Thursday, September 29, 2005

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

 

It just didn't seem right to wrap up without one final visit to The Island of Living Puke, you assholes.

Over the past few years I may have advanced one or two controversial theories, it's true. But I think we can all agree that a certain movie would've been vastly improved if the screenwriters have taken my suggestion and included a scene where Zoogz Rift bursts into a record shop, throttles John Cusack in a sleeper hold and proceeds to body slam him repeatedly until John concedes that he's a self obsessed yuppie with middle-brow musical taste and that Zoogz is indisputably looser than clams. Then Zoogz sings High Fidelity, fade to black. Best movie ending ever. I don't know why no one ever listens to me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

 

Red, Hot, and what the fuck?

Old record shopping story. I'm leafing through 10" records at a Park Slope music store that doesn't exist anymore (not Holy Cow) and I noticed the above. It's got great packaging, I'll say that. Kind of a collection of essays (that will not change your life) about young artistes and the horrible problems they have dealing with disease, starvation and...oh, I mean dating and deciding whether or not to try out bisexuality.

Anyways, I'm reading through it and suddenly have a minor heart attack as I notice that there's a (oblique and non-incriminating) reference to my wife in one of the articles on couples and how awful they are!

(Before meeting me, she had dated a somewhat well-known DC musician who was kind of in Fugazi for about ten seconds. He's very nice, so don't take that "about ten seconds" thing as snark. Both she and he have distinctive names...even though the reference is along the lines of "x is dating y" with "x" and "y" being an example of a couple, there's not a chance in hell that it's anyone else, especially given the people behind the project.)

Now I did used to be friends with someone who turned up in a Mary Gaitskill story in a not-so-flattering light, but this was just freaky. My wife was amused, having had no idea that she'd been immortalized in print. I'm told that I sat at Mary Gaitskill's old desk when I worked at the same used book store that she once worked at, back in the early 90's. Not sure how exciting that is.

Other than that, I have not much to say. The magazine part seems to feature a lot of slumming NY Press artists (like that evil Sara Schwartz who did her small part to help inflict Amy Sohn on the world by drawing her so damn cute) and the usual indie rock suspects of the time. For an alternate (and more generous) review, go here.

I was happy to get the Grifters track, Empty Yard. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Someone who wants to lose money doing a very good deed should really put out a Grifters anthology. They have quite a few very worthwhile non-album tracks, and their current profile seems awfully low.

To go with that (btw, it can be found on a CD that compiles the two Red, Hot + Bothereds as well) here's an early Grifters single called Evol Skull. I mean Sister Crown. I mean Daydream Riot. Damn, I'd better start eating those gingko nuts that grow in our front yard: this memory thing is getting worse. I'm taking Daydream Riot from the Grifters' Kingdom Of Jones compilation. The liner notes say that this has the full ending, where the single versions don't. Hoorah!

Friday, September 16, 2005

 
Tin Tin: The Saga Concludes

As someone noted in the comments, a timeline for all of these Steve Kipner projects would be nice, and I apologize for 1. not having enough time 2. or knowledge, to prepare a good one.

So the 2nd Tin Tin album Astral Taxi wasn't a hit. Steve Groves and John Vallins returned to Australia.

Steve Kipner kept on recording as Tin Tin with various collaborators, since working under that name got him studio time. This version of Tin Tin released a handful of singles. The only online source that I've found giving any details on these is this mysterious page on the internet, though much of its info is inaccurate.

What's interesting about these songs is that they start to cut loose from the whole Bee Gees thing that hung over Tin Tin (and Kipner's later projects Friends and, to a lesser extent, Skyband). You can hear a bunch of 70's influences creeping in, but I think that I'm mostly reminded of varying aspects of solo Paul McCartney.

Without further ado, here's the pretty hard-rocking Talking Turkey, written and sung by Geoff Bridgford. I'm told by a reliable source (who supplied most of the info for today's post) that this was Geoff's first songwriting experience. It turns out that Geoff also sang the b-side, Come On Over Again, which is that track that got added to the first Tin Tin album in the US (also a track that's not really of a piece with the rest of the record).

In news that surprised me, a second Tin Tin single involved Pete Beckett. I had thought that he and Steve Kipner had first worked together in Friends, but I was wrong. Pete wrote the a-side, I'm Afraid. I'm not sure who wrote the b-side, Handle Me Easy, but it's essentially just Steve and Pete in the studio. I'm very fond of the female (?) backing vocals on the chorus. For everyone who hasn't been following this whole convoluted saga, I'll remind you that Pete Beckett wrote Baby Come Back for his band Player. Trust me, you've heard it.

Yet another unusual sounding one is Back To Winona which features Steve Kipner's former Steve & The Board bandmate Carl Groszman on vocals. This really reminds me of either a strange take on glam rock, or of some of the things Paul McCartney was up to on Ram, like 3 Legs, for example (presented here, for no particularly good reason, in the mono mix). Carl is also known for writing Down The Dustpipe which was a top-20 hit single for Status Quo.

I wish I could give a more definitive look at this period. I expect that the CD reissues of Tin Tin (when they come out) will do a much better job. It's kind of all over the place musically, but the quality remains surprisingly high.

I should add that there are all sorts of aspects of Steve Kipner's career that I'm skipping. I haven't posted anything by Steve & The Board or any of the Bee Gees tracks where he sings backing vocals (that might be pushing things) or his later, post-Skyband, collaborations with Pete Beckett.

I have a feeling that at some point someone's going to come along and turn all of this into a pretty amazing article for Mojo. In the meantime, this little blog will have to do.

Monday, September 12, 2005

 

It's taken me an incredibly long time to get around to Astral Taxi, the Tin Tin album that I personally consider to be a Great Lost Classic of late sixties/early seventies Beatles-derived pop; this opinion apparently shared by the Allmusic reviewer. It came out in 1971, and though Maurice Gibb is still listed as executive producer, the heavy lifting on the production was actually handled by engineer John Pantry (now Rev. John Pantry) and the band. Not that the first Tin Tin album sounded like garbage, but Astral Taxi is a vast improvement with a warm, lush, orchestra-abetted sound that's about as good as these things get. It's not something I'd really want to argue about, but I kind of feel that a certain kind of rock production hit its peak between '68 and '72. I suppose it's a matter of taste, but I'd hold Astral Taxi up as a prime example of how I want an orchestral-pop record to sound.

Why the delay in writing about it? While researching Tin Tin, I found a number of interviews with the better-known member Steve Kipner, but noted that he often couldn't remember details about the recording sessions (in all fairness, he's been pretty busy over the last 35 years). On several occasions he suggested that the other guy behind the band would have a better recall. So I set out to interview Steve Groves who lives in Australia these days. For reasons that I don't completely understand, though they most likely derive from the fact that I had to communicate with him through his son as Steve Groves doesn't have e-mail, I haven't yet managed to complete the interview. Since I'm wrapping up in a few weeks, I can't wait any longer, but I hope that someone will succeed where I failed as it's about time that the whole Steve Kipner/Steve Groves partnership got sorted out for posterity.

Astral Taxi has come out on a bootleg CD together with the first Tin Tin record, but that's not easily found and there's never been a legitimate CD issue. I'd humbly suggest that every single person who likes the early Bee Gees needs to hear this album ASAP. It has broad parallels with Odessa although it also features a major Crosby Stills Nash and Young side, as well as several other possible influences that I'll get to later.

If it weren't going to be reissued, I'd probably post the whole album as it's got a really nice flow and features several surprisingly worthwhile instrumentals that need context to really make sense. Since it is, in fact, supposedly going to be reissued I'll settle for posting two tracks. Here's the album opener, Astral Taxi. Those of you who were around for my Skyband post may recall a song from that album called Dream Machine that featured a line about an astral taxi: clearly a lyric/image that struck Steve Kipner's fancy. A number of songs on Astral Taxi seem to have to do with sailing and travel, to the point where it sometimes seems like it's going to turn into a concept album. It never quite does, at least as far as I can tell. The fact that it was written by a couple of Australians "exiled" to England probably has something to do with the mood.

One of the things I've always found intriguing about the various Steve Kipner albums that I've written about is that they always seem to include at least one "oddball" track that deviates from the usual Bee Gees/Beatles mix. On Astral Taxi, that song is Jenny B. While one review I've read dismisses it as bordering on yodeling, I find it pretty fascinating. If it reminds me of anything, it's some of Lou Reed's early 70's stuff (compare the instrumental parts of Jenny B. to the end of How Do You Think It Feels from Berlin) and that includes the vocals up to a point. The song is written by the two Steves, but it's so different from almost everything else I've heard by them that I'd love to hear how it came to be and who's singing. The liner notes include thanks to "Jenny B's mum." Hmmmm.

What I've posted is fairly representative of the quality of the rest of the album. I've left out a Gibb-sound-alike track that would almost certainly have been a semi-hit if the Bee Gees had released it, called I Took a Holiday, a heavily orchestrated tour de force called Tomorrow Today that simultaneously reminds me of the Moody Blues and Bowie's Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud, and another song called Ships on the Starboard that's notable for 1) screaming CSN&Y (also includes the phrase "Southern Cross") and 2) being one of the few songs I've heard to use the word "focsile."

Liner notes on the album are somewhat sketchy, but Johnny Vallins and Billy Lawrie receive some songwriting credits and were most likely members of the band, and Geoff Bridgeford (better known as a Bee Gee) is the suspected drummer. Presumably either Johnny, Billy, or Geoff is featured on the cover photo along with the two Steves. What is it about Steve Kipner albums and inaccurate or incomplete liner notes?


[The "group" as depicted inside the gatefold]

For a long time, I thought that this was the end of Tin Tin, but it turns out that there's an interesting handful of subsequent singles that I'll touch on in the next post. They're not exactly what you'd expect.

"Our destiny is solitude, for there the river flows on sentimental strong. From this moment on regretted thoughts will be forgotten and tears are only tragedy, not puerile waterings from a grieving heart. But perhaps we shall never live to tell of sadness or tragedy, as the gates of man's ultimate sorrow have never been opened to us. We only know the pathways of the garden of content and of the innocence that lies behind the eyes."

[Strange poem or whatever that appears in the liner notes, connected to track number three which is in instrumental called Our Destiny, written by Steve Groves.]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

 
Continuing from yesterday, here are the only Steve And Stevie tracks I've thus heard. Quality very high on both. Makes me extra excited to hear the reissue when it comes out.

I've been having a fascinating back-and-forth with the other person in the world who cares deeply about all this. Apparently, Steve Kipner is currently writing for Natasha Bedingfield, who's somewhat better known than Tin Tin these days.

Birds by Steve and Stevie
Shine by Steve and Stevie (heads off into pop-psych territory a bit)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

 

Tin Tin, finally...

We've done Friends, Skyband and The Fut. Now I'm finally getting around to the central part of the "golden age" of Steve Kipner's early career.

This is all prompted by the fact that someone is finally planning on doing CD reissues of this period (see previous post). As such, I'm posting fewer tracks than usual.

So, before Friends and Skyband but after breaking up his band Steve & The Board, Steve Kipner teamed up with one Steve Groves. Initially they released a single and a self-titled album as Steve & Stevie which came out in 1968. It's (as far as I can tell) on the rare side: a lot of people who know Tin Tin don't know it, and I still haven't found a copy, though I now (finally) have a couple of mp3s. Pending permission from the guy who sent them to me, I'll post one of them. From what I've heard, it's pretty high quality Beatles/Bee Gees inspired late 60's pop, as is much (most) of Steve Groves'/Steve Kipner's work from this period. Cover photo is here.

Following Steve & Stevie the two Steves formed Tin Tin (I have no info on an intermediate group called Rombo's World...anyone?). Their first album, Tin Tin, was recorded with a fair amount of help from Maurice Gibb, who's credited as producer and as a player on five tracks.

There's a Bee Gees-like tendency to overemphasize ballads at the expense of pacing, and as with early Bee Gees, the upbeat Tin Tin songs make me want to hear more in that vein. Otherwise, though, this is a "lost" "British" "late 60's" classic. Quotes due to the fact that it's finally going to come out on CD, it's recorded by a gang of Australians, and the release date is 1970.

The big hit, which has been anthologized, is Toast and Marmalade For Tea, which honestly isn't one of my favorite tracks. Here's a relatively faithful cover by The Liquor Giants that preserves the original track's distinctive wavery sound. Interesting question for the lawyers to sort out: on the Tin Tin album, the track is credited to Steve Groves alone, but the liner notes to Kipner's later Friends album call him a co-writer. Hmmmm.

More interesting to me is the weird two-track combo titled Flag/Put Your Money On My Dog. Foes of retro rock instrumentals should be patient through the Flag part, as the song switches into a great Revolver-style song after the longish intro. They could really do the Beatles when the mood struck. Like almost dead on.

Another favorite is the rhythmically interesting He Wants To Be A Star, with Maurice Gibb on bass and piano. Reminds me a lot of the Bee Gees' demo Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator, which also kind of lurches from part to part.

There's a hint or two of outside influences in tracks like the Moody Blues-ish She Said Ride or the vaguely southern rock Come On Over Again (added to the US release of the album). On the whole, though, it's strongly recommended to anyone who's looking for more things that sound like c. 1967/68 Beatles/Bee Gees (especially the latter), and of a similar quality. Not easy to find, actually, though any number of people have tried.

This site lists a number of unreleased Tin Tin outtakes. I've got my fingers crossed that someone, someday, will put them out. The recording info on these tracks comes from RSO tape library records.

More on the 2nd Tin Tin album and subsequent singles in a day or two.

Toast and Marmalade For Tea by The Liquor Giants
Flag & Put Your Money On My Dog by Tin Tin
He Wants To Be A Star by Tin Tin

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