Saturday, March 6, 2021

Robert Dayton "Someone is out to KILL ME"

 

(https://robertdayton.bandcamp.com/releases, 2021) Sometimes I wonder why so many smart, weird, original, funny, strange unnerving artists are not as successful as their talent and wofk deserves.Then I realize it is because they are smart, weird, original, funny, strange unnerving artists. This EP, a solo work from half of the should-be-legendary Canned Hamm, is produced by his former Hamm-mate and is basically a creepy, kooky, one man show about a man in  bloody peril. The music is a fitting soundtrack to   a man grappling with anxiety that is partly in his head and perhaps in all of his own blood that is covering everything. How is that not as intriguing as Harry Styles?

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Fleshtones "Face of The Screaming Werewolf"

GUEST REVIEW BY  
GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
(Yep Roc, 2020)   Well, it's hard to believe I've now been listening to The Fleshtones for 40 years, and they've never failed me (though I never really warmed up to "Beautiful Light”). I can safely say this is their strongest album in years. All the fuzztone and Yardbirdsian lead guitar, cheesy organ, Blueswailin' harmonica, pummeling beats and jet propelled bass lines of past efforts remain intact, and that's the fact, Jack. Sixties' influences still run strong, here, but this is no nostalgia trip. This is 21st century Rock'n’Roll as it SHOULD sound. An explanation of the title track is in order: ''Face of The Screaming Werewolf" is  a B(Some would say "Z")-Horror/Comedy picture from Mexico that was originally released as "La Casa Del Terror" starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and legendary Mexican comedian, Tin Tan. Jerry Warren had the film translated into English, with all of Tin Tan's parts removed. The story line, as it were, concerns Chaney, Jr. as a dormant mummy who comes to life as a rampaging werewolf (Solo en Mexico).  The song is not an exact replica of the movie's bizarre premise, but it's still one of the greatest Horror Rock songs Roky Erickson never wrote.  "Alex Trebek " is an enthusiastic tribute to the recently deceased host of "Jeopardy," which was written while he was still alive. It answers the musical question with a question, "Who is Alex Trebek?" "Violet Crumble, Cherry Ripe" is the "Waiting For The Man" of Australian candies (which make an ass out of our own), Violet Crumble being a breakable chocolate toffee bar and Cherry Ripe a delectable gooey candy made from real cherries and coconut and coated in real chocolate, made with cream instead of milk. The song is delivered from the point of view of the understandable addict, dying for another taste. The album also contains two boss Instrumentals, "Swinging Planet X," in which Bo Diddley is fused with Joe Meek, and the rambling "Somerset Morning," which evokes Duane Eddy and The Shadows' guitar sounds, wrapped around the melodic harp sounds of frontman Peter Zaremba, who throughout this package plays some of his finest harmonica melodies since "Roman Gods," their debut album. Zaremba and Guitarista De Plata, Keith Streng, trade off strong R'n'B fueled vocals all through this full slab of Super Rock sounds, while drummer Bill Milhizer and bassist Ken Fox hold down the fort in their own inimitable way. ''Manpower Debut" and "The Show is Over" blaze at breakneck Punk Rock tempos, while a faithful reading of The Rolling Stones' Psychedelic B-Side "Child Of The Moon" is a pleasant, if temporary, diversion from all the raw rockin' fury presented here. Record prices have been soaring as of late, but The Fleshtones are quick to give you your money's worth, and they've sweetened the deal with not only purple "Spin art" vinyl, but a cardboard Hallowe'en werewolf mask that even comes with an elastic band for easy wear. Like X, The Fleshtones have NOT mellowed with age, but like fine wine, they still have plenty of kick, and Kicks are never hard to find.  


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Under The Grapefruit Tree: The CC Sabathia Story

 (HBO, 2020) I am not sure who pitched this to me, but despite not being next level documentary craftsmanship, I definitely dug the movie. I enjoyed/hated watching Sabathia pitch against the White Sox for two decades, and my fascination with him was not that he was a powerhouse pitcher, or that he was as big of belly as the Chicago fans in the stands, nor that he was one of the few star Black players from the U.S. in the league since baseball fell behind football, basketball and even soccer in  the eyes of America's youth. I just really liked how he cocked his hat slightly to the side on the mound, I had never seen that in MLB. Hat cocking is not covered here, but his youth (practicing pitching with his grandma's backyard grapefruits), family, and alcohol addiction is explored. Sabathia is the narrator and is steering his legacy here, but he's a credible voice, mainly because he is still married to his (beautiful) high school girlfriend, who acts as a bullshit check and also lends credence to his character-defining pledges of family loyalty (to his here-and-gone-and-here tragic father, to everyone back home in  Florida, and to his children). I was most impressed by the twin discipline/chaos of his version of functioning alcoholism, where he would walk off the mound directly to his Hennessy-stocked locker and drink for three days straight with no breaks before going cold turkey for the 48 hours preceding his start. The first day he showed up drunk for work was the day he put himself into rehab (even though it was about too be Game 1 of the playoffs). Actually, I was most impressed when recently retired CC cleaned out his Yankee Stadium "locker" (a millionaire's walk in closet-sized office) and it was just 500 pairs of new gym shoes and a painting of him as Yoda. He also dressed as Yoda in full greenface to hand out bobbleheads on Star Wars Day. Thusly, I was most disappointed to learn his post-career podcast, "R2C2," was just sports talk featuring CC paired with a guy who has the initials R.R., and not what I  hoped for:  Sabathia talking droids! These are not the podcasters I've been looking for.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Ditka's Beef Stick

 

(Devanco Foods, 2021) I have mixed feelings about Mike Ditka. I have no problem with his respectable retirement plan of selling his Da Bears legacy in the form of airport-adjacent restaurants, wine, and beef sticks. I am old enough to have watched the 1985 Bears in total awe, and still consider Ditka's star player, Walter Payton, the greatest (if not the Jordan-esque best) Chicago athlete of all time. I'm too young to really understand Ditka's playing career, but I take people's words for it that he was a bad ass. But I also take people's words that he had, as they say, some racist bones in his body. His right wing politics and bad political takes are certainly Trump-esque (fortunately he wisely has let beef sticks fund his golf leisure, avoiding politics as a career path). And his post-1986, gum hurling coaching career calls into question his gridiron I.Q. (I might have traded my entire draft for Ricky Williams as well, but I like potheads, sympathize with anxiety sufferers, am tickled by avid yoga freaks, and don't know shit about football). All that is to say that weighing the Ditka pros and cons results in one clear adjudication: sure, I'll buy this 99 cent beef stick. The real problem is that I could hardly taste any notable seasoning. Chicago is segregated, violence-plagued, extreme weather rich, has a history of political corruption, and is haunted by a dangerous police department infected with a living legacy of crippling criminality. But on the flip side, we genuinely respect good meat. Comparing the lowest grade Vienna Beef hot dog to a bland Dodger Dog or a mealy NYC hot dog cart offering is like comparing the finest Swiss milk chocolate to the dusty, flavorless corn-syrup atrocities five year olds exchange in Snoopy boxes on Valentines'. Now I realize meat sticks are not expected to rise to this level (and I further realize that Ditka is a far lesser Chicagoland meat stick-peddler than former Downer's Grove North High School baseball star Randy "Macho Man" Savage, and I further further realize [in 2021 now that Wikipedia exists but not so much for the last thirty years] that Macho Man's dad was former NWA Chicago Division wrestling champ Angelo Poffo and not former Cub Andy Pafko). Still, this beef stick was just not good enough...for a dollar. But I'm OK with it for 99 cents, and thus, remain Ditka agnostic. If I liked or disliked him more, or had more of Adam Sandler's sense of humor, I might be swayed/amused by the phallic folly of the phrase "Ditka's Beef Stick," but alas, I'm getting nothing from it. Da Bears!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

We Ate Wonder Bread by Nicole Hollander

 

(Fantagraphics, 2018) For many years Nicole Hollander was the most interesting thing on the funny pages. Her avatar Sylvia sunk into the tub, said or typed some funny-assed shit for her cats to hear, and generally (like her cats) didn't give a fuck. I always felt that was Hollander's attitude as well, because her inky, underground comix-meets Basquiat style clearly was going to make Beetle Bailey-saluting dowagers say "Oh my!" When I lived in Providence they had a Reader's Comics Poll every so often in the newspaper to decide which strips to drop, and Sylvia always lost, but the editors knew they couldn't lose one of the only comics by a woman and risk a scathing letter campaign by  Brown and RISD feminists (not to mention losing subscriptions of the massive Venn-diagram overlaps of newspaper hoarders/cat ladies). Released around the same time as Emil Ferris' "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters" and Carol Tyler's "Fab 4 Mania," this book completes a triptych of stunning autobiographical(-ish in Ferris' case) coming-og-agers by expressive women cartoonists about growing up in Mid-Century Chicago.  This hybrid text/comics memoir is not as narratively ambitious as the other two books, as Hollander reduces her Jewish upbringing (by a hustling dad, a mom not attuned to Nicole's artistry, and colorful neighbors) to a few briefly but vividly recollected anecdotes. But the gorgeous, expressive, color drawings here are wild, soulful, and viscerally impactful. This is some art, and it might not win a comics poll. But  when it comes to your poll, Hollander, who obviously cares very much about her work, her world, her family, her history and her artistry, doesn't give a fuck!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Steve Almaas "Everywhere You've Been"

(Lonesome Whippoorwill, 2021) Thematically/metaphorically/logically you can't really be Americana and Yacht Rock. If you are a rural salt-of-the-earther, you prolly ain't got a yacht. And no one at the Country Club is playing Country in that club. But damned if these rootsy folk/Western-influenced tunes ain't sailing near shore and competing in regattas thanks to the sweet, smooth vocals of this former Suicide Commando. And thank god that band broke up before hardcore hit and Steve didn't harm those magical pipes. Or shred those majestic sails. On that yacht.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Scotty McKay "Scotty McKay Rocks"

GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
(Bear Family, 2020) Dallas Rocker Scotty McKay is best known today for having served a stint with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps on piano and rhythm guitar, but he had a prolific recording career of his own, and this is the first comprehensive collection of his work. Things kick off in fourth gear with his first single, "Rollin' Dynamite,” which appeared on "Desperate Rock 'n' Roll" and was later covered by Kenny and the Kasuals, and the wild rockin' sounds don't let up.Though there's only three original tunes here, McKay covers his contemporaries (Elvis, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Frankie Ford) with style, flair and plenty of enthusiasm. His "Baby Let's Play House " had more slapback echo than Elvis' version, and his take on Chuck's "You Can't Catch Me" and Bo's "Who Do You Love" are real barn-burners. McKay's boss beltin' and cool croonin' are jet-propelled into overdrive by lead guitarist, Bobby Rambo (of Gene Rambo and the Flames and later the Five Americans). This 32 track collection features a bundle of singles and a half dozen wild acetates (standouts include his own "Bad Times" and ''Evenin' Time,” and his rocked up take on Julie London's "Cry Me a River" has to be heard to be believed) . Most of these tracks were recorded in the 50s, but Scotty did not slow down in the mid-sixties, cutting a killer version of Titus Turner/Little Willie John's "All Around the World (Grits Ain't Groceries),” which appeared in the schlock horror film, "Creature of Destruction,” as did the cool flipside, "Here Comes Batman,” which also appeared in "Creature,” but, sadly isn't included on on this CD. Both performances are on YouTube. Fresh off a tour with the Yardbirds, McKay cut a savage "Train Kept a-Rollin’” with Dallas garage band the Exotics (though it was long rumored that Jimmy Page played lead guitar). Scotty also did three songs in another 60s Horror film, "the Black Cat,” with Scotty and band all wearing eye patches (!), but, alas, those tracks don't appear here. Almost everything here is medium to breakneck tempo. It's the stuff, all tuff, no duff. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Superteam Family/Brave and Bold Lost Blogspot


(https://braveandboldlost.blogspot.com/) This is just insane...every day, for almost ten years, this dude has posted an imaginary archival team up cover featuring characters from different companies/universes that he creates by seamlessly overlapping images from existing covers...and then he does it again 3000+ more times! Every day he does this! I do not know how he cannot be more famous  and I do not know why this took me so long to discover and I can't imagine how he can find the time to never fall short of this dasily goal. I write a review a day but I don't take more than a three minutes writing any of them, I mainly do it as an exercise to get some writing in, but this dude creates a concept and executes it and takes time to make it look good and adds captions and makes it funny and has lore for his team ups where stories (which only exist on covers he made up!) continue in later numbered issues, and this is amazing and bananas! Good job Russ Pearsall...you are an Intenret superhero and may all your Team Ups be great!







Thursday, February 25, 2021

Ron Dante "Ron Dante's Funhouse"

GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
(Sunset Records, 2020) If anyone deserves a career retrospective it's Ron Dante, even if he had to produce it himself, which he did. Known primarily as the voice of The Archies, Dante also has many TV commercial jingles and solo recordings under his belt. Fittingly, this set kicks off with "Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies and "Tracy” by The Cuff Links, another manufactured studio group patterned around Dante's strong Pop vocals. Both songs made the Top 10 simultaneously in 1969, and I'm still not thoroughly convinced "Tracy” wasn't partly the inspiration for XTC's "Life Begins at The Hop." "Sally Ann” by The Cuff Links appears here, too, and it's good enough to convince me I need to pick up The Cuff Link's album next time I see it on the cheap. This two CD set also contains several songs by The Archies that appeared on TV, but never made it to vinyl, solo Dante recordings, and a half dozen of his commercial jingles (I could go for a half dozen more, I love this stuff.), the best being The Archies' breakfast drink, plus duets with Andy Kim, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys and Toni Wine (the female voice on Archies hits like "Jingle Jangles” and, of course, "Sugar Sugar”). The newer recordings are predictably more high tech sounding, especially the "2020 Euro Dance Mix” of "Sugar, Sugar," but they lose none of the Dante charm. Dante knows how to sell a song, he has a voice just made for television, but he was and is a pretty good looking guy, too. He gives "Happy Together” a rockin' overhaul, and the liner notes inform us he's now the lead singer for The Turtles (but, what happened to Flo and/or Eddie?). "Let me Bring You Up” and "Umbrella Man"(credited to Starbird) are fine examples of modern day Bubblegum Rock, and did you know Dante had a song in "the Little Mermaid"? Me either. The 1980 single, "God Bless Rock'n'Roll” would have been a welcome addition, but Ron is covering all the bases, here. Three songs by The Chan Clan, the house band for the early '70s cartoon show, The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan turn up here, and they're good (especially "Number One Son"), but they haven't got The Archies beat on a good day. There's also two Spider-Man songs not from the Ralph Bakshi Saturday morning cartoon show, The Electric Company's Spidey segments, or even the late '70s live action series. Dating from 1972, these songs might have been slated for use in a TV pilot that never came to be. In any case, "Theme From Spider-Man” is a kick, with it's Shaft-inspired wakka-takka-guitar, and lyrics boasting of Spider-Man's status as a sex machine with the ladies ("Shut your mouth” "I'm just talkin' about Spider-Man” "We can dig it”). Along with thirteen Archies songs, there's the opening and closing themes to Archie's Funhouse, the second of many Archie cartoon shows, which made me wonder why some of the other Archie show themes aren't included here. Surely, Dante sang at least some of them. There's seventeen (count 'em) Archies dance intros, as well. You see, on the original Archie Show the songs were preluded by brief instructions on how to do the new dance of the week. Most had Archie-themed names like "The Jughead," "The Betty,” and "The Veronica Walk,” and cool instrumental vamps behind the Dante-sung dance instructions. Kids would dance in front of the TV set, trying not to step in their bowls of cereal when the song came on. I don't think my brothers and I did, though. Unfortunately, the sound quality takes a serious dive on these tracks, like they were recorded off the TV with a handheld microphone, as do the commercial jingles, but that's my only complaint, and it's probable that the masters no longer exist. Overall, this collection is fun to have, though it probably won't make believers out of people who aren't already Archies fans. Then again, who can say? The packaging is cool, the first disc had a repro of the orange Calendar records (the Riverdale gang's alma mater) label and the second bears the artwork from an Archies cereal box record (for those too young to remember, they used to put cardboard records for acts like The Archies, The Monkees, and the Jackson 5ive on the back of cereal boxes). The cover art was done by latter day Archie artist Dan Parent, who's no Dan DeCarlo, but it's a nice touch. To cap it off, Ron Dante is donating a dollar from each sale to The Shriner's Hospital for Children, so everything's Archie!