Category Archives: Reissue

THE STANDELLS – Dirty Water + Why Pick on Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White + Try It

Album: Dirty Water + Why Pick on Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White + Try It

Artist: Standells

Label: Sundazed

Release Date: February 17, 2017

www.sundazed.com

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BY BILL KOPP

From one point of view, The Standells were opportunists. As that story goes, they got their start as a smiling, suited pop group, only changing their sound and collective demeanor once they took a new reading as to which way the pop culture winds were blowing. Moreover, that argument goes, they weren’t even from Boston, so how possibly could the city of “Dirty Water” be their home?

But all that misses the point. Listening to their debut 1964 LP, In Person at P.J.’s (revised and reissued two years later as Live and Out of Sight), it’s clear that from the group’s start, they were a garage-rocking combo, albeit one with better than average vocal and instrumental proficiency. Sure, they were a cover band in those days, but so was pretty much everyone. That only began to change after February 1964 when the Beatles wiped the slate clean.

Still, it’s true that when The Standells made their celebrated television appearance on The Munsters, they came off closer to Marilyn than Eddie. But they soon simultaneously sharpened and roughed-up their image, and in the two dozen months between the start of 1966 and the end of ’67, made three very good albums.

I know what the three or four Standells scholars reading this are thinking: “Aha! But they made four albums in that period!” You’re correct. I said they made three very good ones. The outlier is The Hot Ones!, a collection of covers that – while arguably of a piece with In Person at P.J.’s – isn’t especially durable or relevant. It’s interesting for completists, but the rest of us – a group that should include the most ardent garage-rock fetishists – can and should be satisfied with the other three.

Those three records – Dirty Water from ’66, Why Pick On Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White (also ’66) and 1967’s Try It – have all worn quite well in the half century since their original release. Now (and thanks to Sundazed) on CD with bonus tracks and in glorious back-to-monaural sound, they’re well worth re-investigating.

The distorted, feedback-laden minor guitar chord that opens “Medication” lays out a vaguely dangerous, slightly sinister vibe for Dirty Water. Heck, they’re clearly singing about drugs, kids! All the sonic elements that made The Standells special are right there in the record’s first two minutes: study, propulsive bass lines, sneering vocals and close backing harmonies, vaguely proto-psychedelic fuzztone lead guitar, insistent drumming, and keening combo organ.

Sure, the bass line that serves as the foundation of “Little Sally Tease” is a nick from The Strangeloves’ “Night Time,” but who cares? The rest of the tune stands on its own. Fun fact: the tune is a remake of Don & the Goodtimes’ original, penned by Jim Valley, a fine guitarist who was for a time known as “Harpo,” Drake Levin’s replacement in Paul Revere & the Raiders.

The covers are well chosen, the group originals are strong, and there really isn’t a weak track on Dirty Water. A slightly pilled-up (well, at least sped-up) take on the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” doesn’t add much to the original, but it’s fun and well done. (Presumably it wasn’t in the band’s live set on the tour in support of the album, seeing as they were opening most nights for the Stones.) The CD’s bonus cuts are of varying quality. The Batman theme is fun in a cheesy go-go kind of way.

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On the heels of the success of the “Dirty Water” single, another album was put together, and that clumsily-titled album was built around a song that had already appeared on Dirty Water. “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” is perhaps the Standells’ most perfectly realized track; it has the feel of an anthem, and it rocks. A subtle dig at drug culture is woven into the song’s lyric. Elsewhere listeners will find suitably inventive covers of the Stones (“Paint It Black”) and Love (“My Little Red Book”). Overall the audio quality is an improvement over Dirty Water, and the organ flourishes on the otherwise punky “Why Pick On Me” are positively exotic. A group original, “The Girl and the Moon” straddles garage rock and Phil Spector arrangement aesthetic. The gritty “Mr. Nobody” is the best deep album cut.

The group would capitalize on the banning of the admitted sexual come-on of “Try It.” A Texas radio programmer found it suitably naughty to drop it from playlists. Overall, the Try It album boasts yet another improvement in sound quality, and the performances warrant the extra care. Everything about “Can’t Help But Love You” suggests a leap forward in professionalism.

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Even a cover of the well-worn “Ninety-nine and a Half” shines here, as does a much older tune, “St. James Infirmary.” The garage aesthetic is dialed back in favor of something a bit more upscale, and horn charts are sprinkled atop several of the tunes. Piano and strings on “Trip to Paradise” take things even farther afield. All those studio decorations did, however, have the effect of blunting The Standells’ garage-rock cred.

Happily, the second side of Try It focuses on the group’s grittier side. The faux-eastern vibe of “Did You Ever Have that Feeling” lifts it above its derivative chord progression. “All Fall Down” is as close as The Standells came to psychedelia. Not very close at all, but fascinating nonetheless. And the classic film theme “Riot on Sunset Strip” makes purchase of the album mandatory.

By 1968, The Standells were all but over. Though of course various lineups would re-form in later years, these three albums would form the core of the band’s essential output. Also of interest is Live on Tour 1966!, an archival Standells release reviewed in these pages in 2015 (along with Shadows of Knight; included are some audio and video tracks) as part of BLURT’s “Garage Chronicles” series.

ATTILIO MINEO – Man in Space with Sounds

Album: Man in Space

Artist: Attilio Mineo

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: October 28, 2016

www.modernharmonic.com

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BY BILL KOPP

A breathlessly earnest announcer welcomes the listener to the record as a wonderfully evocative orchestra creates an instrumental backdrop meant to evoke outer space. With the help of some gee-whiz electronic studio effects – heaps of reverb, percussion that suggests a much more accessible Edgard Varese – the listener is transported to a sonic world of interstellar mystery and more than a little danger.

That’s pretty much what you get for this half-hour record, created in connection with Seattle, Washington-hosted 1962 World’s Fair (officially the event had a much more space-age, forward-looking title, the Century 21 Exposition).

Conductor Attilio “Art” Mineo leads his orchestra through a dozen passages, each of which paints a sonic picture. Sometimes the electronic elements are subtle; other times they all but hit the listener over the head. The feedback midway through the oddly titled “Gayway to Heaven” (what?) effectively evokes the feeling – accurate or not – of traveling weightless through space.

“Soaring Science” is, our announcer helpfully explains, a “realistic recreation of rocket flight.” The sounds of an actual rocket launch are followed by eerie string passages and subtle yet keening electronic squawks. Taken in the right (or wrong) frame of mind, this could be scary stuff indeed.

Back on Earth, “Mile-a-Minute Monorail” is built around instrumentation and melody that sound like a cross between a distorted harpsichord and a whirring band saw. Not the most enticing aural backdrop for a ride on the new and novel 60mph monorail serving the World’s Fair, but clever and fascinating.

A sunny, we’re-all-in-this-together mindset is at the core of “Century 21.” But once again the sounds – courtesy of primitive oscillators and synthesizers, one suspects – are equal parts thrilling and unsettling. Little stabs of organ and plinking tuned percussion alternately darken and lighten the mood.

If British producer Joe Meek had a decent budget and more musical talent, he might have created something like Man in Space with Sounds (He did give us “Telstar,” after all). While liner notes author Björn Werkmann doesn’t mention Meek in his essay that accompanies the CD, he takes such a straight-faced approach to the music that it’s near impossible to tell if he’s serious or putting us on. And that’s half the fun of his essay, which includes helpful cautions such as this one: “But make no mistake: Man in Space with Sounds is not for the faint of Heart.”

The monaural recording is superbly sharp and clear; other than the production aesthetic, there’s little about the record that suggests it wasn’t recorded with 21st century equipment. The lack of a stereo mix isn’t a detriment, so full is the aural landscape on the album.

Like another recent reissue from Modern Harmonics – the thematically similar Space Songs, reviewed HEREMan in Space with Sounds is most assuredly a curio. But it’s one that holds up on repeated listenings. Very much of its time – and valuable in large part for that very reason – Man in Space with Sounds is a fun trip not only though space, but back in time.

 

TOM GLAZER & DOTTIE EVANS – Space Songs

Album: Space Songs

Artist: Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: January 13, 2017

www.modernharmonic.com

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BY BILL KOPP

This curio from 1961 was originally created to serve as an instructional record for children. The word that immediately comes to mind when hearing the vocals and instrumentation is “ginchy.” And while I’ll readily concede that “ginchy” is not a real word, it somehow seems to encapsulate the vibe of Space Songs.

It’s easy enough to conjure a mental image of Tom Glazer and Dottie Evans when listening to the record. Tom has a neat gray flannel suit, tortoise shell glasses, Brylcreamed hair, and probably a pipe. Dottie has a simple white or off-white dress, probably a modest pearl necklace. They’re both white. Really white, in fact. But they’re nice, wholesome, well-meaning folks, and they’re here to teach.

Bits of spoken word – mostly by Glazer; this was 1961, after all – serve as intro/bumpers for most of the songs. Glazer provides some basic contextual information about the topic at hand – helpfully defined by each song’s title – and then he and Evans launch into song. “Constellation Jig” is a wonderfully descriptive title: the music is a sprightly jig, and the lyrics list some of the more well-known constellations visible in Earth’s nighttime sky: Sagittarius, etc.

Technology gets some time as well, and cute little tunes like “Beep Beep (Here Comes the Satellite).” It’s worth remembering that – Cold War notwithstanding – in 1961, the United States was in a largely optimistic frame of mind, and science was viewed as a force for good. Against that backdrop, which is embodied in many of these tunes, it’s more than a little sad that in 2017 we’re living in a society led – for the moment, at least – by climate science deniers and traffickers in “alternate facts.”

Real facts are at the heart of “Why Does the Sun Shine? – The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas.” Tell that to the four percent of Americans who are unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Clearly they didn’t listen to Space Songs. As Glazer and Evans guilelessly intone, “It’s a Scientific Fact.”

Everything about Space Songs conveys a kind of charming innocence. But there’s a nicely world-music (1961 edition) to many of the songs; that’s a clearly Parisian vibe to “Longitude and Latitude,” set to the tune of childhood favorite “Did You Ever see a Lassie?” But the kids of ’61 could trill along to the tune and learn about the Prime Meridian and other useful bits of information.

Musically, the most interesting tune is the opener, “Zoom a Little Zoom (Rocket Ship),” Glazer and Evans chirp away in perfect harmony as they sing, “Soon we’ll see if the moon is made out of green cheese ha ha ha.” How can you not love that? The musicians aren’t credited beyond a note that the music is played by the Tony Mottola Orchestra, but whomever is playing is doing a swell job.

Sundazed Records associated label Modern Harmonic has reissued this odd little record, recorded in 1959 and originally part of a series called “Singing Science Records.” The vinyl is translucent red. Casting a (shall we say) very wide conceptual net, this release can be viewed as part of a collection of other related items including a Sun Ra Arkestra 2CD live set (At Inter-Media Arts 1991), and the instrumental gem Attilio Mineo Conducts Man in Space with Sounds, originally released in conjunction with the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington. I’ll cover each of those Modern Harmonic reissue titles in separate reviews.

SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – Live At Inter-Media Arts April 1991 (3LP or 2CD)

Album: Live At Inter-Media Arts April 1991

Artist: Sun Ra and his Arkestra

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: November 26, 2016

www.modernharmonic.com

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The Upshot: Ra archival gem offers high fidelity and superb performances for a collectible item both fans and novices will appreciate. Originally issued as limited edition vinyl for the Record Store Day Black Friday event, it’s also out as a 2CD set.

BY BILL KOPP

Sonic explorer Sun Ra was quite prolific during his lifetime; in fact, archivists – those you’d expect to know – can’t accurately tally just how many albums the man released. And long after his death, reissues and newly-discovered recordings come out with surprising regularity.

Sadly, some of the latter tend toward poor fidelity; their importance may not be thusly diminished, but their utility tends more toward historical import than anything approaching listening pleasure. Which isn’t to say that Sun Ra was ever what anyone would call “easy listening.” His admixture of bluesy, swinging jazz, electronics and avant-garde textures can be foreboding for the musically timid or unadventurous.

Thank goodness this new release scores high marks on all counts. It’s weird, to be sure – this is Sun Ra, after all – but it’s a superbly-recorded live date, one in which all of the instrumentation and vocals are crystalline. In fact, the New York City performance was broadcast over the air on WNYC radio.

Longtime Sun Ra associate June Tyson provides here soulful and nimble vocals, sometimes harmonizing with Michael Ray, abetted by several male vocalists. A sixteen-piece band takes the assembled audience on a musical trip through Sun Ra’s cosmos. It’s several minutes into the set before we’re treated to a solo, but it – and the others that follow – is worth waiting for.

The set list is trademark Sun Ra: a mix of originals and his own reinventions of works by other notable composers (Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer). And a Sun Ra favorite, “We Travel the Spaceways” closes the set and provides some conceptual continuity with two other releases from Modern Harmonic, Space Songs and Man in Space with Sounds (both reviewed separately, and neither having the slightest to do with Sun Ra).

Sometimes half the band seems to be playing a different piece than the rest of the musicians; that tonal clash is often precisely the point. At its best, Sun Ra’s music always challenged the listener’s notions about what did and didn’t “work,” and the 2CD At Inter-Media Arts 1991 is an exemplar in that regard. That it’s of such high fidelity and superb performance makes it even more highly recommended.

DOWNLOAD: All of it – it’s Ra, dude.

 

THE MARK III – Marvin Whoremonger

Album: Marvin Whoremonger

Artist: The Mark III

Label: Now-Again Reserve

Release Date: November 18, 2016

http://www.nowagainrecords.com

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The Upshot: Think of it as a kind of soundtrack to a mid-‘70s Blaxploitation film that never got past the scripting stage but still holds up purely on its funky bonafides.

BY FRED MILLS

Rather than attempt to distill the convoluted backstory of this uber-rare funk album from Eothen Alapatt’s liner notes (which are a noble, if necessarily out there, attempt at same), I’ll just offer up the Amazon.com product description:

“One of the sought-after funk albums: a concept-piece executed by a Las Vegas hustler, pairing the troubled musings of a transient vocalist with the exuberant funk of a teenage trio. Embellished by session musicians in Hollywood with synthesizers and a large horn section, Marvin Whoremonger lurked behind a garish, anonymous jacket and failed immediately, despite producer Cholly Williams exhortations in his liner notes that the album would lead to international stardom for all involved. Forty years later it has aged well, and stands as an immediately accessible – yet bizarre – exercise in late-period, real funk music.”

Everybody crystal clear? No? Good. Neither am I, even after a couple of reads and multiple spins of the disc. But don’t let this journalistic discombobulation deter you from doing the proverbial run, don’t walk…  ritual to your local record emporium, because this is some seriously fonky, stanky, nasty stuff. Which of course will not surprise anyone even remotely familiar with the Now-Again label’s output—both archival (such as this release) and contemporary—to date.

The Mark III was a group in name only, and a short-lived one at that: four Vegas teens—vocalist Marvin Neroes, plus the Thompson brothers as the musical ensemble—backed up with additional keyboards and horns. Producer Williams wrote the bulk of the material, although Neroes and one of the Thompsons also receive credit; think of it as a kind of soundtrack to a mid-‘70s Blaxploitation film that never got past the scripting stage. The music holds up, though, in spades (no pun intended). Opening track “Street Scene” could be an opening credits segment, with a slinky, push-pull, urgency and exhortations of “when you get down, don’t you get up/ do it, do it, ‘til you get enough.” Up next is “Pusher Man,” admittedly not the most original of titles, but its overtones of both Curtis Mayfield (duh) and Temptations, while not ultra-original either, give it a righteous mojo. Other highlights include the pulsing, nocturnal funk of “Sex in Motion” (it has more than a passing resemblance to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”; there’s a bonus instrumental version here as well) and—speaking of instrumentals—“Funky Heaven,” which contrasts a squonky synth melody with some terrific funk guitar licks worthy of Motor City maestro Dennis Coffey. And don’t miss “The Party’s Over,” a kind of Kool & the Gang-meets-Sly Stone throwdown that courts extemporaneous chaos but never quite loses the plot.

Marvin Whoremonger dropped much earlier last year as part of the Now-Again Reserve subscription series, deluxe, handsomely packaged vinyl repressings of rare titles (the quarterly subscription includes a gorgeous wooden box for housing each year’s four LPs). Luckily, for more budget conscious punters, the CD version arrived in November, because it really deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible—as much for its irresistibly inherent weirdness/obscurity as for the compelling funk-soul grooves that come pulsing from your stereo speakers. And as per all Now-Again releases, the packaging is immaculate; here, you get a thick cardboard mini-LP sleeve housing the CD, a 28-page booklet on thick stock paper, and an outer slipcase.

Party’s over? Naahh—just starting.

DOWNLOAD: “Sex In Motion,” “The Party’s Over,” “Pusher Man”

 

 

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Svenska Shakers

Album: Svenska Shakers: R & B Shakers, Mod Grooves, Freakbeat and Psychpop from Sweden 1964-1968)

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Cherry Red/RPM

Release Date: November 04, 2016

www.cherryred.co.uk

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The Upshot: Sweden in the ‘60s, who the hell knew?

BY TIM HINELY

That title is a mouthful but if you’re like me and thought that Swedish pop/rock started and ended with Abba (who I love) well, give this one a listen, 41 songs spread out over two discs and I can’t say I’ve heard of a single band on here, but I like most of this. Heck, look at that classic cover shot, five serious lookin’ dudes with capes. Here we’ve got some rockin’ combos like The Acts, Moonjacks, Tages, Darling, Bamboo, Mascots, The Cheers, Fools, Namelovers and and too many more.

You’ve got Annaabee-Nox doing “The Kids Are Alright” (no major departure from the original but still sounds great…on disc two the same band does “Always on My Mind”).  Moonjacks rockin’ up and out with “Come On,” Shakers doing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Namelosers doing “Land of 1000 Dances” just to name a few. Wow—Sweden in the ‘60s, who the hell knew?! As it states proudly/boldly on the back cover, “Choice cuts from a period when Sweden’s world-class bands beat the musical imports at their own game.” The booklet has covers of singles and liner notes by Kieron Tyler. [Hey Kieron, how ya doin’? It’s been awhile. Greetings from NC! – Editor Mills]

Come on partner, I know you’ve got your own cape in the closet along with some glue-on sideburns, put ‘em on when no one’s home and freak out!

DOWNLOAD:  “The Kids Are Alright,” “Always on My Mind,” “Come On,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Land of 1000 Dances”

 

Incoming: Definitive Studio Recordings Collection by ’60s Legends The Creation

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You won’t be just making time with this particular visit to the wayback machine….

Archival specialists Numero Group continues its creative roll (raise your hand if you grabbed any of the label’s recent offerings, among them the definitive Scientists box set, A Place Called Bad; and the delightful various artists soul/funk compilations The 123s of Kid Soul). Aiming to make the new year a psych-rock year supreme, Numero has compiled for the first time ever the complete studio recordings of the English ’60s legends the Creation. The 2-CD set titled Action Painting will be released March 17. Let’s just cut to the chase and view the official album trailer:

Here’s the lowdown:

All 42 tracks the group recorded between 1965-1968 have been remastered from the original tapes by Shel Talmy, and given fresh stereo mixes where previously unavailable. New essays by music historians Dean Rudland and Alec Palao tell the Creation story while scores of previously unpublished photographs adorn the accompanying 80-page hardbound book. Numero Group has rounded out the package with four tracks by pre-Creation freakbeat quartet the Mark Four, making Action Painting the definitive collection of this legendary U.K. band.

The Creation were a dynamic quartet with an equally engaging image. They would burn brightly for just two years, yet would leave an indelible mark upon music history. With producer du jour Shel Talmy at the helm (The Who, Kinks, Easybeats, Cat Stevens, et al.) the Creation went on an incredible two-year tear of singles, including “Making Time,” “How Does It Feel to Feel,” “Tom Tom,” and “If I Stay Too Long.” By 1968 the paint was dry and the band split. Eddie Phillips’ trademark guitar bowing would be nicked by Jimmy Page and Boney M would cheese up “Painter Man,” the band’s highest-charting single.

Over the nearly five decades since, the Creation has seen a tremendous resurgence in interest. First it was the Jam flossing “Making Time” on the inner sleeve of All Mod Cons. A few years later Alan McGee formed the band Biff Bang Pow and his Creation record label. By the turn of the century a new generation had discovered the band via a strategic placement in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.

According to legendary producer Talmy, “My biggest regret is that they didn’t achieve the standing they should have. I truly believe they could have been as big as the Who.”

With Action Painting, overdue recognition might be just around the bend.

Collector-geek alert! Separate from the 2-CD/2-LP collection, Numero will release a limited edition, break away spindle 45 featuring the Creation’s “Making Time” backed with a previously unissued instrumental version.

***

Tracklisting:

Disc 1

1          Making Time

2          Try and Stop Me

4          Biff Bang Pow

5          Sylvette (edit)

6          If I Stay Too Long

7          Nightmares

8          Life Is Just Beginning

9          Through My Eyes

10        How Does It Feel to Feel

11        Tom Tom

12        Can I Join Your Band

13        Midway Down

14        The Girls Are Naked

15        Bonie Maronie

17        For All That I Am

18        Uncle Bert

19        Cool Jerk

20        I Am the Walker

21        Ostrich Man

22        Sweet Helen

23        How Does It Feel to Feel (US version)

 

Disc 2

1          THE MARK FOUR – Hurt Me If You Will

2          THE MARK FOUR – I’m Leaving

3          THE MARK FOUR – Work All Day (Sleep All Night)

4          THE MARK FOUR – Going Down Fast

5          How Does It Feel to Feel (US version)  New stereo mix

6          Biff Bang Pow   New stereo mix

7          For All That I Am   New stereo mix

8          Can I Join Your Band  New stereo mix

9          Through My Eyes New stereo mix

10        Tom Tom New stereo mix

11        Midway Down New stereo mix

12        Nightmares   New stereo mix

13        Life Is Just Beginning  New stereo mix

14        Painter Man  New stereo mix

15        If I Stay Too Long New stereo mix

16        How Does It Feel To Feel (UK version) New stereo mix

17        Cool Jerk  New stereo mix

18        Hey Joe   New stereo mix

19        Like a Rolling Stone New stereo mix

20        Making Time (backing track) take 1 Previously unissued

21        Sylvette (full length)

22        Instrumental 1

23        How Does It Feel to Feel (version 1) (backing track – Previously unissued

 

 

 

THE DOORS – London Fog May, 1966 (10” box)

Album: London Fog May, 1966 (10” box)

Artist: Doors

Label: Rhino/Bright Midnight Archives

Release Date: December 16, 2016

www.rhino.com

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The Upshot: WWJS? (What Would Jim Say?) Yet another previously unreleased live set from the Lizard King archives, but given an eye-popping, collector-catnip treatment guaranteed to seduce even the most jaded Lizard King acolyte.

BY FRED MILLS

Well, I woke up this mornin’ and I got myself a beer… and sat down to compose this review. (In my head at least; in truth, it’s 3 in the afternoon, and I’m sipping a caramel frappuccino.) Allow me to introduce the latest in a long-running parade of posthumous Doors live releases, London Fog May, 1966. It summons from the mists of time a proverbial “recently discovered” live recording of the band, expertly cleaned up for the modern digital ear, in order to give acolytes a sense of what Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore actually sounded like, onstage, around the time they were recording their debut album for Elektra Records but had yet to burst upon the national scene.

And it’s neither time capsule nor curio, but rather a valid projection into the collector-archival ether that should hold up for future generations. Vintage, if hard-edged, blues apparently dominated early Doors sets: Here, a lengthy workout on Willie Dixon’s “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” and a remarkably serpentine, sensual Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me” showcase not only Morrison’s intuitive embrace of the blues’ primal imperative, but his bandmates’ agility as translators of same. Also in the mix are covers of Big Joe Williams, Wilson Pickett, and Little Richard. Seminal Doors originals also make surprise appearances: a somewhat hesitant “Strange Days” (which would go on to be overhauled and polished in the studio to provide the second album’s title track), and a rowdy-bawdy-bluesy “You Make Me Real,” which subsequently went into hibernation until 1970’s Morrison Hotel.

Time capsule: well, actually… yeah. Rhino has pulled out all stops for this box, which houses both a CD and a 10” vinyl disc of the nine tracks, plus an assortment of memorabilia that includes reproductions of the evening’s setlist from the London Fog, a postcard and drink coaster from that Sunset Strip dive, and photos of the evening Nettie Pena, a UCLA Film School student who Morrison, also a student, enlisted that evening to document his band’s performance on a small reel to reel deck. In those photos, the musicians seem impossibly young, as yet unjaded by stardom, yet clearly determined as artists. Talk about a snapshot. (Pena, who also wrote a review of the gig, discloses that she cannot locate an additional reel of tape from the show that contained the band doing a 15-minute “The End,” but promises that if it ever surfaces, she’ll immediately pass it along to the Doors camp.) Worth additional note: a passionate remembrance in the CD booklet penned by Ronnie Harran, who at the time of the show was booking the nearby Whisky A Go Go and, acting on a tip, came to check out the Doors during their residency at the Fog, ultimately returning to the Whisky, eager to book them at her venue. Everything is housed in a 10-inch, thick cardboard box—pure collector catnip. Just the effort alone that’s been put into this project demands an above-average rating for archival releases; the mesmerizing music guarantees it a perfect score.

Commentary, artifacts, and nostalgia aside, London Fog May, 1966 ultimately brings the Doors—pardon the inside joke—reverse full circle. Prior to Morrison’s death in 1971, the group had reinvested itself in the blues that had originally spawned the combo back in the early ‘60s (as Rick and the Ravens), tackling both vintage material and primal original compositions on Morrison Hotel and on swansong L.A. Woman. And while it’s impossible to say if the Doors vaults have finally been combed clean (as this obsessive Doors collector’s CD library can testify, the band and its archivists have been diligent over the course of the past decade and a half; hats off to Rhino, Rhino Handmade, Bright Moonlight, Elektra and everyone involved), there’s something fitting about celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of the band’s debut LP by listening to an early Doors set comprising the blues, soul, and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll that inspired the musicians in the first place.

DOWNLOAD: “Strange Days,” “Rock Me”

STICK MEN WITH RAY GUNS – Property of Jesus Christ LP / 1,000 Lives to Die LP

Album: Property of Jesus Christ LP / 1,000 Lives to Die LP

Artist: Stick Men With Ray Guns

Release Date: November 04, 2016

www.12xu.net

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The Upshot: Classic Tex-ass punk revisited via a pair of killer live sets.

BY TIM HINELY

Back in the day I’d heard about this band only in hushed whispers ….and that was from the friends of mine who’d heard of ‘em, which wasn’t many. I think my real Stick Men with Ray Guns education came from Tom Lax (Siltbreeze Records) more like in the late 80’s/early 90’s when he would talk about ‘em. How they’re not even as well-known/remembered as even The Dicks or Big Boys is a bit mystifying. They hailed from, where else, Texas and were led by one Bobby Soxx, a truly bent frontman who is no longer among the living (and after hearing all the stories you’d be shocked if he was). The 12XU label is offering them as separate vinyl reissues (though they were released on cd at one time). Each one is the product of two lives sets from the mid-80’s, one from 1984 in Houston and one from ’87, apparently the band’s final gig, in Dallas. On the intro to the opening cut, “What Am I?” Bobby rambles on a bit about “I don’t care if you don’t like us, I’m from Texas……….FUCK REAGAN!”  (they (he) antagonized the audience on a nightly basis and the audience did so back….at their own risk).

He and the band (Clarke Blacker, Scott Elam and Bob Beeman) then rumble into a heavy, distorted dirge that sounds beautiful to these ears. Other cuts that definitely make the cuts are “Christian Rat Attack,” “I Wanna Throw Up,” “Kill the Innocent” and the stone-cold classic, “Hate in the 80’s” (which I think later re-recorded under his own name). The Dallas set starts off with the same opener (“What Am I?”) while the band then blasts out other scabs of noise including “I Am the One,”  the relentless “Christian Christian,” the truly twisted “Shaggy Has AIDS” and the bashing “Two Fists.” Some of the quotes about this band from assorted Butthole Surfers are both hilarious and terrifying (Gibby said, “I fondly remember  Bobby Soxx on his back porch, chopping bibles with a meat cleaver and throwing a color television set at a Mexican family This band murdered Dallas.” You really can’t sum it all up better than that.

DOWNLOAD:  “Christian Rat Attack,” “I Wanna Throw Up,” “Kill the Innocent,” “Hate in the 80’s,” “Christian Christian,” “Two Fists”

 

TIM BUCKLEY – Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974

Album: Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974

Artist: Tim Buckley

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: November 18, 2016

www.omnivorerecordings.com

buckley-wings-ov-199

The Upshot: Selective anthology of the late honey-throated folksinger/rocker that wonderfully showcases both his evolution and his maturation.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

Sequenced exactly midway through a revealing new compilation is arguably—to these ears, at least—Tim Buckley’s greatest song. Originally appearing on 1967’s groundbreaking Goodbye and Hello, the songwriter’s second full length, and subsequently released as a U.K. single, “Pleasant Street” ushers forth on a bold descending chord progression similar to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ’66 hit “Summer in the City” (a none-too-inconsequential fun fact: the Spoonful’s Jerry Yester produced GaH), the singer spinning a hazy narrative that, on the surface, seems to be about the thrills and perils of love. Buckley, in near-flawless voice, swoops and swoons in his signature high tenor, the subtly orchestral music swelling like a classic Motown arrangement while the lead guitarist emits upper-fretboard peals of delight. Sings Buckley:

 

At twilight your lover comes to your room
He’ll spin you, he’ll weave you ’round his emerald loom
And softly you’ll whisper all around his ear
“Sweet lover, I love Pleasant Street
I wheel, I steal, I feel my way down to kneel…

Down – down – down – down…

 

Cut to 2016: For the liner notes to Omnivore Recordings’ Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974, archivist/journalist/musician Pat Thomas is talking with the late Buckley’s close friend and lyrical collaborator, Larry Beckett, who chronologically discusses each of the set’s 21 songs—their origins, how some of them were written and recorded, their subsequent trajectory, etc. When they get to “Pleasant Street,” Beckett reveals that the song is actually about addiction, something Buckley would eventually come to know on intimate terms. “At twilight your lover comes to your room…” This knowledge may not necessarily be arcane, but it is unsettling, the same feeling you might have gotten when you finally learned that Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” was not about the giddiness of romance, but about the warm, glowing cocoon of heroin. How could a song so melodic, so sonically majestic, so gorgeous, concern a topic so brutal, so destructive, so devastating?

 

Part of Buckley’s genius, of course, was his skillful balancing of the sacred and the profane in his songs, both in their musical arrangements and their lyrical agility. These skills are on ample display throughout Wings, which takes you from the title track (a 1966 single and also a key track on his self-titled major label debut for Elektra that same year) all the way through “Who Could Deny You” (from 1974’s Look at the Fool, released about six months before his untimely death, at the age of 28, from an overdose). In between one encounters both evolution and maturation as a songwriter in sufficient quantities to suggest that not only was Buckley an artistic peer to other, more acclaimed West Coast artists such as Love, the Doors, and Brian Wilson, Buckley also was nowhere near his peak yet, making his death at a criminally young age all the more tragic.

 

There are numerous other Buckley compilations you can pick up in order to explore his oeuvre and his genius, of course. Just recently, Light In the Attic issued Lady, Give Me Your Key: The Unissued 1967 Solo Acoustic Sessions, pure unreleased manna for Buckley fans; that album’s wonderful title track, in fact, is included on the Omnivore record. As Wings omits material from Buckley’s middle period due to his not releasing any singles from some of his albums, it’s more buffet than banquet. But the tunes that are included, along with the Beckett interview, still make this a musical feast, even if you already have all of the albums that were released during his short lifetime.

 

More Buckley on the web:

 http://www.alwaysontherun.net/tim.htm (Fan tribute page)

http://www.timbuckley.net/prime_page.shtml  (Official estate of Buckley page)

http://www.angelfire.com/ma3/rebopper/timmy1.html (Fan tribute page)

http://www.furious.com/perfect/larrybeckett.html (Perfect Sound Forever Larry Beckett interview)

 

DOWNLOAD: “Lady, Give Me Your Key,” “Pleasant Street,” “Move With Me,” “Dolphins”