Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hermit Thrishes "Slight Fountain" LP, "Wooded Blankets" cassette

(SMK / Single Girl Married Girl) These Time-signature Bandits sound like the best indie band on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Diplomats of Solid Sound "What Goes Around Comes Around"

(Pravda) To get what must be gotten out of the way when discussing any retro soul R&B live band these days: it'sbetter than Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Particularly because of the way this album does not simply showcase decent vocals and expect us to flip out for them. Although DSS features two strong female belters, I wouldn't say those ladies are fronting the band. Rather, I'd call the Diplomats an instrumental group in the Jr. Walker or Booker T mold, that just happens to feature some singing. Not to in any way belittle the gifts of Katharine Ruestow and Sarah Cram, who in addition to grooving harmonies also pull off the far more elusive skill of competently executing awesome Shangri-La-style talk raps. But the fun, hook-filled lyrics here just seem to be window dressing on deep, bottom-heavy jams. What I like even more is that every now and then the Dips dip into something outside of the R&B police's lineup -- was that a Santana riff there? This is funk-tional dance music!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

When You're Strange DVD


(Eagle Rock) A FILM ABOUT THE DOORS…FINALLY !! (Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold)
The summer of 1970 was certainly a strange one in, for, and around what we may now quaintly call the pop/rock scene: Paul had just left his Beatles, for starters, the Stones and Dylan were missing-without-much-action, kids were throwing various Jacksons, Osmonds, and even Bobby Sherman way up the charts whilst the older kids were pretending to get back to the garden via a newly-released big-Hollywood Woodstock movie.
Meanwhile, this particular R-tober Reviewer was busy buying up every single Creedence record he could lay his young hands on, I’ll have you all know.
Then again there was the, well, strange case of John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison who, after having closed out those Sixties with a “flop” album (The Soft Parade) and even floppier run-ins with the law (their singer having gotten busted acting naughty on stage in Miami, and again on a Phoenix-bound airliner) now found themselves in 1970 under immense pressure to resurrect their career and get back to where they once belonged. As in the basics, musically speaking that is.
These various struggles, conflicts, lewd behavior indictments and then some are all fully explored – along with, thankfully, lots of great music too – in a fascinating documentary entitled When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, freshly available on DVD and Blu-ray from those fine folk over at Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Now, unlike the band’s own series of understandably self-serving concert films over the years or, on entirely the other hand, Oliver Stone’s utterly cataclysmic 1991 biopic The Doors, Tom DiCillo’s When You’re Strange perhaps comes closest to finally presenting, as no less an authority as Ray Manzarek has long promised, “the true story of The Doors.” It does so by wisely keeping 21st Century interference to a bare minimum, concentrating instead on a wealth of live and studio footage from throughout the band’s surprisingly brief career intriguingly intercut with – and this is the film’s real coup to my eyes – never before seen segments from Jim Morrison’s barely-released 1969 short subject HWY: An American Pastoral.
Without ever getting overtly ham-fisted a la the above-mentioned Mr. Stone, DiCillo (along with Johnny Depp’s narration) weaves the HWY footage of Morrison speeding across the California desert to actually drive When You’re Strange forward, onward and upward from the band’s infant gigs on L.A.’s Sunset Strip through the recording of their landmark debut album in 1966 and subsequent stardom. It’s interesting, not to mention important to realize and understand just how big a pop star Jim was at this time: He may have been playing it so cool by singing the dreaded “higher” word when The Doors performed “Light My Fire” on Ed Sullivision, but at the same time this was a man only too happy to appear bare-chested and love-bead-adorned alongside Davy Jones and Mark Lindsay across the pages of 16 Magazine.
When You’re Strange similarly pulls few punches in charting the band’s just-as-speedy fall from those poppiest of heights, mainly but not fully on account of Jimbo’s descent into the depths of alcoholic fear and self-loathing. It was indeed, and still remains, quite disheartening to watch The Doors’ slinky frontman decline from the leather-clad Lizard King of every bad girl’s Summer of Love dreams to the bearded, bloated ragamuffin who hauled sheep on stage in 1969, only to then berate his audience with cries of “You love it, don’t ya? Maybe you love gettin’ your face stuck in the shit. You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots!” Oh, Morrison…
Such performance Art with a capital “F” notwithstanding, footage from the band’s 1968 European tour, and then a remarkable sequence from the “Wild Child” recording session itself, show The Doors were without a single doubt a four-piece band, oh so much greater than the sum of its equal parts, with each man contributing his own special brilliance to the creation. There wasn’t ever a single weak musical link to this band, its writing, arranging, and (usually) its performing skills, and When You’re Strange never once lets the viewer get distracted from this critically important fact …despite the carnival atmosphere which never seemed to cease swirling around the entire proceedings.
Finally, we also see how, following that tricky Summer of 1970, the band fully rebounded with its final two albums, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman (again, When You’re Strange presents fabulous footage from the latter’s recording sessions …apparently, the last existing footage of the band as a whole).
But then, most inconveniently, Jim moved to Paris and rumor has it actually died there very early on the morning of July 3, 1971.
Now he may indeed remain “hot, sexy, and dead” as Rolling Stone declared a decade later, kicking off the Doors Resurrection each surviving band member continues to propagate most efficiently to this day. Yet Tom DiCillo has bravely succeeded, where few have ever even attempted to before, in stripping away the excess, puncturing the mythology, and – What a concept! – letting The Doors’ MUSIC do the talking.
Strange indeed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hinder "All American Nightmare"


(Universal/Republic) I was ready to cringe when I put this on...years of rap/rock, NuMetal. shit that sounds like Creed and bad, bad Ozzfest 2nd stage acts made me figure that a new major label rock record wouldn't actually have any rock on it. But this record is completely unoffensive to rock loving ears, as this band mixes Southern rock sensibilities and late Motley Crue production in a way that actually rocks. Sure, there's so missteps (an anti-rap/pro-rock song that starts out like that Everlast hit, and an anti-pop music diva song that is surprisingly pro-Madonna). But as long as they don't protest too much about how they rock harder than rappers and girls these Oklohomers are pretty unhindered.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Syl Johnson “Complete Mythology”



(The Numero Group) (GUEST REVIEW: JAKE AUSTEN)
Both the title and voluminous liner notes to “Syl Johnson: Complete Mythology” reflect upon the Chicago soul veteran’s penchants for boasts and fanciful autobiography. However, recently Mr. Johnson has been pushing two points of pride at the expense of others.  Johnson is right to brag that he’s been sampled ad nauseum by rappers, deejays and Michael Jackson, and that he sired R. Kelly muse Syleena Johnson. But those achievements put on the back burner what should be the first fact concerning Syl Johnson: he’s one of the greatest artists in soul music history.
This hefty set makes that argument for him. The 81 tracks here, culled mostly from singles he did before his seventies stint at Memphis’ Hi Records, show that as a 50s bluesman, 60s R&B crooner, and bonafide 60s/70s soul master, Johnson had a profoundly distinctive voice. Floating between Southern rawness and Motown slickness, what really stands out is the way his tone and phrasing make notes seem to start down deep and pass through a mysterious filter before we get to hear them.  Thus, Johnson’s voice never bares his soul naked, but coyly hints he’s holding secret knowledge back, that mystery making every lyric more intriguing.
However much “Complete Mythology” redeems the soulful Syl, it would be disingenuous to say people will buy this just for the music. Following last year’s “Light on the Southside” multimedia set, Numero continues to establish the Coffeetable Record genre with this gorgeous set. A hefty slipcase contains a photo-packed book, a gatefold-LP style CD case holding 4 discs, and six LPs, two being reproductions of real records, the others being ridiculously real-looking imaginary LPs, with period design, vintage fonts, and fabricated liner notes from Chicago soul stalwarts like E. Rodney Jones and Clint Ghent. Between the stellar singing and the ridiculous excess of design, this boxset is far more hit than myth.
Which, if you’ll pardon my shitting on a colleague, made me kind of shocked to see it get a tepid review on Pitchfork, a mere 6.8 out of 10 for one of the best archival releases in years. While almost nothing writer Douglas Wolk says is technically inaccurate – Johnson could certainly be considered an “also ran,” some of the ultra-obscure low budget tracks included don’t feature stellar bands, and obviously Johnson, and no one else, is as good as James Brown (the subject of one of Wolk’s books). Yet to conclude that scores of inventive, funky tracks, dozens of amazing photos, an aesthetic orgasm of product design, and pages and pages of text celebrating a gloriously mad musical juggernaut deserves a mediocre mark falls somewhere between misguided and insane.
Disclosure time: I am a lifelong Chicago southsider, which in addition to loyalty to the White Sox, an aversion to gas grills, and an inborn sense of alternate traffic routes on Southside Irish and Bud Billiken parade days, means that Chicago soul is an intimate, almost familial, part of my world. I’ve been in the bank teller line behind Pops Staples, sat next to Jerry Butler at a restaurant, and saw Otis Clay, in sandals, walking his dog (sadly not the same dog from the “Trying to Live My Life Without You” record cover).
          I’m not making this list to boast (I honestly wish I could un-see Mr. Clay’s feet), but rather as an admission that I likely overinflate the magnitude and magic of Chicago soul stars, certainly feel more loyal to them than musicians from other regions, and realize that I have probably always seen Mr. Johnson as more of a superstar than he probably is. But even putting aside Chicago chauvinism, there are dozens of tracks here that completely confirm Mr. Johnson’s awesomeness. Certainly “Sorry ‘Bout That,” “Try Me,” “Dresses Too Short,” “Different Strokes,” “That Is Why,” “Come On Sock It Too Me,” “Half A Love,” “Don’t Give it Away,” and the other strongest tunes here can constitute 69 minutes of equal or better music than the 68:42 of Kanye West’s new album, which got a perfect Pitchfork 10. Perhaps points are docked for some of the less than thrilling early blues tracks, or for including instrumentals or alternate takes, but it’s a box set! Maybe they docked points because the vinyl and CDs repeated the same material, but taking exception there seems to ignore the joy and loving reverence that went into sequencing a bunch of weird, obscure singles into reasonable recreations of period albums, with enough intricate visual details to justify the collection’s high price.
            Wolk makes clear is that he really sees the weak material as too weak, and also that he feels Johnson was a “hit-chaser” and “trendspotter” rather than an innovator. As far as former stands, I really prefer the big picture one gets when compilations mine the ore and find both unjustly and justly obscure obscurities – especially when all tracks feature with an instrument as fine as Johnson’s voice.
            But as for the latter charge, here is where I think proximity genuinely helps. It’s easy to see how all these dance tunes, namechecks (of James Brown, Johnny Taylor, and others), answer songs, period-mandated protest songs, and musical exploitations of the latest slang seem like trendspotting and hit-chasing, and of, course, that’s totally true. However anyone who has seen Syl Johnson live a few times, had the confounding pleasure of having a circular, disjointed conversation with him, or heard an array of Syl stories (only hinted at in the fine liner notes) would know that Mr. Johnson is the incredibly rare artist that can go through the motions of pandering without ever actually pandering. Even in his full-on, tourist blues club, make-the-white-folks-laugh, audience participation mode Johnson never gives any ground or loses any dignity.  His force of personality, sense of self, and what some might call craziness, never concedes anything, and it’s not really pandering if you don’t care what the audience thinks of you. To my ears, on 45 rpm vinyl Johnson pulls off the same trick, infusing what could come off as hackwork into something weirdly special.
            I’m surprised Wolk (whose James Brown book I like) doesn’t hear this, but so it goes. I don’t own Numero stock, and don’t have any professional stake in the success of the release, so I can only assume my defensiveness here is just my hometown pride being bruised a little. Fortunately I have a couple hundred minutes of magical music at the fingertips to soothe my bruise. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Pee Wee Herman Show

PEE WEE’S SHINY HAPPY BROADWAY PLAYHOUSE (October 27, 2010, Guest Review by Madeline Bocaro)
Surprisingly , there wasn’t a kid in the house under age 30 for this 8pm performance – the 2nd night of Pee Wee’s Broadway run. It was couples night at the Playhouse. Guys escorted their gals. Some went reluctantly and some willingly. In either case, it was infinitely more entertaining than a chick flick. And the guys finally got to witness their rival up close – their wives’ obsession – a ridiculous 6-year-old boy in a grown-up body. Gals whose guys refused to come, rang up their pals with whom they used to watch Pee Wee on TV every 1980s Saturday morning. They hadn’t been in touch for ages, but now they urgently needed a date!
The couple sitting next to me were hardcore fans, clutching Pee Wee dolls and wearing red bow ties. They uttered things like, “Pee Wee is a genius! A national treasure! He could have died since the 80s, and we’d never have gotten to see him at this epic moment in time!” When I mentioned that Pee Wee’s bicycle is now on display at the Hollywood History Museum in Los Angeles, and that it is, in fact NOT at the Alamo, they were nearly drooling! They left their 2-year-old at home. “He is Godzilla, and our home is Tokyo.” Too bad they didn’t give Pee Wee a chance to dazzle their little terror into submission!
I was solo tonight. My dear boyfriend has generously humoured me way too many times. Most recently, he was splattered with fake blood as we sat front row at the Alice Cooper concert. I gave him a break tonight, and sat blood-splattering distance from Pee Wee, alone. Close enough to see his pancake makeup and his insanely twisted facial expressions, and feel like I was actually on a real play-date at the Playhouse!
The blindingly bright, bedazzling and extremely colourful Playhouse was a wonder to behold. Everyone gasped as the curtain rose to reveal it. This was the psychedelic haven where our latent childhood fantasies were taken on an acid trip all those years ago. Under a stunning glittery blue sky, all our favourite shiny, happy characters appeared; Chairry, Clockey, Magic Screen, Conky, Pterri, the Flowers, the Fish, Randy…And there was a knock on the door every two minutes; Cowboy Curtis, Miss Yvonne, the King of Cartoons…
Paul Reubens is on some weird trip. He is really into this crazy little boy character. I think he is actually stuck in it. His mom probably said, “Paulie, if you keep making those silly faces it will stay that way forever!” If he did not have an existing mug shot, we could easily believe that his whole psyche is frozen in time. The New York show runs through January 2nd, 2011 – and will surely be extended. He’s previously performed it in Los Angeles. Reubens’ wacky juvenile alter-ego is still as sincere and genuine as ever. And he looks exactly the same after 30 years!
Most delightful was that the original Jambi the genie (John Paragon) and the real Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), ‘the most beautiful woman in Puppet Land’, were both in the show! Jambi was as camp as ever. His face was painted the shiniest green (eat your heart out wicked Witch of the West!) Miss Yvonne’s hair was bigger and higher than ever – and also full of glitter.
Pterry the pterodactyl was a beautiful shocking neon green whirlwind of prehistoric joy! The smiley Flowers were, vivacious and gorgeous with their googley eyes and smoochy lips. Chairry was sweet, plush and adorable. Globey resembled the original animated character with a long nose and French accent. (There was a latter Globey 2.0 on the TV show that wasn’t as freaky). I did not see the point of the annoying giant pantomime bear – who was obviously there to irritate Pee Wee as well. It only made me miss the Cowntess, Floory and Billy Baloney that much more. And they should have included the bizarre singing food items in Pee Wee’s fridge. 

The dialogue was fast and funny, ridiculous and absurd. Pee Wee was in fine form, with a brilliant unflinching mastery of child-like facial expressions. Lots of nice special effects - but in moderation, maintaining a retro ambience (yes, the 80s are retro these days!) Puppet master Basil Twist - whose recent work with Joey Arias in the show Arias With a Twist was breathtaking - brought all the characters to life, but kept them surreal. Pterri flew around on very visible strings. Magic Screen spewed lots of useful information. Pee Wee sang and danced a touching duet with Chairry. Pee Wee read his pen-pal letters - steeped in the hilarious exaggerated international stereotypes of yore - as Globey pointed out each pen-pal’s locale on his head. A new ShamWow puppet was introduced, who appeared whenever Pee Wee was being ‘shammed’ - Wow! We were treated to a Penny cartoon, and a vintage Coronet instructional film on lunchroom etiquette (Don’t be a Mr. Bungle!)  Random lines from old Hollywood, and infomercials were referenced. Pee Wee had a hilarious elongated moment enjoying a noisily deflating balloon. Latin handyman Sergio wired the Playhouse for the Internet, replacing the old tin-can-on-a-string telephone. Pee Wee nearly burns down the Playhouse in his cooking segment.
Absent were the little kids whom Pee Wee used to entertain on the TV Playhouse. The addition of some kids in the cast would have made it more FUN (the magic word, by the way). Although not enough to make the show too adult-themed, there were several double-entendres. The postman tells Pee Wee that he has a ‘nice package’, and presents him with a shiny pink jeweled box.
There was lots of laughter and screaming. I wonder if kids of today, who are wrapped up in technology and have forgotten how to actually have fun - the main theme of the show - would even understand the joy of a plasticine playhouse with animatrons and puppet friends. There was an innocent time, when ‘I know you are, but what am I’ was a sufficient retort to a name-calling bully. It was really, REALLY nice to visit that wonderful time and place again for one more magical, sparkly evening.
Nice to see you again Pee Wee!
Next stop, Vegas?
 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keith Moon - Final 24: His Final Hours


(MVD) (Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold)
Good morning, campers!
It’s your old pal Keith Moon here. You know, “Moonie,” “Moon the Loon” …or, as I very much prefer, The Greatest Rock and Roll Drummer that Ever Was, that is. Or was. I think… But I digress.
Anyroad, we meet today so that I may bring your undivided attention to this marvelous new DVD disc entitled – just a moment here, as I do want to make sure I get this completely correct – ahh, yes. Keith Moon, Final 24: His Final Hours.
Well then! I guess you could call this the, well, final word on the subject, ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa!
Final 24: His Final Hours. Yes, a tad redundant, I do agree, but nevertheless this splendid disc does promise to, in the very words of its very own press sheet you see, “unlock the hidden secrets, psychological flaws and events that result in the tragic deaths of global icons.” Here here!
“Maps out the final twenty-four hours of a famous person's life,” it goes on. “Weaves the star's back-story with events from their last day, which lays bare the threads of fate that led inextricably from childhood to the moment of death.” I see! “These are no ordinary biographies.” I should hope not… “They're psychological detective stories attempting to uncover the mystery of why the celebrity died.”
You know, I’ve been wondering that myself quite a bit, I must say! ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa!
MY “final 24” then: Bailing out on Paul McCartney’s Buddy Holly Story premiere party – a dreadful bore, it truly was …and I don’t just mean the movie – then home for a quick cutlet and Dr. Phibes – now THERE’S a movie, mate! – lay it all down beside the missus for a quick kip and then… and then…
To be perfectly honest, things do get a bit, shall we say hazy from this point onwards, as I’m sure you can understand, ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa! But this disc here really does seem to do a fabulous job at pulling all of the pieces quite properly together, as it were.
For a starter, there’s a lovely little segment spent on my long, long-ago childhood. Even shows one of my old Alperton Secondary School reports: “Retarded artistically”? “Idiotic in other aspects”?? Not by ‘alf, then, ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa! I mean, it’s simply called ADHD today, innit? But back then, it was just a whack-it upside the be-hind, and “catch us if you can”!
But I reckon, when all was said and sung, I didn’t turn out all that pitifully, now did I?
Nice that they show some marvelous old Gene Krupa footage as well – now THERE’S a drummer! – and before you know it I hook up with Pete and Roger and John and, well …you know, they never did really ask me to join. Nobody ever actually said “You’re in.” They just said “What’re you doin’ on Monday?”
But I took that as a “yes” nevertheless. ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa!
My, my. And look at all the wonderful people they have interviewed about my Final 24. My almost-biographer Anne Nightingale – how are you, my darling? – and my own Best from the West, Pamela “I’m With The Drummer Tonight” Des Barres, looking as utterly scrumptious as ever. As well as some less, shall we say delectable writers such as Roy Carr and Tony Fletcher. Dear, dear Tony. He really did write a wonderful book on me. And I do appreciate it. Just make sure they don’t let Roger hire Mike Myers to play me in the movie version, Tone – ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa!  
And there’s Richard Barnes and dear Dougal Butler, speaking of Who books, and Jon Wolff, speaking of Who roadies – ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa – and Kenney Jones, oh my and, oh! What have we here?
Alice Cooper, talking all about our lost Los Angeles weekend – or in my case, incredibly misplaced twenty-seven months, ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa – alongside John Lennon and Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz and Ringo and even dear old Steve Cropper, shown here trying his damndest to produce one of my, um, recording sessions, quote unquote. ah-HA-Ha-HaHaHa! Sorry about the carpet, dear boy. And the glass. And oh yes, the 16-track…
But who is this now? Legs Larry? Legs Larry Smith? Yes yes, telling all about the night we… we…
Well, there was an accident, you see. These bloody skinheads had surrounded my Bentley when we came out of the pub, getting all stroppy and shaking us and the car every which way. My dear, dear driver Neil Boland got out to chase them away, or at least try to reason with the bastards, as they were frightening my wife Kim.
But just as I took to the wheel to try to save him, they threw Neil under the bloody tires! And I couldn’t see, and I ran… I ran him over. Killed him, I did.
It wasn’t my fucking fault.
NOT my fucking FAULT, alright?
And Amanda? Mandy? Is that you I see now?? Haven’t you grown up all proper and lady-like, just like your mum! I love you, Mandy. I miss you, my little girl.
And Annette? My love? There you are, my sweet! God, it is good to see you again. You look almost… almost real.
Oh, Christ. I must turn this off now. I’m sorry, everybody. I truly am. It’s just that I… I mean, if only I could…
“He made it longer than Hendrix or Joplin or Brian Jones or Jim Morrison,” Miss Pamela says. Damn right I did!
“So that was pretty surprising that he actually lived as long as he did.”
I see, Pamela.
Listen, everybody. Watch Keith Moon, Final 24: His Final Hours. Really, you should.
But when you do, all I ask is that you remember what Alice Cooper says:
“If you take away all the insanity and just listen to the drums, he is irreplaceable.”
You see? Irreplaceable.
Or, if you will, The Greatest Rock and Roll Drummer that Ever Was.
Right. See you all soon then?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

NEW ISSUE AVAILABLE!

The new issue of Roctober is available! If you have a subscription or are a contributor you will get it by mail sometime this month. If you want to order a copy you can get it from us at roctober.com or from Dusty Groove or Quimbys or ask your fave record store or comix shop to get in touch with us if they want to carry it.
Almost all of the reviews published on this site prior to this appear in the current issue (#48), as well as some amazing interviews, comix, and other craziness. All the reviews posted after this will appear in #49, Spring 2011. If you want to be reviewed in the ish cjeck out the info on the right hand side.

Rock on!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Superions "Destination...Christmas!

(Fanatic) Fred Schneider does his best to make his work with the B52s sound subtle, mellow, and tasteful with this X-mas album that you should probably keep away from the kids. Opening with a jingle-ized nod to Divine's hi-nrg classic "Jungle Jezebel," and closing (or, should I say, climaxing) with a Santa-fied take on Serge's Je T'aime," this is clearly the Christmas record for the family members who are strategically uninvited to Christmas dinner (or at least asked to leave their "roommate" at home). Highlights include a song where Yetis massacre the North Pole HQ, a get freaky under the tree jam, and some X-mas-themed stripper music. Perhaps this is more outrageous than good, but there's such a thing as being so outrageous it doesn't matter if it's good. Fruit! Cake!

Kid Creole and the Coconuts “Anthology Vol. 1 & 2”

(Rainman) Kid Creole (interviewed in these pages a few years back) is a fascinating figure, turning disco inside out with his beautiful backup Coconuts, with Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, and with some of the best live performances of the late 20th century (drawing on the best of the early 20th century). I suppose the act is still amazing, and if you saw them live you would be dying to throw money at them, so this CD would serve a great purpose. A double disc collection of greatest hits, covers, new songs, and good times is a winner. But these are re-recordings, not the original (a collection of which, spanning the career, would be better). But if I bought this from a scantily clad Coconut I sure as hell wouldn’t complain.

Mehran “Angels of Persepolis”


(www.flamencoguitarplayer.com) Flamenco-tacular! Though dramatic and moving, it’s hard to tell how these songs relate to Iranian history and culture outside of the titles. But it sounds great.

John McVey “Unpredictable”

(www.johnmcvey.com) This rootsy songwriter showcase is way better than the new albums by Steve E. Nix, Mik Fleetwould and Lynn Tse Buckinhand.

Mark Mansfield “It Happened One Evening”


(Lucid Veil) Mark is the man! Dramatic story songs, or story-like songs with madrigal like singing and sax or harmony or keyboard flourishes that make this fall somewhere between lo-fi Phil Spector drama and outsider art.

Treasa Levasseur “Low Fidelity”

(tressalevasseur) With a voice that recalls Carole King and a sensibility that recalls Candye Kane, this is some exquisitely recorded R&B meets singer-songwriter stuff that will groove you…deeply.

Kit “Invocation”

(Upset the Rhythm) Strange soundtracks for the happiest, yet consistently scariest, monster movie ever made. Bubbling. melodic. experimental jingles are the new punk rock.

Tall Grass Captains “In the Resistance”


(Ubique) On this odd, off-kilter, experimental, World Music abusing, skewed pop, haunting voiced journey, it’s tall gas, tall ass, or tall grass…nobody rides for free!

Fred Shafer “Resistor”

(MVD) Although I feel bad saying that this bland non-rock music shouldn’t even be made, I keep recalling that I felt bad having to listen to it.

David Newbould “Live From Austin


(www.davidnewbould.com)More bold than new, as like many Austin-ites David appreciates the route of the roots, and knows solid old time songwriting will get you there faster than taking the trendy highway.

The Golden Filter “Voluspa”


(www.goldenfilter.com) Dance music for brilliantly hip penguins who can only waddle slightly, but look cool doing so.

Fairchild Republic “Ships Are For Sailing”


Fairchild Republic “Ships Are For Sailing” (myspace.com/fcrepublic) Fair.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Funky Knights


 (hyperspace) Blues club funk that isn’t here to break ground or get a New Yorker essay written about it, it’s here to make a drinking crowd groove. Fun is key!

K-X-P

(Smalltown Superstar) Kontains Xquisite Pounding!

Brookhaven “When the Chorus Walks"


(Expel) brook HEAVEN!

Don’t “Away Away”


 (www.thedont.net) Do! Not doo doo!

Eaves of Ass zine


(Craven Rock, 10511 Phinney Ave N Seattle WA 98133) Craven supports his writing by travelling around the country enacting whatever hustles he can, working the welfare state, the tourist industry, medical science, and anything else to get by and have enough free time for creativity. At least that’s what he’s done for years. This issue tells harrowing tales of trying to get by on the hustle in a recession. The writing is sharp, the stories are relatable and interesting, and his observations are ass-tute.

Face Value “Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Clevo Hardcore ’89-‘93”


(Smog Veil) Late 80s/early 90s hardcore that has more to do with early 80s hardcore than its contemporaries. Perhaps the timeless land of Rocket, Iggy, and the Dead Boys skewed the time continuum. One of the most impressive things here is that their demos are not only ambitious, but better than their albums.

Baby Eagle “Dog Weather”


Baby Eagle “Dog Weather” (You’ve Changed) Should be called Able Beagle because this record connotes ability and talent, and also loyalty…to a vision, even if it doesn’t quite fit any genre.  Contains Jim Carroll-esque vocals, folk-ed up indie rock, and harmonincatfights.

The Offbeat “inlovefield”


(www.theoffbeat.co.uk) Though this somehow qualifies as some kind of alternative, John Peel-would dig, arty, post punk serious music, it has so many elements of poppy 60s goofy American garage (including hooks, jangly rhythms, girls names, and non-arty beach Boys pop influences) that if the band was called The Offbeats and had Beatles bowl cuts I’d be OK with that.

Rasputina “Sister Kinderhook"


(Filthy Bonnet) Amazingly this high drama poetry olde tyme madrigal-core concept album does not have a hint of renaissance faire or 7th grade girl’s diary toi t. In my opinion the best kind of rock opera/concept album is the one where I can’t figure out what the hell is supposed to be going on at all in it…so let’s see…giants…slaves…snow hens…mission accomplished here!

Jerry Jennings “Shortcut to the Center”


(PB) I’m not a student of jam bands, wailing, guitars, fusion-ish rock, or brilliant wankery. But even I can hear that this dude should be playing for ten thousand jam fans a night. Produced by Ronnie Montrose and featuring more lpm (licks per minute) than a lollipop festival, this JJ is dy-no-mite!

Get Well zine

(by Chris Estey) This is a great concept for a zine…really, really good writing! 

Jenn Franklin “Girl Invisible”


(www.jennfranklin.com) The reasons I like this are because Franklin has a moving husky voice, and seems to have a deft gift for songwriting. It’s not because she’s super good looking. Really. Though she is pretty good looking.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Maybenauts “big bang”

 (Horse Drawn) My fave local band delivers the rock, or at least a few tasty slices of it on this 5 song ep. Though these cuts, as exquisitely recorded as they are, don’t quite capture the band’s live energy, the power of Leilani’s voice or Vee’s guitar wailing, “Girl Fight” is as solid a serving of kickass as you can expect. Though the cartoon cover is cute, I have to say I’m surprised how lo-fi the design on this CD is – this seems like such an ambitious, talented act I expected to be blown away by the art when they finally released something. But forget visuals (which is hard to do when the band has a panda in it), this still banged pretty bangingly and big!

The Scenics “Sunshine World"

(dreamtown) I don’t know much about this Canadian New Wave band that made these brilliant recordings in ’77 and ’78. Why they aren’t legends is hard to say. Perhaps their allegiance to the styles of the Velvet Underground and their parallels to the style of Talking Heads made them seem unoriginal, but that’s hard to believe considering how dynamic these tracks are. Perhaps they had some weird ideas and pushed them too far for folks’ tastes. This does end with a 15-minute psychedelic new wav e boogie power pop amble epic. Maybe they were too political – “I Killed Marx” is one dark tune. Maybe Tommy James destroyed their career because he didn’t like their inside-out “Mony Mony” cover? Whatever the reason, it was a crime, and these are the Scenics of the crime!

Psychic Borderland


(www.gallerymjb.com) They say you hear something new every day. But you don’t. In fact you almost never hear something new. But this is new: melancholy psychedelia!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LICK ME - HOW I BECAME CHERRY VANILLA by Cherry Vanilla

(Chicago Review Press) [Guest Review by Madeline Bocaro] Five Stars - With a Cherry on Top! Cherry Vanilla’s new book is so delicious, that I devoured it in one day. This is a long awaited tome from someone who was in the midst of all the mayhem - a fearless, sweet and vivacious groupie who became a ‘superstar’ - the nicest ‘bad girl’ around. It is sprinkled with name-droppings which include Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Cousin Brucie, Eddie Munster, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Warren Beatty, Don Johnson, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger David Bowie and Andy Warhol, to name a few. The back-cover praises are sung by filmmaker Tim Burton, Kate Pierson (B-52’s), groupie extraordinaire Pamela Des Barres and Countess Luann De Lesseps (Real Housewives of New York City)…from the sublime to the ridiculous!  The intro is by Rufus Wainwright. Cherry’s book is even more exciting than her Scoops For You column in Creem magazine! 

Cherry’s mission statement: ‘…the passion of the groupie is probably the purest, holiest thing in all of rock and roll.’ 

Born Kathy Dorritie in New York City (1943), she grew up in Woodside, Queens – just one train stop from Manhattan.  The mystique, lights, grit and glamour of the city drew her in. Her mom worked in a hotel above the famous Copacabana nightclub, where young Kathy witnessed 1940s and 50s old school glamour first hand - velvet mink, dazzling diamonds, expensive perfume, famous singers and movie stars. These textures and people shaped her life, and all the kinky details are gleefully revealed in her book. 

Cherry speaks innocently of learning to enjoy and appreciate the fervent Catholicism that was forced upon her. ‘It was the first live dramatic theatre I knewbut my true religion was rock n’ roll.’ Amidst some touching and naive childhood stories are instances of brutality on behalf of her un-glamourous dad who worked at the Dept. of Sanitation. His savage abortion of her pet Dalmatian’s puppies resulted in little Kathy’s OCD, and later manifested as nymphomania, an illness that she enjoyed with flair and gusto!  

With show biz in her heart, Kathy started DJ-ing in the 1960s at a New York nightclub, spinning soul, R&B, Motown, Janis and Jimi. Honing her social networking skills by working at Madison Avenue ad agencies gained her newer and gayer friends. Weekends on Fire Island brought new drugs and more VIPs. Cavorting backstage at the Fillmore East allowed many more rock star encounters and conquests. Kathy’s passion for words, poetry and music fueled her zeal for Public Relations. She became lover and friend to the famous and infamous at Max’s Kansas City, and everywhere she went. She joined the Dadaist performance troupe Theater of the Ridiculous (described in her diary as ‘tragedy disguised as comedy.’) 

One of her clever ruses was ordering printed cards at Tiffany & Co. which read, “You are beautiful, so am I” with her name and phone number. This ensured liaisons with many beautiful strangers. But Cherry admits, ‘good old- fashioned lovemaking, both in body and spirit…despite all of my experimentations and petty perversions, has really always been my favorite kind.’ After narrowly escaping yet another dangerous predicament (her love of NYC is  apparent here) she says, ‘New York City cops are so great. Without treating me like the dumb slut I obviously was, they escorted me back up to my apartment…’ 

In the early 70s, Cherry Vanilla lived and worked in the best of both worlds. She was among Andy Warhol’s factory superstars, and also was present at the beginning (and instrumental in the climax) of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust fame. When worlds collide, fabulous things happen! The Warhol entourage was in London performing Andy’s play Pork. The Bowies attended, and essentially hired the entire cast on the spot, as their publicity crew. Cherry was  appointed as Bowie’s spokesperson at his PR firm Mainman. She spun his decadent debacles into humorous headlines, and became lovers with David and his wife Angie.  

Upon realizing that she was an artiste herself, a succession of performances ensued (starting with a poetry reading and book, Pop Tart Compositions). Mick Jagger & David Bowie attended one of her comedic cabaret shows at NYC’s Reno Sweeny’s. Her first UK touring band included Sting of the Police. She also released a few albums and was a part of London’s early Punk scene. 

My fondest memory of Cherry was walking past her buttocks and hand-prints in cement, hung outside the entrance of Trude Heller’s nightclub Greenwich Village for many years. 

Congratulations Cherry on this super sweet book. You are a Rock Star! 

Tonetta “777”

(Black Tent) Justin Bieber was discovered off of Youtube, but now “We” have “our” Bieber! The mysterious Tonetta, who has spent the last few years posting his minimal, disturbing songs accompanied by visuals that include masks, underwear, fake breasts, abrupt edits (which are rare, these are mostly one take one-ders), expert dancing, noise, shock , and awe. Features his anti Elton John screed, his guitar explosion and his crucifixion song (which I would not have expected to be as good without seeing him in his Jesus briefs, but it was actually better!) While a double DVD is what we need from Tonetta, a140 gm vinyl deluxe release is a pretty great start!

Two Hours Traffic “territory”


 (Bumstead) It’s not two hours of unpleasant congestion, they are “stuck” in Traffic because they are taking their sweet (and it is sweet) time getting there, stopping for poppy picnics along the way, and maybe they are listening to a Traffic album or two on the tape deck (though 80s solo Steve Winwood, or maybe a Shoes tape, are more likely).

TWO ESSAYS of pressing relevance by Chris R. Morgan

(First As Tragedy Then As Farce) The essays are important, not so much spoofing the lectures of academia, but rather taking up some lost art of informed, intellectual dandyism, saying little and offering the absurd, but weaving a web of words that makes it all seem germane, urbane, and not insane. Which is particularly impressive with essay #2, a Modest Proposal-style treatise on how the path to America’s future economic health involves monetizing necrophilia. And he makes a good argument. “Code Blue,” all the way!

Tribute to JJ Cale Volume 1 The Vocal Sessions

(Zoho) JJ Cale is great because his compositions could be picked up by hard rocking arena giants who wanted to reveal their ability to do something rootsy with heart, and somehow they would never fall flat on their faces. John W. Cale made Eric Clapton, Skynyrd (the great “”Call Me the Breeze,” not covered here), and even Widespread Panic seem smart and sensitive. Despite a growling cover of “Cocaine” by hard rocking Rufus Hall and band, this album seems to be as much about JJ the recording artist as JJ the songwritier, not only ignoring his more famous Clapton composition (“After Midnight”) but choosing songs that were highlights on Cale’s beloved, if not top selling, records. Lots of guitar rock on this, some nice vocal group offerings from the mighty Persuasions, and some jaunty Southern Rock from Dixie Tabernacle. What sells me most here is the twang factor when Tim and Roddy Smith's Groove Gang (with Darryl Johnson) do “Louisiana Woman,” which reminds me of a better band backing up Vince Gill in his commercial prime. They  should have called this tribute “Cale and Response.”

Unknown Component “The Infinite Definitive”


(www.unknowncomponent.com) Spooky, densely rich singer-songwritings from Keith Lynch, a man whose voice is halfway between joyfully pained yearning and stuffy headcold (making him sound like either a more congested Dylan or a more serious skinny guy in They Might Be Giants).

Welcome to Ashley ”Beyond the Pale”


(www.novo.net) Kicks ASH!            

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tommy Keene “You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009”

(Second Motion) Keene has never been a superstar, but as arguably the most respected power pop dude for a coupla decades amongst  a small and devoted group of power pop fanatics (inevitably including people, who own or make decisions for labels) he gets to keep putting out his fine songs. Why none of his near perfect tunes aren’t monster hits I can’t say and why there aren’t millions of fans for a genre that is basically Beatles tribute music is also weird. But celebrate those mysteries on this generous collection, and see what I’m talking about, and be pleasantly confused about this puzzles yourself.

Cougars and Snappers and Loons (Oh My!) A Midwest League Field Guide by Dave Hoekstra


(Can’t Miss Press) Hoekstra, one of the last newspaper writers standing in Chicago, has delivered a thoroughly minor league book! And by that I don’t mean that his writing his bush league by any stretch, but rather that this isn’t another overly self-important dire tome about the World Serious or George Will’s poetic fields of symbolic green or fathers playing catch with sons or world shattering moneyball or AMERICA AMERICA AMERICA! This is a book that is as casual, pleasant, and completely mellow as watching a AA team whose players you don’t know and whose place in the standings is irrelevant and whose mascots and vendors are as much a part of the team as the third baseman. Collecting his columns about the Midwest League from the Kane County Cougars programs and reflecting on his loves of history, baseball, and spending lazy evenings at ballparks, Hoekstra makes it seem like everything is right in the game and the region. He lucked out in that the Midwest league is full of decades of weird records, characters and nuttiness, and especially that he hooked up with a team that made the Midwest seem really Midwestern by having a program where players, many from foreign countries, would live with local host families, making the players important parts of the town’s community and cultural fabric. This also made the players look back on their seasons on the Cougars with special fondness, as evidenced by Hoekstra’s locker room conversation with Dontrelle Willis, whose career was in a horrible downspin in 2008 when Hoekstra approached him. Asked to discuss anything else he would have clammed up, but recalling his warm memories of his host family, minor league coaches, and good times, he had plenty to say, with a smile on his face. In these pages the way we meet a lady umpire, a minor league ballpark obsessive who’s been to 162 parks, Derrek Lee’s Japanophile father, a baseball-themed microbrewer, a Dayton Dragon gospel drummer, lots of players, lots of old folks, lots of townies, and a 97 year old historian who explains about how the 1909 Hannibal Cannibals got their name. If you pay $80 for a Yankees ticket and there’s Jumbotrons blaring you can forget about ignoring the game and noise and reading this book. But next Summer you just might want to bring it along to  a game in Beloit, or Rockford, or Appleton.

New Lou Reeds “Hit Songs”

(Exit Stencil) This rocks so hard it made me change my major to geology. Plus, any record that contains one of those singing rock n roll history lessons (one with the chutzpah to put the band performing it squarely into rock history, no less) gets four boulders from this rock-ologist!

Truman Bentley, Jr. newsletter


(3219 Carden Dr. Columbus GA 31907-2143) Not sure what Bentley, Jr. wants to officially call this thing (at one point he toys with the name “Zero Human Population Newsletter”), and not sure if he’s still doing it, as the constant flow of thick envelopes I received for a year has slowed down (I last got one mid-summer). And more importantly, I don’t know what the heck this is! Like all great “kook”-style manifesto/diatribe/handouts this densely-packed single sheet Xerox is single spaced, cut-n-paste graphic aided, and has hints of paranoia, megalomania, xenophobia, and other words ending with vowels. Yet Bentley also seems to be a very smart dude who is perhaps parodying these tropes. His humor is always evident, and when he gets all power mad he uses hyperbole and absurdity, declaring things like, “TRUMAN is GOD,” The NEWSLETTER is a HOLY CULT,”  “Love is only for TRUMAN. He is the KING, THE PRINCE, GOD-FUHRER MAGI of all life.” He also seems to be far from an outsider, having enough knowledge of fluxus and dada to dismiss the movements. And for a serious cult leader he makes lotsa nutty pop culture references to things like the Three Stooges, The Avengers TV show, Spongebob, and Mayberry RFD. And his biography is so murky he almost seems fictional. Does he work at a Florida restaurant called Snacky’s Shack? Does he make a cable access show? Does his daughter go to a posh elite religious school? Was he the best worker at a pizza place in college? Is he a car expert, helping promote car shows or races? Is he KING? But saying all that, if it turned out he isn’t “real,” and this is some kind of hipster joke I would be shocked, because Truman Bentley, Jr. works so hard and is so dedicated that this is a true work of art, passion, drive, and some kind of genius. s he created a film?Whatever this thing is I will always respect it, and encourage folks to send a couple bucks his way for a sample, if only for one densely packed page commencing with one of my fave opening passages ever: “CONTINUED FROM ANOTHER NEWSLETTER:------CAT FOOD. The main SPACE ALIENS have heads that are CATS”

Sputnik, Masked Men, and Midgets – The Early Days of Memphis Wrestling by Ron Hall

(Shangri-La) Of all the amazing music, video, tour guide books, photo books, and rock ‘n’ roll yearbooks the great Memphis label/store/institution Shangri-La has unleashed on the world, this gorgeous photo book may be the best.
There is a brief, interesting history of Memphis wrestling included, but truly the pictures tell more than words can in this book. The 50s rasslers (the book covers not only local Memphis athletes, but stars who spent time on the Memphis circuit) like Lou Thesz, Baron Leone, Gorgeous George, and the Swedish Angel (not Tor Johnson, but scarier looking). Just staring at the hard, sculpted, world-weary faces of these man-giants could occupy a few hours of your day, but it’s when the book hits the 60s that photos, clippings, and captions really get rolling. Sputnik Monroe was Memphis’ ring superhero in the 60s, and with his futuristic two-tone hair sitting atop his raw hamburger face you can tell what a special dude this is at first sight. One of the most insightful passages in the book is one about Monroe getting arrested for hanging out with black fans in a black bar. He hired a black lawyer to defend him (a Memphis first) but made no objections when the judge fined him for breaking the segregation rules. That’s just the way it was (some ads in this even direct black fans to the colored sections of the arena). With the “Sputnik” in the title out of the way, let’s get to the Masked Men and Midgets. The photos are grouped by amazing categories: midget wrestlers, women wrestlers, black wrestlers (Rocky Johnson, the Rock’s pop, is prominently featured), wrestlers who pretended to be ethnic villains and heroes, donning turbans, fezes and feathers, depending on the country’s pulse at the time, , masked wrestlers, bears who wrestled humans, and (the most beloved Memphis wrestler ever, Jerry Lawler included) rockin’ wrestlers. It’s very easy looking at these photos to understand how wrestling and rock ’n’ roll appeal to the exact same corner of the exact same brain lobe, and it seems that in Memphis that was particularly true. The brief text in this book (including an intro by Lawler) tells about sneaking Elvis into matches, and there’s a great shot of the King (Elvis, not Lawler) rocking a concert in a wrasslin’ ring. Also, many of the best grapplers were friends with Memphis musicians and cut novelty records. Some of these 45s’ labels  are reproduced in the book, and a CD included has four classic lost records by grappling greats. Sputnik actually made a record about clashing with Memphis musicians, and Jackie Fargo does a maudlin Red Sovine-esque tale of a dying wrestler’s last match to save a child. So basically, this is the best book ever.

The Elements by the Tinklers

(Shattered Wig Press) I was surprised to see this book because I knew the Tinklers from a couple of great albums I bought years ago at the space that sold Shimmy Disc albums next to CBGB’s. But according to the press release and clippings, and part of a documentary I saw on the Documentary Channel (which I didn’t even know was a channel until I stopped to watch this movie) the Tinklers have been around for over thirty years and have done as much writing, art, and happenings as music. This book is a brisk, triumphant morsel of edutainment that imparts information about several elements occupying the periodic table. This is done through a narrative that is sort of like a Dick and Jane old time book where a guy and gal go around meeting people who conversationally, indirectly teach them things. But in this case as we learn about the remarkable properties of magnesium from a Milk of Magnesium swilling Magnesium, Unlimited intern or sodium’s benefits from a little girl at the saltwater beach doing a science fair project, each impartation of scientific knowledge also reveals the damage our country suffers because of problems in industry and labor, and we get glimpses of the inevitable erosion and dysfunction in our protagonists’ relationship (that science fair girl gets Mary’s biological clock ticking, forcing Steven to make a heartbreaking false promise). In other words: awesome book. (sidenote: Microsoft Word spellcheck had no problem with the word “Edutainment” Apparently Bill Gates is a KRS-ONE fan.)

Impossibly Funky – A Cahiers du Cinemart Collection by Mike White

(Bear Manor) I have a new rule about book reviews: Any book that has an image of 70s exploitation movie torturer/midget porn star/Funkadelic sideman Louis DeJesus on the cover instantly gets a stellar review. But even without a fine illustration of the littlest Boodsucking Freak I would be spewing all over this fine tome. The material here is culled from the pages of my fave film zine Cashiers Du Cinemart. Even that title alone was great: a highbrow pun on the French film journal Cahiers du Cinema, with a thrown in reference to the emerging wave of filmmakers/critics/zinesters/eventual bloggers who were getting their education not at NYU or UCLA but by working a video stores and gobbling up archival and international lowbrow VHS releases. That editor Mike White initially made a splash by challenging the king of these film nerds, Quentin Tarantino, was notable, and to me represented one of the reasons to love the zine. White garnered attention not merely for writing about QT but by editing together clips of Reservoir Dogs with nearly identical scenes from a recent Hong Kong film, City of Fire, showing how blatant Tarantino’s lifts were. While I didn’t feel (considering Tarantino’s style which seemed to be a montage of exploitation film tributes/borrows) that crime warranted White’s righteous indignation, I appreciated that the best zine work, the stuff that borders on single-spaced kook pamphlet rants, involves stubbornness, blinders, and crazy drive. What’s more impressive is that with perspective White has un-stubborned a bit, and the section of the book devoted to this chapter in White’s life gives equal time to his own critics (especially regarding White’s would be-Pulp Fiction debunking). The other running theme in CduC that I truly appreciated was their devotion to an obscure, little-loved Blaxploitation film called Black Shampoo. Over the years the zine went from championing it to interviewing virtually everyone involved in the film to celebrating a DVD release for which White wrote the liner notes. Unlike the kind of confrontational obsession of the QT stuff, the Black Shampoo material was all just about pure joyful passion and devotion and love, which is something I love to read about no matter what the subject. But the thing that unites both of these threads is the willingness to do the work. Not only to track down obscure films, tirelessly research the production and cast, locate off the radar people, and spend hours processing stuff, but then putting in the time to make a zine/book to share rather than horde this info. The book (which updates most articles and includes some new material) features several of my fave CduC pieces of all time. There’s an interview with the guy who played the son in the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back to School (a film that features a cameo by Kurt Vonnegut helping to write a book report on himself) who went on to become an avant-garde feature filmmaker adapting Vonnegut to the screen. There’s a rundown of every unproduced Superman script. There’s some of the funniest, most obsessive coverage of Star Wars and Lucas’ insane tinkerings you’ll ever read. There’s a Svengoolie interview! This book, if such a thing is possible, may actually be funky!