Monthly Archives: October 2008

Moody Blues – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 [reissue]

January 01, 1970



With the recent spate of re-releases spanning the Moody Blues’
seminal catalogue, the band’s fans – particularly those whose college years
were experienced through a filter of incense, black lights and the heady
soundtrack provided by early Moodies’ classics like Days of Future Passed, In
Search of the Lost Chord
and On the
Threshold of a Dream
— have been given the chance to reacquire the group’s
catalog with a wealth of add-ons.  While
there have been various BBC recordings included in the bonus bonanza, these
tracks, recorded in 1970 at Britain’s
star-studded Isle of Wight Festival, offer a rare opportunity to hear the band
live and unvarnished, without the advantage of any studio embellishments.


In fact, for a band so seemingly dependent on elaborate
instrumentation and production prowess the Moodies proved surprisingly
successful in making the transition from studio to stage.  There’s a tougher, rawer edge to certain
songs – “Gypsy,” “Question,” “Legend of a Mind,” and of course, “Ride My See
Saw” – but here, in full flight, Justin Hayward’s stirring vocals are less
constrained and considerably more emotive. 
If there was a sort of sterility or reserve to their sound before, it’s
not in evidence here. That said, the beauty of their ballads – particularly,
“Never Comes the Day,” “Are You Sitting Comfortably,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” and
the venerable “Nights In White Satin” – tap the supple, sensuous appeal of the
original incarnations, with Mike Pinder’s mellotron and Ray Thomas’ flute ably
providing the orchestral arrangements.


These days, the Moody Blues continue to tour, but Pinder and
Thomas have long since departed, leaving Hayward,
bassist John Lodge, drummer Graeme Edge and younger, newer recruits to
replicate their live legacy.   It also
finds them emphasizing their more obvious crowd-pleasers while leaving many of
the gems heard here languishing in the archives. As a result, the true devotee
will find Live at the Isle
of Wight Festival 1970
a fine flashback and a good excuse to
revisit the band’s better material.


Stand-out tracks: “Never Comes the
Day,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Ride My See Saw” LEE ZIMMERMAN


Kimya Dawson – Alphabutt

January 01, 1970



Kimya Dawson’s appeal has
always resided in the child-like vulnerability in her songs, moving from
poignant, affecting lines to non-sequitur word play and back again. So it would
seem that a kids’ record would only be natural. And at moments, Alphabutt is. But mostly, it’s
insufferably cloying.


“Pee-Pee in the Potty” annoys
instead of instructs, and the title track finds its charm wearing off after the
2nd or 3rd scatological reference – which is to say, by
the letter G. When Dawson
sheds the “kid’s music” shtick, though, the charm is back. “Happy Home (Keep on
Writing)” doesn’t pander but teaches the virtues of contentment and
individuality (“Now I know it’s better if we don’t all sound the same”) to a
gentle, reassuring tune. Similarly, “Sunbeams and Some Beans” pairs playful
lyrics and a lesson on sharing with political commentary. Then we remember why
we liked Dawson
enough to make our kids listen to her.


Standout Tracks: “Happy Home (Keep on Writing),” “Sunbeams and Some Beans” BRYAN REED


Jesus and Mary Chain – The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides and Rarities

January 01, 1970




This four-disc collection of B-sides and rarities starts on
an odd, if historically relevant, note with an early demo cut in 1983 that
sounds a bit too much like something the members of Depeche Mode would have
totally danced to at the time. But The Jesus And Mary Chain had come into their
own amazing sound by track two, “Upside Down,” a hail of squealing,
speaker-shredding feedback threatening to swallow an otherwise perfectly
hummable pop confection whole, as though they’d found the missing link between
“Venus in Furs” and the Brill Building side of the early Ramones and decided to
kill it with sound.


And then, they take the same approach to the first of
several awe-inspiring covers reinventions here, Syd Barrett’s “Vegetable Man.”
As Jim Reid explains in the liner notes, the original impetus was “Why doesn’t
someone have the pop sensibilities of the Shangri-Las, but with the production
values of The Birthday Party?” Of course, to get the full effect, you’d have to
add some mention of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound (if feedback squeals were


The first CD is where you’ll find the most abrasive distillation
of that blueprint, from the psycho-billy grind of “Boyfriend’s Dead” to the
squalling charms of “Never Understand.” But “Just Like Honey,” represented here
in demo form, is feedback-free, a wistful folk-pop gem to let you know they
liked the Velvets slow songs too, while “Taste of Cindy” turns up as a tender
unplugged demo.


Disc two kicks off with the aptly titled “Kill Surf City,” a
feedback-laden Beach Boys knockoff. And before the disc is through, they’ve had
their way with “Surfin’ USA” not once but twice, both versions surprisingly
faithful even with the sampled televangelists and slightly altered lyrics. The
debt to artists like the Beach Boys (or P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction” in
the case of disc three’s “Sometimes”) grows more obvious as The Power of Negative Thinking progresses,
including a cover of “My Girl,” but they never wash their hands of noise
completely. Hell, the fourth disc signs off with the post-apocalyptic grind of
“Nineteen666,” a B-side cut in 1998, but only after an outrageously fuzzed-out,
speaker-destroying rendition of “Alphabet Street” (Prince), by which point
there’s no reason to believe their generation ever knew a more inspired cover


It’s nicely packaged, too, complete with running commentary
by the brothers, Jim and William Reid, and a really cool family tree poster
mapping out all 15 variations the lineup.


Standout Tracks: “Just Like Honey,” “Alphabet Street” A. WATT


Southside Johnny w/LaBamba’s Big Band – Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits

January 01, 1970




As a songwriter, Tom Waits seems to be undergoing a sort of
popular revival these days. During the spring of 2008, actress Scarlet
Johansson released her collection of
Waits songs; produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Anywhere I Lay My Head was a collection of textured fantasy-pop
more akin to polished early-‘80s studio concoctions like the Cocteau Twins than
to Waits’ gritty, world-weary portraits in sound. Sitek’s production removed
too many of the sharp edges from Waits’ work, and I for one don’t believe for a
minute that Johansson, who just began her singing career a couple of years
back, was thoroughly invested and in love with the material… no matter how many
hipster critics say it’s so.  


Now it’s Southside Johnny Lyons’ turn, and with Grapefruit Moon, the Asbury Park veteran takes a completely
different tact on the Waits songbook. Backed by LaBamba’s Big Band, fronted by
his New Jersey pal Richie “LaBamba” Rosenburg, Lyons has reinvented
these Waits songs as grand jazzbo antiques with big band arrangements and lots
of horns up front in the mix. Channeling both Duke Ellington and Woody Herman,
Lyons’ gruff, slightly-worn voice sounds good on both the slow-crooned ballads
and the album’s rambunctious up-tempo flare-ups, while the band’s overall excellent
performance is integral to the success of the material. LaBamba runs a damn
tight ship, and these boys are playing their hearts out…sounding uncannily like
a white-suited-and-gloved throwback to a kinder, gentler era.


It’s the songs that matter, though, and Grapefruit Moon doesn’t duplicate any tunes from Johansson’s casual
gaze through the Waits canon. Lyons
digs a little deeper, reaching as far back as Waits’ 1973 debut album. The
result is an interesting and eclectic choice of songs. “All The Time In
The World” offers a forceful vocal performance, more closely resembling
Lyons’ typical R&B stomp, while the band delivers a very cool and slightly
atonal ’60s-styled movie soundtrack sound that is complimented by Glenn
Alexander’s ripping guitar solo.


“Tango ‘Til They’re Sore” comes the closest to
mimicking Waits’ original version, with guttural vocals and discordant
instrumentation, and the songwriter himself drops by for a duet on the lively
“Walk Away And Start Over Again.” The two singers’ personal styles
might be wildly different, but here they mesh together nicely, with sparse
instrumentation, lead by manic piano, supporting the song’s odd meter and
syncopated rhythms. And so it goes, Lyons
knocking each one out of the park, even oddball pitches like “New Coat Of


As a concept album, Grapefruit
works on several levels. Waits wrote solid songs; Southside Johnny
wraps his voice around the material like a worn, slightly scratchy velvet
blanket, and LaBamba and the boys carry the heavy instrumental load. For
everybody involved, it’s win-win situation!


Standout Tracks: “All The Time In The World,” “Yesterday Is Here” REV. KEITH


Darker My Love – 2

January 01, 1970



Channeling the ‘60s,
Darker My Love has crafted a psychedelia that dances between hard, growling
rock and upbeat pop rock. The sophisticatedly loud sound is created by two guitars,
bass, drums and an organ, with vocal duties shared by guitarist Tim Presley and
bassist Rob Barbato for additional bite. Their voices complement each other


The album is a
ride through a storm as listeners are immediately hit with the dark, brooding
sounds of “Northern Soul” and “Blue Day.” Then the sun glistens in tracks “Two
Ways Out” and “Pale Sun” and it’s hard to believe this is the same band. As DML
draws upon its disparate influences, it sends us into a land that is both tranquil
and troubled.



“Two Ways
Out,” “Pale Sun” APRIL S. ENGRAM


Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night

January 01, 1970




Kings of Leon have jumped the shark, gone over the edge, and
wrecked the train, simultaneously, miraculously, horribly. Only By the Night is a rock ‘n’ roll version of the Palin VP pick –
a bad choice at a bad time.


The Kings’ blend of Southern rock and post-punk has reaped
some wonderful results over the past few years. This, however, is a ridiculous
mess of ‘80s darkwave, adult alternative, and arena rock ballads, on which
Caleb Followill has replaced his gruff but melodic vocal style with a generic
croon. But this is only part of the dumbing-down process the band seems to have
gone through. There’s no doubt that the boys thought writing sappy ballads,
such as “Use Somebody,” was a step towards musical maturity.


The reality is that it’s a damn shame, and one can only hope
the Kings will learn from this blunder.


“Closer,” “Use Somebody” JONAH FLICKER


Okkervil River – The Stand Ins

January 01, 1970



follow-up to last year’s The Stage Names is another wild-ride discourse on the funhouse mirror of celebrity and its
entourage of trappings – velvet ropes, fan clubs, green rooms and groupies
abound. Will Sheff’s nesting doll narratives fire big sloppy anthems and
balladeer dramas about self-important singer-songwriters, magazine models, gay
glam rockers, and anyone else who was ever put on a pedestal or aspired to be
(and those who put them there).


and recent Okkervil alumnus Jonathan Meiburg deliver the rousing duet “Lost
Coastlines,” whose driving rhythms embody a touring band’s psychic
rootlessness, and Memphis
soul-horns color “Starry Stairs,” sequel to TSN‘s
“Savannah Smiles.” “Pop Lie” fizzes with furious keys and guitars like early
Elvis Costello, and its chorus about a “liar who lied in his pop song”
resonates because Sheff’s been on both ends of the myth-making equation, yet
seems powerless to stop making impassioned music in spite of the baggage.


Standout Tracks:
“Lost Coastlines,” “Blue Tulip” JOHN SCHACHT



Stephen Emmer – Recitement

January 01, 1970

(Supertracks Records)


Oh the horror.


Occasionally one comes across a piece of music so incredibly
abhorrent that one wonders what or why it was released at all, an album that
makes one question everything that makes life good.  If such a music exists, then Recitement is much, much worse, an album
so awful that it’s unfortunate the BLURT 10-star rating system won’t dip below
a “one.” Actually, it could receive either a “zero” or a “ten”; I’m opting for
the former here, but I must admit that I waffled on awarding it the latter, for
something this bad in some ways could be viewed as glorious, like a film by Ed
Wood.  Indeed, it could be viewed that
way, but not by me.


Emmer’s album takes a slew of spoken word recordings and
sets them to music and before we go further, you should be warned: Reader,
prepare to have your heart broken, for this project was mixed by Tony Visconti
and features spoken word performances by the likes of Lou Reed, Jorge Luis
Borges, Allen Ginsberg, and Ken Nordine, amongst others.  Perhaps the readings on their own might have
been palatable — perhaps even interesting. 
Lou Reed reading Paul Theroux? 
I’m in.  Blonde Redhead’s Kazu
Makino reading a text by Yoko Ono?  Hell


The problem here is that Stephen Emmer’s music has no better
comparison than schlock composer John Tesh. 
Actually, Tesh might have done a better job.  Swells of digital strings and cheesy rhythms
wander around with absurd guitar tones and occasional bursts of fake drama that
are so ridiculous.  It is bad music.  No scratch that: It is terrible music.


One wonders if this is all just a very bad joke, with Emmer,
Visconti, Reed, and co. sharing in the collective guffaw.  If so, Michael Brocken’s liner notes make
much more sense than they might otherwise, claiming as they do that “Emmer
seeks to complement our normative aural experience by readdressing the tactile
range of human perceptions.”  Uh… ha
ha?  Somehow I think the joke is on the
listener and everyone’s laughing but me.


Standout Tracks: “Passengers,”
“Boy with a Cart” CHRISTIAN KIEFER




RTX – JJ Got Live RatX

January 01, 1970




RTX keep peddling their sincerely scummy underbelly to the
rest of the world, and please lord, if you have any sense of justice, this
time, someone will be buying.  If
practice heals all wounds, and time makes perfect, then JJ Got Live RatX is definitely the best RTX effort since Royal Trux
divorced all their druggy sexuality and got distilled into RTX. 


Lead single “Hush” was made to be blasting out of a dirty muscle
car, littered with the aged ephemera of late 80’s rock ‘n’ roll.  RTX could’ve been Van Halen’s brazen and angsty
younger stepsister, hellbent on repeatedly kicking David Lee Roth in the junk
and stealing all of Eddie Van Halen’s tossed off riffs. RTX push the same ear
shaking bravado through the album, until they hit cruising speed on “Cheap Wine
Time.” And then we slip into “Rainbow High,” finding ourselves privy to
Jennifer Herrema’s own ballsy sense of youthful optimism.  RTX sound ready to conquer the world – or at
least burn it down.



Standout Tracks:  “Hush,” “Cheap Wine Time” BRIAN CREECH


Hacienda – Loud Is The Night

January 01, 1970

(Alive Naturalsound Records)




Alright, so there’s nothing terribly subtle about Hacienda.
The Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys)-produced group naturally falls in with the
likes of touring/studio associate Dr. Dog and The Bees, those analog
revivalists carrying a flag for the 1960s “A” (Abbey Road) to “Z” (The Zombies). But for all its familiar echoes,
the San Antonio
group’s debut – Loud Is The Night – is
no less enjoyable for its easily-spotted influences.


If you’ve got to model yourself after someone or something,
why not shoot for the best? Just as Marc Bolan looked to rockabilly for
inspiration, Hacienda turns back the clock a tad further than some of its
colleagues, churning out a few surprises (a Sonny Bono cover, “Baby Don’t Go”,
the overall influence of Memphis
soul and doo-wop) and a nice spin on the retro racket.     


The period-authenticity alone, though, is not quite enough
to carry some of the duller tracks (“Another Day”, “Sun”). Sometimes the Night sounds more stoned ‘n’ droned than
loud or exciting. Hacienda doesn’t do melancholy too convincingly either (“Degree
of Murder”). Fortunately, the band plays up the sunshine pop for the better
part of the album.


“She’s Got A Hold On Me” kicks things off with a fuzzed-out
groove, “Officer” goes one step further, past the threshold and well through
the doors of perception. Composition-wise, it’s all refreshingly simple, breezy
but easy to latch on to. There’s nothing self-serving about the restrained
instrumental work and one has to imagine it all translates pretty well live.


As far as first impressions go, Hacienda has some work ahead
– mostly honing those songwriting chops – but Loud Is The Night is still a great point to jump off from. These
guys are definitely worth keeping tabs on.


Standout Tracks: “She’s Got A Hold On Me”, “Angela”, “Hear Me Crying”  ZACHARY HERRMANN