Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nervebreakers "Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls" b/w "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys”

(Get Hip) Guest Review by John Battles) This, the third in a complete set of reissues of the Nervebreakers' three original singles, finds a band on the brink of implosion, with a drastically altered lineup but, still as wild as a tomcat with three balls. In 1981 I was living in Arlingfun, Texas. My brother, Tom was being considered as 2nd guitarist in what would turn out to be the top punk band in Dallas' last lineup (until the classic Nervebreakers five-piece regrouped, in earnest , just a few years ago, after the odd reunion gig in The 90s). He played this record for me, and I was quite impressed. I hadn’t been into Punk Rock for that long, about a year, but I knew piss and vinegar when it hit me in the face. My Brother didn’t end up joining the group, though he did play guitar, later, with 'Breakers vocalist T. Tex Edwards, in The Swingin' Cornflake Killers. The band managed to tour New York and the West Coast around this time, but the end was nigh. "Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls" kicks off with a raw ramp of a riff, similar to the one that closed out "Capital Radio" by The Clash (two years earlier, The Nervebreakers opened for The Clash in Dallas, and, reportedly, blew them off the stage). From there, it's unbridled teenage lust in a horny, hormonal horror show. DJ George Gimarc accurately drew comparisons with The Troggs, a major influence on the band. Naturally, still being a teenager myself, I thought Edwards was saying "I just can't FUCK myself!" ("Stop myself") and "Leather! Leather! Oh! Oh!" ("Let Me! Let Me! Oh! Oh!"). But the message is clear, without resorting to words like doo doo caca poopoo.  It's remarkable that it took so long for someone to do a rocked-up take of The Stones' obscurity, "I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys", rescued from the abyss by the "Metamorphosis" album (which some people find abysmal.  I, for one, disagree.). Even Johnny Thunders (whom The Nervebreakers met around this time in New York. No, they just had a drink at Max's) did a pretty sedate reading of a song that begged for some fire and fury in the mix.  This version plays the anger and misogyny angle for all it's worth, with basically none of the implied homoerotic tendencies of the original. The band emerges confident and aggressive in what would be it's last ditch coup attempt. But, it wasn’t over. Still isn’t. Five years later, an offshoot band, Same Old Bastards, featuring T. Tex Edwards and guitarist/vocalist, Barry Kooda, was coerced into billing themselves as a Nervebreakers reunion when they opened for Johnny Thunders, who reportedly wasn’t seen doing any street drugs, but asked if there was a store where he could buy some pot. In the 90s they played two songs at The Buddy Magazine Music Award Show, and a full set at The Bronco Bowl, which, with mild irony, The Clash rechristened as a rock venue (after a long dormant spell) in 1982. The more recently-reformed Nervebreakers have gigged sporadically in Dallas and Austin, including a SXSW show at Antone's Records and headlining at the Second Hot Klub Reunion. An album of newly recorded material, "Face Up To Reality" has been awaiting release for a few years. SOMEBODY pick this up. 

Fever Tree "Live 1969"

(Sundazed) (Guest Review by John Battles) Fever Tree is so closely associated with their one hit (which only reached #91 on the charts) "San Francisco Girls (Return of The Native)", that many people think the Houston-based group was actually from Frisco. Even musical encyclopedia Peter Zaremba, from The Fleshtones, once introduced a live version of the song as "San Francisco Girls .....By the Fever Tree, from San Francisco...." But, The Fever Tree never even PLAYED in San Francisco (Bill Graham, perhaps, thought them too "Teenybopper" or something?) though they did make quite a name for themselves on the Sunset Strip. While their dalliances with Classical music in a commercial Psychedelic vein might seem dated today, this, the last performance with original singer, Dennis Keller, is largely a rock album. It was 1969, Psychedelia was going the way of hard rock. The band manages to straddle the line between the two on their only known live recording (which gets a pretty solid 8 out of 10, soundwise). Keller's vocals, considerably more macho and shredded than on their best known recordings, are complemented by the fuzz, wah - wah, sustain and overall crunch of the late Michael Kunst on lead and rhythm guitar. It's not too far removed from the emerging sounds of fellow Texans The Bubble Puppy, or even Iron Butterfly or Steppenwolf. Even the longer songs are tastefully rendered, but, if you're not already a fan, this album may not change your opinion. Like the recent Human Beinz "Live in Japan " set, or the Sundazed live Moby Grape collection, this is a rarity that's become an accessibility. The show was recorded at Mt. Carmel High School in Houston. Can you imagine that?!! But, a lot of established bands played gigs like this for gas, grass or ass money in those days. In Arlington, Texas, where I went to high school, the only bands that played at my alma mater (Looking forward to missing my 30th Reunion) did Journey or Kenny Rogers covers. Their foot-in-ass rendering of Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine and One Half (Won't Do)” (Already an asskicker on it's own, but, it's not too P.C. to like aggressive, hard-hittin' Soul, these days) and a tuff sendup of Donovan's "Hey, Gyp," are standouts in a set that's free of any bum tracks, with "San Francisco Girls" being the real show-stopper, and, for Dennis Keller, it was the song that stopped the show....until a few years ago, anyway, when he put together a new version of the group (the less said about the Fern Bar Jazz Rock late 70s Fever Tree, the better. If you see their live CD, take a pass, and get this, instead) calling it Fever Tree Rising. He's backed by younger, less seasoned musicians, but they seem to know their way around the songs, as does he. I'm not sure if they're still playing, but You Tube springs eternal.    

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Bee Gees "In Our Own Time" DVD

(Eagle Rock)  Guest review by Gary Pig Gold
We recently marked the Fiftieth (!!) Anniversary of the Bee Gees’ career as fully professional all-singing, all-playing musicians, songwriters, and performers.
This coming January 12 marks nine years since self-styled “man in the middle” Maurice Gibb’s tragic passing. And in this here year of 2011, remaining Gibbs Barry and Robin are actually threatening to continue recording, and perhaps even tour the globe, beneath the hitherto-mighty Bee Gee moniker.
This is a proposition I frankly find quite incomprehensible to fathom, let alone purchase three-figure tickets to witness in person. Though with Messrs. Pete and Roger insisting on conducting business both on stage and off as [sic?] “The Who,” I do suppose anything is possible (if not exactly practical and/or ethical).
Nevertheless, I’m far happier to report that 2011 also sees the appearance of a grand new five-decade-plus DVD retrospective on Barry, Robin, Maurice and even Andy Gibb entitled In Our Own Time. And from its very opening ultra-decibel, fire ‘n’ flashpot-festooned montage of “You Should Be Dancing” footage spanning ’76 clear through ’96 – which then cleverly cuts far back to a ’56-vintage Elvis and his similarly dance-crazed “Blue Suede Shoes” – it’s clear this is going to be one of those far too rare roc doc’s which actually has a wise and sharpened sense of socio-historical pop perspective. I mean, who was Tony Manero after all than simply Vince Everett in polyester white as opposed to jailhouse black?
Our ride duly launches out of post-war Manchester, England as Barry, Robin and (via interview footage culled from David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s equally
adept This Is Where I Came In documentary) Maurice describe years spent as pre-teen Everly wannabe’s who eventually emigrate all the way to Australia, where they form a singing act to perform for spare change at a local race car track. But such is this young trio’s charm and already obvious talent that they soon blossom into bonafide Down-Under Beatles:  the televised performance herein of a circa-’64 Bee Gee “Please Please Me” alone makes In Our Own Time nothing short of Required Viewing. Yet the fully airborne promotional footage we’re treated to next for their first Number One hit, 1966’s still-buoyant “Spicks and Specks,” displays a far more Monkee as opposed to Beatle-like mastery of the lip-sync’d absurd.
Returning to their homeland and soon after magically hooking up with none other than Fab sub-manager Robert Stigwood, a recording contract and string of (self-written and purposefully “melodramatic,” it is revealed) classics appear in typically Sixties warp-speed. Colourful “New York Mining Disaster,” “I Can’t See Nobody,” “To Love Somebody,” “Massachusetts,” “Idea” and “Words” clips follow, and even a glancing view towards each should erase all doubts that The Bee Gees were one of that genius-packed decade’s surely most accomplished by far. Case closed.
Caution: What shoots way, way up must of course fall down. So as Sixties become Seventies our heroes found themselves struggling beneath the weight of red velvet-ensconced rock operas, mutinous solo projects, meddling better halves and even their very own ill-fated television spectacular, Cucumber Castle (which may indeed be much more fun than Magical Mystery Tour, though it’s certainly no Monkees’ Head). Once the audio-visual wreckage cleared however, the brothers found themselves chastened enough to not only fully reform, but come up with two unashamedly allegorical gems, “Lonely Days” and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” which appeared to all concerned to be their career swansongs.
But! We’re less than half-way through our show! And so what exactly did spare The Bee Gees at this critical point from a fate worse than Oldie Goldie residencies near Clacton-on-Sea?
Two words: Arif Mardin.
Luring them to the decidedly more sympathetic climes of Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios, then cleverly steering the brothers towards their previously unexplored r’n’b leanings (via Barry’s falsetto most pointedly), the result was a slow but steady climb both back onto their feet and then extremely high back up the international sales charts. No further explanation is really needed by me here: At least 100 million of you out there bought the ensuing records.
The backlash, of course, was instant and fierce. “Bee Gee-Free Weekends” on radio stations the world over. “Bee Gee Bonfires” of Saturday Night Fever soundtracks in Chicago baseball stadiums.
“The enigma with a stigma,” as Barry still brands The Bee Gees to this very day.
And I’m sure he doesn’t just mean the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie either.
Yet for anyone who tuned away from the tale right about here, In Our Own Time continues on through subsequent years of Gibbs stubbornly continuing to craft monster hits …only for other singers (Streisand, Celine, The Divine Miss Ross and Kenny and Dolly, for example:  why, there’s an additional twenty-or-so million in sales right there). Unfortunately, this otherwise platinum period also saw the loss of a severely over-self-medicated Andy Gibb, and the frightful near-exit of a similarly lost “Brother Mo” to boot. Most thankfully indeed though, Maurice eventually bounced completely back to help create what, tragically, would be his final Bee Gee masterpiece, “This Is Where I Came In,” before death on January 12, 2003.
Well, the story perhaps does not end there. One hour and fifty-one minutes into Our Own Time finds a stoic Barry insisting, and I quote, “The legacy of the Bee Gees MUST go on, one way or the other.” Cut to contemporary footage of he and faithful brother Robin, recently reunited before twin microphones in some faux-recording studio setting, crooning “To Love Somebody” and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”
Fade to black. One can only hope.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Acid Witch "Stoned"

( There is nothing as awesome as whimsical Satanism -- which is not to imply that this brutal Detroit stoner metal (with Death-Metal-on-Sedatives tendencies) duo is a joke or a novelty act -- they are the real deal! It's just that songs like "Witchfinder Finder," "Trick or Treat," and "Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown" are just too damn joyful to be genuinely scary (even if those songs do include, respectively, rape, child murder, and listening to Fastway). I'm also feeling a contact high due to this amazing record featuring not only the greatest exorcism-themed cover painting ever, and an amazing band photo (of the dudes lighting up with the Acid Witch herself in their dungeon full of Walgreen's Halloween decorations, Eerie comix, vintage metal vinyl, and a VHS copy of Rocktober Blood), but also an actual die-cut, luridly colored Halloween decoration of the Acid Witch taking bong hits! It is hanging in my window right now, making false promises to jonesing teen trick or treaters. Did I fail to mention the music? Slow, evil metal incantations that never sounds like a Sabbath ripoff or those countless Man's Ruin stoner 10" records that you never take out of the sleeve after the first spin. This is fun, weird, heavy, spooky black magic! I declare it Treat!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eli Cook "Ace, Jack & King"

( Damn, whatever Eli's cooking sure tastes bluesy in here! Swampy, dark, moody blues (which doesn't sound like Moody Blues) that manages to make a reasonable, impressive, musical connection between Skip James and Nick Drake. On his next album maybe he'll cover Skip Stephenson and Drake

The Wax Museums "Zoo Full of Ramones - The Singles 2006-2008"

(Tic Tac Totally) I love wax museums. I don't mean this  band, I mean I love actual wax museums, like the little shoddy ones off the highway saluting cowboy heroes or local history, or the ones on tourist wharfs or near Niagra Falls with Halls of Horror featuring monsters and torture (and sometimes KISS statues), or Halls of Living Art, with statues of the Last Supper or Norman Rckwell painting a self-portrait, or the amazing Blacks in Wax museum in Baltimore with its gruesome recreations of lynchings and injustice, or even the mega-big Madame Toussand ones. I just love weird, bad looking, take-a-picture-with-it portraiture. I also happen to love the Wax Museums for different, but not so different reasons. Basically, they create the sonic equivalent of a seductively off-kilter, slightly melting, weird wax portrait of 70s trash punk. This amazing comp of singles and unreleased tracks actually has me fantasizing about just such  a museum, where wax figures of Crime pull switchblades on shoddily-attired Dead Boys statues, while a Johnny Thunders figure perpetually teeters. Wax on!

Danzig Legacy (Congress Theater, Chicago, 10-7-2011)

(Guest Review by Jake Austen) When I left Yom Kippur services Friday night and headed out to see Danzig perform, the surprising number of empty seats in the synagogue made me wonder how attendance would be at the Congress Theater. On Glenn Danzig’s last visit, the crowd was sparse, causing the moody crooner to respond with an average performance. Seeing lines snaking down Milwaukee Avenue (perhaps that’s where the would-be worshippers went) put my fears to rest. Of course, this Riot Fest show was no regular Danzig concert, it was the kick off of the four city “Legacy” tour, the High Holy Days of horror rock! After years of denying or dabbling in his back catalogue, the Jersey devil was finally devoting a tour to the material he recorded not only with the band Danzig but also with Samhain and his revered hardcore unit the Misfits, a band whose music he all but rejected after bassist Jerry Only legally wrangled the name away and revived a version the band in the 90s.
            The show opened with a 40-minute set of Danzig songs, only dabbling in his excellent recent Death Red Sabaoth album. The sound at the Congress was predictably muddy, and with the pummeling metal riffs and Glenn’s imperfect voice (it loosened up into an impressive wail as the night proceeded) this was not a musically magnificent night. But Danzig himself, drawing from the adoring mass of fans, was an impressive rock soldier, enthusiastically going to stage war. He punched the air, threw up two-fisted devil horns, and anointed the crowd with half-empty water bottles fresh off his unholy lips as he ominously patrolled and controlled the stage.
            When the band exited the stage the massive Danzig logo backdrop hit the floor and like a pirate ship’s ominous Jolly Roger flag, a new canvas arose bearing Satanic flames declaring the start of a 25-minute Samhain set. Taking the stage bare-chested in a leather bondage mask with chrome devil horns, Danzig enthusiastically attacked his old material. And though he seemed particularly irritable (the vocal monitor, inefficient roadies, the lack of air conditioning, and difficult-to-sing old songs all earned onstage gripes), Danzing deftly transformed negative energy into rock fuel. The peak of his ire occurred after he sang the Misfits-turned Samhain-classic “Horror Biz." He followed the lyric “I’ll stick a knife right in you,” with demands that someone hand him a real knife ("I need a knife, something you stab somebody with. Anybody got a knife?"), and after a reluctant roadie was promised that Danzig would not stab him, the blade was handed over, then utilized for some Teamster-esque stage maintenance.
            When the Samhain banner was supplanted by the Misfits’ Crimson Ghost image the cheers were thunderous and the spontaneous pit that exploded was the biggest one I’ve ever seen. The Misfits’ 1980s (and Glenn-free 1990s revival) guitarist Doyle took the stage, and while I will never complain about a giant with corpse paint, a devil lock, and gay porn muscles playing buzzsaw punk rock guitar, the fact that Doyle played in addition to the Danzig guitarist rather than instead of him meant the sound was muddier instead of sparer and punkier. Couple that with Glenn’s voice not having the timbre of his younger days, and the songs really didn’t sound much like the Misfits. Which didn’t matter at all! The mass of Misfits-tattooed humanity was almost orgasmic hearing Glenn present these sacred songs. He did not have to coax the crowd to chant every “whoa whoa” and sing every lyric; he couldn’t have stopped them. The tremendous energy in the room made it clear that the power of the Misfits transcended any sonic realities. The 22-minute set (which is actually quite a few 90-second songs) featured such classics as “Vampira,” “I Turned Into A Martian,” and the Kennedy-assassination ode “Bullet” (preceded by Glenn’s anecdote about being banned from Texas for composing the tune). As the band closed with “Last Caress” Glenn found his inner –werewolf, and successfully howled the lyrics in his trademark croon. When the Misfits banner descended some members of the crowd actually booed, before going into a chant of “138! 138! 138!” That he had skipped the anthem “We Are 138,” and the even more anthemic “Where Eagles Dare,” gave hope that perhaps a lengthy Misfits-tune encore was pending, but alas, a fifteen minute Danzig set, culminating in a powerfully-sung “Mother,” followed by a lone Misfits tune ("Skulls") ended the night.
            As a  satisfied, exhausted crowd hit the streets, each was handed a sad flyer for the “official” Misfits band’s next area show, an all-day affair in Joliet at some place called Mojoe’s, with a dozen obscure bands opening, including Stop Drop Rewind, Whiskey Business, and Bitchfit.
            Glenn wins.
            Hand him a knife.

Robin Gibb In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra

(Eagle Vision)  (Guest Review by Gregg Turkington) In the aftermath of the (likely permanent) Bee Gees hiatus brought on by the death of the great Maurice Gibb, relations between Barry and Robin have reportedly been a little strained. Robin’s dirty little secret—either to avoid the wrath of Barry, or to avoid the wrath of discerning critics—has been a series of “stealth” solo concerts in which he brings the hits of the Bee Gees to places like Germany, Denmark, and Malaysia, ignoring key markets such as the USA and UK entirely. American and British fans of Robin’s mind-blowing solo album Robin’s Reign and the Bee Gees in general were left wondering what exactly these shows were all about, with each posting of more remote tour dates only confirming hunches that they would remain elusive. The worldwide release of a pair of live DVDs from this series of shows has answered our questions, and not in a good way. The first one, Robin Gibb with the Frankfurt Neue Philharmonic Orchestra, presented Robin uncomfortably leading a large group of competent musicians through a set-list that concentrated on Bee Gees songs on which he was not the lead vocalist. Thus, Barry’s trademark falsetto leads on hits like “Stayin’ Alive”  and “Night Fever” were missing, replaced with Robin calmly singing lead in a completely different style. While an alternate lead vocal by Robin might have been interesting in the studio at the time these classic songs were originally recorded, it proves far less interesting when he’s nervously singing to new, updated (i.e., not good) arrangements. If your idea of a good time would be watching Paul McCartney sing “Imagine,” this scenario will be right up your alley.  The second DVD to come out of this peculiar situation is 2011’s Robin Gibb In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra, and it in no way rights the wrongs of the first one. While the set list is mostly different, and the concert takes place outdoors during the day, instead of indoors at night, otherwise we’re stuck with the same troublesome product. Both DVDs feature generic “televised concert” style direction, with sweeping cranes and too many banal close-ups of French horn players and grey-haired concertgoers. To further remove any potential luster, the disc's editor was careless about avoiding the scenes where Robin is clearly reading lyrics from his teleprompter on the stage floor. The breezy, bland arrangements take the punch out of the songs, and while Robin’s voice is still intact (as evidenced on “I Started A Joke” and “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You,” songs in which he was the original lead vocalist), his judgment is not (as evidenced by opening the show with “More Than A Woman”, a Barry-centric song in which Robin’s far less dynamic lead vocal proves painfully deficient.) Backed by a hacky band and a local pick-up orchestra, and with a trio of generic European female session singers inadequately replicating the magic of the Gibb vocal blend, Robin looks like the loneliest man in the world as he goes through the motions on the big festival stage. All complaints about this “no thrills” home-viewing experience aside, if the Robin Gibb concert experience were to venture into these United States, would I buy a ticket? You bet I would. Front row! Desperate.