Monthly Archives: March 2010

Runaways – The Mercury Albums Anthology

January 01, 1970

(Mercury/Hip-O
Select)

 

www.hip-oselect.com

 

Long
before Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning were even a dirty thought in their
parents’ heads, there was The Runaways. From the mid to late ‘70s, the teenage
girl group churned out three full lengths and a live record before flaming out
over money and the direction of the band. All four albums are included in the
two-disc, 42-song Mercury Albums
Anthology
.

 

 

Though
the band was clearly manufactured, in this case by notorious producer Kim
Fowley, it is obvious from their earliest recordings that the members are all
great musicians in their own right. With regards to the influence of the Svengali-like
Fowley, only a guy could steer the band to play up the Lolita angle this
strong. The original lineup comprised Joan Jett, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Micki
Steele and Cherie Currie. Joan Jett went on to have the most success musical
career post break up, but Ford had a reign as heavy metal princess through the ‘90s
and Steele went on to form the Bangles.

 

 

Unlike
many assembled modern girl groups, The Runaways not only wrote most of their
own music, but could play the shit out of their songs. Lyrically, the band is
hit (“Cherry Bomb”) or miss (“Dead End Justice”), but musically, the band mines
the best of influences from bands like Queen, Cheap Trick, David Bowie and
Kiss. Whether or not Hollywood’s
biopic on the band will stir up genuine renewed interest in the group remains
to be seen, but this anthology is more than enough reason to get reacquainted.

 

 

Standout Tracks:  “Cherry Bomb,” “Queens
of Night,” “Waitin’ For the Night” JOHN B. MOORE

      

 

 

Las Rubias Del Norte – Ziguala

January 01, 1970

(Barbes)

 

www.barbes.com

 

Ethnomusicologists beware. Las Rubias Del Norte’s third and
latest album wants nothing to do with purity. Its dozen Latin-flavored cuts
borrow melodies from every corner of the world. The title track comes from
Greek rembetika composer Manolis Hiotis. A mid-album highlight “J’Attends Un
Navire”, from Kurt Weil’s French-language opera Maria Galante. “Seguedille” is from Bizet’s Carmen. And “Mana Janab Ne Pukara Nahin” hails from mid-1950s
Bollywood – about as far as you can get from traditional Latin influences.

 

And yet, all these tracks, as well as the more
conventionally Latin ones like Venezuelan composer Simon Diaz’ “El Alcaravan”
and Hermanos Cantoral’s “Crucifijo De Piedra”, have a pronounced
south-of-the-border slink and swagger to them, paced by syncopated hand
drumming and scratchy back-beats, and punched through with slanting surf-1960s
guitar. A There’s a sizzle to these grooves, even the slowest and prettiest of
them smouldering a little at the edges. And make no mistake, these are very
pretty tunes, sung in light-as-air harmonies by Las Rubias’ two classically
trained singers, Emily Hurst and Allyssa Lamb. The two of them are particularly
sublime in the title track, where their voices join with hardly a visible seam
in darting, birdlike flights of melody.   Yet that is by no means the extent of it. “J’Attends
Un Navire” has a 40s movie-star glamour in its sheeny vibraphone and lush,
caressing harmonies, while the lavishly instrumented “Mana Janab” (the Parker
String Quartet sits in), offers an eastward-slanting view of these voices’
effortless precision.

 

In working on this album, the band tried to imagine a world
where rock ‘n roll had never happened, where the omnipresent Latin influences
of the 1940s and 1950s continued to drive American pop into suave and
sophisticated directions. It’s an interesting world they’ve created, maybe not
one to live in full time, but a lovely spot for a late night drink and some
witty repartee.

 

Standout Tracks:  “Ziguala”, “J’Attends Un Navire” “Seguedille” JENNIFER KELLY

 

The Prisoner

January 01, 1970

 (Warner Home Video,
288 minutes)

 

www.wbtvondvd.com

 

BY CHRIS ZIMMERMAN

 

It’s been over forty years since the original British
television drama the Prisoner launched
viewers into a world of paranoia and political intrigue. Four decades later and
the series has found new life courtesy of AMC in the form of a six episode
remake though it could hardly be considered as such. True the character’s names
and settings are familiar but the plots departure from the original make it
virtually unrecognizable to those accustomed to the cerebral nature of the original.
Perhaps it’s due to its abdication of the source material in favor of a more
sci-fi setting that this new take fails to measure up to the standards set by
its predecessor.

 

The series opens with a man named 6, having just awoken in
“the Village”, a peaceful little town situated in the heart of a desert and
inhabited by cheerful citizens, unaware of the world that lies beyond.
Convinced that this new reality he’s awakened into is false, 6 launches into a
desperate search for answers as to where he is and how he came to be there. As
he delves deeper into the secrets of the Village, he discovers others who
believe themselves to be displaced.

 

Digging further beneath the surface reveals that he has a
family who claim to have lived in the Village since they were children though
his memories tend to disagree. Pulling the strings is the enigmatic 2, whose
sole focus is to manipulate 6 into surrendering his will. As the story
progresses, the truth is brought to the forefront though the audience may find
itself just as confused as the Villages’ occupants.    

 

Unfortunately, this is the biggest drawback to the series.
The countless twists and turns the plot takes does little to add to the
suspense one should feel; rather, chances are that viewers are likely to find
themselves lost trying to follow the convoluted revelations thrown their way.
Truthfully, much of the blame for the show’s erratic nature is in its storytelling
as scenes shift interchangeably between 6 throughout various periods of his
life. For example, at the end of one episode we witness his incarceration in a
mental facility only for the next episode to open with him wondering aimlessly
through the Village. It’s clear what the writer’s were going for, but
ultimately it just adds further confusion to an already perplexing plot.

 

Another of the show’s faults lie in its pacing. For a six
episode series, there are moments where the plot feels as if it is dragging,
and even moments that feel as if it has come to a complete halt. This is
unforgivable, especially considering its meager episode count.

 

As confusing as it is, the story can be pieced together if
one pays enough attention, though everyone will most certainly have to come to
their own conclusions at to what the Village really is. Honestly, when the show
isn’t limping along, there are genuinely enthralling moments that capture the
viewer’s interest and threaten to never let go. Watching 6’s turbulent struggle
to unwind the events set into motion is captivating and will have everyone
taking notice. Add on to that its cinematic scope and the Prisoner comes off
feeling more like a six hour epic than it does a series.

 

In terms of acting, this may have been the best cast program
on television. Ian McKellen, gives his usual outstanding performance as the
sinister 2. Starring alongside him is relative unknown Jim Caviezel whose
portrayal of 6 gives the character depth, making the sense of desperation
palpable, proving he has the acting chops to hang with Sir Ian.

 

Despite its overly ambitious plot and slow progression,
buried beneath is a truly admirable effort that rewards its viewers and sends
them off with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It pushes people to think,
which is rare for television today. If given a chance, viewers might just find
themselves lost in the Village. 

 

Special
Features:

Unaired Scenes

Commentaries on 2 key episodes

Beautiful Prison: the World of the Prisoner

A 6 Hour Film Shot in 92 Days: the Diary of the Prisoner

The Prisoner Comic-Con Panel

The Man Behind 2 – Jamie Campbell Bower Interviews Sir Ian
McKellen

 

 

 

 

Bulletproof Vests – Attack!

January 01, 1970

(Electric Room Records)

 

 

 www.electricroomonline.com

 

Memphis upstarts the Bulletproof Vests were one of BLURT’s “Best
Kept Secret” picks last fall – you can read our profile and interview here
and at the time they’d recently done a limited-edition private run (like, 100
copies) of their debut album Attack! As noted in the story, however, local label Electric Room was planning on
repressing the record and distributing it nationally. Based on this humble
reporter’s impressions of the tunes both then and now, any self-respecting
aficionado of garage and power pop (and maybe a little bit o’ Memphis soul, too) should not be without this
in their collection.

 

It kicks off with the one-two groover punch of  “Magic Wand” (an anthemic bit of pop/soul that
could pass for classic-era J. Geils Band) and “Down In Yer Pocket” (sixties-flavored,
R&B-tinged psychedelia; listen for the backwards guitar solo!) effectively
establishing the quintet’s bonafides. From there the genre-hopping commences,
one moment touching down in twangy, Rockpile-styled pub-rock (“Darlin’ Wait”),
slinkysmokysexycool fifties pop with Latin flourishes (“Picture Show”), full-on
garage raveup (“Queenie In Trouble”), and slam-bam pop glam (“To The Moon” –
the song that initially hooked me on the band, it sounds like a cross between
Big Star and T. Rex).

 

At 10 songs clocking in just over a half-hour, Attack! gets in and gets out without
wasting a second of your time, and it’s testimony to the band’s songwriting
prowess that you want to spin the platter again the moment it’s finished – the
tunes are as addictive as they are varied, and they boast a full-bodied sound
that may have its origins in the garage but has clearly been honed with finesse
in the studio. Any number of these tracks would sound great blaring from the
car stereo. (I should know; I road tested the CD.)

 

Featuring brothers Jake and Toby Vest on guitars and vocals,
Greg Faison on drums, Dirk Kitterlin on keyboards and Brandon Robertson on
bass, the Bulletproof Vests slot together in classic Memphis tight-but-loose fashion, as a result
constituting one of the more exciting young bands to emerge from that city’s
always-bustling, ever-mutating music scene.

 

Standout Tracks: “To
The Moon,” “Down In Yer Pocket,” “Queenie In Trouble” FRED MILLS

 

 

 

Secret History – The World That Never Was

January 01, 1970

(Le
Grand Magistery)

 

www.magistery.com

 

With
a full lineup of 7 this New York City band, led by the songwriting talents of
Michael Grace (ex-My Favorite, in fact most of this band is made up of the
final lineup for M.F.), has finally dropped their debut full-length on a music
scene that had been drooling for it since their Desolation Town ep
arrived in 2007. Also, if vocalist Lisa Ronson’s last name sounds familiar it’s
because her dad is, yup, you got it, Mr. Mick Ronson (I don’t need to tell you
he was Bowie’s
guitarist, do I?). With a steady lineup committed to quality playing and strong
songs, The World That Never Was is a heady mix of indie pop, glam rock
and new wave and the tunes are as good as hoped for.

 

“Johnny
Anorak” is stylish way to open a record with punchy guitar and Ronson’s
confident vocals (the song might be about a lousy karaoke singer?) while the
melodic keyboards of “Our Lady of Stalingrad” is the closest thing here to a My
Favorite song. On “God Save the Runaways,” Grave takes over lead vocals and
turns out one of the record’s best songs while Ronson stretches her pipes on
the lovely “Our Lady of Palermo” and turns out a winner as well.  The
Smithsy “Johnny Nightmare” chimes along at a nice pace but a  few of the
slower tunes drag a bit (“Sex With Ghosts”, “Count Backwards (Rock ‘n’ Roll
Never Dies)” but even they weren’t without merit. Though veterans of the music
scene this (fairly new) band has a lot to be proud of on this debut.

 

Standout
Tracks
: “Johnny Anorak”, “God Save the Runaways”, “Our Lady of Palermo”, “Johnny
Nightmare” TIM HINELY

 

 

Gary Lucas/Dean Bowman – Chase the Devil

January 01, 1970

(Knitting
Factory)

www.knittingfactoryrecords.com

 

Take two
musicians of disparate backgrounds, exploit their common love of traditional
music, and put them in the studio sans accompaniment save their guitar and
vocals. The end result is manifest in Chase
the Devil
, an inspired pairing featuring guitarist Gary Lucas and vocalist Dean
Bowman. The two men find a special bond in gospel and blues, transforming age-old
spirituals and archival originals by the likes of the Rev. Gary Davis, the
Staple Singers, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe into rugged and reverent interpretations.

 

Tapping into a
solemnity that befits the music’s hallowed origins, the duo manages to infuse contemporary
influences into the tangled trappings of “Nobody’s House” and the propulsive
tempo of “Time and the Place.” The dusty bottleneck blues of “This May Be The
Last Time,” a precursor to the Stones standard with a similar name, manages to
circumvent the divide between Rock and religion. Lucas, a one-time member of
Captain Beefheart’s backing band, is a proficient musician, one whose varied
influences, subtle nuances and vibrant technique offer all the ambiance that’s needed.
For his part, Bowman commands a remarkable vocal range, finding resonance in
the darker melodies and elation in more spirited celebration. 

 

Still, a
cautionary note is needed.  Chase The Devil may be too scholarly for
some, particularly those who aren’t as attuned to tradition.  Nevertheless, the triumph of this Devil lies in the details, and virtuosity
assures its saving grace.

 

Standout Tracks: “”Nobody’s House,” “Time and the Place”
LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

 

 

 

Guitar Shorty – Bare Knuckle

January 01, 1970

(Alligator)

 

www.alligator.com

 

Guitar Shorty shows on Bare
Knuckle
why he is one of the most important guitarists in blues/rock
history, although he has never received the recognition he deserves. His impact
ranks right up there with Buddy Guy, Freddy King and Eric Clapton. Listen to Bare Knuckle and it is hard to believe
you are listening to the guitar work of a 70 year old man. But this explosive, screaming
guitar playing over hard driving percussion has been a Guitar Shorty, born David
Kearney in Houston, Texas in 1939, trademark since the 1950’s.

 

The album blast off with Shorty’s wailing guitar on “Please
Mr. President” and the intensity level stays high for the entire set. Keb Mo
adds rhythm guitar to the topically relevant opening track. Shorty sings, “I
used to have a good job, working 40 hard hours a week. Had money in the bank
and a mortgage I could meet. But then they started to lay off and got poor me.
Now that mean old banker is trying to put me in the street. Please Mr.
President lay some stimulus on me.”

 

Guitar Shorty is a transformational blues artist. As a 17
year old he was discovered by the great Willie Dixon and brought to Chicago to record on
Cobra Records, with Otis Rush backing him on guitar. Then he went on the road
and worked for Ray Charles, Guitar Slim and Sam Cooke in their touring bands.
All of these giants were radically pushing the boundaries of black music at the
time. Shorty represents that point where electric blues guitar transforms in
what eventually became hard rock. From Slim, he developed an outrageous, high
voltage stage performance, including somersaults and back flips. It was while living
in Seattle in
the early 1960’s that the stepbrother of his future wife went AWOL from his
Army base to catch Shorty’s gig. The name of that young soldier: Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix said that he started lighting his guitars on fire because he couldn’t do
Shorty’s acrobatics on stage. Shorty has said that he can hear his riffs in
“Purple Haze” and “Hey, Joe.”

 

The guitar work on Bare
Knuckle
is so powerful, so vibrant that one can’t help but wonder what else
Jimi might have learned from Shorty had he had the time and what a
collaboration between the two of them would have sounded like. The true power
of this album cones on one of the songs where Shorty slows it down. “Slow Burn”
is a spoken word song over a slow blues. And it is one of the most powerful
songs ever written about the plight of the veterans of our endless foreign
wars. Shorty sings, “You didn’t ask why when they sent you to war. Now you’re
wondering what in the hell were you fighting for. When a vet comes home missing
an arm or leg, did we lose all that for the right to beg? And you stop to give
in to the rage within. It’s the slow, slow burn, the rage within.”  Both this song and the first track should be
essential listening in the White House.

 

Even as he helped create hard rock, Guitar Shorty never lost
sight that the blues is not about how loud or fast you can play, the music is
about songs and the emotional impact a well written song can have on listeners.
And on songs dealing with love and lost, good woman and bad, Shorty makes you
feel the blues through his gritty, yet soulful vocals.

 

Guitar Shorty deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His music has been innovative and has stayed true to his blues roots. Bare Knuckle is the work of an American
master still performing at the top of his art.

 

Standout Tracks: “Slow
Burn” “Please Mr. President” “The Sting” “Temporary Man” TOM CALLAHAN 

 

 

 

Morning Benders – Big Echo

January 01, 1970

(Rough
Trade)

 

www.roughtrade.com

 

The
Morning Benders have no fear. This Brooklyn (via San Francisco) quartet could have begun Big Echo, its second album, with
“All Day Day Light,” the set’s noisiest song, or “Cold War (Nice
Clean Fight),” the sprightliest. Instead, the Benders taunt the
wimpophobic by opening with “Excuses,” a string-driven throwback to
the days when Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson were first developing psychedelic
MOR.
It’s a gutsy statement of meekness.

 

Of
course, it’s not all that bold to be mild within the confines of today’s wispy
alt-pop — especially when Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor is co-producing. (His
production partner is Benders singer-guitarist Christopher Chu). And by
comparison to many of their peers, the Benders can sound nearly punk, throwing
guitar distortion and actual choruses up against their tinkly glockenspiel and
woozy “whoa-ohs.”

 

If
the album is more roundabout pop than straightforward rock, its elaborately
layered sound isn’t the whole story. Most of the material has punch, at least
in places, and the melodies (usually) trump the hazy sonics. Even “Sleepin
In,” the sunshine-pop closer, is tougher than the playfully misleading
“Excuses.” Big Echo may emphasize
just what its title promises, but it also boasts reasonably big songs.

 

Standout Tracks: “Cold War (Nice
Clean Fight),” “All Day Day Light” MARK JENKINS

 

 

 

Explosives – Three Ring Circus

January 01, 1970

(Steady Boy Records)

www.steadyboyrecords.com

 

It’s always an intriguing scenario when a backing band steps
out from the shadows and seizes the spotlight on their own. The Band – as in The Band — aside, it’s happened only
occasionally – the Wailers, the Rumour, the Crickets and Crazy Horse are some
of the more obvious examples that come to mind. However even in those
relatively rare instances, it brings the support players some fleeting
recognition. For whatever reasons, the musicians often reclaim their day jobs
and go back to supporting their front-men.

 

On the other hand, Three
Ring Circus
makes it clear that the Explosives had a life – and a career –
long before the group was drafted by Roky Erickson as his back-up band. As
evidenced by this well-stocked anthology that’s culled mostly from material
recorded in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Explosives were well versed in a
rock ‘n’ roll regimen. Over the course of twenty tracks given to both a CD and
DVD, its evident they were adept at mining retro pop and proto punk, and making
it all sound fresh and vital in the process. “Headhunter” recycled a surf sound
ala Dick Dale, “I Gotta Move,” exploited a Ray Davies’ signature song with some
grungy garage vibes, while “Lonely Street” and “Sunsets” brought memories of
the Mersey beat and some sweeter pop pretense.

 

As the set progresses, the reasons for Erickson’s affinity
for the band become clear, given the semi-psychedelic weirdness of “UFO,”
“Fortress Europe,” “Cola Brain” and “Come Clean,” songs that find a common bond
with their new boss’ wackier instincts. Taken in total, both newcomers and
former fans will find that the Explosives’ archives have yielded one dynamite
package.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Lonely Street,” “Sunsets,” “Headhunter” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Dave Holland Octet – Pathways

January 01, 1970

(Dare2 Records)

 

www.daveholland.com/dare2

 

 

On the cover of Pathways,
the first ever CD released by the Octet version of Dave Holland’s three primary
ensembles, we see eight interlocking circles of different colors. The symbolism
is clear – the paths of these eight musicians go around and around, but they
shine brightest when they all come together to form intricate patterns of
musical hues.

 

Holland
has toured off and on with this subset of his Big Band (or larger version of
his Quintet, if you will) for years, and the ability of these players to work
together has clearly benefited. Most of the material on Pathways has been recorded by different groups over the many years
of Holland’s career – for those not aware of
jazz history, he came over from England
in the late 60s to join Miles Davis’ band, and has since played bass with
virtually every major figure in the genre. But both new and old material are
arranged so carefully, and feature such exciting and inventive solos, that the
album feels completely up to date.

 

“Ebb and Flow” is particularly noteworthy, as it has a smoky
and flighty solo from trombonist Robin Eubanks, a rhythmically delightful solo
from Holland himself, a furiously building tenor sax solo from Chris Potter
(the break-out star among stars in all of Holland’s ensembles these past x
number of years), and then an ecstatic blast of arranged polyphony from all
eight players at once.

 

But there are no low points among the seven cuts, recorded
live last year at the famed jazz club Birdland. “How’s Never” is a school of
funk rhythm fueled by an incredible alto sax solo by Antonio Hart and some
highly creative bass and drums interplay from Holland and Nate Smith. Potter’s “Sea of
Mamara” floats a Middle Eastern-tinged soprano sax melody over constantly
building and shifting chords from the horns (I wish I had the musical language
to describe it more clearly than pointing out these horns are styled exactly in
the manner of mid to late 60s TV drama background music.)

 

Kudos also go out to Gary Smulyan on baritone sax
(particularly his hard blowing on opening cut “Pathways”; Alex Sipiagin on
trumpet and flugelhorn, who plays both smooth and silky and with a hard,
cutting edge; and vibraphonist and marimba player Steve Nelson, who constantly
adds to the harmonic tension with his intriguing counter lines to solos, and
whose own forays in the lead are nifty keen, too. Pathways may not break any brand new jazz ground, but it sure does
combine impeccable musicianship with a willingness to pull inspiration from
multiple sources in such a way that it sounds remarkably fresh and irresistibly
enticing.

 

Standout Tracks: “Ebb
and Flow,” “How’s Never,” “Sea
of Mamara” STEVE PICK