Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hey, I Made A Tape!

A theme of sorts. But one that materialized after the fact. I was originally planning on making a tape of forgotten one-named angelheaded dripsters, hippies tripping light and fantastical over cosmic rob petrie divans and zealots beyond simple description. But it really just ended up being about horn sections and Beatlestrings and things. For the most part. I cheated in some spots cuz my sister-in-law kept asking me who I was making a tape for and when I kept saying –“nobody in particular”- she wouldn’t let it go. What do you mean, nobody? What are you making it for? It went on like that for a while. There was beer. I got a little distracted. Not that it wasn’t lovely to see her. It was. She is a fan of Western Massachusetts psy-trance dj nites, and she is the future. But the past, on this night, was my concern. And the hidden pockets of resistance to the back-to-the-land handwriting on the wall during the late-60’s and early 70’s. Those ill-fitting cowboy boots weren’t for everyone. And neither were the walls of mud and thud, or the boogierock floods that would sweep the land like a rain-soaked denim blanket of starlessness. Some were too delicate. Some had had enough and were retreating into worlds of birdsong approximation. Some refused to let the dream die. Some were as dumb as posts. They were, almost all of them, candle-holders who held on to the flame for too long. They wouldn’t let it go out and it ended up burning their tootsies. But mostly, they couldn’t write a hit song to save their lives and they floated away into the faceless world of mortals. So, anyway:

Side 1

Kyle – “Red, White, & Blue” – Beefy crooner does gloop-de-loops round the bombastic glop-pop maypole on his self-titled 1973 L.P. The horns? Bold and oh so brassy. His secret weapon? Session-master Hal Blaine on the drum kit. On this track, military flourishes abound. Someone – presumably all of us – has done the dirty to Kyle’s red, white, & blue woman and he ain’t having it. There is blood on his brow. The final percussive blast of fife & bugle will jolt you awake and possibly make you choke on your freedom fries. I was actually gonna tape one of Kyle’s lean ‘n’ tender ballads to his flesh & blood lay-dee, but opted instead for this vigorous and patriotic (and bizarro) love letter to lay-dee liberty.

Ritchie Francis – “Song Bird” – Ritchie heard the strings. Ritchie heard the horns. Ritchie heard the piano. Richie heard “Mother Nature’s Son” and said to himself: “Ah, that’s the ticket.” But I worry about his health. Him and his friends. Hollowed-out cheeks. Circles under their eyes. They are burning. That fuzz-bass break in the middle. Whose idea? I know one thing for sure, those autumnal strings married to springtime lyrics of growth and renewal pay dividends that even Ritchie and his stoner pals couldn’t have anticipated.

Tony Kosinec – “Summer/Spring” – The brass section, to Tony, is a clarion/wake-up call to his muse and his subway-derived musings on life, love, and the smoke-filled rooms he haunts. To choose the one song on his Processes album that highlights the use of distorted electric guitar as a sample of his multiple gifts is not to downplay the tricky sophisticated pop to be found on the rest of the album or to cast doubt on the work of Tony and his powerfully heavy friends Skip Prokop, Harvey Brooks, Ralph Cole, and Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles or their ability to captivate on less acidic fare. No, the song was chosen for the forward momentum that pushes Tony’s words along and for the ace percussion solo that snaps the song in two like so much dry timber.

Jimmy Campbell – “In My Room” – I don’t even know if Jimmy’s Half Baked album on Vertigo is rated, let alone under or over or sidewaysdownrated by Mojologically-inclined historians of post-mod squad baroque pop, and I don’t really know if there is anything I can do –singlehandedly- to remedy this situation, nor do I know whether I even feel up to the task. My new motto, when I’m in my cups, is: “Screw it. I’ve got a copy.” Let them eat Badfinger. Or Eric Carmen. Or Al Stewart for all I care. I dig and I dig until I can’t dig anymore. I climb thru windows. I get down on my knees. I go thru the mold and muck of forgotten cellars. I reach out and up. My hands -literally- bleeding to find a piece of that sweet soothing sound that my dreams are not only infested with, soaked in, trembling within, but that my very soul requires to make light of the fear-crazed eyes I have seen in the past. In hospital beds. On the streets. In the mirror. “In My Room” is great. And not to be confused with Fatty Sandbox’s pity party of the same name.

John Villemonte – “I Am The Moonlight” – John is or was a member of the religion of the light and sound of God, Eckankar. The leader or Mahanta or living ECK master of Eckankar is Harold Klemp. And he LOOKS like a Harold Klemp. Which is kinda cool. He really does look like he should be giving you detention for not paying attention in algebra class, and yet, he is a total master of ECK. And you don’t just become an Eck master overnight you know. You have to study your ECK off. Sorry. Back to John. Some people have one great book in them. Or one album. Or one great day where everything they do and everyone they touch is filled with the joy of timeless and deathless unselfconsciousness. A perfect day can never be premeditiated. It must breathe on its own. John Villemonte had one great song in him. It aches with belief and sunshine. It moans with contentment. You could die or be born to this song.

Joe McDonald – “Hold On It’s Coming (#2) – Woodstock hangovers were common. Law school? The farm? Where to go? What to do?...Yeah, but what if you are Joe “F-U-C-K” McDonald? The weight of a microbus is on your shoulders and piles of bodies are getting higher at home and abroad. You can hear that tension on Joe’s post-Fish album of originals for Vanguard. On the title track (And I chose the more ramshackle version of the song from the two versions that begin and end the record. The vocals are clearer and more desperate.), Joe sounds scared. And more than a little burnt-out. Woozy. (there are some truly beautiful and cracked dark-night-of-the-soul moments throughout the L.P.) More humble. He’s picking up Satan from the side of the road. Or maybe its God. In any case, he’s freakin’ Joe out and there is menace on the highway and in Joe’s car. Wars too long. Travelling too far. How did Joe follow this album up? Why, the very same year he put out an enraged concept album all about the horrors of war! Appropriately titled, War, War, War. It’ll eat you up no matter where you live.

Jeff Monn – “She Is There For Me” – Jeff leaves his fiery garage band The Third Bardo and creates a record that is STILL ahead of its time. He doesn’t actually leave the garage. He just makes the first garage rock album for acoustic guitar and full orchestra. And he is just too cool. Biker snarl cool that mixes with horns and strings in ways that an evil flower sniffer like Scott Walker would never have thought to combine them. Jeff also sounds uncannily like Johnny Thunders at times. Or, I guess that should be, Johnny Thunders often sounded uncannily like Jeff Monn. However you slice it, they both had a lazy feline allure that can make a dirty look from one of them feel like a compliment.

Keith – “Waiting To Be” – How troubadorable the Philly-born Keith was. He could amble and shuffle his way thru a breezy set of late-60’s pop rock gems like nobody’s business. And he’s really reaching on The Adventures Of…the album he made for RCA after leaving Mercury. Fat lot of good it did him, but I salute his efforts. Pre-RCA, when he was signed to Mercury, he had hits (Everyone loves the wonderful “98.6”, right?) and was the stuff of idolhood. He coulda just rode the pretty boy pop angle into the dirt and left the ambitious stuff to blowsier bellbottoms. But NO! This album has fab four-borne psych-pop nuggets like “Marstrand” and “Mr.Hyde”. Songs like “Elea-Elea” which sounds like a slow-speed chase between two sinking ships. It’s riveting even though it’s really just a drippy ballad at bottom. “Charley Cinders” is a perfect closer. Alternating between mournful folk tale and cutting guitar rave-up. And “Waiting To Be” is epic. Keith’s crack session band dirges mournfully behind his plaintive wails as strings rise from the sea to swell and fall like winter whitecaps as Keith’s falsetto rises and falls in greeting. A piano is played backwards. The drums insist on gravity. Whooooosh! What a ride. Keith had complete control over this album and it’s his finest moment. If you are me. Or the Japanese.

Terence – “An Eye For An Ear” – It’s almost painful for me to put Terence on a tape and not have the song be “Fool Amid The Traffic”, you know what I mean? I mean, you can see my predicament, right? Wait, what do you mean you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about? Fool has it all! The wail of that fuzz lead! If you ate that song you would not only be stronger, faster, and brighter, you would feel from your scalp to your fingertips to your toes a revelatory sense of permanence and rock-hard glow of solidity that could put Mount Everest to shame. But “An Eye For An Ear” need not step to the back for any song. It sings of itself mightily from the first blast of drums, horns (Ah, the horns. My trail of breadcrumbs has transformed itself into a trail of spit shaken from the valve of a horn. Those brass sections are reclaiming their place in the story of the rock and the roll. Their shrill bravado masking the fear that they will be forgotten…), and piercing six-string that prefectly accompany Terence’s blustery conviction that the world…the world is what, Terence?...That the world is…Going. Up. In. Flames.

Fargo – “Places Everyone” – More chamber-hippie-consort-concept finagling. These boys are not from Fargo. They are, however, Eleanor Rigby’s towheaded offspring. Not too saccharine, and when all is said and done, not too distinctive. But worthy of inclusion by virtue of their belief in the efficacy of rock miniatures carved out of clouds that resemble balloons shaped like clouds.

The Gentrys – “Stroll On” – This is one of those distractions. There isn’t a horn to be heard. And it is a flat-out rocker live and direct from fabled Sun Studios. The train keeps a rollin’, but not for long. About two minutes and change. But what a charge! I’ve been playing this Gentrys album for months now. Can’t get enough of it. And there are horns to be found on it too! I think their version of the Yardbird’s knock-off of the Johnny Burnette Trio’s “Train Kept A Rollin’” could fit anywhere, and it’s perch here on the end of side one is as good a place as any. Choo-choo-chooglin’!

Side 2

Mick Greenwood – “To The Farside” – Forgotten psych-folk ditty from a forgotten psych-folk album. Boy, I know how to sell them, don’t I? I oughta work for Amway. Well, what can I say? It’s pretty stuff. And Mick is backed up nicely by various Fairport/Fotheringay types. He’s fey. Almost Donovan fey at times. But not as whimsical. And not as gnomic or dippy as Donovan could be. And he likes jazziness more than Donovan. Give a listen, won’t you? I think you can even find this album, *Living Game*, on CD. He’s not as cute as Donovan though.

Jerry Corbitt – “Delight In Your Love” – Jerry is rough and tough. He is a hunter. A stringer of words and fish. He could be Jerry Reed’s surly, pot-smoking nephew. But every once in a while he lets his hair down and delights us with densely interwoven guitar tones that make us feel happy to be bugs lost in the brush of eternal sundown. And for that, we owe him a beer.

Charley D. And Milo – “Om Sweet Om” – If you mainline The Notorious Byrd Brothers into the vein marked “Precious Cargo” on a thrice-monthly basis cuz dirty feet and sun-kissed domes connect you to your fresh-faced id and remind you that the here is now and possibility is only another word for sofa, then you probably already own the Charley D. And Milo album. It’s next-level growth-chart stuff and reason enough to inhale/exhale your way thru jams traffic and romantic.

Brother Juniper – “The Answer” – Brother Juniper was a swinging and charismatic monk and would-be folk singer who wanted to speak the lingo freaka of the era, but who primarily existed so that teens with smoke fast escaping from their mouths could say: “Dude, what did he just say about the boob tube?” and then die laughing. A moment of levity, if you will indulge me. And he has a nice blissful stoned-on-jeebus tone as well.

Joe E. Covington’s Fat Fandango – “Your Heart Is My Heart” – The Jefferson Airplane had a LOT of friends. Loads of friends. Friends in every room. Friends hanging from the rafters! Friends here. Friends there. They were very friendly people. Reality D. Blipcrotch was their friend! He was just one of a thousand friends. And who do you call when you are in trouble deep? Papa John Creach! He was a friend. And Joe E. Covington. He was a very good friend. Soul Brother Number Zero they would have called him if they had thought of it. The boy could croon. He could rock ya. He could roll ya. And he was a very good friend.

Scott Fagan – “In My Head” – Think early Bowie with twice the amount of Newley-trademarked vocal tics. Ev-er-y syllable is as important as every other syllable. Kinda frightening, right? But the horns and the arrangement and Scott’s anal exactitude make it worth gasping at.

Harper & Rowe – “The Dweller” – Think the Rightous Brothers with a dash of We Five, Peppermint Trolley Co., and the original and still champeen Nirvana and you probably won’t get that good of an idea what Harper & Rowe sound like. All you really need to know is that when they first sang to me that they were the dwellers of caves and mountaintops, my immediate reaction was: “ Well, that sounds sorta strenuous. All that climbing from cave to mountaintop.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that a cave could, indeed, be located quite near the top of a mountain! I seemed to be under the delusion that all caves are holes in the ground. Weird, huh? The second time I heard them sing it, I thought: “Ahhhhh, Sandoz couldn’t package a greater little pick-me-up then this here number”. F.Y.I. Harper & Rowe’s self-titled L.P. has many gems to choose from. You could even pick one at random! It’s that strong. The Japanese could tell you this as well if you would only stop laughing at their revolutionary street fashions for five minutes and actually listen to them for once in your life.

Wichita Fall – “Hectivity” – Wichita Fall’s almost completely forgotten album Life Is But a Dream – Forgotten by everyone but me and my spiritual brothers and sisters on the island of Japan! Probably. It sounds like something they would worship. Like tuna. And Bix Beiderbecke. – is heavily orchestrated dreeeeeeem pop divided into four suites of music. Which makes for two pretty suite sides! Hahahahahahaha! Anyway, it starts in the morning and ends at night. Not that complicated a concept. And not even that novel by the time they did it. (See Shadow Morton’s Strange Night Voyage for one of my fave examples. It’s even better actually.) What makes rarepsychmonster shut-ins throw this album into the waste-bin that is their living room floor upon first listen is the almost total lack of guitar. Horns, strings, and vocal harmonies are dominant. Who needs a guitar when four trumpets and a piano will do the job with more oomph. Wichita Fall were a band, but the majority of their album is filled with the sounds of instruments that they, Wichita Fall, are not listed as playing. God bless their humility and Dallas Smith’s artful production. And God bless Shadow Morton. Wherever he is.

Jeremiah – “Hey Now Baby” – There is no Jeremiah. Okay, technically, there is a band called Jeremiah, but it’s really just a showcase for lead show-off David Brown and his maudlin brand of pop. When David’s band hit the studio they obviously weren’t cutting it, cuz listed under their names on the album is a whole other band playing piano, guitar, bass, and drums! Oops! Their faces must have been red. But, what the hey, they were only making a marginally interesting pop-rock record with two or three tracks worth hear hearing more than once. This is one of them. And even this song is possibly compromising the quality levels of the tape. I do like the strings though. By 1970, the hangover was becoming intolerable. The badly drawn cartoon illustration on the cover of Jeremiah’s album of a gypsy woman gazing into a crystal ball that has Jesus inside of it holding out a bible and flashing a peace sign makes this plain.

Magna Carta – “Give Me No Goodbye” – I was lying about Wichita Fall. Me, the Japanese, all of it. I’m so sorry. I mean, it’s okay, and worth at least three dollars in the used bin, but it definitely pales in comparison to a band like Magna Carta. Magna Carta ache. Magna Carta break. They are exquisite and fine. And they are recommended heartily to advanced scholars of twee and also devotees of gossamer webs of sound spun from beet sugar and caterpillar eyelash.

Morning Glory – “Jelly Gas Flame” – Another distraction. Some straightahead Cali sunpsych. Morning Glory were so sunny they even named their album Two Suns Worth. They were some sunnier-than-thou motherfuckers. The quivering and semi-flightless Byrds guitars on “Jelly Gas Flame” absolve all sins.

Harumi – “Hunters Of Heaven” - Perhaps not as strange as Kali Bahlu Takes The Forest Children On A Journey Of Cosmic Remembrance, but strange nonetheless. Plus, Harumi was Japanese! I don’t know how the Japanese feel about him, but he did write “Caravan”, one of the all-time greatest songs ever performed by the Rotary Connection. So, he is pretty easy to love. The stand-out tracks on his double-album debut would have to be the 24 minute “Twice Told Tales Of The Pomegranate Forest” and the 19 minute “Samurai Memories”. They are indeed a “freakout easternese” and reason enough to own Harumi’s album. But I’m partial to his wibbly wobbly chemical-soaked orchestral pop and studio experimentation (Ten tons of phasing coming your way, hippie!). Now if Harumi and Kali had gotten together to make a record…Wow! The war may have stopped on its axis.

Spreadeagle – The last distraction that couldn’t be avoided and here we are at the end.(Again, I couldn’t help myself. I had been listening to THIS album for months as well. I was beered up and ready to roll. The sadsacks had no chance.) And we are looking to the future. Spreadeagle had an early bead on what the 70’s will bring for those adventurous enough to seek out the fruits of 2nd gen Albert Hoffman wish-fulfillers. Folkish tidings. Art-rock wrapping paper. Extended locked groove noodle family picnics. It has been a long time since they did the twist in the White House. Do you mind if I finish off this roach?

Apologies To: Matthew Fisher, Tim Hollier, and a host of others who wouldn’t fit. Maybe next time, gang! (And Matthew’s “I’ll Be There” would have been a perfect closer, but if it had been perfect, I would have offended the devil.)

F.Y.I. – Japan was formed by subduction resulting in volcanic activity and the opening of the Japan Sea. It is composed of four (Or five) island arcs formed by volcanic activity where the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Plate subduct the eastern border of the Eurasian Plate. But, Japan was originally a part of the Asian continental mainland and was seperated off from it with the opening of the Japan Sea about 15 million years ago.


Blogger steven edward streight said...

I loved The Adventures of Keith when I was a teenager. "Charley Cinders", "Mr. Hyde", "Marstrand" all the songs seemed so otherworldly, mysterious, strange.

I'd love to find that album again. That and "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake and "S.F. Sorrow" by the Pretty Things were major soundtracks to my life back then.

Thanks for the memories. Glad someone else saw The Adventures of Keith as pure genius.

11:09 PM  

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