Thursday, September 30, 2004

 
Belle Barth (continued), and Chicago band The Changes

Since I got the requests that I was hoping for, here's side two of Belle Barth's If I Embarrass You Tell Your Friends album. This is Belle performing from her club Belle Barth's Pub (located at 21st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Florida...I wonder what's there now). How could I have forgotten to give you the catalog number, in case you go looking to buy a copy: #69, but of course. One thing this world really could use is more numbers with sexual connotations.

Side two is the 4:00am show, which might be slightly risque-er than side one, though there's not a huge difference.

Completely unrelated to Belle Barth, except in the sense that both must have had a run in with the police, is Chicago band The Changes. They contacted me (and presumably a bunch of other bloggers) a month or so ago, and I was amazed to find that I actually liked their mp3s. But I was suspicious that they were a major label band on the DL, and then another blog posted one of their mp3s, so I decided to wait.

Since then, they've sent me a CD with some more of their songs and repeatedly assured me that they're actually looking for a label, to the point where I think I believe them. Still, their material is awfully well-recorded and their sound well-formed for a label-less band.

Every review of The Changes mentions The Police, and I'm not going to buck the trend. Especially on their debut ep, the comparison is inescapable and encompasses the playing and the singing. On the more recent material, the lead singer doesn't channel Sting quite so intensely, and I think it's an improvement. Nothing against The Police. It's not their fault that their most irritating song (Every Breath You Take) is their most famous, and I'm not too proud to go bopping around the room to Be My Girl - Sally from time to time.

On The Changes' newer material the influences are less specific, though anyone who listened to commercial radio in the early 80's should still feel at home. As others have noted, you also start to hear aspects of some of the slicker underground bands of the mid to late 80's (e.g. Prefab Sprout, etc.). Here's The Machine whose chorus could really hold its own on a top-40 mix tape from about twenty years ago. Right near the end, there's a bridge followed by an "ooooh" followed by a really nice swirly guitar rave-up to remind us that it's 2004 and we're not listening to a Work Force Block.

(Which prompts me to mention that Scott Muni of WNEW died yesterday. One thing I didn't know until I read the NY Daily News article is that the movie Dog Day Afternoon - which was filmed not far from my house - was apparently based on a phone call that Scott had received while on the air.)

The Changes' website has some mp3s and it's here. If you really want to hear the Police thing, download Her, You and I. There's a live set of theirs available on eMusic, but I'm not sure that it's the best introduction as the performance is a little loose, and this is a group that seems to benefit from the tension between their 80's sheen and their 90's record collection.

Also from the recent batch of songs, here's Not Too Serious which falls closer to Steely Dan on the verse, then rips off Joe Jackson's Stepping Out in a fairly clever way during the instrumental part. It's on their website, but the version here is ripped at a somewhat better rate. They're scheduled to play here in NYC in a couple of weeks, and depending on my sleep schedule, mood, work schedule and so on I may try to pay a visit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 

I'm not sure how well this is going to go over, but I realized that I've never posted anything funny on this site. So why start now. Ba-dum Ching!

But seriously, I love this album. I'm not going to try to persuade you that it's wall to wall laughs, because it isn't (though there are a couple of surprisingly funny lines here and there). What I love is the atmosphere: Belle's voice and the sound of the crowd, and the insistent background music. Say what you will about the material, but her delivery is amazing. Here's all of side one...I sometimes put this on when I'm reading before going to sleep. It's oddly soothing.

An article on Belle and her comrades is here.

If I get any positive comments, I'll go ahead and post side two tomorrow. I hope I get to...there's a lovely one-liner that'll forever change the way you think about blowing the shofar.

So's you know, the material is "risque" but the intervening years have done a lot to tone it down. It's not all exactly politically correct, but I'm pretty thin skinned and I don't think there's anything here to worry about.

Even if you hate the album, you have to admit that that's one sexy cover photo!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 
I had first read about CocoRosie in a typically irritating and unhelpful Pitchfork review, and probably wouldn't have paid any attention to them except that I remembered that Matthew had written about them in Fluxblog previously. When I went to my iTunes library, sure enough I'd downloaded their song Butterscotch from Fluxblog. Somehow I either forgot to play it or wasn't paying attention, or maybe their stuff works better in album form, where you can get sucked into their little dream world for an extended period.

A part of me is still convinced that they're eventually going to turn out to be Simon Turner and Colin Tucker back up to their old tricks, but that's seeming less likely since CocoRosie have been performing live.

It took me a long time to get ahold of a concert recording and I was a little nervous about what to expect. It turns out, though, that they do a pretty decent job of interpreting their strange little warped-chamber-blues-in-a-sunlit-Parisian-apartment thing in the flesh. I spent a lot of time listening to this while taking the subway out to my class last week, and the experience of bursting from the tunnel on the 7 train and swooping down into Queens at sunrise, while listening to the raspy crooning of "I once fell in love with you, just because the sky turned from grey to blue" was arresting enough that it managed to pop up in my dreams more than once.

Someone elsewhere mentioned that it would be nice if this album turned out to be a one-off. I kind of have to agree. It's strange that CocoRosie are around now, playing concerts, and on a reasonably well-known label. Albums like La Maison De Mon Reve are usually the sort of thing that I discover fifteen years after the group had died in a gondola accident, so it's refreshing to know that CocoRosie are still traipsing around unscathed. I'm surprised, in a good way, that they're as popular as they are, and I don't have a good explanation as to why.

From a live performance in France, here's:

Good Friday

and

Techno Love Song

Footage of CocoRosie in concert can be found here, and you might want to check the main page of that site for live clips from Boyskout, The Fall and about a million other people. All shot from a little closer than I'd prefer, but that's not really a major complaint.

Monday, September 27, 2004

 
Hi, I'm back. I'd like to thank Sleeve for doing an absolutely amazing job last week. Hopefully he'll be starting the mp3 blogging thing soon. If not, I'll be asking him back the next time I need a break.

I'll find out in two or three weeks if I passed my Personal Trainer certification test, so for now I'm not going to require push-ups before downloading, but that could change at any time. One of my fellow students at the seminar was a celebrity!

I guess you've probably read or heard the news that Luna is going to cease to exist after their next tour. I have mixed feelings: they're still putting out albums that I enjoy, but I haven't sensed a real spark in a while. It's too bad they couldn't find a steady gig as a house band somewhere in NYC (like Beat Rodeo used to have). Not that they'd probably be interested, but they are a really consistent and good live band and it'd be nice to be able to drop in and see them play casually from time to time. I mean, the Velvet Underground did it...it's not like it's against the law for a "real" band to take up a residency somewhere. I wish it'd happen more often.

I did notice that Luna will be playing in Brooklyn at Southpaw on New Year's Eve, so that's probably where I'll be that night. Seeing them live has some resonance as they were my wedding band. (Note for people considering who to have as their wedding band: you might be surprised by who's willing to do it.) They were incredibly nice. Dean called me up beforehand and asked if I had any requests, and I promptly forgot the name of every song they'd ever done and had to communicate by humming, which was pretty embarrassing.

So anyway, Luna have a new album coming out next month called Rendezvous. It's one of those cases where I don't have much to say. It's good, it's solid. Sean, the extremely nice guitar player, gets to sing on a couple of tracks and I'm kind of happy for him since he's a fantastic guitar player who might be a little overlooked because Dean and Britta and the foxy drummer guy get so much attention. God, did I mention that just about every woman at my wedding wanted to know if the drummer was straight and single? I've never seen anything like it. Turned out he was and he was, but my female guests were all scaredy-cats (as far as I know) so I have no juicy gossip to report.

Much of Rendezvous reminds me of the lazy New York-in-the-summer vibe of the Penthouse album, which is a good thing. I actually took it for a test-drive just last night. After running at the gym, I walked up to Washington Square, got a not-so-great $2 falafel at Sam's (where I used to eat 3-4 times a week -- they have good days and bad days) and then sat on a bench eating, listening to Rendezvous while the ambient noise of some guitar players performing "Brown Sugar" (the set list in Washington Square is never going to change, is it?) leaked in through my cheap headphones. And let me tell you that this album worked perfectly in that setting.

From it here's Cindy Tastes of Barbecue. I'm only posting one song because 1) it's a short album and 2) there's no big change in terms of sound or quality on this record, so I don't feel any great need to convince people one way or another. If you're a fan of Luna, you'll probably buy this. If you haven't seen them live, by all means catch them on their last tour. They're very good, and not seeing them do 23 Minutes In Brussels live would be like not having seen the Feelies play Slipping Into Something live i.e. it's a great song that really really comes together in a live setting. (The version I just posted is the album version, from Penthouse. 12Mb, just to warn you.)

Friday, September 24, 2004

 
OK, without further ado I'd like to present the last post of the week for me... a bit late, but oh well.

Michael Hurley has been playing music for 40 years, which kinda blows my mind. He's slowly becoming more well-known, but most of his records are still completely out of print. You can buy CDR copies from him at his website, however. It sure beats paying $200 for Blue Navigator on eBay.

Hurley's first recordings were for the venerable Folkways label in '65. These recordings have recently been reissued by the good folks at Locust Records. The next record came in 1970, released on Raccoon, a label created by Hurley's childhood friend Jesse Colin Young. Armchair Boogie is the first record that really SOUNDS like Hurley, and I wanted to include this personal favorite - "Open Up".

One more record for Raccoon followed, the LP Hi Fi Snock Uptown. This seems like a good place to start, every track I've heard has been worthwhile. Check out this early version of Blue Navigator's title track, "Blue Driver".

Hurley next surfaced with the all time classic Have Moicy! record, done with the Unholy Modal Rounders and The Clamtones. In print via Rounder Records and one of the best 70's folk records ever. A new solo LP, Long Journey, followed.

Most of Hurley's 80's recordings are actually cassettes, released in some tiny editions throughout the decade. He did also release a few proper LPs, including the highly recommended Wolfways, another good starting point. From that, I decided to include a remake of his 1971 track "Eyes Eyes" 'cause it gives me chills.

The last two tracks are unreleased live versions, recorded right here in Eugene at Sam Bond's Garage club, a show I was at (but didn't record). Two more recent classics...

"Diddy Boy Twang" (orig. from Sweetkorn)
"Lush Green Trees" (orig. from Wolfways)

Thanks again to the Mystical Beast and all of the commentators. Maybe I'll be back here someday... for those who were intrigued by this week's selections,you can contact me via my blog, and I like to trade (hint, hint).

Later...


Thursday, September 23, 2004

 
The Ex are touring America right now, in fact I'm going to see them tonight. They are pretty much at their 25th anniversary and appear as unstoppable as ever, with a new bowed double-bass player replacing 19-year veteran Luc, a new double CD (Turn), and another photobook (of the Ethiopian tour) in the works.

MP3's of one new song and numerous older ones can be found at their website. The newsletter account of their tour of Ethiopia is one of the most amazing things I've ever read.

Another new song is at the Touch & Go website, their U.S. label.

For quite a while now, the band has also been planning a CD collection of their many singles. Since this hasn't happened yet, there may still be time to talk the band into making it a double and including everything they can possibly fit. There's a whole list of great Ex-singles not yet on CD, starting with their first, All Corpses Smell The Same. Then there's the "New Horizons In Retailing" flexi. Right before the 2nd LP (History Is What's Happening) they put out a serious leap forward in sound - the "Weapons For El Salvador" 7". From this point on they become one of my favorite bands...

The superb albums Dignity Of Labour and Tumult followed. After Tumult, we have the first truly essential candidate for reissue, the Gonna Rob The Spermbank 4-track EP, represented here by "Trash".

A prelude to the even more dizzying heights of 1984's Blueprints For A Blackout followed, a split EP with the band Alerta. The Ex's two songs, "Crap-Rap", and "Long Live The Aged", are two more prime reissue tracks.

More singles followed, including a split 7" with Kurdish band Awara that I STILL don't have. I really hope that's on the CD also. In 1991 the band did a six-single series, worthy of a CD of its own.

And tonight I get to see them! I'm so excited.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

 
Our Rough Trade trilogy concludes today with the sad saga of the Raincoats' 3rd LP, Moving. But let's back up a bit... The band was one of the earliest on the RT label, and, by some accounts I've read, worked there as well. The ear-shattering violin-fueled heartbreak of the 1st (1979) 7" and self-titled (1980) LP remains a favorite of mine. Charles Hayward of This Heat (see earlier post), Robert Wyatt, and others joined them for the 2nd (1981) LP, Odyshape, more oblique and quiet but also very good.

The following year, they released a 7" single that I had an even harder time finding than the first one. Pointing towards the new directions of the forthcoming 3rd LP, the 7" had a bouncy cover of a Sly Stone song, "Running Away" on the A-side. The flip had the classic cut "No One's Little Girl". A great 3rd LP, Moving, was released in late 1983, and the followup Animal Rhapsody EP added one otherwise unavailable "version" (what they used to call remixes) of the title track. Posthumous recordings consisted of a live (December 1982) cassette (later CD) on ROIR (The Kitchen Tapes), an unreleased Peel Session, and little else. In the wake of Rough Trade's cataclysmic financial, uh, "reorganization" these records were out of print for roughly a decade.

Enter Raincoats fan Kurt Cobain. Allegedly at his urging (not surprisingly, the Rough Trade scene was heavily influential on the Olympia scene Nirvana was related to) the three records were reissued by his label, Geffen, on CD! With bonus tracks! They were probably remastered! (I don't have 'em, so I can't tell). The damn band reformed! In 1995 or so! And put out new stuff! It was pretty good!

There was only one problem, and that was with the third CD. The first included the crucial debut 7" A-side omitting two (very similar) earlier versions of LP classics that were on the B-side. I can live with that. Odyshape was reissued as is. So far, so good. But something went drastically wrong with Moving.

Aside from a drastically reordered track sequence (never a good idea), the reissue included the 1982 7" B-side (yay!), omitted the A-side (what the...?) and completely LEFT OFF three tracks from the LP. Don't even think about the "Animal Rhapsody" remix (although now that I think about it, it might be included as one long track, which would totally fit this perversity). Insert horrified record collector screams here, especially since two of those Moving tracks are the band's best from this period. No apparent differences in the publishing credits... absolutely nothing suggests why these tracks were omitted. Anyone know?

So here they are... why Geffen didn't hire me to do this right in the first place remains a mystery.

"Running Away" 7" A-side (Rough Trade RT093 1982)
"Dreaming In The Past" from Moving LP (Rough Trade 66, 1983)
"Honey Mad Woman" (")
"Avidoso" (")

Monday, September 20, 2004

 
Somebody should do a Please Kill Me-style oral history about Rough Trade and the bands on the label. I mean, could it get any better than Metal Urbain, Stiff Little Fingers, Raincoats, Pop Group, Slits, Delta 5, Robert Wyatt, the aforementioned Virgin Prunes, Cabaret Voltaire, Essential Logic, The Red Crayola, Pere Ubu, Young Marble Giants, and a dozen other greats I'm forgetting? What a track record.

One of the more complex bands on the label was This Heat. You can find a good discography HERE, a web site HERE, and a good article HERE. With roots including Gong and Henry Cow they were not your average post-punk band, having formed in late '75/early '76. They did some early sessions recorded with Ghanian percussionist/flautist Mario Boyer Diekuuroh that were released on a split tape with Albert Marcoeur (and have not yet been officially reissued). You can hear clear indications of the "free" parts of the first LP in this leadoff track and this other short piece.

After the first (great) 1979 LP on Piano, self-titled This Heat, they released a (great) 12", "Health And Efficiency", that was on the Piano label, but (again) distributed by RT. The second (also great) 1981 LP Deceit was a proper Rough Trade release. All readily available these days along with a disc of Peel Sessions, Made Available. In another weird bit of synchronicity, Saturday night I saw the amazing band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum do a freakin' COVER of "S.P.Q.R.", from Deceit. Whoa.

Live This Heat documents exist, but not in any easily available form. The best is the 1980 "Live in Krefeld" cassette, bootlegged as Cold Storage. Decent sound and this super unreleased track (not titled). Then they broke up.

Charles Hayward formed Camberwell Now, Charles Bullen formed the Lifetones, and Gareth Williams went to monasteries in India. This is where things get complicated. I'm skipping the Lifetones because I was never that impressed. Camberwell Now were fairly well-known, and were blessed with a comprehensive CD reissue courtesy of Recommended Records. However, this brings us to one of this week's themes: the art of the reissue. In this particular case, I feel that there are two mistakes on the CD. One was to leave out the Meridians EP's "Trade Winds", an instrumental bridge between "Cutty Sark" and "Pearl Divers". Although space was tight, it hurts that the vastly inferior "Greenfingers" B-sides are here instead. The decision to include the yummy remake of Meridians' "Splash" ("Resplash"), is a good call, as is the killer comp track "Daddy Needs A Throne" (previously only on a Touch cassette). But I guess there wasn't a CD plant that could get closer to 80 minutes and include the haunting "For Those In Peril On The Sea", from the same Sub Rosa comp LP as "Resplash". Oh, it hurts. At least Sub Rosa put it on a CD overview of the comp series.

My other favorite post-Heat artifact is a mysterious tape. The person I got it from, an old-school tape trader, had it as a cassette by Gareth Williams entitled Flaming Tunes. Apparantly never released on vinyl, it has been bootlegged on the After The Heat CD with Hayward and Lifetones tracks. Some confusion seems to exist, but I do NOT think that these recordings are the short-lived post-Williams This Heat lineup (which did play live and possibly record). The whole tape is great in this joyous post-Eno way, and since Williams died a few years back it'd be nice if this got reissued. Comments, anyone?

"Beginning The Hours"
"The Sky Is Full Of Stars"

Tomorrow we turn to the last Rough Trade band of the week, the Raincoats, for a cautionary tale of what happens when major labels reissue records...

 
Here we go... I'd like to thank the Mystical Beast for giving me this space.

Here's a Virgin Prunes link. They were one of my favorite bands on the Rough Trade label back in it's late-70's/early 80's heyday. Today and the next two days will focus on "lost" tracks from these artists, hopefully in a Mystical Beast kinda way.

These Virgin Prunes records are hard to find. Straight outta Dublin in 1980, including The Edge's brother but headed in a very different direction. The first 7" EP, released on their own Baby label, was (like the 1st Essential Logic 45) distributed by Rough Trade but not actually on the label. Starting with the next 45, "Moments And Mine", they moved to the actual RT label. These first two singles were reissued on a CD called Artfuck, which was in print for about five seconds a while back.

But then, oh then, came the key statement. Throughout 1981 they released a series of records under the name of "A New Form Of Beauty", loosely conceptual and visually related. First, Part One - a 7" 45, "Sandpaper Lullabye"/"Sleep Fantasy Dreams". Many consider this their best, it's sure up there. Then Part Two - a 10" EP with the furious "Come To Daddy" on the whole first side. Part Three was a 12" EP, again with a long psycho-tribal death march on the A-side and three dreamier numbers to back it up, including my favorite "No Birds To Fly".

Part Four was a cassette, essentially a whole LP's worth, one side a crazed studio collage, the other a live gallery performance. The Italian Base label then put out a stunning double LP of the whole series, with more complete artwork. I don't have space to post from that, but while researching some of this I discovered that a massive 5-CD reissue series is coming out on Mute next week. Whoa, cosmic. However, as you can see on this thread, the artwork is different which is a real bummer. I have no scanner and therefore am visually challenged, my apologies dear reader.

The band had an extensive history after this, recording a double 10" in '82, the more well-known If I Die, I Die in '83, and an excellent collection of comp tracks and outtakes called Over The Rainbow. The final 1986 LP, after losing one key member, came out on Touch & Go in the US (The Moon Looked Down And Laughed). Weird. The scattered label output (New Rose, Baby, T&G, RT) has insured the near-unavailability of most of this stuff for years. I'm glad Mute is changing that.

Oh yeah, I'm Sleeve, a DJ and record geek from Oregon. Here's my web page. Tuesday we'll have "lost tracks" from This Heat, another great RT band!

Friday, September 17, 2004

 
No post today: I'm super busy from now through the end of the weekend.

Just as a reminder, I have a guest host next week. He has some really cool stuff lined up (I peeked) so I hope you'll stick around.

If all goes well, when I next write I'll be a certified personal trainer in addition to an mp3 blogger. I wonder if there's a job that combines the two?

One last thing: I now have an extra copy of the first Hose single (longtime readers recall that this is the first release on Def Jam records, by Rick Rubin's band). The extra copy is listenable, but in bad shape and without a sleeve and therefore unsellable. If anyone wants it, free of charge, just email. The first person I hear from can have it. It's a weird little thing, and contains one pretty good song that was later covered by the Dustdevils. [Whoops, it's been claimed.]

Thursday, September 16, 2004

 
Day three in Larry Coryell territory. For those arriving late, Larry Coryell is a or possibly the biggest name in jazz guitar. I'm looking at his work in the 60's and early 70's which was fusion, but not the kind you probably think of when you think of fusion.

I'm not going to get too sucked into this whole Lou Reed thing that I mentioned yesterday, but there are definitely aspects of Larry's playing and songwriting that remind me of Lou. And this isn't just one of my crazy conspiracy theories: here's a review of an album that Larry did with Steve Marcus that also comes up with Lou as a comparison. That review is actually spot on. I'm not going to post the version of Tomorrow Never Knows as it's too long, but Larry's guitar playing on that is pretty darn cool and very Lou Reed-y.

So, here are a few more tracks from the Free Spirits album which, as mentioned yesterday, might be the first fusion album evah:

Blue Water Mother - Hmmm, two singers singing different lyrics at the same time. Kind of like The Murder Mystery, except the voices aren't panned, so you can't really hear what they're saying. Which is probably for the best, 'cause what you can hear isn't so hot. Larry was still working on the lyrics thing at this point.

LBOD - If I were a movie director, I'd totally use this. It's got that "we're at the end of the movie, so here are some shots that'll sum up what I've been trying to say while a classic song that you've never heard plays in the background" feel. Pretty good singing by Larry: "I can't tell a spaceman that he's welcome! And I can't tell your baby to make the scene!" I really like this.

Storm - This one's good too. The flute is back and stylin' and the feel is jazzy and mellow. There's not so much rock in this song, but it may be the most succesful track on the album.

Sunday Telephone - Starts off kind of like a Beatles song, but dig that crazy sax. But what's really weird is Larry's revision of this song on his 1969 album Lady Coryell. If you want a concrete example of the difference between 1966/67 and 1969, that's it. Wah. Wah. Great sax solo at about 1:24 and again it doesn't go on long enough. Larry plays Beatles riffs when it's his turn.

Tattoo Man - Has without a doubt the worst lyrics on the album, but I'm including it because it also has part of the guitar part from Pale Blue Eyes. Ok, both Larry and Lou Reed were really active in 1966 and 1967, and I think that Larry was playing in NYC at the time (I'm not 100% sure). I also know that Lou was getting ideas for his guitar playing from the jazz scene. The question is who influenced who. This song is so frustrating, as it starts building towards what looks to be a really great solo, only to totally whimp out one bar later. "It'll harmonize your karma," Jesus Christ!

Ok, for a really clear example of the Lou/Larry thing, here's Larry's song Lady Coryell, and if Larry's not doing Lou (or vice versa) during the noisy part, I'm made out of cheese. This is one of my favorite instrumentals ever. Maybe it is my favorite.

I'll end my Larry Coryell fixation (for now) with a track from an album he did with Steve Marcus called Tomorrow Never Knows which was reissued on CD in 2003. This originally came out in 1968, just before the start of Larry's solo career proper. I linked to a good review of it up above, and as that review says, it's not 100% succesful, but parts of it are interesting. One of the most interesting songs is a very, very, very strangely conceived version of Donovan's Mellow Yellow. Ok, people who like boring music on one side of the room. People who like avant garde jazz on the other side. Great! Ev-er-y-body's happy? (I'm being cryptic...just keep listening to this for a while, past the boring beginning). If you get a chance, check out the cover of Tomorrow Never Knows from this album. In addition to some neat guitar, it's got a piano solo that kind of anticipates the Aladdin Sane piano solo part.

The brief summation: Larry Coryell was onto something really great, but he never really followed through, and this makes me sad, because we rock people pretty much lost him to the jazz people. I'm sure he has gazillions of fans who'll think that I'm an idiot, but I also think that there are a lot of people like me who'll really like a very small subsection of his work that passes closest to the rock and roll sun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 
(This continues from yesterday's post)

So I was on a major Larry Coryell kick for a while, and the one album that I could not find for the longest time was Out Of Sight and Sound by his band The Free Spirits. It's never come out on CD, and while it's not super expensive or super rare, it's not always the easiest record to get ahold of. I believe it came out in 1967, though I couldn't actually find a date on the record. I've also seen 1966 as the release date, and since I wasn't even conceived at this point, I'm not going to weigh in. Maybe someone who was alive at the time can tell me.

When I finally heard it, I was disappointed. I was expecting something along the lines of the tracks I posted yesterday. Instead it's very traditional sounding rock and roll. There are jazz elements, but it's more traditional than avant jazz, and anyway the most obvious jazz touches are mainly confined to the occasional non-rock horn solo and drumming that's more interesting than the usual. Larry's guitar tone is clean and he doesn't do much with it. The vocals have that heavy 60's reverb, so with all the harmonies on the verses this often sounds like California folk-rock rather than a daring fusion experiment.

Some people propose that this album is the first true fusion album. If you're defining fusion as a mix of jazz and rock then that could be true (though that kind of definition, as I've read elsewhere, allows an Elvis song to claim the title). But if you define fusion to mean "music that sounds like what we think of when we think of fusion, e.g. Miles Davis" then I don't think that Out of Sight and Sound ultimately qualifies.

Over time, I've started to like it more, possibly because I'm no longer expecting it to be something it's not. Since it's way out of print and not on CD, I'm going to post a large chunk of it today and tomorrow, along with some related stuff. One sad thing: the version I got is the stereo version and it's from a time when it was illegal for the drummer to be in the same speaker as the rest of the band, meaning you probably won't enjoy this on headphones. I'm looking for the mono version now, though it probably won't be easy to find. If I ever get it, I'll report back on whether it was worth the trouble.

Anyway, here are some of the tracks with brief comment:

Bad News Cat -- really retro sounding, and Larry's rough vocals don't match well with the harmonies on the verse so it kind of feels like two songs pasted together. There's some Beatle sounding guitar on the chorus, but it's subtle. In a way this song is typical of the problem with the album: it doesn't usually mix jazz and rock as much as it alternates them.

Cosmic Daddy Dancer -- did I mention that there are some 60's flower power problems with the lyrics on the album? This track includes pretty much the flashiest guitar on the album which is depressing considering what Larry would be doing in a few years. Sounds totally normal and then suddenly at 1:16 someone gets ambitious on the solo and we're in jazz-land for a few seconds.

Don't Look Now -- possibly the most interesting track, with a lot of soloing going on during the verse. To compensate, we've got a kind of boring chorus. Still, the band sounds pretty energetic on this one. Every once in a while Larry's voice reminds me a little teeny bit of Lou Reed...there are some other tiny things that make me wonder if one of them heard the other, and I'll get into that more later.

I'm Gonna Be Free -- sitar and flute, and while Larry's sitar playing isn't mind blowing, this is a nice folk-rock sounding track. Lots of cymbal tapping is about the only indication of jazz roots.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

 

For Wednesday I'm finally going to get around to the early jazz/rock band The Free Spirits, so today, in preparation, I'm re-running a couple of Larry Coryell mp3s that I posted a while ago.

One thing that amazes me is that if I had discovered Larry Coryell via about 95% of his albums, I wouldn't have been interested and probably wouldn't have investigated further. Things like that scare me.

I can be amazingly ignorant about jazz, so when I first found a copy of his Coryell album (pictured above) in a used record store I had no idea who Larry was. It looked to me like some intriguing psych-folk album from the late 60's so I snapped it up 'cause it was cheap.

When I got it home, I popped it onto the turntable and was immediately blown away by the song Sex, and thenceforth set about buying Larry Coryell albums. As luck would have it, my first two choices were:

and

Lucky choices, because now that I've had time to check out a bigger chunk of his discography I realize that those three albums are just about the only ones that really appeal to me (with the possible exception of an odds 'n' sods collection called Basics that presents alternate, inferior, but nonetheless interesting versions of some early Coryell tracks).

Briefly, Larry Coryell was one of the early people dealing with Jazz Fusion, but on the albums that I mention above he often (not always, by any means) seems to approach from the rock side rather than the jazz side.

I'm convinced that the current consensus about those albums (e.g. the dumping on The Real Great Escape, the idea that The Jam With Albert is the reason to buy Coryell, the theory that side two is where Lady Coryell gets good) is wrong, or at least skewed because the records are usually reviewed by jazz fans. I'd like to see more people who listen to The Velvet Underground or Krautrock or even Chicago talking about this stuff. Simply put, you don't need to like fusion or jazz to like these records.

I know that in the 60's and early 70's Coryell was known to rock fans, and there was a whole "who's better, Larry or Jimi" thing going on. But for some reason, with the exception of maybe some old Christgau reviews, I can barely find anything from the rock contingint on the internet.

I can't stress enough how great The Real Great Escape is, and how annoying it is to see it talked about as a failed sell-out attempt, marred by horrible singing. Resisting the urge to post the whole thing (it's all good, baby) here's the first track The Real Great Escape, which builds up to a peak and then just stays there and stays there and stays there. Yeah, there's singing. It's through a talk-box type thing, and it's just fine.

I was going to post the amazing instrumental Lady Coryell, but it is kind of long and I have posted it before. Instead, here's the version of Sex from the Basics album. It's not in the same league as the other version, but the differences between the two are instructive.

So anyway, more about Larry's early jazz/rock fusion tomorrow...

Monday, September 13, 2004

 

I have to kill a day today, because I didn't finish ripping an album that I need for my next good post, so today is odds and ends. The mp3's come last, so skip to the bottom if that's what you're after.

I'm not going to turn this blog into Tegan & Sara watch, but I did notice that reviews are starting to trickle out for So Jealous. With the exception of that idiotic thing in the Times, most of the reviewers seem to get it. Barnes & Noble, in particular, has a pretty accurate and concise take on the record. T&S's new website isn't completely done, but I've seen a preview and it includes some live and demo mp3s from the new album. Yay! I guess it'll probably be up on the 14th.

I've added a couple of blogs to my links list. Radio CRMW reminds me a little bit of WFMU with a mixture of quirky cuts and interesting older tracks (60's and pre-60's). They gained my love by posting The French Toast Man, a song I've enjoyed for years on WFMU's Greasy Kids Stuff show. Yum, French Toast! They've just re-posted that song, so go get it now!

It's A Trap is a little too good to think of as just a blog. It's an incredibly comprehensive overview of the Scandinavian music scene. Between links and reviews and so on, this site could probably keep you busy for days. An essential reference.

I didn't add a link for CowboyTrance Orchestra yet, as it's just getting off the ground and I don't yet have a sense of what the focus will be (I try to keep my bloglist short, and part of that means I try not to have too many blogs that work similar territory). Bands so far have included The Orb, Camper Van Beethoven, Ween, Stereolab and Sonic Youth.

And I should mention that next week I'm going to have my first guest host. It's someone who posted a comment here a while back, and when I went to his blog I noted that 1) he was interested in starting the mp3 blogging thing and 2) he talked about a lot of tracks that I don't have and really want to hear. So now I get to take a week off and I get to hear some pretty cool rarities. It doesn't get much better than that!

Ok, so I have three songs today that I've been vaguely planning on posting for ages. The one song that I never posted back when I wrote about Ride was Black Nite Crash. This is the first song from their reviled album Tarantula, and no I'm not going to attempt a revisionist take on that record: it is pretty bad. Nonetheless, Black Nite Crash is good and shouldn't be overlooked. I had read its opening line years ago:

See the girls coughing, looking underfed
When they go to sleep, they dream of being dead


But I somehow remembered that as being a Dorothy Parker couplet, largely because I didn't know who Ride were when I read the line. This might be overthinking things, but I sometimes wonder if the song would appeal to fans of the White Stripes. Not the vocals, but the guitar, drums and production seem similar. In any case, the song is 1,000,000 miles from where Ride started out.

Babe The Blue Ox moved to Brooklyn and released a series of quirky/cool albums where artsy chops and odd time signatures failed to impede catchy hooks. For some reason, most of their records were named after Barbra Streisand albums. From the EP Je m'Appelle Babe, this is Tattoos, no relation to the Who song Tattoo. BTW, BTBO redid this song on a later album.

The whole EP is pretty good...I'm really tempted to post more than one track but I'm going to resist. It ends with a cover of Billy Squire's Everybody Wants You that may be more interesting in theory than reality. The tune is the same, but the words are along the lines of:

My little wampum its for you that I yen
Call me franc call me bank
Call me again and again and again


or

I'm a middle-man cherry choppin pain in the gums
I'm an overweight dairy-topping case of the runs


Je m'Appelle Babe was released on Homestead in 1993, and I'd be amazed if you couldn't find a used copy for $1.00 or less.

Finally, I recently read something or other about the forthcoming MF Doom album that mentioned a track called Hoe Cakes. I can't remember the details, but it reminded me of Hoe Cakes by The Afros. The Afros were a Beastie Boys/Run DMC related group that released only one album called Kickin Afrolistics which came out in 1990. It's kind of a jokey blaxploitation themed thing, and I've always wished it was a little bit better since I like the idea but not the execution. Hoe Cakes is actually the only song that I 100% like...I just double checked and yup, only song. Forgive me, Tegan and Sara, as this isn't aimed at young women, gay and straight, looking for smart songs that explore the fun side of taking yourself very seriously.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

 

That sure was a lot of estrogen these last few days.

You know how cool radio shows always have a theme that they play at the start? I've always wanted to do that, but it's not so practical with an mp3 blog. Today I'm presenting my theme song. Every time you read this blog, I want you to play this song by Tim Rose while the page loads, to set the mood.

At the end, when you're done reading, I want you to play this song , again by Tim Rose, to help symbolize how sad you'll be until my next column.

It'll be just like radio!

(I'd feel dumb shooting my mouth off about Tim Rose, since everything I know about him I learned from the internet. His "big accomplishments" are arranging Hey Joe in the form that Jimi Hendrix covered, and his performance of the hit Morning Dew, which he may not have written after all. If you google him, you'll find everything you probably need to know. Some one of these days I'll have to get around to tracking down some of the harder-to-find parts of his discography, but that's one of many things on my to-do list.

If you're trying to decide whether to download my new theme songs, we're talking Neil Diamond/Joe Cocker territory, but I think I like Tim better, at least when he's at his best.

Really great semi-spooky female backing vocals sold me on I Got A Loneliness, and I Gotta Do Things My Way is something like young Marlon Brando turned into a song.)

 
I was initially glad to see the NY Times running a review of the new Tegan & Sara album So Jealous, but I've grown more and more irritated by the article over the past few days. Part of me wants to go on a tirade about a writer who feels the need to start off with a history of lipstick lesbians since 2002 (mainly involving straight women pretending to be gay) before informing us that lesbian musicians have only mastered two styles of music (folk and punk), followed by all sorts of incisive comments like "the photogenic twins nonetheless push toward mainstream tastes with sparkling hooks and singalong choruses" (we know how those lesbians hate hooks and choruses) and "Their songs reclaim some of the fun and energy of 80's New Wave for girls who love girls" (rats, guess I'm not allowed to listen to the album) and "The album's best song is 'Walking With a Ghost'" (thanks, I wouldn't want to accidentally prefer another song that isn't the best one) and "this multilayered record is aimed at young women, gay and straight, looking for smart songs that explore the fun side of taking yourself very seriously" (am I reading the NY Times or YM?), and so on.

(Actually YM has a much better write-up on the band...it's not online as far as I know...just a short blurb.)

I guess that kind of was a tirade. In case you're curious, the writer Laura Sinagra loves the New Pornographers and reviewed their last album here. Notice any difference in tone? Well, Neko does get referred to as "babe-next-door" but for the most part the article doesn't try to dictate the New Pornographers' audience and we get through the piece without an examination of the cultural significance of flying into a lesbian rage. (I mention the New Pornographers because a couple of NP related people produce Tegan & Sara of late.)

If the new Tegan & Sara album So Jealous were full of songs about Martina Navritolova and Phranc, or if their website featured photos of the Tegan & Sara Invitational Softball League, I might not have much of a point. But the fact is, you could listen to So Jealous (and the previous T&S album If It Was You) a million times without gleaning any clues about sexual preference. I had requested a copy of the press release that goes with the album, as well as their official bio: guess the number of times the word "lesbian" or any synonym for gay is used. (Answer: not once.) Maybe the Times dictated the nature of the article. Maybe they hacked it to bits. Who knows. It's sad, though, since if I hadn't already heard T&S the article would probably scare me away, unless I was a fourteen-year-old girl.

In fact, So Jealous is probably a good contender for power-pop album of the year. Much of it has an almost Wire-like simplicity (some of the drum parts sound very Pink Flag inspired to me) though it usually goes for big, multicolored Cars-like choruses. A lot of the songs start out in new folk territory for the first verse or so, but it's never much more than twenty seconds before the electric guitars and new-wave keyboards move in for the strike. With the right promotion, I could really see this album taking off. GQ seems to feel the same way (I'm not sure I'd call T&S "pixie-cute" unless pixies these days look like Aladdin Sane and spend a lot of time telling each other to fuck off).

I apologize to Laura Sinagra for daring to prefer anything to Walking With A Ghost, which is the best song on the album, but here are my two current picks:

You Wouldn't Like Me (bonus points for holding back the full band's entrance until nearly half-way through the song, and bonus-bonus points for saving the best hook for the last forty seconds), and

Fix You Up (mostly as an example of the kind of wonderful choruses they're pulling off, even when not in rock mode).

Any of the CD's other 14 tracks (plus hidden bonus track) might reasonably be a candidate for "best song on the album." Streams of Walking With A Ghost and two other tracks are still available at their official site.

Apparently there are upcoming stories about T&S due in Spin and Rolling Stone and Magnet. My fingers are crossed. So Jealous comes out on September 14th, though the European release is (I read) early next year.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

 
Massive technical problems here, combined with massive busy-ness for me = strong chance of intermittent/nonexistant posts until the weekend. Sorry! I'm trying to squeeze in time (right now I'm sitting at a Kinko's in downtown Manhattan) but it's tough! I did manage one post (see below). Hopefully all will be well by next week.

 

Short post today. There's a recent CD release (scroll to the bottom of the page) by avant garde jazz singer Patty Waters that seems to have slipped out somewhat under the radar. Called You Thrill Me it doesn't contain any of the screaming that made her famous. It does include a beer commercial, which I'm posting partly because I love the contrast between it ("mellow...") and the kind of singing that she's best known for.

I'm not going to post her take on Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair which is her big hit, so to speak. It's long, and you really want to hear it on CD or LP on a good stereo, in its full sonic glory. Seriously, everyone should hear it at least once. Even if you don't like it, you'll never forget it, and if you do like it, you'll probably love it. (It really is pretty great, but I don't kid myself about how it goes over with a lot of people.) In a similar vein but not quite as unforgettable, here's her version of Wild Is The Wind, a song well known to David Bowie fans.

While roaming around the internet I've found contradictory interviews with singer Diamanda Galas about whether Patty was or wasn't an influence:

"People ask me (about) my influences, I would have to say Patty Waters. They say other people and I say, Nahh, Patty Waters, listen to Patty Waters. I listened to her twice. That's all it took for some grain of inextricable influence." -Diamanda Galas, 1998

"Patty Waters I never really heard until about a year ago and I was so impressed. She was playing with Burton Greene and it was a beautiful version of "Black is The Color." - Diamanda Galas, 1989


I suppose you could interpret the two quotes as meaning that Diamanda hadn't heard Patty when she started out, but was later influenced. It is weird though: search for "Patty Waters" and just about every single result will tell you that she was an influence on Galas and on Yoko Ono (it says that on the back of Patty's ESP CD packaging too) and I'm assuming that the implication is that they heard her before experimenting with the screaming thing (unless the implication is that they were already screaming, but Patty influenced the way they screamed...you never know). With Galas, based on the above links, that's at least somewhat in doubt. And I still can't track down any primary source that indicates that Yoko had heard and/or was imitating Patty Waters. Maybe she was...I really have no idea, but it would be nice if the internet could supply more than unsourced assertions. If anyone can find something more substantial, I'd really love to be able to post a link.

(I have this "questions about influences" thing on my mind as a result of a post I'm working on dealing with two bands, The Liars and Flux Information Sciences. I should have that up in a week or so.)

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. The one thing worth noting is the obvious: most people buying You Thrill Me will probably be getting it on the basis of the avant garde tracks from Patty's first two albums, and yet nothing on You Thrill Me really sounds like that. It's still a nice album, but it is a weird example of the way commerce and music can interact in strange ways, such that albums can find their ways to unexpected audiences. I actually have to give some kudos to the often evil Other Music for the forthright way they deal with the CD.

It couldn't hurt to mention that according to the ESP Disk site, Patty Waters' albums are slated to be remixed for surround-sound DVD release. Yow!

Friday, September 03, 2004

 

This is the last day of Slapp Happy week. Thanks to everyone who helped, contributed or commented. My main intention (with all due respect to the Henry Cow fans in the audience) is to bring this band to the attention of the non-prog crowd. It's probably worth mentioning that the person who introduced me to Slapp Happy wouldn't have known what the Canterbury scene was if it had landed on his head: he was a huge Negative Approach fan who had apparently stumbled onto Slapp Happy at random. And when I flipped over Sort Of (this would be around 1991) I was in the midst of a Beat Happening infatuation and had no idea who John Greaves, Chris Cutler, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, etc. were.

Personally, I think that Sort Of is somewhat underrated, largely because it's often reviewed by people who view it as a move towards Henry Cow, rather than as a move away from Faust. Articles about Slapp Happy often go on about charm and wit and cleverness and so on, and that's all fine, but I sometimes wonder if it might scare some people away who like their rock with a little more rock. There was a rougher and much more groove-oriented side to the band (as heard on the Sort Of tracks Just A Conversation, Heading For Kyoto and especially Mono Plane) that's kind of gotten lost in the shuffle, which is too bad. I'll come back to this at the end, but I think that Peter Blegvad's solo career, in particular, might have gone better if he'd paid more attention to that aspect of Slapp Happy.

Nonetheless, I'm finishing up with Kew. Rhone which is an extaordinarily charming, witty, and clever collaboration between Peter Blegvad, John Greaves (who played bass in Henry Cow) and a bunch of often-famous musicians, including jazz people Michael Mantler and Carla Bley. It originally came out in the punk rock year of 1977.

I'm somewhat at a loss for how to describe it. If there was ever a sui generis album, it's Kew. Rhone. Loosely based on a painting by C.W. Peale called Exhuming the First American Mastodon, it looks like it should be a bloated disaster. I don't want to go song-by-song, but let's look at the track Pipeline as an example. It has the most ridiculous excuse for lyrics I've ever seen:

Here are two gentlemen and a lady contemplating a length of dug-up pipeline.

Figure B. Illustrates the assertion -
'Ambiguity can't be measured like a change of temperature'

Figure C. Consists of a list of assorted equipage. A gentleman imagines how the items on the list would look if only part exhumed. (He thinks they wouldn't look unlike a length of pipe).

(The Lady's Assertion):

'When you remove a rung from a ladder,the whole is suddenly part, the part is whole.
But the hue and temperature of a pipeline are ineluctably parts. Without the pipeline they would cease to be.'

(Second Gentleman's Assertion):

'Anything you care to mention of three dimensions (like a length of pipe)in a certain light may be seen as the projection or the shadow of an entity of four dimensions' (see figure D.)


And if it's not bad enough that those words sound more like a philosophy textbook than a song, there are actually diagrams in the liner notes that you need to look at in order to understand the references to Figure A, etc. It's because of things like this that people had to invent punk rock in the first place.

But. But. But. It works. Here's the track, and somehow vocalist Lisa Herman manages to make that mass of verbiage sound almost as smooth as Sade. And the whole album is like that ("great" not "like Sade"): cryptic, punning, ultra-clever lyrics by Peter Blegvad (one song consists entirely of a list of proverbs, one revolves around the Blegvad-coined palindrome "Peel's foe, not a set animal, laminates a tone of sleep") are married to music by John Greaves that manages to be catchy despite switching to a new time signature every five seconds. Assuming you've had years of vocal training, you'll be able to sing along with the album after one or two listens. I've had the title track stuck in my head for days, and it's really frustrating because I can't play guitar well enough to actually play it, so I have to walk around the house sounding like a crazy man with my a capella version. Here's Robert Wyatt singing it (this is an alternate version that appears on John Greaves' Songs CD -- it also appears as a hidden bonus track on the Kew. Rhone CD).

About the CD. It came out on Voiceprint in 1997 and it's wonderful. It comes with a very, very, very cool bonus multi-media thing for your computer that provides background, alternate versions of two of the songs (both available elsewhere), an unreleased track, and interviews with lots of the people who made the album, all of whom fail to answer the question "What does 'Kew. Rhone' mean?" Totally essential.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything from Peter Blegvad's solo albums. Long story short: I don't really like them. For someone who's been involved with so many out-there musicians, his own work is incredibly conservative singer/songwriter stuff. I'm sorry, but someone else will have to talk about him. The only Peter Blegvad product that I can really get 100% behind is:

(A book of his fairly amazing cartoons. Go here for samples.)

But, since there was a request, here's Peter performing a song called Special Delivery live in 1985 with the Golden Palominos as his back up band (he was a member at the time). This is from one of several bootlegs of the Blegvad Palominos. Kind of reminds me of late-period VU. Peter sounds so great when he sings like this...it makes me really sad that he's turned into such a subdued (somewhat charming and cerebral) candidate for an NPR special.

Odds and Ends:

I've left out a lot. Depending on your musical taste, you could productively follow a lot of paths that start at Slapp Happy. I haven't touched on the Art Bears, The Lodge, Dagmar Krause's solo albums, most of Peter Blegvad's albums (he has something out this year with Andy Partridge that I haven't yet heard), and so on.

I also haven't talked at all about Slapp Happy's Ca Va album (it's worth hearing, though not really of a piece with their first wave of albums), their Live in Japan album (from a reunion in 2000...fun but not essential, and bootlegs include more songs), or the Camera album (it's opera: someone must like this, but that someone isn't me). Lots of details on various Slapp Happy releases (including some bootlegs) are here.

There's a wonderful timeline-style discography here. While going over that, I noticed that there's one Slapp Happy track floating around that I didn't know about. It's a 1974 BBC session track with Robert Wyatt, with a version of A Little Something that's different from the album version. Cute.

I'm going to take a break on Monday and Tuesday. All of these mp3s are coming down on Wednesday, so tell your friends now or forever hold your tongue.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

 

What a weird career Anthony Moore has had. Alan Licht salivates over his early minimalist work (online excerpt over at the Forced Exposure website). Prog heads and Bongwater fanatics gather together to worship his work with Slapp Happy. Pink Floyd fans with dubious taste thrill to his co-writes with David Gilmour. Julian Lennon covered one of his songs. He's popped up here and there as a producer or musician. Last I checked, he was a professor in a music-related field.

His first three albums (one of which didn't get released until about twenty-six years after it was recorded) are minimalist and don't have much to do with his later directions (other than sharing a tendency to use non 4/4 meters). They actually are quite nice, and fans of that sort of thing probably won't be disappointed.

The first album in particular, Pieces From The Cloudland Ballroom, is really good and includes one track called Abcd Gol'fish that apparently invents Spacemen 3 (or at least Spectrum). [This is a 13Mb file.] Album number two, Secrets of The Blue Bag involves variations on a five note scale. As with parts of Cloudland Ballroom, it has a looser and more informal performance than most minimalism that I've heard (Glass, Reich, etc.) which does give it a more human touch. The album that didn't come out for a long time is called Reed, Whistle & Sticks and the question is, "Do you want to listen to a recording of sticks being dropped semi-endlessly, in stereo." You know, sometimes my answer to that is "yes." Here's a sample...extrapolate and decide for yourself.

After that there was that Slapp Happy thing. After Slapp Happy there were solo albums.

The tough thing about Anthony's solo albums (the rock ones, not the minimalist ones) is that they're maddeningly inconsistent. Sometimes there's great production on so-so songs. Other times there are great tunes but the tempo is kind of slow, or they need a better chorus or a bridge. There's a Bob Dylan influence that sometimes shows up to ill effect, and he had the same problem with 1980's production that everyone else did. Basically, when Anthony sounds like Kevin Ayers or Syd Barrett or Brian Eno with David Bowie, he can be pretty great. He changed his last name to "More" for some of his solo work, not that it helped him sell any more copies (ha ha ha).

His first solo album was called Out, but of course it didn't get released until nearly twenty years after its recording date of 1976. About half of it is good. You could say of that half that it has the same quality to potential-quality-as-demonstrated-by-past-work ratio as recent Robyn Hitchcock. The other half is good-to-great. It includes one song called Lover Of Mine that, in my opinion, ought to occupy a special spot in the Syd Barrett wing of the music museum. If you're a fan of Canterbury-related stuff, I'd say it's well worth buying Out. It also contains a really great cover of Catch A Falling Star (who would have thought).

The second solo album is the one that gets the best word on the street, and I'll go along with that. It's called Flying Doesn't Help and it has aspects of Pink Floyd, Eno and Bowie , Kevin Ayers, and so on. The production is often really inventive: there are some wonderful transitions between tracks and neat zigs and zags for the headphone contingent. Here's the first song, Judy Get Down. I've already posted two other tracks from the album during this Slapp Happy blow-out, so I'll leave it at that, even though some songs that I haven't posted are better than some that I have.

His third solo album World Service is less inspired, and the production starts to move in an icky 80's direction. With one exception: it includes a killer version of a Flying Doesn't Help song called Lucia (on World Service it's called Lucia Still Alive). I really wish he'd done more like this. BTW, I played this mp3 on my home stereo yesterday and it sounded kind of thin...might be wise to listen on headphones.

The fourth, and final, solo album is called The Only Choice and its 80's slick-quasi-world-music (think Peter Gabriel with less of a pop sense) production puts me off so much that I just shouldn't talk about it. If anyone wants to tackle it in the comments section, feel free.

So, in sum, Anthony is frustrating. I think you could put together a neat best-of if you took about half of Out and half of Flying Doesn't Help and the song Lucia Still Alive from World Service. And again, the minimalist albums are pretty good too.

Tomorrow: Kew, Rhone, I finally sort of get around to Peter Blegvad's solo career, and the final wrap up.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

 

For their third album (fourth if you count Acnalbasac Noom) Slapp Happy teamed up with a group called Henry Cow (who have an album called Unrest that must have made it's way to Wakefield High School at some point -- see also the Henry Cow song Teenbeat). The plan was to record two albums: one with Slapp Happy in control and the second with Henry Cow in charge. The first of these two albums was called Desperate Straights and it's recently been remastered, so you can buy it all by itself:

or together with Casablanca Moon, as pictured yesterday.

I'll bet that a lot of people who own the Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights two-fer run, run, run to turn off their CD player after track number eleven. There's a world of difference between Slapp Happy and the Slapp Happy/Henry Cow conglomerate. Henry Cow were into super tricky time signatures, Art music with a capital A, and a high level of seriousness. Suddenly Slapp Happy don't sound like the band we knew. In the beginning I really disliked Desperate Straights.

In recent years it's grown on me a lot. But it really isn't rock by most definitions of the word. File it under progressive jazz or avant art song or something. There is one track that avoids that label: here's Strayed which is apparently Peter Blegvad's idea of what Lou Reed would sound like if forced to abandon 4/4 time and a limit of three chords per song. And the answer is that maybe Lou ought to look into that as a possibility, 'cause it works really well. More often the songs sound like Some Questions About Hats, and Dagmar is starting to sound much more German. I'm not sure I'd play this for anyone under thirty. (Strayed is from my Virgin vinyl copy which sounds better, IMHO, than the old CD version. I don't yet have the new remaster which is rumored to sound wonderful.)

The second album of the collaboration, In Praise Of Learning, was kind of marred by the fact that Henry Cow threw Peter Blegvad out (Peter claims that this was due to his inability to play in some ridiculous time signature). It's pretty much a Henry Cow album with Dagmar singing. In fact, you have to look closely at the packaging to find the reference to Slapp Happy. From In Praise Of Learning (this is from my Virgin vinyl copy so sorry for any popshissscratches) here's the original version of War, later covered by the Fall. Ok, even though it's not supported by any interviews with Mark E. Smith, my theory is that he based the Fall track (which I posted last week) on Anthony Moore's later solo version of War. Tell me what you think.

Again, I really disliked In Praise Of Learning when I first heard it. Now I definitely like War, and the textures of some of the other bits are pretty cool, but I can't honestly say I listen to it all that much. I'm not sure I'd play it for anyone under forty (and, sadly, I am but thirty-five).

If you decide to buy In Praise Of Learning, be aware that the original CD was remixed (remixed, not remastered) and doesn't sound like the vinyl. I believe that more recent CDs revert to the original mix.

Tomorrow is all about poor overlooked Anthony Moore, and we're suddenly going to start calling him Anthony More.

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