Thursday, June 30, 2005

 

Take the expressway way out and then turn right. Continue left until detour, then continue right. Head due west and you are there.

Hey, let's move to Watertown!

[Directions provided by The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette]

Soul of a Woman by The Four Seasons

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

 


Jake Holmes week part 2: The Four Seasons in Genuine Imitation Life Gazette

Unless you're very young, you know Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons so there'll be no introduction, but I'm going to quickly emphasize that Frankie Valli's soprano voice will not be found anywhere in today's post, so relax. Around 1969, The Four Seasons got caught up in the excitement of Sergeant Pepper and flower power and funny cigarettes and decided to record a psychedelic album. Bob Gaudio (main songwriter of the Four Seasons) wrote the songs, Jake Holmes wrote the lyrics, and the result was a commercial dud and one of the best pop-psych albums of the 60's.

No one, and I mean no one, is going to deny that this record has some of the best packaging evah. It's a full scale mock-up of a newspaper, and I don't mean a half-assed job like Thick As A Brick [a commenter points out that this wasn't the best example to give]. You get comics, coupons:


a crossword puzzle (if you click this, you'll be able to read it):


movie listings:


("Andy Warhole's 'Dandruff!'" Ha ha.)

and so on. It's amazingly detailed and I'm going to point out right this instant that it was a flop on a major label, which means that finding used copies in good shape is a piece of cake. Buy a vinyl copy (even if you don't have a turntable)! This has come out on CD a few times, but is currently out of print as far as I know.

Anyways, you can have The Beach Boys and whatever version of Smile tickles your fancy, and I'll take Genuine Imitation Life Gazette as a substitute, and everybody's happy.

GILG sounds like a million bucks, with stacked harmonies, top-notch songwriting, orchestral bits galore, and a really playful and fun approach to psychedelic production. Instead of cramming a million "strange" noises into their pop songs, they seem to have put a lot of thought into keeping space in the arrangements. The drums, in particular, are a lot like Ringo's in the way they're both sparse and perfect.

There are a number of great pop-song-length pieces, like Mrs. Stately's Garden, which is sort of like Ray Davies meets John Cheever, or Genuine Imitation Life which does some brilliant things to open up the original (posted on Monday) but the really, really amazing parts are the epic tracks that bookend the album. Here's the opener, American Crucifixion Resurrection, a pretty daring album opener for 1969. If enough people are interested, I'll post the other long one tomorrow.

Mrs. Stately's Garden by The Four Seasons
Genuine Imitation Life by The Four Seasons
American Crucifixion Resurrection by The Four Seasons

Monday, June 27, 2005

 

Jake Holmes week

The funny thing is that you've heard Jake Holmes' music. Out of all of the artists that I've ever mentioned in Mystical Beast, Jake Holmes is the only one for whom I can say that for certain, assuming you own a television.

To get that part out of the way, I'll start with a rundown of the songs that he wrote that you know: Be All That You Can Be, I'm a Pepper, Raise Your Hand If You're Sure. You may have also heard some others, but those three seemed like the most likely suspects.

He also wrote Dazed And Confused, which appeared in an altered (and uncredited) version on Led Zeppelin's debut. These are the basic factoids that you're going to find in any article on Jake Holmes.

Not so long ago his very, very out-of-print records from the sixties and early seventies became available again, and by download at that. If you're impatient, feel free to hop on over to It's About Music or eMusic. The two albums that you most likely want are The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes and A Letter to Katherine December. Be aware that these are remastered from vinyl, and sometimes that's very obvious. If you're really uptight, you may still need to track down original copies, which aren't cheap.

Even though it doesn't really make much sense, I've always been somewhat hesitant to post MP3's from albums that are available for legal download. So today, the pickings are going to be kind of slim: here's a sparse, haunting, and maybe slightly overwrought/creepy song called Genuine Imitation Life. I think the strangeness I hear comes from the delivery, since the version that I posted last Wednesday and the one I'm going to post later this week come across as much less earnest.

Why do you care about Jake Holmes? Aside from the Trivial Pursuit aspects detailed above, I can think of a couple of good reasons. One: his first two albums feature a deceptively oddball and really unusual approach to folk/rock. Album #1, The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes is accurately described by Perfect Sound Forever as "spartan like a slab of concrete." It's not exactly minimalist (though the combo playing it is minimal i.e. acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, no percussion): the chords and lyrics aren't at all stripped down. But I don't know if I've ever heard music that's simultaneously so interesting and so emotionally evasive. Something about the flat sound of Jake's voice seems at odds with the lyrics and arrangements. Album #2, A Letter To Katherine December, has a full band and goes down a little easier, but some of his production ideas are way ahead of their time, like the way orchestral bits will flip in and out of songs as if they were samples. And again, there's the voice. Imagine Crispin Glover singing lead for Love, and you're headed for the right territory.

Reason number two revolves around two amazing records Jake Holmes co-wrote in 1969 with Bob Gaudio. I'll be posting tracks from those for the remainder of this week.

A lot of info as well as video of a 1967 live performance (!) and streams of a number of tracks (including Jake's original Dazed And Confused) can be found here. Perfect Sound Forever did a nice article/interview recently here. Jake Holmes has a small but helpful web site here.

Genuine Imitation Life by Jake Holmes

Saturday, June 25, 2005

 
Recent Developments

Added Record Robot to list of mp3 blogs. It's new (got the link via Largehearted Boy) but seems to be one of the good guys.

Finally watched Thank God It's Friday after all these years. Great movie to see while recovering from knee surgery, and I spent the whole thing thinking that one of the leads was awfully cute and surprisingly talented, then found out it was Terri Nunn (of Berlin) at the end. I feel like I should have known that.

Glad to see that others share my dim view of the Believer snorefestmusicissue. On the balance, I have to note that one of the more engaging things I read just post-op was a Heidi Julavits story in this collection. I was on a lot of Percoset at the time, so I can't vouch for it in the light of day. I believe that a portion of the profits from sales of that book go to help young white people with lousy taste in music, so help support a good cause.

Friday, June 24, 2005

 

Timber

As promised before the break, here's a short piece on a somewhat forgotten early nineties combo from New York. I previously posted one track of theirs, The Crankcase, which was one of the highlights on a Matador Records compilation called New York Eye & Ear Control.

Timber was, for the most part, the trio of Rick Brown, Mark Howell, and Jenny Wade. The group started as an improv duo of Rick and Mark (joined once or twice by John Zorn for live gigs), then expanded to include Faye Hunter, who eventually left and was replaced by Jenny.

Drummer Rick Brown has come up on Mystical Beast a bunch of times. He was involved in the early No Wave scene, played in V-Effect (a personal favorite), and would later form a band called Run On with the ubiquitous Alan Licht. Mark Howell played guitar and has a website of sorts here. Jenny Wade sang for Rude Buddha (no relation to the current band with the same name) who existed on the fringes of my consciousness during the eighties, as well as Vodka (who'll be making an appearance here shortly).

As with a number of Rick Brown projects, Timber were all over the place. At various times they featured spirited attempts to destroy 4/4 time signatures, hints of Mofungo meets Minutemen folk/post-punk, scattered remnants of No Wave, and signs that they'd been in the Knitting Factory once or twice. There are off-kilter pop songs, tricky instrumentals, and "experimental" tracks capable of enthralling or annoying, depending on your tastes. I'd be tempted to compare Parts and Labor to a better recorded version of Tape #1 but that strikes me as one of those ultra-obscure comparisons that people tend to (rightly) complain about. Read about Tape #1 here [I never did fix that one mp3 in that piece...sorry].

I'm going to post some of the more accessible tracks from Parts And Labor today. If you like your difficult music More Difficult, be aware that there's stranger stuff on the CD. If you like your pop More Poppy, be aware that there are some tracks that you're just plain not going to like on the CD.

Why not start with a cover version? Here's Timber's take on Bad Education, a song originally by The Blue Orchids (the group that Martin Bramah formed after leaving The Fall).

Reminding me somewhat of Yo La Tengo in Ira-goes-crazy mode, here's I'm 30, I'm Having a Heart Attack, I Just Wanted You to Know That. This track was written by Rick and one Ruth Peyser. I didn't know who she was, so I asked Rick, who replied, "Ruth is an animator. She did some record covers also. She also played guitar in Bump, The Biggest Square Thing, and Broken Box (the last group never recorded but included me and Tim Harris of Antietam and Jim Biederman. Go here for details. Bump made a great 7" on LOST Records and Biggest Square Thing did one for Buttrag and have a song on the NY Eye & Ear Control compilation."

[Buttrag was Peter Margasak's label, also a magazine; Peter Margasak wrote for Spin at one time, though subsequent to reviewing Liz Phair's first album and subsequent to Liz Phair whispering sweet nothings into Bob Guccione Jr.'s ear, Peter mysteriously decided to leave the magazine and is currently a rock critic in Chicago; I did a bit on NY Eye & Ear Control the other day; Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo makes a brief appearance on the Timber CD, playing organ on one track.]

One of my favorite songs is Puddle, which really strikes me as what DNA might have sounded like if they were picked up and moved several giant steps towards the mainstream. [Rick was surprised to hear me compare this to DNA. To me, Puddle sounds like it's cut from much the same cloth as DNA's You and You. Drum pulse, minimal bass riff that gravitates back to one note, guitar breaks up the rhythm, vocals delivered like a poem over a backing track. Obviously Timber makes more concessions: the guitar plays notes, the singer sings. Let me know what you think.]

Finally, here's the album opener There's Always 1 & 9 which combines a lot of the things that Timber does well into one short sweet knockout punch. Interesting use of samples or whatever that is.

The CD originally came out in 1992 and used copies don't seem that hard-to-find. Failing that, it looks like you can order directly from Mark Howell at the above-linked web site. Rick and Mark continue to record together, and Rick is also currently finishing up tracks for Les Batteries (his long-standing but largely dormant collaboration with French drummer Guigou Chenevier) with the likelihood that some of them will appear on an upcoming CD release of their first LP Noisy Champs (originally on the French label AYAA). For that record the band included Charles Hayward, best known from This Heat.

Rick, Jenny and Mark were nice enough to forward one unreleased Timber track. As I told Rick with relief, it's very good. Here's Bats. Many of the finicky details of this piece were supplied by Rick Brown. His wife, Sue Garner, is a also a musician and her doings can be tracked here.

Bad Education by Timber
I'm 30, I'm Having a Heart Attack, I Just Wanted You to Know That by Timber
Puddle by Timber
There's Always 1 & 9 by Timber
Bats by Timber
You and You by DNA

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

 
Genuine Imitation Life

As a teaser for next week's feature, here's a 1967 single by future Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax. The song is Genuine Imitation Life, credited to J. Holmes. The b-side is a Bee Gees cover called One Minute Woman.

Both tracks can be found on various bootleg-ish CD compilations. I'm afraid that my copy of the 7" is slightly scratchy, but you can hear better (though lower bit rate) versions here and here. In fact, though it's not noted on the website, you can hear streams of a bunch of his tracks here by clicking what's ostensibly a link to lyrics. Some work. Some don't.

Genuine Imitation Life by Jackie Lomax

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

 
Public Service

I recently got a request from a reader who wanted to hear the Dustdevils' cover of The Fall's Hip Priest, a song that I've posted here a few times. Since the Fall have been in the music news lately due to the recent release of their Peel Sessions box set, I decided to post the track again publicly. So, here's the opener of my favorite album of all time, on which the Dustdevils achieve the unthinkable: taking Mark E. Smith's signature song and improving it. Yikes!

Regarding the Dustdevils, to the best of my knowledge Michael is living in England and raising a family and Jaqi has settled in Australia with her husband Keith Gregory (ex-Wedding Present). Neither one seems to be making music anymore, which is fairly tragic in the grand scheme of things.

Hip Priest by The Dustdevils

 
How To Write A Good Song

Today Pete Dello explains how to write a good song. Young musicians might want to pay special attention to the last line, an often overlooked factor.

The album this is on, Into Your Ears from 1971, has been reissued again recently with ten bonus tracks (on Hanky Panky, ltd. edition). The album as a whole is similar to (though generally less gimmicky than) the song I've posted. Think the folkier side of the late Beatles, with vocals that fall somewhere between Ringo Starr and Ray Davies' "drunk" voice. I haven't googled myself to death, but it looks like US fans would be best off ordering this via eBay if your local record shop doesn't have it.

A Good Song by Pete Dello

Monday, June 20, 2005

 

Compilations part 4: Manhattan on the Rocks/New York Bands on the Verge...

Thus far, the compilations that I've dealt with have been basically good straight through. No such luck today. Manhattan on the Rocks came out in 1992 on Pow Wow Records and a lot of it is kind of blah. There's a point in the early 90's where bands that previously would have been content to play the East Village indefinitely started to think seriously about becoming big, with often dubious results. Ironically, a lot of the bands on this CD probably could have done ok...if they'd waited about five more years to release these tracks, some of which could have fit really well into the hard-rock radio formats of the mid-to-late 90's or into the record collections of teenagers beginning to grow bored with Marilyn Manson.

Running down the list of people that I'm not posting, there's Stigmata A Go Go, False Prophets, ISM (not to be confused with the post-No Wave act Ism), Motherhead Bug (who used to get a ton of press around town though I don't think it helped their record sales), Virus, Emergency Broadcast Network, Lysdexic, Black Car Nation, Some Weird Sin, and 700 Miles. A lot of these are overproduced (compensating for all the 80's NYC bands with terrible production, I suppose). There's much long hair in the band photos.

Anyway, we're here for an appearance by Rat at Rat R, one of the best of the early NYC noise-guitar bands. Their debut album, in particular, is long overdue for a CD reissue. On that, they sound something like a cross between early Swans and Confusion-era Sonic Youth. Later they moved in a more conventionally rock direction, so while you can hear some skree-guitar on The Way, it doesn't scream "Lower East Side" like their first record. Really great stuff with all the power that Kim and "The Drummer" could never muster, and I hope I won't annoy too many people by noting that things like this seem to be aging much better than The Grateful Youth. I mean The Sonic Dead. I mean...

Rat At Rat R, for this track, is John Myers, David Tritt, Walter Sipser and Victor Poison-Tete. Here's the Trouser Press entry on the group. The Way is apparently the last song they released, and it doesn't appear elsewhere.

The other reason I hold on to this CD is Big Stick, one of New Jersey's greater contributions to the world of music. For once, there's a website! There's also a nice overview here (wow, that site takes me back to the 80's! Be careful as many of the links are not so work safe. Among other things, I learned that there's a new-ish alt-porn director named Eon McKai, ha ha). By Big Stick, here's Freddie & Me, which sometimes sounds like a distant, distant cousin of Ton-Loc's Wild Thing. Did I say distant? WFMU's Beware of the Blog recently posted another very nice Big Stick song called Drag Racing. Find it here.

The Way by Rat At Rat R
Freddie & Me by Big Stick

Friday, June 17, 2005

 
17 Pygmies... Part Five of Five...

The band vanished again for three more years after the release of Welcome. In 1991 the album Missyfish was released by the label Nate Starkman And Son out of Chicago. This weird little record (24 minutes or so) has the feeling of unfinished sketches or demos, with several short instrumental throwaways. The record came with the tracks from Hatikva placed first, further enhancing its secondary status. No lineup info (or any info) at all. Here's two tracks from it, they sound like they could be from any point in the band's career. Where are they all now? Who knows.

"Under The Freeway"
"Coat Of Many Colours (Missyfish)"

Thanks for all the comments, folks. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Mystical Beast programming, as Dana is hopefully healed and off the painkillers!

For those intrigued by the last two weeks I have a music-geek website called Made Explicit, visit me there until the next time...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

 
Nearing the end of our 17 Pygmies overview...

The band seemingly went dormant for a few years... Captured In Ice is from 1985. The next record, Welcome, appeared in '88 on a subsidiary of Island Records (!!). Ruza and Spinelli were gone, replaced by Louise Bialik and a host of guests. The album was a fairly radical deparature, featuring bizarre spoken "theatre pieces" written and performed by Charles Schneider and a much wider range of songs over the course of a 53-minute LP. A carnival/circus theme pervades throughout. We're getting a little tight on space here at the Mystical Beast, so I'm only including three of the best tracks.

"Drunkard" features Moris Tepper on banjo and cornet along with Savage Republic/Medicine player Brad Laner on drums.

"Reek Of Life" features Laner and Saccharine Trust's Jack Brewer on vocals and lyrics (!!).

"Kristalnacht" is one of my favorite guitar instrumentals ever...

The album seems to have sunk without a trace. Although it was on CD, I have never seen one. Again, not reissued.

As I go through these records I find myself wondering - can anyone out there in internetland tell me if these people ever played live? I've never heard anything about it.

Tomorrow we get to the strange last album!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

 
17 Pygmies, Part 3

Once out from under the shadow of Savage Republic, the band created its first album consisting exclusively of their vision. And their vision said "GO POP". The Captured In Ice LP was also apparently released by Resistance in the U.S., although my copy is a French version on the Lolita label, seemingly their next-to-last release. As usual, this has never been reissued on LP or CD.

Perhaps "pop" is a little blithe when referring to these sophisticated songs, but it sure has the sound. Check it out:

"Suit Of Nails"
"Shade"

Of course, there were divergences, including two instrumentals. Here's one:

"Autumn Cathedral"

And my favorite, a soaring, sad, and passionate tune:

"Icarus"

The record also begins to introduce other notable L.A. figures who would guest with the band. Fey Ruza is added to the full lineup, Nels Cline guests on "Autumn Cathedral", Ethan James (of the Radio Tokyo studio) plays keyboard on "Shade", and another track features former Beefheart guitarist Jeff Moris Tepper (who I highly recommend, by the way).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

 
17 Pygmies, Part 2

In 1984 Savage Republic split apart while recording their second album. The 17 Pygmies axis (Drucker and Loveless) released the record as the LP Jedda By The Sea with new band member Debbie Spinelli. This included some material that was supposed to be part of the Sav Rep album, albeit in different versions. Supposedly Bruce Licher has masters of the "Sav Rep" version that have yet to be released. It's all a little bit confusing, but the relationship between the bands appears amiable.

At any rate, this album is solid freakin' gold and easily in my 1984 top 20. It has a wide variety of styles, ranging from bliss-filled poppy "songs"

"Words Never Said"
"Lazarus"

to Savage Republic-esque instrumental tracks

"Moment In Ceylon"
"Last Grave At Dimbaza

to percussion jams

"Tropical Grasslands"

to gorgeous soundtrack-style instrumentals.

"Still Waters"
"Nocturne"

As a previous comment from Monday noted, some of these records were hand-painted and all are very beautiful with inserts, et cetera. The album has never been reissued and has never been on CD. Tragic.

Tomorrow 17 Pygmies go totally pop on their second album! Don't miss it!

Monday, June 13, 2005

 
Here we go into the next week. This time we'll be talking about the California 80's band 17 Pygmies. They were very closely related to Savage Republic, with members bouncing back and forth over time. The Trouser Press website has a pretty good overview of the records, and there is an extensive article on Savage Republic at Perfect Sound Forever that covers a lot of the information around the bands. With those available for reference, I'll be talking more about the music this week.

I think the best way to start is to show what Savage Republic sounded like before Philip Drucker (aka Jackson Del Rey) and Robert Loveless left to form 17 Pygmies. From their classic first single, here's

"Film Noir"

The vocal melodies and keyboard parts are what migrated over to the new band.

The first real 17 Pygmies release was a 12" EP called Hatikva. Originally put out on their own label Resistance Records, it was also reissued by an Italian label called Viva. Pretty much impossible to find, at least I've never seen a copy. Fortunately, it was included with their last release Missyfish, so I can bring you two extremely different tracks:

The very Sav-Rep influenced

"Lawrence Of Arabia"

And the very 17 Pygmies-sounding

"Vows"

Tomorrow we will discuss the debut album and include a bunch more MP3s. For extra credit, you can read the linked articles above...

Friday, June 10, 2005

 
Tiny Lights, Part 4...

In 1994 the band put out their second CD (5th album) on Doctor Dream, marking the first time they had been able to release two consecutive albums on a label. Trouser Press raves about Milky Juicy and says it's their favorite. I'm not quite so enthusiastic, but it does have some great stuff . As the review notes, it's one of the more diverse albums. Here's two tracks:

"I Don't Enjoy Life"
"Circle Sky"

Also in 1994, some fans in Iowa released a 7" single with two tracks from a live gig including a long-time live favorite which never made it to LP (I think it was one of the lost Know It You Love tracks). Here it is:

"Horsehead"

By the time 1995 rolled around, it seemed that Doctor Dream had also become defunct. I can't find any info on the web, a Google search just gets me a lot of albums that the label released. At any rate, the band signed to New Jersey label Bar/None and put out a career-spanning retrospective called A Young Person's Guide To Tiny Lights. This record includes several tracks from the Know It You Love sessions, although I find it's track selection a bit odd.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, all of the MP3s from this week function as an alternate retrospective. There are no tracks in common with the Bar/None CD, which I believe is still in print (hint, hint...). Bar/None also released what appears to be the band's last studio record in 1997, The Smaller The Grape The Sweeter The Wine. Even though it seems to still be in print, I'm including one track from it for completion's sake, and because I think it's a nice closing piece:

"Would You Like To Float"

So I hope y'all have enjoyed this feature. Next week I'm going to be talking about 17 Pygmies, another "lost" band that has considerably more documented information. No personal anecdotes and recordings this time, but there will be some great rare tracks. Please support Tiny Lights and buy their records from Bar/None...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

 
Tiny Lights, part 3...

After Gaia's collapse in 1989, the band moved to a fairly new startup label, Absolute A Go Go. They reissued the debut LP (Prayer For The Halcyon Fear) on CD, with the 1st 7" included as bonus tracks. At the time, this was quite exciting - A Go Go had a distribution deal with Rough Trade and that seemed like a good thing. They also put out a new studio album, Hot Chocolate Massage. In many ways one of the band's best, this turns up the volume considerably and brings in some funkier classic rock motifs.

From that record, here's one of my favorite tracks:
"Moonwhite Day"

By this point, original cello player Jane Scarpantoni had left the band to become session player for the stars. Although she recorded H.C.M. with the band, she didn't tour the record. Some of her best known work post-Tiny Lights is on records by Kristin Hersh ("Your Ghost") and 10,000 Maniacs. There are a lot more records that feature her, I'm just blanking out right now. The band (with replacement cellist Stuart) was still touring like demons, forging the studio tracks into ferocious improv-oriented jams in a live setting. The only recorded example of their improvisation skills is on a CD bonus track for the H.C.M. album (there were two other extra tracks included as well, definitely get the CD version).

"Tuesday Afterdinner (improv)"

Two years later, Absolute A Go Go was gone as well, taken down by Rough Trade's collapse. For a firsthand account (somewhat bitter but seemingly accurate) you can check out Absolute A Go Go's history page. It was here that I learned Tiny Lights were briefly labelmates with Phish, which on reflection totally fits.

Next up in the label parade was Orange County's Doctor Dream Records, who released the 4th album (Stop The Sun I Want To Go Home) in 1992. From that, here's two tracks:

"Curlyeyed Open Stare"
"Facedown (For Serge Gainsbourg)"

In 1993 the band released a single on Kramer's Kokopop label, produced and recorded by the man himself on yummy bubblegum-pink vinyl. Out of print and never reissued, it contains two of my favorite tracks by the band, at this point a 4-piece without cello.

"I Think I Just Want To Go Away" (A-side)
"Pull It Together" (B-side)

Tomorrow we'll wrap things up with the last two albums and another rare single.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

 
Continuing with the story of Hoboken's Tiny Lights... in 1988 the group released their 2nd full-length album, Hazel's Wreath. It was on a new label called Gaia Records, which I remember John telling me at the time was a "jazz label". Now, when I Google it, most of the results are for a newer techno label. However, some are clearly for the older one. I found a result for jazz artist Nelson Rangell's 1st LP, but only the cached version of the page has this telling sentence: "Rangell's 1987 debut album was released on the obscure label Gaia Records, but he soon found a more satisfying environment at GRP Records." Ominous harbingers of things to come!!

The record itself is, indeed, a tasty jazz-inflected expansion of the debut (see Mike's comment from Tuesday for more about their jazz background). Here's two tracks from it:
"Around It Goes Around"
"Before You Go"

They toured the country in support of the LP, and this was when we met (see Tuesday's entry). Us Hoosiers were so blown away by their show in Bloomington (Indiana) that we followed them to Louisville the next night - the sure sign of a good band. Somehow, I found the presence of mind to tape their second set of the night on a boombox. It came out pretty good, all things considered.

The first song of the set was from what was intended to be their second Gaia release, a record called Know It You Love. It has an especially nice Andy Demos sax solo...
"Close My Eyes"

I also am including a live version of another Hazel's Wreath song for contrast:
"Green Instead"

Some time between this tour and the end of the next one, around 1989, Gaia went bankrupt. The record, which had been recorded, was never released. Several songs ended up on the Bar/None collection I'll be discussing on Friday, but the album as a whole remains unheard. Bummer. On the other hand, Hazel's Wreath is quite easy to find used, and was even put out on CD.

Tomorrow we're going to cover the next two albums (on two different labels), discuss a reissue and further label catastrophes, and post one of the longer MP3s that this site has had (although Rhys Chatham stills beats it).

Monday, June 06, 2005

 
*insert cool JPG of Tiny Light's debut LP cover here*

This week I shall tell you, dear readers, of a great band from Hoboken, New Jersey. I will also tell you of their sad fate at the hands of three consecutive bankrupted labels. Let us begin...

I don't believe any of the folks in Tiny Lights had previous musical history in terms of being in bands that released albums. They formed in Hoboken in 1984 or so, and at one point my Indiana roommate Ian Brewer lived with one of them. When they first toured Bloomington in the summer of 1988 Ian put them up in our shared house, and we became friends. But at that point they already had two albums out, so for today I'm going to back up a little.

As is common among the artists we deal with here at Mystical Beast, there is no current website for the band. I was able to find a semi-complete fan discography, a 1997 bio of the band written when they signed to Bar/None, and a glowing Trouser Press review that really says it all in the first line:

"Tiny Lights were a perfectly lovely jumble of plaintive pop, Close to the Edge-style epics, jazzy forays and neo-hippie lullabies that, if not for a procession of label failures, might have found an audience as broad as its tastes."

So the first thing they released was a 7" single on their own Uriel label, "Flowers Through The Air" b/w "Zippity Do-Dah". Typical small pressing, even I don't have one. An LP (Prayer For The Halcyon Fear) soon followed, also on the Uriel imprint.

This first version of the band was something to be reckoned with. Augmenting the standard guitar, bass, and drums was Donna Croughn's electric violin and Jane Scarpantoni's cello. Drummer Andy Demos would come out from behind his kit to play soprano sax and tabla, and bassist Dave Dreiwitz also played trumpet. All of them sang, with Croughn and guitarist John Hamilton taking leads. This allowed a fairly vast sonic palette and made for quite the live show.

One of the people impressed by their live set was Fred Gianelli, then of Turning Shrines and later in Psychic TV. If I remember correctly, his enthusiasm was what resulted in Temple Records reissuing the first single (as a 12") and LP (in a different cover, both remastered) in the UK. As I was a huge PTV geek at the time I met the band, I quizzed them extensively about this. I still remember their tales of going to a grim tenement block somewhere in England, in the grey rain with the locks and the dogs, watching TV and smoking lots of pot and wondering when these weird people were going to talk business.

I wouldn't include Temple in the list of failed labels that has plagued the band, but I doubt these records were ever repressed, and I don't think Temple has been active since Genesis P-Orridge was forced to flee to the US on trumped-up charges in the early 90's. They did do an incredible job on the remasters (something I also confirmed with the band) so all of these here MP3's are from those pressings.

from the debut single:
"Flowers Through The Air"

from Prayer For The Halcyon Fear:
"Sweet Solution"
"Blue Dot Cleanser"

By the way, all of these MP3s this week are designed as an alternate version of their collection A Young Person's Guide To Tiny Lights (we'll get to that on Friday). The week's total tracks will (just barely) fit on one CD.

Tomorrow we'll talk about the second album, the tours, and the first label downfall...

 
Briefly interrupted

As you might have gleaned from previous posts, I'm going be having knee surgery tomorrow to repair a torn ACL (knee problem). Since I'm expecting that I'll be drugged up and unhappy for a week or two, my regular guest host Sleeve will be taking over starting tomorrow.

Assuming that all goes well, I'll resume regular posts on June 20th. Because I have limited space to host Sleeve's files, I'll be deleting the majority of my MP3's later this afternoon, so if there's anything you want, now's the time to download it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

 

Compilations part 3: Wakefield Volume 3/Superstars On 45

If you ever wanted to drive yourself insane, you could do worse than try to collect every single release on Teenbeat records. With a bewildering array of cassettes, 7" singles, alternate versions, alternate-alternate versions, and non-musical (sometime non-tangible) items with catalog numbers, it makes collecting the Sarah catalog look like child's play.

Which is why the The Teenbeat Story series of CD compilations can be semi-invaluable. There were four (also available as a box set, which I don't have) and today I'm talking about the third one, Superstars On 45, which compiles 16 tracks from various Teenbeat singles.

As with previous compilations discussed here, I can imagine a number of paths that would lead you to this album. Depending on what items you already have in your music collection, you might want Big Head On by Versus or So Sick by Unrest (from a promo only single released in 1993, and I'm pretty sure it's available elsewhere but I'm so sick of keeping track of Unrest's discography ha ha ha ha). Andrew Beaujon obsessives might want the track by Scaley Andrew, and there's a nice Barbara Manning cover of a nice Robert Scott (best known as leader of The Bats, but here it's the Magick Heads) song called B4 We Go Under. And there's a Cath Carroll A-side, Eggs, Tuscadero, and those note splattering maniacs Gastr Del Sol, and so on. Eclectic, thy name is Teenbeat.

But, yet again, I'm here for The Dustdevils. 'Cause this CD is also the only digital appearance of a track called Seen Heat from their Is Big Leggy 7" single, which immediately preceded the Matador/Teenbeat co-release Struggling Electric & Chemical. I'll quickly note that while this track is amazing, it's not necessarily the song I would use to convert people to the way of the Dustdevils. It's got structure and melody, but neither is immediately apparent. Sounds way better than the vinyl. Play it loud.

And my reason number two for drawing attention to this CD: a track from an EP by a band called Sexual Milkshake who are probably better known for their packaging [keep the mouse away from the matchbook if you're at work] than for their music. Here's Peanuts, which is ever so slightly like Flipper and The Fall performing the end of Iggy Pop's Here Comes Success. (Or, in English, a really sloppy and repetitive song with an insistent group of backing vocalists). It's fantastic, especially when they get to "Shut Up! Shut Up!"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

 
I'm just Mr. quick-note today. If you missed the Inflatable Boy Clams downloads here or elsewhere, take heart. The whole thing is available over at WFMU, along with a ton of other worthwhile downloads.

If you don't know the band, please trust me when I say download now and ask questions later.

 
Hell frozen, shame on Canada

Two unrelated items. glenn makudonarudo over at furia has begun posting mp3s. An explanation is provided. As a former opponent of downloading myself, I feel like a nun-turned-porn-actress who just found out that the pope is planning to star in Chitty Chitty Gang Bang. Guilt begone, and at last a chance to fill in those holes in your Roxette collection!

And w/all the Canadian bloggers out there, I still had to learn that Martha and The Muffins' This Is The Ice Age has finally been issued on CD from some guy in Wisconsin who did the follow-up that I forgot to do. He has mp3s and a nice write-up.

 

Compilations part 2: New York Eye and Ear Control

Back before Matador records was kind enough to introduce us to Liz Phair and all the subsequent happiness that she's brought the world, they put out a very nice compilation called New York Eye and Ear Control. Copies of the CD can usually be found cheap on the highways and byways of the internet, confusing Albert Ayler fans to no end. (The original New York Eye and Ear Control is a free jazz album and/or movie that Rick Moody could probably tell you all about...just be careful if you buy a copy, as it might make you uncomfortable, and we wouldn't want that).

If you know Matador as the home to great bands like Guided By Voices, The New Pornographers, and the lovely Ms. Phair, you might be surprised by the sound of this CD. Gerard Cosloy wasn't always the happy guy you're proud to call your friendster, and early Matador could be a dark place to visit, full of scrapy guitars and squally saxophones. A scary place. Boo!

And what lead me there? The Dustdevils, but of course. For NYE&EC is home to a very cool alternate version of one of their best songs from the best album in the history of time. Here's Throw The Bottle Full, a long version that's not actually quite as good as the one that ended up on the album, but who the hell cares!

Elsewhere, there's cool stuff galore: an otherwise unreleased Cop Shoot Cop track called Dive, a Circle X remix, a great version of Jet Pet by Royal Trux that's different from the one on Twin Infinitives (and it's not on their singles compilation)(and fans of The Fiery Furnaces really ought to check out early Royal Trux to hear about 1/2 of the genetic material of that band). If you must hear everything that Thurston Moore ever did, he's here too on a Rudolph Grey piece called The Hall.

My second favorite song on the CD is by yet another Rick Brown (V-Effect, Run On, Fish & Roses, etc.) vehicle, Timber, who actually sound a little bit like a less-jazzy V-Effect. Here's The Crankcase, and there'll be more on Timber at some point down the road.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

 

Compilations: the Big Time Syndrome

Thought I'd get started writing about various compilations that seem somewhat slightly important.

I can think of a few reasons why someone might be interested in the Bigtime Syndrome. This CD came out in 1987 and documents a number of good to very-good indie bands who got screwed over by the Bigtime label before and/or after it died. I'd guess that a lot of people will have heard a lot of the songs elsewhere (though my guesses on things like that are often wrong). If you don't know Truck Train Tractor by The Pastels (one of the best fake What Goes Ons ever recorded) or Play My Song by Redd Kross (a remix, but I see no reason to pick it over the version on the reissued album) or Rebecca Wants Her Bike Back by The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy, I'd strongly advise you to either get this comp or, better, to track down the album(s) that these songs appear on.

Fans of The Exploding White Mice who don't have turntables might want to check in for a CD appearance of Blaze of Glory (no relation to Game Theory) though I'm really jonesing for the b-side, a cover of John Kongos' He's Gonna Step On You Again.

As for me, I wanted the CD because it's the only digital appearance of a fairly strong song by Christmas (they turned into Combustible Edison; leader Michael Cudahy lost on Jeopardy to that braniac guy) called Babyman, featuring an especially strong guitar on the chorus that always reminds me momentarily of something or other by Live Skull. Weird.

In fact, I'd stake a claim that this is the best non-album Christmas song, not that there are all that many. It definitely beats their overly reverent cover of Ring My Bell (b-side of the Stupid Kids single). What else is there? Hmmm, there are those cuts on Bands That Could Be God (thank you Gerard, we love you) and the Throbbing Lobster comps., the Ballad of the Invisible Girl/Wilhelm Reich 7" and a live track from this comp, also home to a very good live Richard Davies track and various other things that might interest various people (though some of those various things, including the Davies cut, can be found for free on epitonic).

I used to have a friend who had heard Christmas demos, so they're probably out there somewhere. If I've missed anything, it'd be great to find out. They're kind of underdocumented on the ol' internet thing.

Babyman by Christmas

...and as I think about it, I'm not sure how easy it is to get Rebecca Wants Her Bike Back on CD these days, so here it is, just to be safe:

Rebecca Wants Her Bike Back by The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy

[Brief note. The new Believer music issue is out and is just about exactly as ghastly as I expected. The one redeeming part, also as predicted, is Douglas Wolk's essay on the Fall and their new Peel Sessions box, and conveniently it's available online in full. So spare yourself several hours of blithe-wit-induced euphoria and click here for the Fall piece. Or ignore me. If you do, let me know if you think Rick Moody really meant to reference Branca rather than Chatham. Or rather, if referencing Chatham was an obnoxious way of avoiding a name that his readers might know thanks to that copy of Goo that they love so. I just get a little suspicious about a list that's so specific, except when it comes to naming any one particular free-jazz artist...indication of grandstanding beyond the call of duty, not that the opening line, "I like music that makes other people uncomfortable" isn't a great big red sign with flashing lights.]

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?