Sunday, October 30, 2005

In the end, it comes down to lack of time. I didn't want this blog to degenerate into a catalog of my likes and dislikes, but I haven't had the time to spend on researching, returning emails, shopping, writing, etc. And it's not going to get any easier, so I'm pulling the plug. Two years is a pretty good run.

Newsworthy items that I won't be writing about: The Orchids are back in the studio working on new material (and their reissues are selling like hotcakes over at Parasol). The band's website is here. I'm advised that Farewell Aldebaran is getting reissued in the UK in November.

Mysteries not solved/pieces not written: I never did find out anything about Mass Tango. Even though they offered to help, I didn't have time to do a piece on the 2nd Rat At Rat R album. I didn't have time to do a full piece on Linda Smith (someone else really needs to do that, especially with regards to her 3rd and 4th tapes which are mostly unavailable). Didn't have time to write about the Sunny Sunday Smile compilation (sorry Mike, and thanks for helping with that). Never wrote the bit on The Technical Jed (in addition to their pretty-good albums proper, I wanted to post their split single that includes Kurt Heasley's first co-writes, on two tracks by Twitch Hazel...mostly of historical interest). Never tracked down the Christmas demos that I've heard exist. Never managed to interview Steve Groves. Never did a comprehensive piece on Mofungo/The Scene Is Now. Even though I went through all kinds of trouble to get a copy of The Beats (nee Upbeats) CD, I won't be doing a final bit on them (some Pete Buck fan can do the honors) so you'll be spared my complaints about the omission of Jello Party Mania from that. The list goes on and on.

And I never did manage to find out anything about Alison Farthing, who wrote the book that gave this blog its name. I wonder whatever happened to her.

Thanks to Matthew Perpetua for (mostly) inventing the mp3 blog format, and for helping me get started way back when. Thanks to all the musicians who took the time to answer my questions, send mp3s, etc. (and I'll single out Rick Brown who went well beyond the call of duty). Thanks to everyone who's read and/or commented. Special thanks to the members of The Wayfarers (my first big "scoop") for being so damn nice and helpful, and I hope your album gets reissued someday.

I'll continue to respond to comments and emails, as time permits. I assume that, until he gets his act together, I'll remain the go-to guy for Hilly Michaels fans desperately seeking Calling All Girls.

It's been much more fun than I ever would have expected.

Time by Paul Williams
Have We Time by The Wayfarers
Confidence by Linda Smith
Jello Party Mania by The Upbeats
Side 1 of ??? by ??? (someone else gets to do this band...if you've always thought that early Royal Trux doing The Fall was a good idea, here you go)

I guess I'll have to update this final post from time to time, due to compelling circumstances. For example, Leslie Medford of The Ophelias just posted a comment, complete w/email address, in which he invites correpondence. Send him your questions.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Still working on a final wrap-up. I'll probably get to that on Sunday.

Meanwhile, did I mention that my sister has an album out? I guess I should do that. Her website is here, and includes a link to CDBaby where you can buy the CD.

My favorite track (mainly because it skews closest to my taste) is the bouncy 4 Seconds of Silence, which rarely fails to put me in a good mood. Backing vocals (the "ooh-ooh-oohs") remind me of some Jonathan Richman song or other, and the vibe is actually as sunny as Richman's best. But, um, she doesn't sound anything like him. I just want to be clear on that point. I haven't had a chance to check the CDBaby streams, but by all means give the track Symmetry a listen too, assuming that the sound/length is good enough to get a sense of it.

There's also a fairly radical reworking of Somewhere Over The Rainbow that does some interesting things with the song.

4 Seconds Of Silence by Nora Paoli

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sigh. I should have known better, given this blog's history with comments.

So I'm picking the Men Without Hats show, and I pick........Montreal.

Because it's the only one I have that includes anything from Pop Goes The World. I'm not kidding, by the way. Pop Goes The World is an utter classic and you're seriously missing out if you don't have it. I'm not being cute.

The show also has possibly the best sound, and my favorite (live) version of I Like which is possibly my favorite track off of Rhythm Of Youth. Also, the version of Editions Of You is especially good. Freeways too.

I should add that I'm somewhat dying to hear a concert with more PGTW material. If anyone wants to help me out with that, you'll have my serious thanks.

Men Without Hats Live at the Montreal Spectrum in 1985:

I Know Their Name
Moderne Dancing
I Sing Last
Jenny Wore Black
Ban The Game
I Like
Editions of You
The Safety Dance
I Got The Message
Where Do The Boys Go

Hi, I'd like to tell a story about something that happened to me. I was sitting at home just the other day, watching some tv, when there was a knock on my door, and I went to the door to see who it was, and it was a woman with no eyes, and she had a stack full of comic books...

Oh, that's another story.

Hi, I'd like to tell a story about something that happened to me. I was on Soulseek, trying to download something or other, when someone who had apparently been scanning my files sent me a message and asked if I was interested in some rare Men Without Hats tracks, and I (being a late-to-the-party huge Men Without Hats fan, stop your snarky laughter ignorant one) said yes, please, and they proceeded to hook me up with four live shows, a rehearsal tape from 1983, demos from 1980, and the Freeways EP.

It was somewhat stunning.

I don't have time to get into it, but I've grown more and more firm on the point that Men Without Hats are a seriously important band. I loved the whole damn Rhythm Of Youth album back when it came out, but didn't really grasp the group's true greatness till years later. I'm pretty convinced at this point that Pop Goes The World is one of the great concept albums of our time (though what exactly the concept is, I'm still not sure).

I'm aware that MWH have an unusually devoted fanbase, so I doubt that anything I'm posting will be new to them. I thought I'd offer the rest of you a chance to vote on what to hear. I have the following (tracklistings don't vary much, sound is uniformly excellent):

Montreal Spectrum 1985
Edmonton 1984
Toronto 1983
Washington 1984

Thursday evening I'll post the show that gets the most (or any, as the case may be) requests.

In the meantime, here's a rehearsal version of Roxy Music's Editions Of You. And a few tracks that I've been obsessively listening to from The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century:

Hey Men by Men Without Hats (kind of their T Rex song)
Everybody's Selling Something (kind of their Mott The Hoople Song)
I'm In Love (I don't know, you tell me, but I loves it)

If you ask me, Allmusic seriously underrates this album.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The TV Sounds Worried, Part 2

See yesterday's post for details.

Astronaut by This Living Hand
Flood by This Living Hand
December by This Living Hand
Drugstore by This Living Hand
Marshmallow Girl by This Living Hand
Nothing by This Living Hand
Wimp by This Living Hand

Monday, October 24, 2005


The TV Sounds Worried

I'm kind of trying to decide which loose ends to try to deal with during this final week. There's a lot that I, sadly, won't get to.

I recently received a comment regarding my old post that mentioned This Living Hand. It read:

It's hard to believe that one of the few mentions in existence of this album "The TV Sounds Worried" calls it good, but not a classic. For years I've only had a dubbed over many times cassette copy and still I can't stop listening to it. I suggest listening to this album again. The lyrics alone are so specific and haunting in a way that few others (maybe Gillian Welch or Red House Painters) have ever affected me. I appreciated the link to the article rightly calling "The TV Sounds Worried" a lost classic.

I popped the CD on yesterday for the first time in a while, after a run in Prospect Park, and kind of enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I also realized that people who 1. like Neilson's voice more than I do (he sounds vaguely like Michael Stipe) and 2. like slowcore more than I do (Low, Codeine, etc.) might really flip over it.

[For those of you who aren't familiar with The TV Sounds Worried, it's an unreleased album by a group called This Living Hand that included Garrison Starr and Neilson Hubbard, both of whom recorded under their own names later. Promo copies on CD exist, and Parasol unearthed a box of them some years back and sold them cheap, right when I happened to be on the lookout for it. Lucky timing.]

I agree with the commenter that it is sad that one of the only online mentions of this album is my kind of half-hearted dismissal (though the Trouser Press review, originally appearing in Badaboom Gramophone, is a rave). Seems reasonable at this point to post the whole thing. First half today, second half tomorrow, time permitting.

Where You Are by This Living Hand
Copilot by This Living Hand
Greaser by This Living Hand
Baby Doll by This Living Hand
Basket Case by This Living Hand
Sideshow by This Living Hand

Friday, October 21, 2005


Liz Phair week ends. Taking stock.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this special feature on Liz Phair as much as I've enjoyed putting it together. She's a special woman, with many years of great music ahead of her, and it seemed important to set the record straight after some of the unfair press that she's received along the way. It's all so ridiculous, and I probably shouldn't feel the need to address such stupidity. I mean, do you realize that people were accusing her of being a "sell out" back in 2003 when at that very time she made sure to wear a CBGB t-shirt in her publicity photos just to show how much respect she had for rock traditions and passionate songwriting. (In case you don't know, CBGB was the club where punk rock -- stuff like Green Day for example -- was invented. Wearing a CBGB shirt pretty much shows that you know your rock history and that you're not just a pretty face with a record contract.) Anyway, that's the kind of ignorance that she's had to overcome.

I haven't mentioned her new album, Somebody's Miracle, yet, mostly because I don't want to ruin any of its surprises for you. But you can take my word that if you loved Liz Phair, you'll love this one even more. Just as an example, the record review site Pitchfork has given it two whole points more than they gave Liz Phair, which ought to tell you something right there.

On Somebody's Miracle, Liz sings:

You can count on my love
An umbrella when it's raining
When you feel your hope is fading
You can count on my love
With me you'll feel protected
And you'll never be rejected
You can count on my love

This is the sort of thing that Liz Phair could never have written years ago when she was young and immature. It's straight to the point, simple, and beautiful. You can imagine Jesus saying something like this back when he was alive (although I guess they probably didn't have umbrellas back then).

Liz will be singing God Bless America at the World Series on Saturday night this week, in her hometown of Chicago. I don't know about you, but I can't think of anyone else more suited to sing a song composed by one of America's greatest songwriters of the past, Irving Berlin, than Liz Phair. And when she gets to the line, "Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer," I know that I'll be thinking, "Let us all be grateful for a land so Phair!!"

Thanks for reading.

I Know What Boys Like by The Waitresses

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Liz Phair Week continues...


When Liz Phair decided to record her breakthrough album Liz Phair, she knew she was taking a big risk. From Fleetwood Mac to Pink Floyd to Genesis, the history of Rock and Roll is littered with bands who lost everything after trying out a more accessible sound. Often, you see, the people who initially like a band or singer are kind of strange and don't enjoy catchy melodies or decent production or lyrics that normal people can understand. These people are mostly concerned with "being the first" to be fans of a new group, and they don't really care what the music sounds like. When the band or singer finally learns how to make good records, it seems to annoy this early group of admirers (probably because they don't want to share their "discovery" with other people), and though they're few in number they wield an incredible amount of power over what songs get played on the radio, much as the liberal press has a disproportionate influence on the news we read. Suffice it to say that Liz Phair risked losing her career as a singer, and she knew it!

But, in her heart, she knew that she had a message to deliver and that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life singing to tall pimply boys in college who couldn't get dates, who only enjoyed poorly recorded music, and who thought that Liz Phair's lyrics meant that she wanted to sleep with them. Liz wanted to empower women, and so she forged ahead.

The only other artist I can think of who really succeeded in a similar way is Brian Wilson, the lead singer of an old band from the 1960's called The Beach Boys. When Brian Wilson first decided to record a rap song, his overly conservative fanbase was horrified. But Brian, a musical genius with a vision (much like Liz Phair), ignored the naysayers and the result was one of his best songs ever: Smart Girls. As we all know, rap is now generally accepted as the most popular, and in fact best form of music, so obviously Brian Wilson knew a lot more than his audience. Think about how many people today even remember the Beach Boys vs. how many people like Eminem, and I think it's obvious that musicians should pursue their own path and not pay attention to what clingy selfish fans might think.

And that's just what Liz Phair did with Liz Phair. From the cover art, to the lyrics, to the catchy songs and great production, she delivered an innovative and high quality product, old fanbase be damned. If they couldn't follow along with her, she'd leave them behind. Keeping up with Liz Phair started to feel like chasing the whirlwind: exciting, and just a bit dangerous!

Tomorrow is the last edition of Liz Phair week. We've covered a lot of territory over the past few days. Don't miss the wrap-up!!

Smart Girls by Brian Wilson

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Liz Phair Week continues...

The Early Years/The Early Tapes

Liz Phair first came to prominence when a graphic designer named Tae Won Yu discovered her during a vacation in Chicago. At the time she was working long hours at a menial job, struggling to make ends meet, and pouring her heart into song after song during her precious spare moments late at night. Tae decided to review her demo cassette in a small but influential magazine called Chemical Imbalance. Unfortunately, right around this time Liz had a misunderstanding with a friend of Tae's who also didn't know about "writing in character" (see yesterday's post for an explanation of what that is). Miffed, Tae retaliated with a savage review in which he called Liz's tape only the thirteenth best thing he'd heard that year (13 being an unlucky number, the implication was obvious). For a while, Liz thought that this might be the end of her chances to be a big star.

There were two saving graces. Tae had printed Liz Phair's address in the article so that readers could write to her and tell her what a lousy musician she was. Liz turned the tables on him by personally duplicating and mailing out tapes of her music to each and every person who wrote, so they could judge for themselves. The hundreds who received tapes from her quickly began to spread the word that the Chemical Imbalance review was way off-base, and Liz Phair's fame began to grow.

Secondly, though Liz was upset by Tae's savage review, she kept her cool and sent a very polite letter to the editor of Chemical Imbalance in order to explain that his reviewer might have been biased. She wrote it in the form of a fable, ostensibly about several small pigs and a wolf who wanted to eat them. Reading between the lines, the editor of Chemical Imbalance realized that his reviewer had been biased against Liz Phair and he fired Tae Won Yu on the spot.

Satellite by Kicking Giant
Ruby Red by Kicking Giant
Throw by Kicking Giant

Don't miss a single edition of Liz Phair Week! Tomorrow: "Judas!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Liz Phair Week continues...

The Innovator

While Liz Phair has always gotten props for her blistering live shows and her insightful interviews, few credit her for her most important innovations. She was the first female singer to use a flat, affectless voice, a move that was copied endlessly by lesser talents who followed her. A singer named Lou Reed had attempted something similar back in the 60's with so-so results, but Phair perfected the technique, allowing her to create an aura of detachment from the words she was singing. One more weapon in her arsenal.

She also was the first woman to pull off the trick of writing songs that were simultaneously intimate and non-confessional, with ramshackle arrangements underplaying her early work's pop hooks (such as they were). And unlike other "grrrrl" artists in the 80's and 90's who clung to a predictable set of folky and/or female influences, Liz wasn't afraid to take inspiration from masculine groups such as The Vapors (whose minor hit Turning Japanese she claimed as her own on an early single).

As for language, Liz Phair broke down walls there as well. Prior to her, female singers might have occasionally sung "goddam" or "bastard" but Liz was unafraid to use direct language such as [edited] and [edited]. This initially shocked male critics who weren't used to hearing these kinds of words from a woman, especially one who they related to, at the time, as a simple folk singer.

And lastly, Liz Phair pioneered the use of "writing in character" and "unreliable narrators." Let me explain. In general when someone writes a song, they sing about things that actually happened to them, or that they wish had happened to them. So, for example, when Kiss sang, "I want to rock and roll all night and part of every day," the listener knew that either Kiss had done that, or that they wanted to.

In contrast, Liz Phair wrote songs about things that she herself hadn't done and didn't want to do, but that might have happened to someone else or that someone else might have wanted to do. This occasionally lead to misunderstandings. One of the funniest involves her first meeting with Gerard Cosloy, head of a small "indie" label called Matador (this took place back at the beginning of her career). Liz arrived for the meeting expecting to talk about her contract, but when she walked into Gerard Cosloy's office, she found him sitting on a couch with no pants on! When she asked him why he was dressed like that for a business meeting, he said that he had assumed from listening to her songs that she was "easy" and that she would perform oral sex on almost any man she met. Liz was shocked, but explained to him that she often "wrote in character" using "unreliable narrators" and that she personally did not behave the way her characters sometimes did. Luckily, Cosloy wasn't angry, and he did end up signing her to his label.

Druscilla Penny by World of Pooh
Straw Man by Barbara Manning
Mark E. Smith and Brix by Barbara Manning
Turning Japanese (Live) by The Vapors

Your Dragon by Suckdog
Jokes About Women by Suckdog

Chicken Pussy by Bongwater

Stay tuned for more of Liz Phair Week! Tomorrow we look at Liz's early days...

Monday, October 17, 2005


Liz Phair Week begins

We begin just after the end of the beginning...

Through the 90's Liz Phair was an unknown singer/songwriter, one of thousands across the US. She dreamt of becoming a star, but her original material was a little weak and her ideas only half-formed, with the bulk of her songs being hastily jotted reworkings of old Rolling Stones tracks. Luckily, in 2003 a team of skilled songwriters, after conducting a nationwide search for promising talent, decided to work with her and the result was her first genuinely decent album, simply entitled Liz Phair.

While her early work was marred by poor production, derivative hooks, and muddled and inscrutable lyrics, Liz Phair saw Liz Phair finally succeeding in her goal of empowering women through song. This, of course, pissed off the male dominated critical establishment to no end. Clinging to the simplistic Liz Phair image presented in her early work (basically a compliant, uncomplicated "girly" girl), they initially unleashed a hailstorm of derogatory reviews. For a while things seemed bleak.

Luckily, a scrappy and independent minded writer named Gina Arnold was gutsy enough and smart enough to silence the critics with a devastating article published in the East Bay Express. She was the first critic to acknowledge that older female artists (with children) who dared express their sexuality were traditionally pilloried by reviewers. This pretty much put an end to the reactionary carping and led many a music fan to open their ears to one of the best new artists of 2003.

Aroma Of Gina Arnold by Trumans Water

Forklift performed by Trumans Water

I have never heard Beck's version of AOGA.

Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again? by Amy Rigby

Liz Phair week continues tomorrow...

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Coming soon...the long delayed and not nearly as good as I originally planned, but what the hell, Liz Phair Week!! A full week devoted to Liz Phair!!

(I'll do the best I can. I really had something much fancier in mind when I first conceived of Liz Phair Week!! but I'm short on time, as we all know by now.)

Anyway, we'll be covering everything you need to know about Liz Phair, the indie rock sweetheart who made good, recently releasing one of the most anticipated albums of 2005. Don't miss it!! It's really going to be great, even in truncated form.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Amazing News

I just found out about a great blog called Raw Like Sashimi that's exclusively featuring a new album by this artist who calls herself Bullette. I'd never heard of her before, but after reading that she sounds like Jewel and Fiona Apple and Joss Stone, I had to check out the mp3s. Really incredible stuff, and I'm incredibly thankful that the people behind Raw Like Sashimi were kind enough to share these tracks. Hurry over and download, 'cause it's a Raw Like Sashimi exclusive and I'm not sure you'll be able to find it anywhere else.

This is a perfect example of why I'm so happy that the mp3 blog phenomenon has spread to the extent that it has. There's really no other way to keep up with the most current music news and releases!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Indie Rock Ephemera

Oh what the long as I'm at it here's The Archers of Loaf with a brief homage to Magic Dirt's Adalita at the begining of Distance Comes In Droves from a live set (not their posthumous live album). The groups were touring together.

A recent Largehearted Boy link lead me to an attempt to rehabilitate the final AoL album White Trash Heroes. I read the piece, it's great. Got excited. Pulled out the CD. Still a dud. Damn.

Funny to think about how much Xgau loved 'em, how they were the next Pavement, etc. I still sort of like Vee Vee when I (rarely) think of it. The one track I continue to play (which is not the same as saying I think it's their best song, but it seems to have aged well) is Assasination on Xmas Eve (from the same live set as the above). The live tape is kind of disturbing, as there are a number of moments where it sounds like Eric Bachman is imitating himself (i.e. that he doesn't really sing like that). At those moments, he sounds kinda dumb.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

More on Magic continuing fascination with a band that was pretty great at one time

For a group that was once into some pretty Heavy Business, Magic Dirt have been treading some very mainstream waters recently. In my last post on them I mentioned Liz Phair, which isn't a completely off-base comparison given that MD covered her Supernova right at the start of their radio friendly days.

The differences are probably more illuminating though. Phair was known for songwriting first and performing skills last, where Magic Dirt started out as Sonic Youth Heavy and learned to write pop along the way, which strikes me as a more interesting pathway to wanna-be stardom. I know that there are any number of "betrayal" issues relating to the Liz Phair backlash, but what always strikes me is that she seems like a "small" artist (small voice, small stature, poor live performance, songs about little things) who looks slightly ridiculous trying to play a rock star. Magic Dirt, in contrast, seem to be trying to suck in their tummy and squeeze into their market constraints, which leaves open the possiblilty of a burst seam here or there.

Also in contrast with Liz Phair, Adalita (Magic Dirt's rock-chick front) must have put some major time into learning to sing while dreaming of stardom. It's kind of fascinating that the wonderfully trashed voice on Ice (Peel Sessions version) is coming from the same person who would sing Envious (posted yesterday) years later. It's like watching aging/decay in reverse or something. It's even more interesting given that the band was once on a major international label (back when they were stylistically inaccessable to that label's market, hence their best album Friends In Danger's selling price of a cent or so these days) and now, when they might actually have some serious commercial appeal, they're exiled to an Australian division of their original big label. On some fundamental level, nothing much about their career makes sense, and it throws a light on the bizarre rules that the music business operates by.

Clearly I miss the days when Magic Dirt were cranking out riff-heavy monsters like I Was Cruel (vinyl version, different from the CD version, guitars better, vocals less perfect). That's my preference, and if I have any real problem with mainstream music fans it's the fact that they generally make it impossible for bands to make a living playing the kind of music that I enjoy. I also think it's odd/sad that a group whose strength was its guitar/bass/drums has to hilight its vocalist to get ahead. So be it.

At the same time, it's occasionally neat to hear the way they're adapting their sound now that they've finally gotten big-time production down with Snow White (after two somewhat failed attempts). Sleep, in particular, invites you in with big-bucks vocals up front, leading into the chorus where a glossy rainbow of Adalitas in the foreground duke it out with feedback in the background. By songs end, we're back in Friends In Danger territory with all the lovely buzz and whammy that sucked me into the band in the first place. Tying it together is a bass/drum part that'll probably make this a very different (better?) song live. Shame they can't seem to find a producer who can make the vocals and the guitars sound great at the same time.

Another one I'm liking is Dyin', and more and more I'm thinking that it is the drumming that's keeping me around. Also some neat slide guitar. And ok, the little vocal swoop on the chorus is pretty great (Phair probably would have done it with that vocoder thing) and somewhat justifies the vocal lessons. The old Magic Dirt pops up to say hi on the last verse as things strip down for a moment, then comes on full throttle in the last thirty seconds or so.

Fans of The Old Magic Dirt ought to know that there's one track that's pretty much a straight throwback to Young And Full of the Devil, though again the new production isn't really up to their old pound and chant and squeal stuff. Not to mention that I've never really warmed to YAFOTD anyway.

It's all a little confusing, but not entirely pointless. I'm sure Aussies are thoroughly sick of them, and again I'd probably be less charitable if I were having this record shoved down my throat. But I'm not, and I still don't quite get why this group continues to be effectively shut out of the US. Makes me wonder what other long lived, English speaking, top-40 compatible, semi-worthwhile groups we aren't hearing about. The idea of geographically fractured markets for culturally compatible products at this moment seems odder and odder.

(And in view of this, yes I do have an awful lot of tracks posted considering that Snow White is a new release. I'll request that any readers who also enjoy Vegemite be good enough to either buy the album or post nasty comments about the band and how you wouldn't buy their CD if I held a gun to your head.)

Friday, October 07, 2005


Oh, you knew this was coming. The old Magic Dirt is gone, gone, gone (though they keep dropping hints that they could, if they wished, blow your head off...said hints being kind of besides the point these days).

The fact that I didn't review the first single and it's b-sides should be taken as a sign.

The mail from Australia arrived yesterday, and I've finally had a chance to hear the whole album. Full thoughts over the weekend (someone in the US has to do it) but for now I can't quite fathom that a power ballad as great as Envious isn't going to be heard by much of anyone in my country.

Please have Cheap Trick, The Bangles, and the Pretenders in your thoughts while listening. Without having heard the latest Liz Phair offering, I'm going to guess that the new Magic Dirt would be a better use of your money if you want to subsidize a sell-out.

For what it's worth, I have nothing against sell outs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I wrote about the 2nd New York Rock And Roll Ensemble album some time ago, but it took me forever to get a copy of their first record. For those of you reading this who can't be bothered to click that link, The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble were a late 60's group that featured several Julliard students (who loved to mention this fact) and combined classical tidbits with some often very good orchestral pop. They probably annoyed some people back in the day who (correctly) realized that rock wasn't going to get anywhere much by kissing up to trad classical. A poster advertising them on a bill that also includes The Stooges, MC5 and Sun Ra indicates potential problems, but thirty-five years later distinctions like that are moot and we're left with some very nice albums that ought to be more widely known.

As it turns out, their self-titled debut averages out to being about on par with the second album Faithful Friends. The very best songs are slightly better, while the cheesy Broadway-isms that bugged me on album #2 are slightly cheesier. Put together, the two records would have made a really worthwhile CD reissue as they include about an album's worth of great material combined. The debut finally came out on CD earlier this year (without any bells and whistles) but Faithful Friends remains vinyl-only as I write this, and there are apparently a couple of uncollected early singles. Hopefully someone will do a better job eventually.

I was poking around the internet recently and found this very fascinating discussion, which includes some reminisces about TNYR&RE as well as info about film appearances and live tapes.

From the debut, here are two of the best tracks. You Know Just What It's Like has an especially cool bridge, with backing vocals panning around all psychedelic like. And the fuzz-meets-Eastern Studeao Atlantis is probably the most interesting thing the group recorded. As best I can tell, the lyrics include all the band members' names. The song also demonstrates what the group might have achieved if they'd looked to more exotic musics than Bach for their inspiration.

As an example of everything that could go wrong with their ingredients, here's Pick Up In The Morning which starts out promisingly until the cast of Harold & Maude (The Musical) jumps onstage for a rousing chorus that'll have toes tapping in theaters throughout the midwest.

Our cable is due to be fixed on Thursday. This post brought to you via the magic of dial-up America Online, reminding me of the days when I started this blog and spent two hours every day uploading songs. Ah, memories.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Not quite gone yet...just waiting (still) for the cable repairman...

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