedy and Connally" which regales the listener as a large jazz ensemble does everything but laments as it races through a condensed history of jazz. Toward the end, a set of female voices comes in like the Andrew Sisters to brightly sum up the assassination and Connally's bullet-catching in a few, smart bars. Woodbury does a lot of comedy music writing for TV and theatre and the very talented Variety Orchestra lets him stretch into other directions. This ensemble includes such names as Marc Feldman (violin; Dave Douglas), Frank London (trumpet; Klezmatics) and Jonathan Feinberg (drums; They Might Be Giants), to name a few! ... I've always felt vocalist Chris Rael (Church of Betty) sounds like he should be in TMBG. Rael is one of the many artists to pay tribute to Woodbury by covering a song on The Brian Woodbury Songbook. Others that appear on this fun and funny collection of songs are Oren Bloedow (Elysian Fields), Jill Sobule and Terre Roche (The Roches). The strongest track on the album, through, is "(Write it on a Little Yellow) Post-It" sung by David Yazbek (Rockapella, Broadway's The Full Monty). A fairly consistent studio band gives the songs a factory-delivered, contrived bubblegum feel while the talented and superlative interpretations of these great songs make the tracks transcendent. Look for my interview with Brian to be available at http://tinyurl.com/2y3fm.
I'M TALKING SERIES JAZZ
Distributed by Music Video Distributors (http://MusicVideoDistributors.com), the Swing Era DVD series (Idem Home Video) is a rich exploration of this popular form of jazz that continues to fuel dance classes and CD purchases decades after its inception. The Louis Jordan entry into this series is films and soundies from Jordan's prolific career. Presented without commentary or narration, these quick and fun clips of the smiling, bouncing master of jump blues includes "Caldonia", "Five Guys Named Moe", "Beware" and 32 others. However, this is not merely his novelty numbers. There are some earthier tunes like "That Chick's Too Young to Fry" and "Wham, Sam (Dig them Gams)"... The Sarah Vaughn DVD is more properly titled Sarah Vaughn and Friends as it is a compilation not only of Vaughn but Lena Horne, Ethel Waters with Count Basie and The International Sweethearts. Also included are three singers coming from a blues direction: Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, and Ida Cox. Vaughn, of course, exudes technical excellence and grace, but she is a vocal stylist that only partly covers swing. The Lena Horne examples (two soundies) really swing and the lengthy, elaborate "Boogie Woogie Dream" is a pinnacle of this short film genre in three acts with set and costumer changes and boogie-woogie piano greats Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons... Interestingly, the white girls got segregated off to their own Peggy Lee DVD. This is itself sectioned into singers before bandleaders and blondes ahead of brunettes to arrive at a programming order of Peggy Lee, June Christy, Ina Ray Hutton, Lorraine Page and finally the acrobatic Rita Rio... There is also a Nat 'King' Cole DVD in the series dedicated exclusively to the talented MOR singer/pianist in 27 tracks. This includes such songs as "Route 66", "Nature Boy", and "Mona Lisa". Much of the material comes from the very first short musical films made specifically for television, the Snader Telescriptions... Duke Ellington Lionel Hampton is a DVD split between those two bandleaders. These two go together well because the pieces are mostly instrumental, each bandleader arranges for a lot of brass and features a lot of quick solos from different orchestra members. Hampton's mellifluous vibes playing is a real treat of this chapter in the Swing Era series... A real highpoint in the series is the Cab Calloway DVD. This DVD takes the musical highlights from the film Hi-De-Ho (1947) for a cohesive set of performances, including "St. James Infirmary", "Calloway Boogie" and "Minnie The Moocher". Being film, the visuals are of higher quality than the soundies and Telescriptions and, of course, Cab offers a stellar, exaggerated performance at every step...
The Story of the Blues: From Blind Lemon Jefferson to BB King
Quantum Leap/Music Video Distributors
It is a tough challenge to tell the story of blues music completeness, and this DVD does not purport explicitly to do that. However, in the vary beginning of the PBS-style documentary we are taken right up to The Civil War and given Big Bill Broonzy's "Take this Hammer" as an example of a work song. (That would be like starting off the history of jazz with WWII jitterbugs and using a Louis Armstrong recording of "When the Saints Go Marching In" as an example of Dixieland.) Such arguments aside, the DVD does a good job at covering the chronology of the blues and fitting in by musical example Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey, Elmore James and more. The video footage to accompany the song snippets was well planned so that key nouns in the lyrics reflect in the imagery, making the pictures more engaging. The DVD also is a fine introduction to the rudiments of musical theory for the blues and the structure of blues lyrics. (3.5)
Texas Terri Bomb!
Your Lips...My Ass!
Texas Terri's new band gets a boatload of guitar talent assisting on this explosive rock album. This includes Wayne Kramer (MC5, Dodge Main), Marc Diamond (Dwarves), Dave Teague (Dickies) and Ryan Roxie (Alice Cooper). Guest vocal power comes in the way of Cherie Currie (The Runaways) who helps out on a duet of Thin Lizzy's "The Rocker". This hard rock album is refreshing in its simplicity and the basic approach to a rugged, rock 'n' roll sound. (3.5)
The Spencer Davis Group
40th Anniversary: Keep On Running
This compendium marks The Spencer Davis Group's four decades of R&B-fueled rock 'n' soul, which the group also marked with touring in Europe. The collection starts out with a 1965 radio session of the John Lee Hooker song that was on the group's first single: "Dimples". There are several such radio selections, and a radio cut here is just a really well-produced live cut. Steve Winwood comes across as soul on fire on these cuts. Covering four different line-ups and periods, the album is still remarkable consistent and robust. The album covers the period 1965-1974 with some great British rock interpretation of American R&B. (4)
Often it is assumed punk rock raised its ugly head out of nowhere, with no contextual or historical precedent. That is, there has been much ink spilled arguing what was the first punk band (Sex Pistols? Ramones?). Much less has been done to consider important antecedents. This excellent compendium of "UK glam with attitude" shows that Chris Spedding & The Vibrator's were teaching the world to pogo dance in 1976 and such aggressive glam bands as The Hammersmith Gorillas and The Jook were already as punk as punk gets. Hearing The Hammersmith Gorillas cover "You Really Got Me" is like The Sex Pistols covering "Roadrunner". Hollywood Brats end the collection with a 1973 recording of "Sick On You" that shows the New York Dolls approach to pre-punk glam. Other bands here include Milk'N'Cookies, Trevor White and Helter Skelter. (4)
The Reigning Sound
Too Much Guitar
In The Red
This fiery garage band is the current project led by George Cartwright (The Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers). This album runs a spectrum from raucous explosion ("We Repel Each Other") to soul-on-fire ("Your Love is a Fine Thing") to psychedelic single in the Arthur Lee tradition ("Is a Fine Thing"). And that is all in the first three tracks! Altogether this is much harder rocking album than the previous Time Bomb High School. That much is on purpose and underscored by the album's very title. Too Much Guitar is a garage rock classic up their with your favorite albums by 13th Floor Elevators or The Seeds. (4)
Something in the Water
In the Red
Mystery Girls so expertly channels the pre-punk rage 'n' soul of '60s psychedelic rock that tracks like "You're So Blue" are veritable wayback machines. The spacey interlude of the instrumental "Radio Planet Blues" is a point of recovery at the crest of this emotionally draining, sweaty 13-song album. It's the eye of the storm in the retro garage hurricane that lashes the listener on Something in the Water. Something has been dropped into the Wisconsin water the boys of this quintet are drinking, and I would like to have a dose. (4)
Angel City Outcasts
Let It Ride
Angel City Outcasts suggests itself to be punk by claiming "ex-members of two local L.A. punk bands, Youth Rebellion and Broke 'til Thursday." However, the group also has a touch of the '80s Los Angeles metal sound exhibited by early Cr?e, as on "The Chase". The group also pulls in the direction of oi and street punk with such songs as the anthemic "Youth Rebellion (revisited)". Angel City Outcasts is the Los Angeles old school punk-hardcore-metal sounds distilled into a microcosm. (2.5)
Dub from the Secret Vaults
Ryan Moore is the one man creative behind Twilight Circus Dub Sound System. An admitted fan of the earliest of ROIR dub cassette releases, Moore gives some back with this album of roomy old school dub creations. While this is the Canadians' 11th album, it is the first with a domestic release. Some tracks like "Slyy" show subtle touches of the bands he worked in: Legendary Pink Dots and Tear Garden. However, most are large and languid monster steps of the echoic dub species. The premier U.S. release was scoured from Twilight Circus' archives for a career-spanning opus of previously unreleased material. Fans of Bill Laswell and Lee Perry will appreciate the mysterious sounds of this dub alchemist. (4)
This is a score based on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon for a dance-theatre piece. Urban legend has long associated the film Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon. Marshall has fun with that imagined link by summoning strains of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" in the opening piece and the famous "not in Kansas anymore" line from the movie. This also serves to give notice that this loose, detached music with quotes from the famous Pink Floyd album is to transport us to a different, mysterious and even scary place. Such fearsomeness comes up in the chilling screams at the end of the second track (no titles on my copy!) matching nicely with the eerie, desert string sounds opening the third piece. This flows nicely into the music and lyrics of "Time". However, these lyrics are delivered in such a non-musical, robotic way that one feels here and elsewhere that without the stage activity we are missing an important dimension of this work. (3.5)
The Glory of Man is not in Vogue
Be quick to judge and you will only broaden your Portishead-based definition of trip hop to include this excellent opus featuring the vocalist and wordsmith Marilyn Carino. Ruminate more on the layers of meaning that can be unraveled from the mysterious, timely title and you will find a further treasures of vivid metaphor and sophisticated simile on such songs as "The Hero of the World" and "Othello". It is on "Othello" that versatile vocalist Carino delivers in a lyric reminiscent of late-, jazz-period Joni Mitchell. However, the Annie Lennox solo recordings may be a better reference point for the rest of the album, for Carino shares with Lennox the potent, smoky voice of the pop mezzo that introduces a compelling mystery in depth to such striking images as "diamond backs of surfer girls", "flying bat-rat ponies" and other semi-surrealistic lines from this exquisite album. Julee Cruise comes to mind here, too. Do not call it "trip hop," call it a trip past the limits of pop. (5)
Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle
This is the third solo CD from Kevin Hearn, talented multi-instrumentalist of Barenaked Ladies. Like Barenaked Ladies, this album of quirky pop if full off-beat humorous arrangements, but the lyrical content is much more introspective and even dark. Witness the lines "Through the air/And over the sea/You're in chains, far away from me" and "Do you remember watching dolphins/From the beach?/What if all happy memories/Were in reach?" This taken from the lyrics reprinted in the 16-page full-color CD booklet festooned in Kevin's colorful and imaginative, childlike drawings. Part of the darkness draws on the fact that this memorable keyboard-prominent indie pop album draws on Kevin's successful battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia as did the previous H-Wing. Not quite as dark as that album, this finds Hearn stepping out of this admitted "rough part of the memory lane district" into a sunnier, if still reflective, neighborhood. (4.5)
Before & After
The crisply produced, smile-inducing indie pop album warmly reflects back on the peppiest of New Order. Three of the tracks are represented in videos on this enhanced CD. The album is a diptych outlined by the title. The first half of the dozen audio tracks is happy, ebullient dance pop ("Before") and the latter is slower, sadder songs ("After"). (3.5)
A Little Pain Never Hurt
Dick Siegel's catchy songs are clever folk-jazz concoctions delivered primarily by acoustic guitar and bearing humorous, witty and earthy lyrics. The vivid, unforgettable songs on Siegel's third full-length CD are full of vivid metaphor and bawdy allusions. Tracks like the title song, "Can I Sing" and "I Wanna Be" promise to be as indelibly inked into the memory of his Michigan fans, as have "Angelo's", "What Would Brando Do" and others from this peerless singer-songwriter. (4)
Get Away from Me
Nellie McKay is a nineteen-year-old jazz-pop genius with talent much beyond her years. Full of adult, colorful language and a swinging hot jazz vibe, her piano tunes are the hippest, wittiest jazz to show up on a major label in too long. Much has been made of the fact that McKay can stretch her sound spectrum to even include hip-hop, but note this: her fairly sophisticated music is not overly spiced with that overpowering flavor. What cannot be understated is that she has true songwriting, jazz singing and piano playing talent. This skill and style allows here eclecticism to transcend novelty and her cunning wit to rise above cheap humor. Dig this album now or see it in six months on the Best of 2004 lists and wonder why you never got around to buying it. (5)
Still rockin', still fiery, still political, Patti Smith the poetic patron saint of the post-punk wave bestows upon the huddled masses eleven new songs. But, riddle me this: What hath in common Patti and Dayglo Abortions? Both seem to be burdened with the Sisyphean curse to labor on ever without hope of equaling a classic, seminal debut record. Horses this isn't, but it is easier to get "gung ho" about than other Smith releases of recent years. (3.5)
Loneliness Knows my Name
Patrick Park is a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll. The post-folk singer-songwriter sticks out some (but not much) in a crowded field of guitar-armed sensitive singing poets. Dave Trumfio (Wilco, My Morning Jacket) did exquisite production work here. I dare say fans of Wilco (and Ron Sexmith) will be pleased. (3.5)
The Polyphonic Spree
The Beginning Stages Of...
Hollywood Records/Good Records Recordings
It's a bright, sunny horizon-to-horizon commune of hippy-dippy joy with the choral symphonic pop band The Polyphonic Spree. Didn't this outfit open the second day of Woodstock at daybreak? While the group's attraction for rapture-style flowing white robes suggests a cult aura, The Beginning Stages Of... does more deprogramming than it requires. The release comes with a bonus four-track CD EP of two live versions and a pair of alternate versions. (3.5)
Wig in a Box
This compilation presents a number of good songs form and inspired by the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The songs are done very well and by some talented folks, witness "The Origin of Love" by Rufus Wainwright, "Nailed (Loudbomb Mix)" by Bob Mould and "City of Women" performed by Robin Hitchcock. There is also some great, unexpected pairings in Sleater-Kinney with Fred Schneider (B-52s), Cyndi Lauper with Minus 5 and even Ben Folds and Ben Lee. (4)
The Beautiful South
Go! Discs Ltd.
This British indie pop band takes a gives vocal primacy to its song-oriented music. The exquisite delivery of the lyrics and the hip, swinging rhythms of this sophisticated, fun album make it another irresistible entry in the band's discography. Relaxed and catchy, the beguiling choruses often belie a witty cynicism as in "Just a Few Things That I Ain't". Somewhat jazzy and mixing female and male vocals, Gaze is like good museum art that holds the eye. (3.5)
This new street punk line up of Die Hunns with founder Duane Peters (U.S. Bombs) and Amazon bassist Corey Parks (Nashville Pussy) is about the best thing going in punk today. Potent and rooted this album offers some kicking covers: "Time has come Today" (Chamber Brothers), "I got Your Number" (Wipers), "Did you no Wrong" (Sex Pistols) and more. While the recordings are all new, the bulk of the album is early Hunns material like "Animals" and "Love & Hate". (4)
Velvet Acid Christ
Between The Eyes, Vol. 2
This second retrospective of the band features several tracks taken from very early demo material for the band as well as the soon-to-be out of print Church of Acid. Fans of the earliest Skinny Puppy will appreciate the twisted, nightmarish sounds that ooze out of this creepy CD. The aggro-electro is a post-industrial voyage into trippy and spooky soundscapes, often with a relentless dance beat. (3)
Rick Peckham Trio
Technically, one would call this fusion, for it is a fusion of jazz and rock. However and fortunately, this excellent album lacks all the vaporous insubstantiality that the word "fusion" implies. In this context, the electric guitar-led trio sounds more like Captain Beefheart when exploring unusual time signatures ("353-1001") then it does a group of over-studied technicians. This instrumental music is vigorous and surprising, visceral and attention grabbing. Peckham is here backed by New York improvising ?ber-drummer Jim Black (YeahNo, Pachora, Ellery Eskelin, etc.) and bassist Tony Scherr (Steven Bernstein's Sex Mob, Michael Blake's Free Association, Bill Frisell, etc.). (4.5)
Die Haut and Nick Cave
Burnin' the Ice
Hit Thing/Forced Exposure
This album was originally a German-only vinyl release. It features Nick Cave as a very suitable guest vocalist for the guitar gothic band Die Haut. This is the first edition in any digital medium and has been long sought after by collectors. This is because the recording fills in the gap in Cave's artistic career between The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds. A detailed history is given in the 24-page booklet accompanying this CD, including black-and-white photos of Cave with the band. Cave wrote all the lyrics to the songs here, including "Stow-A-Way", "Pleasure is the Boss" and "Truck Love". The CD also includes instrumentals, such as "Tokyo Express". Initial copies come with Skinned-A-Live, a DVD of Die Haut's premier 1982 tour with The Birthday Party. (4)
East Nashville Skyline
Oh Boy Records
Todd Snider just keeps getting better as the intelligent, sophisticated and even hip voice of underground country. His witty ballads "The Ballad of The Kingsmen" and "Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White American Males" are enlightened reality checks in a time that can be shockingly prejudiced. This troubadour tells his stories with more finesse than toughness, thus separating himself from Steve Earle. His swinging delivery on such odes as "Nashville" is a vehicle for lyrics with more relevance than, say, Ernest Tubb. It is somewhere between Tubb and Earle that Snider resides and that gives him a lot of room to play. Delivering his songs ala Jerry Jeff Walker, Snider once again sets a high bar for modern country delivered with style and a wink. (4.5)
Technova is David Harrow and this is the follow-up to his Dirty Secrets (2002). The seduction-speed EBM is seasoned with sexually charged lyrics delivered by Amazon transvestite Vaginal Davis. Taking it slow allows room for subtle, attenuated melody, a feature often missing from merely utilitarian techno. The CD version has two bonus tracks: "Bitterest Pill" and a cover of Joy Division's "Atmosphere" with Harrow himself delivering the tracks via Vocoder. (3)
Self-Conscious Over You
The first two tracks of this reissue of the 1979 album show the extremes of Belfast's The Outcasts. The title track is a catchy pop tune that foreshadows new wave. "Clinical Love" is a heavy dirge that is like punk on sedatives and makes a nice pairing with the shockingly graphic murder song "The Cops are Coming". Beside the sanguine lyrics of "The Cops are Coming", only the title tune is truly memorable from this band that caught the punk vibe but failed here to capture any of its energy to record. A few of the tracks were specially re-recorded for this edition, including "The Cops are Coming". A half-dozen bonus tracks includes good punk tunes in "Frustration" and "Don't Wanna be no Adult" along with "Just Another Teenage Rebel" as well as some alternate version. (3)
Old Skars & Upstarts 2004
Duane Hunn's Disaster Records continues to be the bellwether label for the contemporary street punk movement. And its envoy into the retail world is the annual Old Skars & Upstarts compilation. This year's edition includes great tracks from The Briefs, oi-flavored Bothered Face and a fun, spirited exploration of the current state of punk in "No Clash Reunion" from The Revolvers. Most of the material is memorable and catchy like "This Party Sucks", the ode to a lame party from Butcher's Bill. Peters himself contributes, not only the The Hunns ("Got Your Number") but with Pascal Briggs on a version of "Suicide Child". (3.5)
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