Category Archives: Reissue

BACK TO THE GARDEN: Pearls Before Swine

The dark, mystical, poetic first album from Tom Rapp & Co. continues to fascinate in the form of a new 50th anniversary edition.

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

It’s not a stretch to proclaim the ‘60s as a dazzling renaissance of musical creativity and exploration that covered a wide spectrum of genres. A pie chart would show large portions of the sound rooted in blues and folk music, the rest in pop, R&B or garage. Pearls Before Swine started out in Florida, made a demo, sent it to Brooklyn label ESP-Disk, and were welcome aboard the label. The band headed north in the spring of ’67, and laid out the One Nation Underground album in three frantic days with the label’s in-house producer, Richard Anderson. It dropped in October of that year. Unfortunately, the band, like others on the label, like Holy Modal Rounders and the Fugs found out, were paid practically zero for the album. Somehow, their second album, Balaklava, also ended up on ESP, but they moved on to Reprise and Blue Thumb in later years.

One Nation Underground is now reissued by Drag City as a 50th anniversary, mono-restored remaster; Anderson himself was responsible for this remastering and he has vastly improved the sound. At the time of its original release, it was a rather arcane oddity, even in an era of unbridled musical experimentation, with moody, atmospheric songs in a new, acid-folk genre, and played with odd-sounding and exotic instruments that sounded like they came off of The Garden Of Earthly Delights cover art by Hieronymus Bosch—guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, autoharp, vibraphone, English horn, harpsichord, clavioline, finger cymbals, celeste, organ, oscillator, sarangi, and the Swinehorn that multi-instrumentalist Lane Lederer created. Plus a banjo.

The music was dark, mystical, penned with much poetic license, and conjured an aural mustiness of medieval wooden objects in a museum. Many of leader/troubadour Tom Rapp’s future themes featured references to Jesus, but not quite in His current, familiar persona, but, rather one that presented Him more as a metaphysical and mystical being, separate of later church dogma and commercialization. Rapp’s lyrics are sagacious, vivid, and hallucinatory. His imagery redolent of olden times, velvet, lace, harps, harpsichords, lisping lepers, hunchbacks, and fair ladies.

Some of the music tread alongside the compositions of Dylan, Donovan, and the Incredible String Band, to some degree, but, was wholly in its own dimension. The ten tracks are each diverse enough to make the album sound more like a set on a radio show. “Another Time” is straight-ahead folk; the very Dylan-ish “Playmate,” with its top-heavy Farfisa and plinking banjo; the “Ballad To An Amber Lady”; and the gentle lushness of “Regions of May”—all are moody and hypnotic. “Drop Out!” shifts into sixties sentiment, with its suggestion of casting off society, again back to the folk mode. There’s also the oddball “(Oh Dear) Miss Morse” (which actually does have Morse code in it that translates to “FUCK”), plus the raw, raging, anti-war, proto-punk “Uncle John,” and the mesmerizing psych of “I Shall Not Care.” The album finishes up with the aptly named, swoony, druggy (mostly) instrumental, “Surrealist Waltz.” (You can download a live 1998 version of “Miss Morse” HERE.)

Oddly enough, for all of its acid-flavored ambiance, Rapp had never done any drugs, mostly just riding high on tobacco—Winston cigarettes, to be exact. The album grew into a cult favorite, drawing in a wide audience of people as diverse as Iggy Pop and Leonard Cohen, whose cover of “Suzanne” the Pearls made their own on Balaklava, still my preferred version to this day. I was a teen when One Nation Underground was released, and I recall buying it based mostly on the cover art, but, soon fell under its numinous and haunting spell, and played it regularly. I eagerly snatched up Balaklava when it was released the following year, and was even more blown away by that sophomore release. Hopefully, there are plans in the works for its half-century anniversary release next year.

PBS had four final albums together before Rapp went solo, supporting acts like a young Patti Smith in ’76, before retiring from music for a while and entering a legal career as a civil rights attorney. He emerges occasionally for rare live shows, and has appeared at several Terrastock festivals, including the 1998 event San Francisco. He was a guest of mine on KALX Berkeley then, along with Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond and Country Joe McDonald. And he also returned to the recording studio in 1999 to cut A Journal of the Plague Year for Saloman’s Woronzow label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OH GOD, COULD SHE SING: Jackie Shane

Numero Group offers up an odd, beautiful, powerful monument to one of the craziest stories in popular music, that of a trans pioneer operating as a full-blown soul diva, and possessed of jaw-dropping vocal talent.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

In photos, Jackie Shane radiates an unearthly poise and elegance, whether dressed in suits with only a slash of mascara to indicate her femininity or in full-blown soul diva mode with a long wig, elbow-length gloves and shimmery ball gowns.  Born in the south in 1940, Shane knew from early teenage-hood the two things that would set her apart: that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body and that she could sing (oh god could she sing).

Shane made her way in a culture not yet equipped for gender ambiguity on sheer talent, drive and charm and got surprisingly far, flourishing in Canada for a few years in a much loved soul revue and notching a regional hit in her cover of William Bell’s “Any Other Way.”  There was drama, the usual (song-credit stealing, racism, money troubles and drink and drugs among band members), as well as exotic (she was kidnapped once by a Montreal gangster eager to make her a star and his mistress), but also the hard, ordinary work of building a career, perhaps not as illustrious a career as if Shane had not been trans ahead of her time, but still remarkable for the 1960s.

A new two-disc set from Numero Group collects, for the first time, all Jackie Shane’s singles, as well as sessions from a near legendary set of shows in Toronto in 1967. The first disc of Any Other Way makes the case for Shane’s lasting resonance as a soul icon, fronting a superbly tight band led by Frank Motley. The second reinforces the case for Shane as an artist, provides a glimpse of her mesmerizing on-stage persona and perhaps even draws the curtain on the real person behind it.

Disc One, containing substantially all of Shane’s professionally recorded material, runs from sublime to raucous, with the former exemplified by her biggest hit “Any Other Way,” a saxophone-swaying ballad with bright flares of brass. Shane’s voice is gorgeous, a woman’s voice in its flute-y flourishes, but with the shadowy ambiguity of lower timbres in the refrain.

No one was talking about non-binary pronouns in the 1960s, so gender becomes rather fluid in these songs, sometimes CIS male, sometimes ambiguous, sometimes female. The covers were, of course, written for more conventionally oriented performers, but Shane manages to put a subversive spin on them. Her toughness and resilience is heartbreaking in the title track, when she confides to an ex-lover’s new flame, “tell her that I’m happy, tell her that I’m gay, I wouldn’t have it, any other way.”  Yet she was also the center of one of the best party bands in Toronto during her day; you can get a real sense of the sweat-soaked, euphoric abandon of a Jackie Shane show in cuts like “Walking the Dog” and “Shot Gun.”

Disc One demonstrates how well Jackie Shane fit into a tradition steeped in gospel, spiked with soul and jacked on James Brown-style funk, but on the live Disc Two, recorded in mono during two nights of shows at the Sapphire Tavern in Toronto, and it is here that you begin to get a sense of what was different about Shane and her band. The live version of “Money (That’s What I Want),” composed by Barratt Strong but reconstructed here, is a revelation, as Shane unspools a monologue halfway through about difference and self-respect, family, fame and money that makes her personality pop right out of the record grooves. She’s not an easy person, clearly, as she asserts her right to looking good, giving (and receiving) satisfaction, living life her way and getting paid for the privilege, but she is formidable, a force of life not afraid to compare herself to Jesus Christ.

Shane quarreled with her band leader, Frank Motley, soon after these songs were recorded, and spent a couple of years fronting other ensembles. (Funkadelic tried, and failed, to get her to sing for them.)  She disappeared from music entirely in 1971, and rumors flew that she had been murdered. She had, in fact, gone back to Los Angeles to care for her mother, and lived as a recluse for decades before Numero found her and convinced her to release this music. Any Other Way is an odd, beautiful, powerful monument to one of the craziest stories in popular music; it’s a killer record without the back story, but all the more jaw dropping when you know the history.

 

FLAT DUO JETS – Wild Wild Love

Album: Wild Wild Love

Artist: Flat Duo Jets

Label: Daniel 13

Release Date: October 20, 2017

www.daniel13.com

The Upshot: Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification via an exhaustive exploration of the Jets’ earliest recordings.

BY FRED MILLS

For North Carolina indie music devotees—particularly the Chapel Hill contingent—it was an electrifying affirmation: the MTV Cutting Edge broadcast of a segment the video channel had filmed in February of 1985, featuring one Dexter Romweber, attired in cop hat and rebel-with-a-definite-cause leather jacket and slurping noisily (booze? tea? Diet Pepsi?) from a tin cup tethered to his jacket with a chain, giving the film crew a tour of his digs, at most a 10’ by 10’ storage shed located in the back yard of his mother’s Carrboro abode, but crammed with enough reclaimed furniture and record albums to qualify as a “pad.” That Romweber called it The Mausoleum wasn’t ironic. If, say, a homeless person stumbled in there after too much antifreeze, crawled under the makeshift bed, and expired, it wasn’t altogether inconceivable that the corpse wouldn’t be discovered until Dex or one of the pot-smoking pals who gathered there to spin obscure ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly late into the night happened to be casting about for an errant platter or pillow.

Feel free to revisit the MTV segment at the YouTube link above; there are also plenty of live clips of Romweber’s Flat Duo Jets combo (both as a duo and as a three-piece) to seek out. Meanwhile, sonic origins arrive via Wild Wild Love, a two-CD version of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love limited edition Flat Duo Jets vinyl box set (two LPs and a 10”) released for Record Store Day 2017. Included is the entire Mark Bingham-produced Flat Duo Jets LP that the Athens-based Dog Gone label originally released in 1989—Dog Gone was overseen by one Jefferson Holt, who now helms Daniel 13, a much-respected North Carolina books/music/film outfit—along with that album’s cassette EP precursor, Flat Duo Jets In Stereo (1985, Dolphin Records, recorded by Josh Grier and Steve Gronback), plus no less than a bakers-dozen outtakes from the ’89 LP.

Whattaya get? Well, of course there is “Wild, Wild Lover,” which they would also perform during a potentially career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman, with FDJ fan Paul Shaffer happily sitting in. Moody tiki-surf twanger instrumental, “Madagasgar,” one of only two Dex originals on the Dog Gone album, is another obvious highlight, as is a revved-up instro take of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing,” wherein drummer Crow lays down a jungle beat as throbbin’ as any Saturday afternoon Tarzan flick soundtrack you’d care to mention. Plus, all six tracks from that In Stereo cassette are represented, from the riotous Lieber & Stoller classic “Riot In Cell Block #9” to a sunny (and, for Romweber, remarkably restrained) cover of Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” to an early Romweber original, “Theme For Dick Fontaine,” a twangy instro thumper not unlike the above-mentioned Prima track (and a tune often used to warm up the crowd at gigs back in the day). Listening to these now, over three decades later, the visceral-to-the-point-of-unhinged FDJ energy remains palpable; if you close your eyes, it’s not hard to imagine being at one of the band’s still-legendary early shows.

All those, plus the Mark Bingham-selected outtakes—among them, surf raveup “Penetration 1,” so electrifying here it’s hard to understand why it didn’t make the final cut for the original LP; “Harlem Nocturne,” which Dex and Crow would revive for the second Jets album, 1991’s Go Go Harlem Baby; and another version of “Wild, Wild Lover”—make for more than just an early DexRom musical snapshot. Wild Wild Love is also a history lesson, one boasting key performances that influenced everyone from the White Stripes to the Black Keys, and many, many more.

Now, before all you wannabe speculators make a mad dash to eBay or Discogs to unload your RSD 2017 FDJ WWL, be alerted that the box set is, in the parlance, a package too cool to dump. Note that as an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF color booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier, and music critic David Menconi (whose exhaustive history of the band would be, if eventually expanded to include Dexter’s entire colorful/ongoing history, as book-worthy as Menconi’s earlier biography of lapsed Tar Heel Ryan Adams). But said booklet was also originally a gorgeous 12” x 12” centerpiece of the vinyl box that really deserves to be held and admired. Yours truly was actually present at several of the shows visually represented in the booklet, Dex ‘n’ Crow caught in full flight at Charlotte’s Milestone Club by ace photographer Kent Thompson. (BLURT contributor Marty Perez also has shots in the booklet.) So I can attest to the, um, for lack of a better term, candid nature of these FDJ gigs, which might include, on any given occasion, Romweber bull-dozing into the crowd, stripping down to his skivvies, or simply stretching his shirt around the top of his head to stanch the flow of sweat.

Think of both iterations of Wild Wild Love as loving testimonials and crucial documents; the 2CD also boasts impressionistic art by Phil Plank, exclusive to that version, further indication of the Daniel 13 team’s intention to present the Flat Duo Jets as one of North Carolina’s more unique musical origin stories. Something tells me that more than a couple of heads are already nodding at the notion of adding a special Romweber wing to the Tar Heel State’s official music archives…

DOWNLOAD: “Penetration 1” and “Bring It On Home” (outtakes); “Theme for Dick Fontaine” (In Stereo); “Sing Sing Sing,” “Wild, Wild Lover,” “Madagascar” (Flat Duo Jets)

NC’s 6 String Drag w/PledgeMusic Campaign for Reissue & New Album

North Carolina twangers prepping vinyl reissue of classic album while planning out a new studio record as well for a spring ’18 re;ease/ Above photo by Michael Traister.

By Fred Mills

Cutting to the chase: Raleigh, NC, combo 6 String Drag has long been a favorite throughout the BLURT diaspora, dating back to the hard-twanging Americana combo’s ‘90s heyday, which included a Steve Earle-produced gem from 1997, High Hat. Much more recently, the group resumed operations following a lengthy hiatus, resulting in a wave of terrific live notices as well as considerable praise for 2015 comeback album Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll (Royal Potato Family), which was stuffed to the gills with choice power pop, rockabilly, ‘50s-ish rock, and stately blues.

The group is soldiering on with a twinned campaign to get High Hat re-released for the first time on vinyl (a 20th anniversary, limited edition white wax at that) and to release a brand new studio effort in March. Over at the 6 String Drag PledgeMusic page you can view the specifics along with the various tiers of involvement for pledgers, ranging from springing from digital, CD, and vinyl versions of High Hat, to all manner of rare memorabilia and house concerts fans can avail themselves of.

Do yourself a favor and check out these guys—our friends—and consider jumping in. By way of full disclosure, the High Hat reissue will be appearing under the label name of our sister business, Schoolkids Records (formerly Second Motion). Hopefully that gives you a sense of what a kickass band we think 6 String Drag has always been, and continues to be. It’s clobberin’ time, kids.

JOE HENDERSON FEATURING ALICE COLTRANE – The Elements LP (reissue)

Album: The Elements LP

Artist: Joe Henderson Featuring Alice Coltrane

Label: Jazz Dispensary/Concord/Milestone

Release Date: July 28, 2017

www.jazzdispensary.com

The Upshot: Fire, air, water and earth are the four elements, and saxophonist Joe Henderson serves up jazz ruminations upon each on this 1974 album featuring Alice Coltrane, Charlie Haden, Michael White, Leon Chancler and Kenneth Nash. (Go HERE to see additional entries at the BLURT Jazz Desk.)

 BY BILL KOPP

Released in 1974, The Elements is the 16th album from tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. This four-track album features four extended tracks; each is an improvisational exploration/meditation on one the elements. Though much of Henderson’s work had been well within the relatively conservative parameters of hard- and post-bop, The Elements is a conscious and largely successful attempt to venture beyond convention.

“Fire” begins with several minutes of hypnotic rhythm section work; the track eventually flowers into something more exploratory, first with a violin solo from Michael White and then Alice Coltrane playing a harp in a manner that makes it sound more like a kalimba. It’s only when she does a glissando that the instrument is recognizable for what it is. They rhythm section (bassist Charlie Haden and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler) remains steady throughout, though via modern recording techniques they’re brought forward and faded deeper into the mix at various points. In a slight bow to convention, “Fire” restates its head near the end of its eleven-plus minutes.

“Air” has a completely different character. Lacking the insistent groove of “Fire,” it begins with sax and bass both seemingly vamping, with what sound like random bits of percussion splashed about. Henderson wails on his saxophone, and Coltrane enters, playing dramatic figures on piano. After five minutes or so, the entire performance is faded out, replaced in the sonic space by what sounds like a wholly new piece, and a different song. But this second “song” has a similarly unfocused character, one that has the feel of musicians preparing to play a piece together but never actually quite getting around to doing so. Alice Coltrane’s piano improvisations form the centerpiece of the second half of “Air,” joined now and then by Henderson’s sax and Haden’s upright bass work. White shows up on violin near the end of the piece.

The Eastern flavors of tambura and harmonium (played by Coltrane) open “Water.” While Haden lays down a static bass line, Henderson overdubs multiple sax parts, some of which employ heavy amounts of reverb. Unlike the previous tracks, “Water” is a Henderson solo spotlight, with none of the other players stepping forward. Near the track’s end he plays a few relatively conventional melodies, but for most of the track’s run time, he seems more intent on improvising.

At over 13 minutes, “Earth” is the longest track on The Elements. The track combines African percussion and a smoky, slightly sinister and funky beat. That backdrop provides a musical canvas upon which Henderson paints with his tenor saxophone. He plays smoky, soulful lines, again making extensive use of overdubbing; various sax lines intertwine throughout the piece. Sometimes the result is jarringly atonal, but more often it comes together seamlessly. Just over four and a half minutes in, all of the players save Haden are faded out of the mix. After a full minute of soloing, the bassist is joined by subtle bits of Indian instrumentation. Coltrane adds harp, and while the rhythm section continues to lay out, the players set up a mysterious sonic landscape. Percussionist Kenneth Nash recites lyrics that ruminate on the concept of time. The narration may remind some listeners of Rick Holmes’ work on Nat Adderley’s Soul Zodiac. The track’s final moments are built upon a slow, hypnotic rhythmic pattern, with layers of saxophone, harmonium and violin all competing for the sonic space.

After The Elements, Henderson would go on to make more than a dozen albums, switching from Milestone to Red and eventually Verve. His exploratory nature would continue after The Elements, but he never again would work with that album’s particular set of musicians.

Jazz Dispensary’s 2017 reissue of The Elements recreates the original, upgrading to 180-gram vinyl and a sturdier color sleeve.

DOWNLOAD: “Fire”

 

 

GARY BARTZ NTU TROOP – Harlem Bush Music: Uhuru LP (reissue)

Album: Harlem Bush Music

Artist: Gary Bartz Ntu Troop

Label: Jazz Dispensary/Concord/Milestone

Release Date: July 28, 2017

www.jazzdispensary.com

The Upshot: African rhythms, the blues and vocals are highlights of this early 1970s jazz outing from saxophonist Gary Bartz, newly reissued on 180-gram vinyl with high-quality reproduction sleeve from Jazz Dispensary. (Go HERE to see additional entries at the BLURT Jazz Desk.)

BY BILL KOPP

The 1970s were a fascinating time in jazz. Fusion was establishing its footing, and a wide variety of artists had committed themselves to exploring the outer boundaries of the jazz form. One of the directions pursued was the incorporation of African rhythms and textures. Of course in and of itself, that was hardly a new idea: Cannonball Adderley’s African Waltz had explicitly followed such a direction way back in 1961. and it goes without saying that jazz was built upon an African foundation.

When saxophonist Gary Bartz recorded the second of his Harlem Bush Music albums – 1971’s Uhuru, credited to Bartz’s Ntu Troop – he chose to work with some of the best sidemen he could find. That short list included bassist Ron Carter. For this record, he built the collection around an 18-minute blues with vocal called “Blue (A Folk Tale).” The piece has the feel of an opening theme from a play or other stage presentation. The tune initially features only Carter’s bass plus Bartz on vocal and piano. He’s playing in a style quite reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. Three minutes in, Bartz enters on sax, joined by percussion stabs from Nat Bettis and drums by Harold White. Much of the next few minutes features little other than Bartz’s screaming, squawking and sometimes melodic saxophone, punctuated by vocal whoops and hollers. It’s exciting stuff.

Through overdubbing, Bartz adds multiple vocal lines as the band kicks into a truly funky workout; in turns it’s groove-filled, exploratory, bluesy and near ambient; Bartz seems intent on traveling to several destinations within the blues idiom within the framework of a single performance.

The albums’ remaining four tracks are all much shorter, but no less intriguing. “Uhuru Sasa” features Carter and Bartz often playing the same melodic line; but just when the listener licks into that groove, they diverge. The vocals – especially the chorus – dig into the African flavors.

“Vietcong” features Juni Booth on bass instead of Carter. The track fades in, suggesting that what we hear on record is merely part of a much longer piece. An alluring sax melody is supported by a slinky blues foundation. Against the backdrop of the then-current conflict in Southeast Asia, a tale of a Vietcong warrior “ fight[ing] for his homeland” would have been controversial stuff indeed. Regardless, it’s a swinging tune.

“Celestial Blues” fad in as well. The rhythm section of Carter and White turns out a hypnotic patter, atop which Bartz sings and solos on his sax. His soloing becomes wilder and unrestrained as the performance unfolds. Carter sounds like he’s having fun even while adhering to the limits imposed by function as the song’s anchor.

“The Planets” is not a reading of Gustav Holst’s classical work. Instead it’s a relatively spare number that lies halfway between cocktail jazz (thanks to the wood block percussion) and the sort of thing Sun Ra and His Arkestra might have done. The song largely becomes untethered in its midsection, allowing the players to head off in whatever direction they choose. More than anything else on Uhuru, “The Planets” feels like an improvisation.

A new 180-gram vinyl reissue of the album reproduces the music and the packaging in all its glory. Harlem Bush Music: Uhuru was Bartz’s fifth album as band leader. He would go on to release more than two dozen more albums, and today at age 76 he continues to perform. He also teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue (A Folk Tale),” “Uhuru Sasa”

 

ROSANNE CASH – King’s Record Shop [30th Anniversary] LP

Album: King’s Record Shop [30th Anniversary] LP

Artist: Rosanne Cash

Label: Legacy

Release Date: July 07, 2017

www.LegacyRecordings.com

The Upshot: 180gm reissue of Cash’s fifth album is as much classic today as it was three decades ago.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Since the recent resurgence in vinyl, record labels big and small (but, mostly big) are scrambling to empty their vaults for anything to re-release on wax. The results can be mixed; consider that someone re-released the Space Jam soundtrack on vinyl. But every so often, a gem is found, cleaned up and released back into circulation. The latest jewel from Legacy Recordings is the remarkable fifth album from Roseanne Cash, King’s Record Shop.

Put out on 180-gram vinyl just in time for its 30th anniversary, the album holds up stunningly well. From the steady album opener, “Rosie Strike Back,” with its strong domestic violence message, through quieter moments (“I Don’t Have to Crawl”) up to the two powerful live tracks that cap off this re-release (“Runaway Train” and “Green, Yellow and Red”), the album is just as impressive today as when it first came out. Decades later, a song like the lyrically brilliant and stunningly sung “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” is still one of her best (in a career of best songs). She also puts her own spin on John Hiatt’s “The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” a couple of John Stewart tunes and her father’s “Tennessee Flat Top Box” on this record.

Produced by Rodney Crowell, King’s Record Shop helped cement Cash’s reputation as one of Americana/country’s best hopes. At a times when neon pop was weaseling its way into the genre, Cash held steady with the substance over style ethos. The proof can be heard all over this album.

DOWNLOAD: “Rosie Strike Back,” “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” and “Runaway Train”

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: C88

Album: C88

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: June 30, 2017

www.cherryred.co.uk

The Upshot: I was all over this like a cheap suit, and if you were into the C88 bands back in the day, you will be too.

BY TIM HINELY

The C86 scene in England was cool—and got all the hype—but I liked a lot more of the C88 bands, and this three CD set covers ‘em all. And I mean all. As it states in the press sheet  “it documents a golden era when tuneful guitar-based bands made records on shoestring budgets often issued on small labels with hand-made artwork, with little hope of mainstream exposure.” Umm….yup, that about sums it up and I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Several of the UK labels of the day (many probably reviled by the British press) are represented here including Sarah Records  (The Orchids, The Sea Urchins, Another Sunny Day, etc.) Creation  The House of Love, Pacific, etc.) 53 and 3rd  (The Vaselines, Groovy Little Numbers , etc.) , The Subway Organization (The Flatmates, The Clouds, Bubblegum Splash, etc.) and plenty more. In addition to all of the (mostly) great bands mentioned above there are plenty more excellent guitar janglers like The Pooh Sticks doing my favorite tune “On Tape” plus Pale Saints doing the dreamier “Colours and Shapes” and Choo Choo Train (Ric and Paul from Velvet Crush) doing the righteous “High,” all of which is one disc one. Moving right over to disc two The House of Love start things off with “The Hill” but, in addition to all of the stuff that I already loved, comes plenty of bands I hadn’t heard (or in some cases hadn’t even heard of ) before like Bob, Cud, The Hearthrobs, The Nivens, The Waltones, etc. Moving right along to disc three  is more great unknown stuff (to me, anyway) like The Church Grims, Annie and the Eroplanes, Holidaymakers, The Raw Herbs, and lots more (and lets not forget pop masters who are in my collections like The Wake, The Fat Tulips, East Village, The Fizzbombs and too many others.

In the 48-page booklet Neil Taylor waxes poetric about each and everyone of of these bands. I have no control over other countries but I can control what happens here in the USA and if I can make it happen where every home in American has a copy then I’ve done my job. I’ve got some work to do (and so do you, listen to C88).

DOWNLOAD:  “On Tape,” “High,” “The Hill,” “Our Summer,” “Anorak City,” “Dying For It,” “Heaven Knows,” “Cubans in the Bluefields”

 

 

A MAN CALLED… Alex Chilton

An expanded reissue of the late rocker’s ’95 opus, A Man Called Destruction, underscores something that most people don’t talk about: When the mood struck him, Alex Chilton could be a lot of fun, period. (Photo: Pat Rainer)

 BY MICHAEL TOLAND

It’s easy to let yourself be disappointed by an Alex Chilton record. But that’s only if you insist that he re-make Sister Lovers or Radio City over and over again. Let such notions go, and his post-Big Star solo work becomes much more enjoyable. Especially when you consider that Chilton wasn’t abandoning his best-known work – he was merely returning to his roots, indulging in the R&B-based sounds that ignited his passion to play music in the first place.

Originally released in 1995 and now reissued by Omnivore as an expanded edition, A Man Called Destruction is Chilton’s fourth solo album following his mid-‘80s resurrection, and it’s a corker. Half originals and half covers, the set list includes, as expected, 60s-style R&B (Chris Kenner’s “Sick and Tired”), rawboned rock & roll (“Devil Girl,” “Don’t Stop,” “You’re Lookin’ Good”), smooth blues (“Don’t Know Anymore,” Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go”), something Beach Boys related (Jan and Dean’s “New Girl in School,” co-written by Brian Wilson) and winsome pop (Danny Pearson’s “What’s Your Sign Girl”).

But he also threw some typically Chiltonian curve balls: the jazzy rock instrumental “Boplexity,” the phonetically-sung Italian rockabilly number “Il Ribelle” (originally sung by Adriano Celentano), the half-serious/half ridiculous classically-styled instrumental “It’s Your Funeral” (quoting the familiar Chopin dirge). Recorded live on the floor without EQ, the songs all have a dry clarity, with no layers between performance and ear; combined with Chilton’s clear enjoyment in making the music, it makes every track come gloriously alive.

This edition includes a slew of strong bonus cuts, wherein even the repeats are worth hearing. Though the alternative version of “Devil Girl” notes “double-track vocal,” the real difference is in the slowed-down tempo and bluesier feel. (Listen to it below.)  “You’re My Favorite,” while sounding slightly unfinished, rollicks nicely along, while “Please Pass Me My Walkin’ Shoes” rides a greasy blues groove home. Even a cover of John Addison’s “Why Should I Care,” while clearly more of a rough sketch than a song, gets by on easy charm.

It also underscores the chief asset of A Man Called Destruction: it’s just fun. Chilton sounds like he’s smiling through most of the songs, and with that energy behind them, you can’t help but smile as well.

***

Below, view the official Omnivore trailer for the album. And a big thank-you from the BLURT crew to everyone – from Omnivore and music publicist Cary Baker of Conqueroo, to Chris Stamey and author Holly George-Warren –  involved in continuing to fly the flags of Chilton, Chris Bell, and the entire Big Star extended family. – Ed.

LOOK BLUE GO PURPLE – Still Bewitched LP

Album: Still Bewitched

Artist: Look Blue Go Purple

Label: Flying Nun

Release Date: May 05, 2017

www.flyingnun.co.nz

The Upshot: Distaff Dunedin rockers from the ‘80s have their debut reissue and expanded.

BY TIM HINELY

The all-female 5-piece from Dunedin were one of  the most enchanting, bewitching (yup) bands on the Flying Nun roster and heck, 30 years on they still sound enchanting, unique…at times magical. It was in the mid-late ‘80s that I started getting turned on to many of the Flying Nun bands usually by friends or reviews in zines and I instantly fell in love with the label and its roster of bands (as I’ve mentioned many times on this site before) but this band was a mystery. Unlike the Chills, The Bats or the Clean they never toured the USA so none of us fans ever got to see them and only ever saw a few pictures of the band (which added to the  mystery) and , in more recently years, some You Tube footage.

In their day the ladies released three EPs between the years 1985 and 1987: Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This and promptly broke up. Guitarist Denise Roughan went on to many other N.Z. bands while drummer Lesley Paris ended up managing the Flying Nun label and the other three, Kath Webster, Kathy Bull and Norma O’Malley, who knows. Anyway after that long lead in I’m here to tell you that the Flying Nun label has graciously reissued these tracks and more (some live ones) on vinyl in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and its glorious (available on cd, too). It’s the original 14 songs plus 5 bonus live tracks. The music was poppy and jangly at times but their secret weapon Norma O’Malley who not only added keyboards to the tunes but also some well-placed flute that pushes the songs over the top. Also, the ladies harmonized perfectly and well, could just write some really terrific songs. Listen to ace pop cuts like “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun” (for some of that flute), “Circumspect Penelope,” “Vain Hopes” and the crown jewel, the upbeat blast of “Cactus Cat.”

If you missed the boat the first time around and have even a passing interest in the Flying Nun label (or uhh… good music in general) then don’t miss Still Bewitched. It’s great.

DOWNLOAD:  “Cactus Cat,” “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun,” “Circumspect Penelope”