Monthly Archives: April 2012

REDLINE FEVER (AND A SIDE ORDER O’ SLUDGE…) Blue Cheer

On, improbably enough, a classical label, and managed by a Hell’s Angel, the S.F. band was the ‘60s Motorhead – but with longer hair and better drugs.

 

BY REV.
KEITH A. GORDON

 

Back in
the primordial stew that was mid-to-late 1960s era rock ‘n’ roll, record label
execs were literally clueless about the music, and were just as likely to chase
trends as they were to discover new talent. With their collective ears to the
ground, they listened for the buzz, and in 1966 and ’67, nowhere was the
howling louder than in the San Francisco Bay area. The region was home to a
virtual buffet of bands and styles, from the electrified blues-rock of Big
Brother & the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) and the
folk-influenced psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane to the Grateful Dead’s
original roots-rock stew.  

 

What was
missing from the San Francisco sound was a true hard rock band…and into the
breach would step the almighty Blue Cheer. Louder, bolder, and brasher than any
other band on the scene, Blue Cheer evolved…or some would say mutated…from a
six-piece blues-rock outfit complete with dueling guitarists and a harmonica
player, into a nasty, turbocharged power trio in the image of the Jimi Hendrix
Experience. Signed to Dutch-based Phillips Records, noted mostly for its
success in the classical music field, Blue Cheer represented the label’s attempt to capitalize on the growing garage-rock side of
pop music.

 

Phillips
had no idea what they were getting themselves in for, however. Blue Cheer was
brought to their attention by fledgling producer and popular S.F. radio deejay
Abe “Voco” Kesh, an Armenian blues fan who would also discover
guitarist Harvey Mandel. The band was managed by a Hell’s Angel member
nicknamed “Gut” and, well, Blue Cheer had a tendency to play every
bit as loud in the studio as they did on stage, redlining the equipment and
freaking out the recording engineer.

 

While
Phillips may have thought that they were getting an American version of Eric
Clapton and Cream, or maybe even Led
Zeppelin, what they got was Vincebus Eruptum, a debut album completely devoid of melody,
bruising songs performed by sonic thugs who mangled the blues-rock equation
with squalls of piercing guitar and spine-bashing rhythmic overkill.    

 

Blue
Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum roared out of the gate, literally, with
bluster and ferocity that wouldn’t be matched for almost a decade…or until
Motorhead released its ground-breaking, earth-shaking 1977 debut album. Released in early 1968 and riding
on the back of the band’s first Top 20 single – a grungy, fuzztone,
feedback-ridden reading of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” (also
successfully covered by the Who) – the album would peak at number eleven on the
Billboard Top 200 albums chart, and
rock ‘n’ roll would never be the same again. The new Sundazed Records label CD
reissue restores the album to its glorious, bulldozer mono mix.

 

 

 

 

“Summertime
Blues” still sounds pretty damn hot today, although Blue Cheer’s
performance of the song has long since been overshadowed by the Sturm and Drang
of thousands of bands that followed the same blueprint to musical notoriety in the
decades to follow. In its day, though, the song sounded like nothing and nobody
else – not for Blue Cheer the fey moptop
harmonies of the British Invasion bands, or even the niceties of polite,
boy-next-door garage-band America. Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues”
sounded like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse straddling their iron steeds,
belching fire and shrouded in smoke, filthy rock ‘n’ roll bikers coming for
your daughters with phallic guitars and amps set on eleven.

 

Guitarist Leigh
Stephens’ fretwork on the song broke new ground, establishing the framework for
what would eventually become heavy metal, ringing with reckless abandon, the
performance itself riff-happy, druggy, feedback-drenched psychedelic-blues with
the heaviest bass line the recording tape could capture,
and drums that sounded like the soundtrack to a short boat ride down the River
Styx. That “Summertime Blues” became a hit single is a testament to
the musical anarchy that ruled the 1960s, as well as an indicator of the
madness creeping into rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Much of Vincebus Eruptum follows along the same darkened path towards insanity, the band forever corrupting traditional blues in a haphazard and
amphetamine-fueled haze of which Eric Clapton
and Cream, or even John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers could never conceive. A cover of
B.B. King’s classic “Rock Me Baby” is warped beyond even the low
standards the band set with “Summertime Blues,” the song’s
sludge-like dino-stomp pacing matched by Stephens’ razor-sharp, demented
fretwork (a mutant approximation of King’s unique single-note leads), bassist
Dickie Peterson’s husky voice lacking all pretense of nuance as he mauls the
lyrics…only drummer Paul Whaley manages to come anywhere near a standard blues
rhythm, but even that is lost come the bridge as chaos reigns, Stephens’ axe
flies off the planet, and the once-subtle percussion explodes like a brick of
C4.

 

Even
Peterson’s original songs evince the same sort of dirty, greasy signature as
the band’s much-beloved cover tunes. “Doctor Please” sounds like
Humble Pie thrown down a deep, dark well, the bass-drums rhythm track creating
an enormously claustrophobic vibe while Stephens’ manic mangling of his guitar
bludgeons the listener with sound and fury. “Out Of Focus” isn’t much
different, although it does allow Stephens to show off a few more chops that
his previous stammer-and-stun, and the band strikes a sort of slippery groove
as Peterson’s quicksand vocals barely project above the din of the instrumental
soundtrack.

 

Vincebus Eruptum closes out with a
particularly-inspired cover of Mose Allison’s classic “Parchman Farm”
(notoriously listed on the album cover as “Parchment Farm”).
Performed as a sequel, of sorts, to “Summertime Blues,” the band cops
an almost identical melodic arrangement as their hit single upon which to
unravel Allison’s lyrical tale of betrayal. Stephens’ solos bob and weave like
a punch-drunk prizefighter throughout the five-minute jam, Whaley’s drumwork
slips and slides from light-fingered, jazzy brushes to jackhammer blasts of
white light, while Peterson’s leaden bass technique clearly opens the door for
Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler to stagger through a year later.

 

Whaley’s
tribal drumming intros the blast furnace that is “Second Time
Around,” the song teetering on the edge as it balances a semblance of
garage-rock innocence and melody with the freefalling musical cacophony that
characterized the most adventurous of the era’s psychedelic acid rock
explorers. Although the song won’t open your third eye, its overall oozing
instrumental mud is certain to bongo-beat your eardrums even as it carelessly
slaps your medulla oblongata into submission. And that’s it for Blue Cheer’s
debut album…six tarpit tapestries, roughly half-an-hour in length, which will
take you days to recuperate from…

 

 

***

 

How do you
follow up a hit album, as unlikely as its success may have been? For Blue
Cheer, whose debut disc Vincebus Eruptum hit number eleven on the albums chart, spawning
a Top 20 hit single with a cover of “Summertime Blues,” you basically
follow the words yet spoken by drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs. Sayeth the
beloved B-movie scribe, “if you’re gonna make a sequel, make a sequel.
Bring the dead people back to life and do it all over again.” And
that’s pretty much what Blue Cheer did with their sophomore effort Outsideinside…resurrect all the bodies
they’d buried with their blunt-edged, riff-driven musical attack while refining
their sound with an even muddier mix
and a bunch of new, but no less dull and rust-flaked, production tools.

 

Whereas
Blue Cheer’s debut was louder than the ass-end of a fighter jet, and denser
than a room full of politicians, the album’s production was ultimately
designed…if, indeed, much thought went into it at all…to mimic the band’s
incendiary live shows. With Outsideinside,
however, they were seemingly inspired by all of the psychedelic outlaws that
made up their hometown music scene, bands like the Jefferson Airplane and
Quicksilver Messenger Service who were using the full capabilities of
contemporary recording technology to create a multi-textured, head-tripping
sound. In the hands of Blue Cheer and heavy-handed producer Abe
“Voco” Kesh, these advances in studio tech smoothed out some, but not
all of the band’s jagged edges, and further reinforced the smothering
wall-of-noise that was the Blue Cheer trademark. It seems that while their
first album had been recorded under the influence of whiskey and amphetamines, Outsideinside displayed a definite
hallucinogenic influence.

 

As such, Leigh
Stephens’ guitar was multi-tracked and multiplied in the mix, his free-riffing
technique flying straight out of your speakers like a pissed-off honey badger. Dickie
Peterson’s already heavier-than-uranium bass style was reduced to a thick,
migraine-inducing throb while Paul Whaley’s drums were frequently downplayed to
a mere eardrum-shredding sledgehammer rather than the head-bashing wrecking
ball that had almost dominated Vincebus
Eruptum
. While Outsideinside lacked the casual menace
and amateurish, bang-a-gong mentality of its predecessor, that’s not to say
that it was lacking in velocity or ferocity. The band still pursued a
louder-than-God, blues-infused psychedelic-rock sound, albeit with a few more
vintage R&B and boogie-blues elements thrown into the boiling brew this
time around.

 

For
instance, the album-opening original “Feathers From Your Tree” starts
out like your typical hippie hash, with a few folkie strings and odd vocal
harmonies, Peterson’s voice almost lost in the chorus until the nut breaks open
and Stephens’ six-string begins screaming and Whaley’s percussion stirs up a lazy
cyclone comprised of flurries of drumbeats and raffish whacks on the old
cymbal. Altogether, the song is somewhat more claustrophobic and schizophrenic
than much of the era’s psyche-rock and clearly foreshadows the coming flood of
doom-minded fellow travelers like Sir Lord Baltimore, Black Sabbath, and
Pentagram.

 

Peterson’s
“Just A Little Bit” breaths a little fire-and-brimstone into the
album’s grooves, picking up the pace with a mid-tempo yet undeniably muddy
performance where the vocals are sinking quick in the song’s quicksand
arrangement, Whaley’s drums blast away like a chattering machinegun, and
Stephens’ multi-tracked guitars stun in their fuzzy magnificence with both a
fluid tone and imaginative phrasing. The group-written “Come And Get
It” is a flashback to the band’s debut, a muscular, cro-mag composition
that offers up raging fretwork, hurricane-strength blast-beats, and Peterson’s speed
king vocals shouting up from the darkness of the mix.

 

Whereas a
full half of the songs on the Blue Cheer’s debut had been covers, Outsideinside offers up only two
significant departures from the band’s new internal songwriting dynamic. The
Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is revved-up and
amped-up beyond the original’s heart-attack pace, Blue Cheer stripping down the
instrumentation at times to just Stephens’ humming, buzzing guitar, the entire
thing racing past your ears like a bad dream. Whaley’s locomotive drumbeats
drive the performance to a manic crescendo as Stephens’ solos sting like a knife-cut
behind Peterson’s speedfreak vox.

 

 

 

 

By
contrast, the band’s cover of Albert King’s “The Hunter” (also done
nicely by British blues-rockers Free) is about as straight a performance as the
trio could muster with this short-lived line-up. Peterson’s vocals are edgy,
but the groove is fat and swings hard, and Stephens’ guitarwork is
uncharacteristically subdued. The Stephens-Peterson collaboration
“Magnolia Caboose Babyfinger,” later covered (appropriately) by Seattle tricksters Mudhoney during the grungy 1990s, is a
short, sharp shock of an instrumental, hitting a quick lick and quitting in
favor of the album-closing musical strokefest that is “Babylon.” Pulling out all the stops,
Blue Cheer crowbar every psychedelic cliché and hard rock sleight-of-hand they
can imagine into slightly less than four-and-a-half minutes, thus giving birth
to both Iron Butterfly, Kyuss, and therefore,
Queens of the Stone Age.

 

Lacking both
the ear-shattering charisma and the shocking element of surprise that made Vincebus Eruptum an unexpected hit, Outsideinside fared much less well commercially, the album barely scraping its way into the
Top 100 and failing to yield even a moderately-successful single. The tide had
quickly turned for Blue Cheer, and guitarist Leigh Stephens would become the
band’s first – although nowhere near its last – casualty, leaving before the
recording of 1969’s New! Improved! Blue
Cheer
to pursue a solo career with the release of his future cult fave
album Red Weather.

 

Meanwhile,
Dickie Peterson would carry the torch as Blue Cheer’s original founding member,
leading various band line-ups well into the 21st century with a number of album
releases and sporadic touring, the band’s 2007 swansong What Doesn’t Kill You… a welcome return to the caveman-dumb
dinosaur rock that built Blue Cheer’s reputation in the first place. Sadly, the
band’s return to rock would be sidetracked when Peterson, the prototype hard
rock bassist, passed away in 2009. Still, there’s no underestimating the band’s
influence on the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll, and its status as one of a handful
of true originators of heavy, heavy music.

 

 

ONE MOTHER THERESA OF INVENTION Theresa Andersson

New Orleans’ one-woman-band
wunderkind seems nothing less than a genuine sonic sensation.

 

 

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

To describe Theresa Andersson
as unique is kind of like saying there’s sand in the Sahara. Or for that
matter, confirming there’s snow in the artic. A veritable one-woman ensemble,
she defies the very notion of what a solo singer/songwriter is assumed to be,
that is, an artist with a trunk full of songs and most likely merely a voice
and guitar or keyboard to put them across. As anyone who’s seen her live can
attest, Andersson’s instrumental arsenal consists not only of those traditional
tools, but rather a complex system of loops, pedals, mixers and sequencers that
turn her winsome songs into sounds that are atmospheric intensive – an approach
that’s essentially austere, precious and homegrown, and yet also unerringly
intriguing and inventive. Like Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Laurie Anderson, her
music originates with melody, but quickly evolves with an unlikely exuberance
both quirky and compelling.

 

Born in Gotland Sweden in
1972, Andersson relocated to New Orleans in 1990, and in short order integrated
herself into the city’s much lauded music scene. However it wasn’t until the
release of 2008’s Hummingbird, Go! that her solo work began catching the ears of the critics. Eerie, haunting and
yet possessed of an extraordinary exuberance, the album was recorded solo in
Andersson’s kitchen under the auspices of producer Tobias Froberg. A remarkable
record in both concept and conceit, it paved the way for a live DVD as well a
series of YouTube videos that have since netted well over a million views.

 

All that activity provides a
perfect set-up for Andersson’s latest opus, Street
Parade
, a record which follows the same MO as its predecessor. With Froberg
once again at the helm, Andersson and her producer reconvened in her kitchen,
allowing Andersson to once again take on the majority of the instrumentation.
The result is her most stunning effort to date, one which seems likely to
elevate awareness to a markedly higher plateau and offer potential for some
emerging artist of the year recognition.

 

BLURT recently had the
opportunity to speak to Andersson as she prepared for the release of the new
album. For an artist whose approach seems so unusually complex she came off
remarkably grounded and down-to-earth.

 

 

 

BLURT: For starters, can you give me an idea of your
early influences?

ANDERSSON: I grew up listening
to ‘80s music from Tina Turner, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and such… whatever
was playing on the radio at the time. My parents had a couple of cool Aretha
Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald records that I just about wore out. Around the time I moved to New Orleans I
also listened a lot to Joni Mitchell… I used to sing “My Old Man” and “Blue”
as I scrubbed marble staircases to make money for my first US ticket.

 

What made you decide to pursue the idea of being a
one-woman band – was it for practical purposes or artistic reasons – or a
combination of both?

It began as a practical
solution but ended up being the coolest discovery! I had a tour booked in
Sweden, but couldn’t afford to bring a band, and so I got the first RC-50 loop
pedal. As I kept developing new ideas, I often ran into limitations in the
pedal which led to really interesting solutions. 

 

Your stage shows look fascinating – was it intimidating
or even difficult to place yourself in the spotlight sans any supporting
players onstage?

Sure, it was intimidating at
first because I had such an overwhelming amount of detail to keep track
of.  In time I’ve learned to trust the
symbiotic relationship between me and the pedals! 

 

What inspires your songs?

On Street Parade,” I was hugely inspired by the actual street parade,
the space after a parade passes before the next comes. This was very much a
metaphor for my own life at the time. Having come off a three year tour for Hummingbird Go! I was entering into a
big life changer, becoming a mother.

        Since I started looping, my writing has
changed and I use the pedals to create more panoramic soundscapes. This is how
the songs on Street Parade began. I
would sketch out harmonies and melodies with my voice and later work them into
horn parts.

Was there one thing in particular that
was especially exciting about this record?

It was very exciting to have
Swedish pop man Peter Moren sing on “What Comes Next”!

 

 

When you’re writing and recording your material, do you
envision how you will interpret them solo on stage, even right from the start?

Unfortunately not, ha, ha! It
would save me a lot of headache if I did. I should probably try that approach
for the next record!

 

What brought you to New Orleans originally? Was it
difficult to integrate yourself into that well-established scene?

I first came to New Orleans as
a teenager. I moved here with a bandmate/boyfriend. We used to play for tips in
a Laundromat/bar in the French Quarter. New Orleans is very friendly and bands
invite you to sit in. I still sit in every chance I get. My favorite is playing
with Johnny Vidacovich (Professor Longhair), George Porter (the Meters) and
Ivan Neville (Neville Brothers).

 

Can you explain the technique you use with the loops, the
sequencer and the turntable? How did you come up with this system and figure
out how to make it work? Do you use that set-up in the studio as well?

My set-up consists of a
guitar, a violin, drums, loop mic and a record player. All these are fed
through two mixers, one for the drums and one for the instruments. I use the
record player to sample sounds and beats, like the Smokey Johnson drumbeat on
“Birds Fly Away.” [See video, below, from
her DVD; the BLURT editor saw her on this tour and reportedly was amazed, by
the way. – A/V Ed.
]

        From
the mixers I go into a bunch of effect pedals and finally into the loop pedals.
I have two RC-50’s that I use for looping. Each has three phrases that I can
record multiple tracks on. Unfortunately, the two loop pedals cannot be
synchronized, which means that it is extremely difficult to keep things lined
up if you run both pedals at the same time.

I started with just one pedal,
but soon expanded to two so that I would have more options. I use the pedals a
lot while writing, but not so much in the studio. In the studio I like playing
parts all the way through.

 

 

 

Do you envision your arrangements while you’re writing
the songs, and do you consider the arrangements essential to the composition?

It’s more of a feeling of what
I want the song to be. Most times, the arrangements for the record end up
differently than the live approach to the song. In both cases, it’s about how
it fits in to the whole of the record/live set.

 

At times, your work seems to find a common bond with Kate
Bush and Laurie Anderson… What so you think of that comparison?

I’m honored to be compared to
such artistic icons!

 

When did you get the sense that this technique of yours
would work with audiences and that the audiences were in fact embracing what
you were doing?

The first tour I did in
Scandinavia with the small set up was enough to give me a blooded tooth as we
Swedes like to say… 

 

Were you surprised by the kudos accorded Hummingbird, Go?

I knew I had changed my
approach to songwriting and performing quite a bit, and so I was thinking more
along the lines that people might not like it… You can never predict or take
anything for granted in this line of work, and when something goes well, it is
very exciting and rewarding.

 

 

 ***

 

 

Tour Dates:

 

04/27

NEW ORLEANS, LA
Cafe Istanbul

05/04

NEW ORLEANS, LA
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

05/05

NEW ORLEANS, LA
Tipitina’s (French Quarter)

05/30

VANCOUVER, CANADA
Media Club

05/31

SEATTLE, WA
Triple Door

06/02

PORTLAND, OR
The Mission Theater

06/04

SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Swedish American Hall

06/07

LOS ANGELES, CA
Troubadour

06/14

BROOKLYN, NY
The Bell House

06/15

PHILADELPHIA, PA
Tin Angel

06/16

WASHINGTON, DC
The Hamilton

 

READY, SET, GAO! Sidi Touré

On his second American
album the spiritually-minded African guitar maestro brings his Songhaïroots –
and its culture of sharing – to the masses.

 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

 

“I always compare music to a married woman,” says
Malian guitarist Sidi Touré.  “When she
goes to the town hall she wears a veil, but if she wears twenty veils she’s
going to suffocate. Music has to breathe!”

 

That’s one way of saying that latest album Koïma is more richly ornamented album
than 2011’s Sahel Folk (reviewed here), but
only to a point.  Where the U.S. debut was
a series of voice and guitar duets, recorded casually at Touré’s sister’s home,
Koïma brings in calabash, bass,
multiple guitars and a back-up singer. 
It’s a denser, more animated realization of Touré’s Songhaïroots, a
culture that he explains is centered around sharing – of food, of joy and, most
of all, of music. 

 

“For example, when we recorded Sahel Folk in my sister’s house, she killed a sheep for us,” he
recalls.  “If you visit a Songhaï and he
only has one sheep, no matter how poor he is, he will kill it for you. God will
manage the rest.”

 

Touré grew up in Gao in northern Mali, a center of the Songhai
culture.  Born into a noble family, he
wasn’t supposed to become a musician.
In fact, it was frowned upon. But Touré was undeterred by
family pressure. He and his friends made guitars from wooden writing slates as
small children and took turns playing them.  
At the age of 10, he won a real guitar in a contest, although one
without strings or tuning pegs.   By the
age of 16, Touré had joined the Songhaï Stars as its youngest musician.  He learned traditional songs and playing
styles from Ibrahim HammaDicko, one of the Gao region’s greatest players. 

 

“Even
when I joined the Songhaï Stars, my family’s disapproval didn’t relent,” he
remembers.  “The situation only began to
change when we won the Biennales of Bamako in 1984 and 1986. We toured through Mali, Niger,
and Algeria,
and only then did they understand that not everybody can become a doctor,
physicianor driver. That’s what makes the world beautiful.”

 

Touré became a national figure in Mali, but his first record to be released in the
U.S.
was Sahel Folk.  A tour last year brought Touré, as well as
two companions who played traditional instruments (kuntigui, kurbus) to the
States as well.  “From Sahel Folk and the US tour, I really came to
understand what it means that music has no color and no frontier,” he
says.  “Because with one acoustic guitar
and two traditional instruments, American audiences really enjoyed the shows.  They proved that without understanding a word.  We can understand people thanks to music.”  (Go here to read the BLURT
review of that 2011 tour.)

 

 

 

 

For Koïma (released, like its predecessor on
Thrill Jockey), Touré gathered a diverse group of Malian talent.  Oumar Konate, who plays the guitar, is the
song of a long-time Songhaï Star supervisor and master of ceremonies.  Alex Alass Baba, the calabash player, has
played with Baba Salah.  Leila Hamidou,
the back-up singer, is an old family friend from northern Mali, whom Touré
reconnected with at a benefit to protest human trafficking.  Zoumana Téréta, who plays the violin-like sokou
player, has accompanied Oumou Sangaré.

 

As
with Sahel Folk, the songs in Koïma draw from Gao tradition, though filtered through Touré’s own
experience and artistic vision.  “My basis is the folklore of Gao,” he
explains.  “As I like to say, ‘Someone
else’s blanket cannot cover you. Only your own blanket can.'”

 

Yet
though he takes inspiration from the music that surrounded him in childhood and
which still flourishes in his homeland, Touré reinterprets these traditions
freely.  “To compose my own songs, I often
keep the rhythm and change the lyrics or the melody to make it more trenchant.  Or I might change the structure of the song.
Sometimes people say that I modernize the Songhaï music, but to me it’s
reinterpretation.”

 

The
title track, for instance, takes its name from mystical “Koima,” (in Gao, “Koï”
means “go” and “ma” means “hear”), a pink dune where legend says that all of
the wizards in the world would gather.  “It
is said that there is something under the dune, but I don’t want to talk about
that. The mystery of Koïma can’t be told. It has to be lived.”

 

Touré
says he visited Koïma with a friend and went to see its chief. “This chief gave
me his blessing, there is no better gift than a blessing,” says Touré. “That’s
why I decided to name this album Koïma,
as a sign of gratitude.”

 

The
song “Tondi Karaa,” or “The White Stone,” one of the album’s best, also
has a historical resonance.  Touré
explains that the song commemorates a stone brought to Mali from Mecca
by Askia Mohamed. “While he crossed the desert, his camel died. Lost, he prayed
and before the end of the prayer, an elephant appeared and brought him to Gao,”
Touré explains. 

 

Once
brought to Gao, the stone became part of the community’s religious ritual.  “It was an important stone,” says Touré. “Beneath
it there was a fine, white sand used during blessings. But the stone
disappeared. A lot of things are said about this, but for me the reason was
because people stopped loving each other, so God was angry. People turned their
backs, so God turned his back.”

 

Despite
this dire ending, “Tondi Karaa” is one of the album’s most rollicking,
rhythmically propulsive tracks, riding a slant-wise, blues-driving guitar riff
(it sounds like Muddy Waters) that nearly necessitates physical motion.  It’s quite a change from Sahel Folk‘s melancholy introspection, but Touré cautions listeners that
this new direction may not be permanent. Album number three, when it comes,
will showcase yet another side of Touré’s Gao-based, spiritually uplifting art.
Touré refuses to get specific but admits, “I can say that the audience will see
another side of my music, as Koïma is
different from Sahel Folk, as the third album will be
different from Koïma.

 

[Photo Credit: Johnathan Crawford]

PUSHING ALL THE BUTTONS Jack White

Despite a few
missteps, the multitasking maestro is hotter than ever on his solo debut. Tour
dates start this week.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

That the Raconteur, White Stripe and Dead Weather-man has
waited this long since his 1997 publicly recognized start to make a solo record
says what about Jack White? That Blunderbuss is his career best to this point? (Doubtful.) That he waited this long for this
set of songs to simmer? (Nah…) That he’s taken those aforementioned projects to
their limits? (He may think so.) That he’s tired of pretending he’s the host of
a democracy? (Probably.) And that he’s finally willing to show he’s the one
pushing all the buttons? (Definitely.)

 

“Sometimes people control everything about you,” White sings
curtly through the Hammond
organ jam of “Missing Pieces,” before heading into his trademark high-howl: “They’ll take pieces of you.”

 

White wants those pieces all to himself.

 

 

 

The Nashville
skyline’s breeze that hovers over Blunderbuss (Third Man Records) is hotter and more, well, blustery than anything White’s
managed previously. Certainly his immediate past is easy to spot here. There’s the
steamy vocal line of “Sixteen Saltines” that pounces upon the rangy garage
barrage of guitar scrawl in the best Stripes-y way possible, yet the sound is
fuller and the rhythm ripe with a tom tom’s cool chugging tonnage. “Hip
(Eponymous) Poor Boy” is the finest country party pop that the Raconteurs never
recorded, with some solid banjo rave ups.

 

And it being a Jack White effort, the kitchen sink is filled
with dishy old T. Rex and Robert Johnson takes and Jagger-like-moves. White’s
drawl and Ruby Amanfu’s coo complement each other handsomely on the C&W
ballad “Love Interruption.” The
nearly epic “Freedom at 21” grants access to excess and moves torridly through
hillbilly glam-rock bliss until it explodes with a six-string slinging solo the
equivalent of Godzilla mauling Japan. “Weep Themselves to Sleep” is a
mini-opera of multi-climaxing riffage that should thrill the ladies and scare
Leslie West.

 

So why isn’t Blunderbuss perfect? Because sometimes all of White’s histrionics result in something
cartoon-like. And you know he wasn’t kidding. White’s still occasionally awkward
as a lyricist, as fumbling a wordsmith as he is bomb-diving a guitarist.  There’s no doubt that he can play the blues
with deep abiding passion, yet once in awhile his saddest runs seem
surprisingly cold – and I don’t mean Albert King steel-eyed chilling. The jive-talking,
honky tonking “Trash Tongue Talker,” the mussed up Presley-punking “I’m
Shakin’,” the dizzy-bitch psych-prog screech of “Take Me with You When You Go”:
these moments are so over the top you’re not entirely certain if he’s kidding.

 

Blunderbuss is
good, damn good, and its’ few missteps unthinking. Those solo baby steps are
hell.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Jo McCaughey]

 

Jack White Tour
Dates:

 

04/27/12 – New York, NY – Webster Hall (live AMEX Unstaged webcast on VEVO)
04/30/12 – Los Angeles, CA – Mayan Theater
05/15-16/12 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
05/18-20/12 – Gulf Shores, AL – The Hangout Music Fest
05/19/12 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
05/21-22/12 – NY, NY – Roseland Ballroom
05/24/12 – Detroit, MI – Scottish Rite Theater
05/26/12 – George, WA – Sasquatch Music Festival
05/27/12 – Vancouver, BC – Queen Elizabeth Theatre
05/28/12 – Eugene, OR – Hult Center for the Performing Arts (Silva Concert
Hall)
05/30-31/12 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern

 

 

ROLL AWAY THE STONE David Olney

WWALWATRD? (What would Andrew Lloyd Webber and
Tim Rice do…) The Americana
icon puts an insightful new spin on Jesus and the Resurrection saga.

 

BY REV.
KEITH A. GORDON

 

Nashville’s
David Olney is one of the city’s truly underrated musical treasures… forget
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw and all that Music Row pap, ’cause while they may
be selling more records they’re not, at heart, true storytellers. They simply
take clichéd words cranked out by some Music City
songwriting assembly line and imbue the material with a modicum of personality.
By contrast, Olney is an old-school wordsmith in the Townes Van Zandt
tradition, mixing folk and blues with roots-rock in spinning tales that shoot
straight for the heart of the human condition.

 

Olney’s
second mini-album, The Stone
following last year’s Film Noir EP
and released in time for the Easter holiday – is a six-song EP providing a unique
accounting of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Olney revisits three older
songs on The Stone, providing his
previous creations with new interpretations, adding three new songs to complete
his insightful personal take on “the greatest story ever told.” What
makes Olney’s version here so mesmerizing is that each song takes a different
lyrical view of Christ’s resurrection, the story told, in turn, by a con man, a
donkey, a murderer, and a soldier.

 

The Stone opens with “Jerusalem Tomorrow,” Sergio
Webb’s classical-styled guitarplay weaving a beautiful tapestry of sound behind
Olney’s rich, sonorous spoken word vocals. This is the con man’s tale,
originally appearing on Olney’s 1989 album Deeper
Well
and later recorded by Emmylou Harris. An intricate first-hand tale of Christ’s
ministry, it’s a prelude, of sorts, of the story to follow. Another older song,
the largely-forgotten “Brays” from Olney’s 1995 album High, Wide and Lonesome, offers the
perspective of a lowly donkey who feels like a stallion after carrying a humble
Jesus on his back. “Blessed am I of all creatures, blessed am I of all
beasts,” sings the donkey in Olney’s haunting voice, the lyrics
accompanied by producer Jack Irwin’s ethereal orchestration, which creates a
fascinating musical atmosphere.

 

One of the
EP’s new compositions, “Brains” is a funky blues romp fueled by
Olney’s growling vocals and fluid harmonica playing. Told from the perspective
of a policeman looking to find out “the brains of the operation”
behind Jesus and his disciples, with a sly reference to Judas on the side, it’s
an unlikely but effective way to recount the story, and probably the most
playful song on the EP. David Roe’s subtle bass lines and Irwin’s nuanced
percussion lay down a solid foundation beneath Olney’s voice, the lyrics
calling to mind every cop-show cliché you’ve ever seen on TV, delivered with
tongue only partly in cheek. Seemingly referring to the last supper, “Flesh
and Blood” is a more traditionally folk-oriented performance, with Olney’s
droning guitar-strum providing a counterpoint to his warm vocals, a bit of
Woody Guthrie-styled harmonica complimented by Webb’s piercing guitar tones.

 

The last
of the old tracks, the amazing “Barabbas,” originally appeared on
Olney’s 1999 album Through A Glass Darkly.
A central character in the Christ narrative, the thief Barabbas had his death
sentence commuted by Pontius Pilate while Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Astride
Webb’s strident classical fretwork, Olney tells his rambling tale of Barabbas’s
imprisonment with Jesus and subsequent freedom, the thief later questioning his
release and traveling across the land to tell his tale which, in itself, represents
a form of spiritual redemption.
Irwin lays in mariachi-styled horns in places, their odd dissonance adding
nicely to the overall vibe of the story while Webb’s intricate and beautiful
guitar playing is simply breathtaking.

 

The Stone ends with “A Soldier’s Report,” the
tale of Christ’s resurrection told in the somber voice of a confused and
troubled soldier present at the crucifixion and charged with guarding the tomb
of Jesus. Above Webb’s insistent and sometimes discordant fretwork, with a few
cacophonic blasts of horn thrown in, Olney unfolds the soldier’s shame at
discovering that Christ’s body had disappeared, and his subsequent misgivings
about the future that the mysterious event portends. It’s a powerful
performance, Olney closing out The Stone with an open ending that invites further musical examination.

 

David
Olney is not a Christian songwriter, per se, nor does he frequent religious
themes often, but when he does address matters of faith, he does so with the
same intelligence and in the same thought-provoking manner as every song he
pens. With The Stone, Olney has
successfully wrestled with difficult religious mythology, adding his artistic
voice to the history of the tale with no little majesty and grace.    

 

[Photo
Credit: Paul Needham]

HAPPY FIFTH ANNIVERSARY, RECORD STORE DAY! (Pt. 2)

What’s changed is much the same, and passion
remains the name of the game. Above: RSD 2012 Ambassador Iggy Pop doth
proclaimeth it still rocks, dude.

 

BY JHONI JACKSON

 

It’s a
day-to-day outlook for the organizers of Record Store Day, the annual celebration
of independent media stores through exclusive releases and in-store shindigs.
Considering neighborhood shops are still as susceptible
to shuttering as ever, the parallel is appropriate. Keeping the long-term in
mind is a must for survival, of course. But RSD, now in its fifth year, has
expanded from 200 stores to a staggering 1700 worldwide. That kind of workload
demands a one-thing-at-a-time approach.

 

“We all
have more than full-time regular jobs in the world of indie retail,” explains
cofounder Carrie Colliton. “Mine happens to be the marketing director for a
coalition of 72 stores. As you know, releases happen all the time. Things don’t
stop so that I can run RSD. [The event] itself is a full-time job. It’s
definitely a labor of love.”

 

Colliton’s
role in RSD is not unlike her daytime gig, and it’s in no way constrained to
the rigid bullet points of a job description.
She’s in charge of answering emails, monitoring social media, gathering
information about releases and disseminating it to stores, answering questions
from shop owners, coordinating events, updating the website and whatever else
she’s tasked. (Or takes up on her own.)  

 

Sales
certainly catapult when a slew of special edition, highly collectible items are
available on one particular day. This year, Wayne Coyne upped the ante when he
publicly claimed to be collecting the blood of his collaborators on The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. When
the vital fluids of Nick
Cave, Yoko Ono, Chris
Martin and Ke$ha are for sale in limited quantities, there’s sure to be some
thick-pocketed buyers.

 

But
besides the benefits of spreading the word about alternatives to major
retailers, arduous work doesn’t earn Colliton and company any pay. It’s an
entirely pro-bono operation – they don’t even get first dibs on releases.

 

“[My
store] is the same as every other record store in the world. There’s no extra
bonus I get as a volunteer,” notes cofounder Eric Levin, who owns Criminal
Records in Atlanta, Ga. “We all order 30 of something that they made 500 of. We
each might get one…I think it’s cool that we’re screwed on titles just as much
as any other store.”

 

Record
Store Day has grown so much, Levin says, it’s become a “tent pole” in the music
industry.

 

“If you’re
a label, what do you do the week before, the week after? What do you do with
your release schedule? It’s starting to change the way labels think about this
time period,” he says.

 

With RSD’s
increased influence comes more involvement from major labels, which for some is
a point of contention. A focal point of that criticism is Bruce Springsteen’s Rocky Ground 7-inch. In addition to the Wrecking Ball track is the much beloved
Boss outtake “The Promise.” The live take is ripped from the 2010 DVD The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the
Edge of Town,
and it’s got plenty of critics questioning Columbia Records’
intentions – as well as RSD’s oversight.

 

“Somebody
out there really wants that Springsteen 7-inch,” Levin notes. “There is a different
piece of something for everybody… I don’t think there’s any love or special
care that’s gone into some of those pieces. But at the same time, look at Light
in the Attic’s Lee Hazelwood box set. It’s amazing. It’s just going to be a
beautiful piece. There are so many wonderful things down there that were made
with love. It’s up to the stores to buy accordingly and the customers to buy
accordingly.”

 

A
collection of remixed 311 songs and a one-side-exclusive Katy Perry album don’t
seem to be getting much love from traditionalists either. Colliton, however,
disagrees.

 

“There is
no record release that shouldn’t be available to someone who chooses to buy it
at an independently owned store,” she says firmly. “We’ve gotten just as many
people excited about Katy Perry, Coldplay and Disturbed as we have about some
of the smaller independent label releases. There is no one indie record store.
There are urban oriented, country oriented, jazz oriented, Latin oriented. Any
genre you can think of, there’s an independently owned business that
specializes in it. I get a little worked up when people say something is not
cool enough to be part of RSD. That’s my take on it. I think our list is really
diverse and it covers a lot of areas and a lot of fans. I think that’s great
and that’s the way it should be.”

 

There’s
some dispute about “RSD First” items too. Those are the releases that debut on
RSD but will available two weeks later with no restrictions regarding where
they’re sold, whether it be Amoeba Music or Best Buy or iTunes.

 

“That’s
where the industry started to take a little advantage,” Levin says.

 

What
hasn’t changed for Record Store Day, however, is where labels and shareholders
can’t interfere: Inside the shop. A
benefit of shopping local is personalized service, and there aren’t any rules
against pointing out exclusives or even seizing the opportunity to showcase
their used LPs or new DVDs or extensive comic book section. Record Store Day
does serve as a reminder of the importance of small businesses and the sense of
community they create but, essentially, the point is to generate business –
period.

 

There’s
still a slew of items in keeping with the original romance of RSD. One such
release is JEFF the Brotherhood’s contribution to the Upstairs at United
series. The band and a few friends recorded extended versions of Wicked Lady’s
“I’m a Freak,” Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” and S.P.O.C.K.’s “In Space
No One Can Hear You Scream.” Like its counterparts, this third installment in
the series is analog-recorded then cut to 45 RPM at the storied United Record
Pressing plant.

 

“It
was really fun, we just got a bunch of beer and whiskey,” says Jake Orrall, one
half of the brotherly duo.

 

Major
label intrusion aside, the amplified attention on RSD has gained the event more
allies. Co-founder Michael Kurtz counts Regina Spektor and the Foo Fighters, in
addition to better-known participants like the Flaming Lips and Metallica, as
substantial supporters.

 

The
Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood originally planned an online release for
“After it’s Gone,” a song written to raise awareness about a proposed
development close to downtown Athens,
Ga.,
which includes a Wal-Mart. But he and the other musicians involved, like Mike
Mills of R.E.M. and Widespread Panic and fellow Truckers members, seized the
opportunity to simultaneously raise awareness about independent record stores.

 

“Since RSD
was coming up and we wanted to participate and do something, it just kind of
made sense to do a limited edition 45 of that song,” Hood says.

 

At this
stage in RSD, a move like that isn’t uncommon. Kurtz says “90 percent” of
events and releases are initiated by the artists.

 

Among the
more ardent backers this year are Mastodon and Feist, whose exchanges of cover
songs, dubbed “Feistodon,” has fans of both parties buzzing. 

 

“That’s
one of the best examples of how RSD has grown,” says Colliton. “That piece was
put together entirely by the artists. It had nothing to do with us – we didn’t
even know about it until the artists said, ‘We’ve done this piece, we put it
together and we want to release it for you on RSD.’ That, to me – I could tear
up! That’s so exciting to me.

 

“These
artists recognize how important indie record stores are to what they do. You
couldn’t be more different than Feist and Mastodon, yet they both feel the same
way about record stores and they both came together to release this special
piece which you can only get at a record store. It’s pretty much the embodiment
of RSD.”

 

 

***

 

Yesterday in Part 1: A list of all that RSD swag
you can’t live without, plus details of the BLURT-Schoolkids Records Record
Store Day party on Saturday, April 21, featuring 5 live bands. Go here as well
for a profile on Schoolkids (BLURT’s own Stephen Judge recently purchased the
business), or go here for a bird’s-eye view of life in the record bins as seen
by a record store employee.

 

HAPPY FIFTH ANNIVERSARY, RECORD STORE DAY! (Pt. 1)

Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC, celebrates
with a multi-band bash, plus a list of titles being featured this year.

 

 

BY THE
BLURT CREW

 

Yessir, it’s happening this Saturday, April 21, and it’s no small deal – we’re talking Record Store Day of course, and the swag will be
flowing for the annual event’s 5th anniversary. All (or nearly all)
sales are vinyl, natch, and BLURT readers have already been weighing in for the
past week or so, via
our latest online poll
, on some of the RSD exclusives they are itching to
score. Currently that Pussy Galore “Feel
Good About Your Body” 45, the Flaming
Lips
“Heady Fwends” double-LP set and Pete
Townshend
‘s “Quadrophenia Demos Pt.2″ 10” EP are out front in the poll, but
it’s safe to say that a number of these limited edition releases will disappear
pretty quickly this weekend. So whether you’re hankering for The Clash, Captain
Beefheart, Afrika Bambaata/MC5
and The
Flip Side Of Stax Records 1968-74
to scratch your old-school collector’s
itch, or simply angling to be “in” with the “in crowd” via hipstercentric releases
by Arcade Fire, Bonnie Prince Bill,
Shabazz Palaces
and Tortoise,
there will plenty of reasons to line up early outside your fave record emporium
come Saturday morning.

 

Go
here
at the Record Store Day website to download a PDF listing all of the above
releases as well as selected other regional-specific titles. Or go here to view
a drop-down menu of the RSD specials that also includes artwork for most of
them.

 

Make sure you visit the Blurt website tomorrow for Part 2 of
our Record Store Day special – we’ll have interviews from some of the
organizers and musicians who have helped turn this annual event into a
must-attend trans-national house party over the course of the past five years.
Salute!

 

Spend April 21, RSD
2012, With Schoolkids Records & Blurt

 

As some of you already know, we recently teamed up with one
of the longest-running independent record stores in the country, North
Carolina’s Schoolkids Records, as part of our plan for eventual world
domination (or to get as many BLURT staffers in the same room as possible, take
your pick… you think it’s easy operating out of a decentralized virtual office,
then try it sometime). The store is located at 2114 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh NC 27607 and you can also drop by via the Facebook page.

 

(There’s a feature in the current issue of the Independent Weekly about the new/improved Schookids, by the way.)

 

More to the immediate point: drop by this Saturday for
Record Store Day as we will be kicking out the jams the entire afternoon with
some of the cream of regional Tarheel talent:

 

  • Starting
    at 1pm we’ll host the Dexter
    Romweber Duo…
  • That’s
    followed at 2pm by Michael Rank
    & Stag;
  • And
    then at 3pm by John Howie & the
    Rosewood Bluff.
  • At 4pm
    a very special performance will be given by The Chris Stamey Quartet;
  • Then
    wrapping things up at 5pm will be Delta
    Rae.

 

A very special thanks to the musicians who are giving their
time ‘n’ tunes to help make our RSD a success, and a very special advance
thanks to everyone who plans to come out and enjoy the live music.

 

 

 

 

 

Record Store Day 2012 Exclusives (listed by artist,
title, label, format and quantity pressed):

 

 

 Adrian Younge vs. Adrian Quesada
Adrian Younge vs. Adrian Quesada Ubiquity Records LP 400Y

ï�¢ Afrika Bambaataa/MC5 “Kick Out The Jams Warner Bros 7” white
with splatter 5000

ï�¢ Abba “Voulez-Vouz Extended Dance Remix” Polydor/UMe 180g
12″ 45rpm transparent blue glitter vinyl 890

ï�¢ Ryan Adams “Heartbreak A Stranger” b/w “Black
Sheets Of Rain” PAXAM 7′ colored vinyl 2500 North
America

ï�¢ Animal Collective Transverse Temporal Gyrus Domino 12″ LP
3200

ï�¢ Arctic Monkeys R U Mine? Domino 7″ 1340

� Arcade Fire Sprawl
II Merge 12″ 3000

�Atmosphere and TheUncluded (Aesop Rock & Kimya Dawson) Record
Store Day Vinyl Picture Disc Rhymesayers 10″ 1200

ï�¢ Sara Bareilles “Stay”/”Beautiful Girl” Epic
7″ 1500

ï�¢ Bonnie Prince Billy Hummingbird Spiritual Pajamas 10″ 1000

� The Black Keys El Camino Nonesuch 2xLP, 45 RPM 6K NUMBERED

ï�¢ The Byrds “It’s No Use”/”Feel A Whole Lot
Better” Sundazed 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ Blues Project “Parchman Farm” / “Bright Lights, Big City”
Sundazed 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ Blues Magoos “So I’m Wrong And You Are Right”/”Wild
About My Lovin'” / “The
People” Sundazed 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ James Brown “There It Is”/”Pass The Peas” UMe 7″ single 3000

� The Dave Brubeck Octet Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals Fantasy
10″ red vinyl 2000

ï�¢ Brad “Water’s Deep” Razor & Tie 7″ vinyl 1000

ï�¢ Brendan Benson “What Kind of World” Thirty Tigers 7′
vinyl 1000

� Bowerbirds Bend
Dead Oceans 7″ vinyl 1000

ï�¢ The Baseball Project “El Hombre”/”Harey
Haddix” Euclid
Records 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ The Black Angels “Lonely,” “Watch Out Boy,”
Blue Horizon 7″ orange vinyl

� Joan Baez Farewell Angelina Vanguard LP 1000

ï�¢ Black Prairie SINGERS VOL.1 : PORTLAND Sugar Hill 7′ 1000

� David Bowie
Starman Virgin Records 7′ picture disc 2000

ï�¢ Beach House Lazuli B/W Equal Mind Sub Pop 7″ blue vinyl 1200

ï�¢ Blitzen Trapper Hey Joe b/w Skirts on Fire Sub Pop 7″ 750

� Captain Beefheart Diddy
Wah Diddy Sundazed Gatefold 7″

ï�¢ Carolina Chocolate Drops/Run DMC “You Be Illin” Warner
Bros. 7″ coke bottle green vinyl 3000

ï�¢ Childish Gambino Heartbeat Glassnote 12″ Red vinyl 1000

ï�¢ Chocolate Watch Band “Psych Trip”/”Midnight
Hour” Sundazed 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ Gary Clark Jr. Presents HWUL Raw Cuts Vol. 1 Warner Bros. 12″
3000

ï�¢ The Clash “London
Calling” 2012 Epic 7″ 4900

� Common The Dreamer, The Believer TCM LP 3000

� Leonard Cohen Live in Fredericton
EP Columbia LP 3700

ï�¢ The Cult For The Animals Megaforce 7″ vinyl 2500

ï�¢ The Civil Wars Billie Jean Columbia Records U.K. 7″ vinyl
1000

� The Civil Wars Live at Amoeba Sensibility Music LLC CD

ï�¢ ††† (Crosses) “Option/
Telepathy” Self-Released 7″ vinyl 1000

ï�¢ Matt Chamberlain/Company 23 Company 23 Yanki Arc 12″ vinyl
1000

� Larry Coryell Spaces Vanguard LP 1000

ï�¢ Coldplay “Up With The Birds”/”UFO” Capitol
7″ vinyl 1000

� Cursive Burst and Bloom Saddle Creek marbled vinyl LP 1000

ï�¢ Miles Davis Forever Miles Columbia 12″ 4900

� Disturbed The Collection Reprise 6xLP box 1500

ï�¢ Dillard and Clark “Lyin Down The Miiddle”/”Why Not
Your Baby” Sundazed 7″ vinyl

� Devo Live in Seattle
1981 Booji Boy Records 2xLP 2000

ï�¢ Lana Del Rey “Born To Die (Damon Albarn
Remix)”/”Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix)” Interscope 7″
vinyl 2500

ï�¢ Destroyer Destroyer’s Rubies Merge LP 2000

� Deerhoof / of Montreal
Stygian x} Bisection Polyvinyl 7″ 1000

ï�¢ Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. We Almost Lost Detroit EP Warner Bros. 12″ 1000

ï�¢ Justin Townes Earle “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel
About Me Now” Bloodshot 7″ vinyl 2000

� The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr. The Electronic
Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr. Self-Released CD 1000

ï�¢ Karen Elson “Milk and Honey”/”Winter’s Going”
Third Man Records 7″ milk and honey colored vinyl

� The Flaming Lips The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends Warner Bros. 2x
LP, custom jackets 10000

Aretha Franklin/Otis
Redding
“Respect” Warner Bros 7″ gold vinyl 5000

ï�¢ Fun. The Ghost That You Are To Me Atlantic 10″ GEAR-SHAPED
gold picture disc 3000

ï�¢ Jimmy Fallon “Tebowie” Warner Bros 7′ 3500

� Freakwater Feels Like The Third Time Thrill Jockey Records Single
LP 1000

� Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames New Multitudes
Rounder 10″ vinyl 2000

� Florence + the
Machine “Shake It Out” Republic 7″ vinyl 3000

� Flogging Molly Drunken Lullabies/A Prayer For Me In Silence
SideOneDummy 7″ 1700

ï�¢ Garbage Blood For Poppies Stun Volume 7″ White Vinyl 1000

ï�¢ Grateful Dead Dark Star: Europe ’72 Olympia Theatre – Paris, France
5/4/72 Rhino 12″ 3000

ï�¢ Gene Clark “One In A Hundred” / “She’s The Kind Of
Girl” Sundazed 7″ vinyl

ï�¢ Genesis Spot The Pigeon EP Audio Fidelity 12″ blue vinyl 33
1/3 and 45 RPM 2500

� Buddy Guy This Is Buddy Guy Vanguard LP 1000

ï�¢ Grafitti 6 Colours Capitol 2×12″ LP colored vinyl gatefold
1000

� Lee Hazlewood The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, & Backsides
(1968-71) Light In The Attic 12″ vinyl 4000

� Hush Arbors/Arbouretum Aureola Thrill Jockey Records mini-LP style
gatefold 1000

ï�¢ The Hives Go Right Ahead No Fun AB 7″ 1800

Patterson Hood & the Downtown
13 (featuring Mike Mills)”After It’s Gone” ATO 7″ vinyl 2000

ï�¢ The Horrible Crowes Live at Fingerprints SideOneDummy 7″ 1600

ï�¢ Iggy and the Stooges Live at All Tomorrows Parties MVD 12″
Picture Disc

� Jamiroquai Rock Dust Light Star Executive 2 x LP with CD 2500

ï�¢ Janis Joplin Highlights from The Pearl Sessions Columbia 2 x 10″ 4800

ï�¢ JEFF The Brotherhood Upstairs at United, Vol. 3 453 Music 12″
vinyl 2000

� Skip James Devil Got My Woman Vanguard LP 1000

� Kimbra Settle Down EP Warner Bros CD EP 2500

ï�¢ The Knack Live In Los Angeles, 1978 Omnivore 10″ vinyl red
and yellow splatter 1500

ï�¢ Little Richard Here’s Little Richard Specialty LP 1500

ï�¢ Mastodon/The Flaming Lips “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”
Warner Bros. 7″ baby pink vinyl 5000

ï�¢ Mastodon/Feist Mastodon/Feist Warner Bros. 7″ vinyl 5000

ï�¢ Minus the Bear Your Private Sky 7 Dangerbird 7″ 2500

� Misfits Walk Among Us Rhino Red, Blue and Clear vinyl. Randomly
packed and shipped. 1250 Red, 1250 Blue, 500 Clear

ï�¢ Metallica Beyond Magnetic Warner Bros. 12″ Silver Vinyl 5000

ï�¢ Martian Denny Orchestra “Crossfire”/”The 2000 Pound
Bee- Part 2″ Spinout 7” vinyl

ï�¢ The Mynah Byrds “It’s My Time”/”Go On And Cry”
UMe 7″ single 2000

Paul McCartney “Another
Day”/”Oh Woman Oh Why” MPL / Hear Music 7″ single 2000

ï�¢ Mariachi El Bronx/The Bronx Split 12″ ATO 12″ splatter
vinyl 1000

� Mississippi John Hurt
Last Sessions Vanguard LP 1000

ï�¢ M83 Mirror Mute 7″ etched disc 2000

� Mae The Everglow Tooth & Nail 2XLP 1000

ï�¢ Laura Marling Flicker and Fail Ribbon 7″ 2500

ï�¢ M. Ward Primitive Girl” b/w The Twist and Rollover Beethoven
Merge 7″ 2000

ï�¢ Sam Means NONA Photo Finish 7″ 1000

� mclusky mclusky Do Dallas Too Pure Records 150g white vinyl LP
1000

� Neon Trees Everybody Talks / Lessons in Love Island
Def Jam 7″ red heart shaped vinyl 2000

ï�¢ Nightwish Trials Of Imaginearum Roadrunner 10″ picture disc
1500

ï�¢ The Neanderthals “Groovy Dances” “How Can I Make
Her Mine” Spinout 7″ vinyl

� Nobunny The MaximumRockNRoll EP Goner 1000

� Matt Nathanson Left & Right, Vol. 2: Live @ Newbury Comics.
Live @ Music Millennium Vanguard CD 3000

ï�¢ Ozzy Osbourne “Believer” Columbia 7″ black and white polka dot vinyl
(symbolic of Randy

Rhoads’ guitar) 4400

ï�¢ Shuggie Otis “Inspiration Information” 7″ colored
vinyl 1350

ï�¢ Of Monsters And Men Into The Woods EP Republic 10″ vinyl 2000

ï�¢ Sinead O’Connor How About I Be Me (and you be you) One Little Indian
12″ Vinyl

� Buck Owens Colouring Book w/flexi disc Omnivore COLORING BOOK with
FLEXIDISC 2500

ï�¢ Pussy Galore “Feel Good About Your Body” Shove 7″
vinyl 1500

� Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra Polly b/w Idioteque
8 FT Records, Inc. 7 inch 2000

� Public Image Ltd One Drop EP PiL Official 12 inch 1500

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BEYOND THE VALLEY OF A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES John Kennedy Toole

An impressive new
biography by Cory MacLauchlin attempts
to fill in the details regarding the late novelist’s life and eventual suicide.

 

BY SAM BALTES

Since first being published in
1980, it’s hard to tell which has amassed more fame, A Confederacy of Dunces, or the tragic suicide of its author, John
Kennedy Toole. Over the years Confederacy has been lauded a satirical
masterpiece, and the best New Orleans
book ever written. Its admirers range from Adult-Swim stars Tim and Eric to
fratire luminary Tucker Max, and the book’s endlessly quotable dialogue,
unforgettable characters, and lacerating wit have cemented its status as one of
the greatest literary works of the 20th century. Despite Confederacy’s unwavering popularity, John Kennedy Toole has largely remained an elusive
figure, but in the new biography Butterfly in the Typewriter (Da Capo Press), journalist Cory
MacLauchlin provides an unprecedented, circumspect look at Toole’s
life.    

 

        While
Toole’s fate is well known, the details of his youth have rarely been
discussed. Born in New Orleans,
Toole was thrust into an awkward family dynamic consisting of an overbearing
mother and a mentally aloof father. The former was convinced that her son
was destined for greatness to the extent that she lived vicariously through
him. These feelings were not entirely unwarranted; as a child Toole scored as a
borderline genius on an I.Q test, skipped two grades, and was recognized by his
peers and teachers for his capacious intellect. Considering the scarcity of
resources to draw from for this period, it’s impressive that MacLauchlin was
able to provide such a detailed account of Toole’s youth.

 

        As
a teenager, Toole was enamored by the eccentrics of New Orleans, and relished walking around the
city “absorbing the flavors of the different neighborhood… creating fictional
characters” which he would work into comedic skits for his friends. It was
during this period that he wrote his first novel, Neon Bible, which he
submitted to a writing contest only for it to lose. This failure had a devastating
effect on Toole, and first displayed his inability to cope with rejection.

 

        Many
of the people Toole met in his youth served as inspiration for characters in Confederacy,
and it’s interesting to learn how he catalogued specific personalities for
future use. Toole borrowed the name Irene
Reilly from his friend’s neighbor, and after briefly working in a
clothing factory and observing the bizarre behavior of other employees, he had
material for Levy Pants.
Finding out facts such as this make the biography a rewarding read, and it’s
fascinating to get a glimpse into Toole’s thought process. 

 

 

 

 

        After
tiring of New Orleans, Toole left for Columbia University, but despite distinguishing
himself there, financial constraints, familial obligations, and disillusionment
with grad school resulted in him returning to the South, where he subsequently
taught at UL Lafayette. During his tenure there, he met a polymath medievalist
who was infatuated with hotdogs. These personality traits would later manifest
themselves in Confederacy’s Ignatius
Reilly. Shortly after this, Toole was drafted into the Army and ordered
to Puerto Rico to teach English, and it was
there he penned the bulk of Confederacy on a borrowed typewriter.  

 

        Upon
being discharged, Toole sent the manuscript
to Simon and Schuster, which prompted
an awkward correspondence with Robert Gottlieb. Since the publication of Confederacy,
Gottlieb has been made out to be a nefarious editor (Toole’s mother
labeled him responsible for her son’s suicide) who valued profit over artistic
merit, but MacLauchlin reveals that he fully supported Toole, and went to
unusual lengths to reassure him about his novel. Though Gottlieb loved Confederacy,
he considered it devoid of meaning and hopelessly unmarketable.
Gottlieb urged Toole to revise the book in order to facilitate
publication, and also guaranteed Toole that he would not abandon him. Despite
this encouragement, Gottlieb’s criticism eviscerated Toole, and indirectly
served as a catalyst for his mental breakdown.

 

        It’s
difficult to read about Toole’s last days. Coming from a family with a history
of mental illness (his father went prematurely senile, and other relatives had
taken their lives or been committed) he was predisposed towards instability,
and MacLauchlin’s research shows that he displayed traits of a paranoid
schizophrenic.

 

        While
the exact circumstances of his death remain hazy (his mother burned his suicide
note), MacLauchlin dispels much of the ambiguity that has surrounded
Toole’s fate. Succumbing to depression, and shaken by the rejection of his
novel, Toole lost touch with reality, retreated from society, and was
overwhelmed by delusional paranoia. The last months of his life were spent on a
solitary roadtrip that culminated with his suicide.

 

        The
last portion of the book details Confederacy’s road to
publication, and its eventual rise to fame. While this was necessary, the
section goes on slightly too long, and most of the material dealing with
Toole’s mother could have been omitted. One of the book’s flaws is that
MacLauchlin intermittently inserts sections dealing with socio-cultural events
that transpired throughout Toole’s life, and while these parts aren’t exactly
filler, they sometimes read too textbookish.

 

        Due
to the scarcity of resources and challenging subject, Butterfly in the
Typewriter
was a difficult biography to write, but MacLauchlin makes Toole
come alive by providing illuminating glimpses into his life and clearing up
much of the fog surrounding his death. While an all encompassing
biography of Toole’s life will never be written, this is the closest anyone
will get.

 

 

MIXING IT UP WITH… Adrian Quesada

The Grupo Fantasma/Brownout/Ocote
Soul Sounds/Echocentrics producer-musician on Latin sounds, studio theory,
paying tribute to Timbaland, and playing with Prince.

 

BY
CARL HANNI

 

The world is full of musical
multitaskers, but by most any standards Adrian Quesada is an unusually busy and
productive guy. I’m aware of four ongoing acts that he splits his time between:
his main band Grupo Fantasma, who won a Grammy Award in 2011 for their record El
Existential
; the Latin funk combo Brownout, who share numerous members with
Grupo Fantasma; Ocote Soul Sounds, who he co-leads with Martin Perna from
Antibalas; and his own project The Echocentrics, who recently released their
second album, the digital-only Echoland, a tribute to the hip hop
producer Timbaland. Just hot off the presses is a brand new CD by Brownout, Oozy

 

And it hardly stops there: Adrian also runs Level One Studios is Austin, Texas,
where he and Grupo Fantasma call home. Recent projects there includes work on a
new EP by Daniel Johnston; remixes of two tracks by ‘70s hit-makers Chicago,
one of which (“Saturday in the Park”) has been licensed for the hit TV series Breaking Bad; and an upcoming record by
cinematic soul guy Adrian Younge. He has done remixes for fellow Austin
multitasker Graham Reynolds of Golden Arm Trio/Golden Hornet project fame, and
mixed the CD Pussyfooting by Foot Patrol, a nasty slice of retro ‘80s
synth funk dedicated to foot fetishists. He’s done soundtrack/score work for
the documentary films Inside The Circle and The Least of These. His music has
been featured on HBO, Showtime and MTV.

 

Oh, and Grupo Fantasma were
tapped by Prince to back him up for a series high profile shows. I could write
all day about the incredibly groovy stuff that Grupo Fantasma has done (backing
up everyone from Larry Harlow from the Fania All-Stars to Maceo Parker, TV
work, etc.), but what I’m really concerned with here is the big picture on
Adrian Quesada.

 

All of Quesada’s acts reflect
different parts of his wide, inclusive musical vision, but they are also all
stamped with his innate attention to musical detail, bracingly high production
quality and seemingly incredible ease with which he blends, mixes and matches
various styles and genres. Although all unique, with Quesada as producer (or
co-producer) each of the projects share variations on a certain clean, rich and
sexy sound boasting pristine-but-ballsy grooves and fabulous separation in the
mix.

 

Grupo Fantasma‘s mix of
modern Latin funk, cumbia, spaghetti Western jams, rock/pop and whatever else
they choose is some of the most delightfully accessible music (as in
commercially viable) produced in the last decade.

 

 

 

Brownout opt for a more overtly funky sound, but one infused
with numerous Latin influences, from mariachi to cumbia to rock and soul.

 

 

 

Ocote Soul Sounds blend
Martin Perna’s Afrobeat tendencies with Quesada’s pan-Latin wide net into a
fully intoxicating melange that moves from ambient sounds to orchestral synth
music to full fledged AfroLatin funk; on their last album, 2011’s Taurus,
Eric Hilton from Thievery Corporation (the group records for Thievery Corp’s label,
the progressive leaning ESL Music) was added in as one of three producers along
with Perna and Quesada, lending his gift for rich downtempo grooves to the
proceedings.

 

 

 

Echocentrics mix Latin pop,
experimental tangents and hip hop technology into unpredictable and surprising
combinations. 

 

 

 

Over five CDs by Grupo
Fantasma and Ocote Soul Sounds, three by Brownout (+ a limited edition remix
CD) and two by Echocentrics (including the new, digital only EP), Adrian
Quesada has created a body of work that stands with anyone’s from the last ten
years. 

 

He recently answered some
questions for BLURT.

 

***

 

BLURT: Were you raised in a musical environment? Were
there music and/or musicians around your house growing up?

My parents
listened to some music, but I wouldn’t say it was a particularly musical
environment. There were NO musicians around my house, no instruments, singing
or dancing. There seems to be more music around my dad’s house nowadays, with
singing and festivities, but as a child not really.

 

How and where did you learn your way around a studio,
record production, mixing and re-mixing, etc.?

My interest in
recording began as it does with most studiophiles, with a 4 track cassette
recorder in high school. I was obsessed with it when I first got it, and to go
back even further I remember being in 7th or 8th grade and getting a little
Casio where you could record little snippets and play drum patterns and trying
to recreate NWA beats. 

        From the 4 track (which continued into
my college years) I moved into production and beat programming on an MPC 2000
and worked my way up to a Roland Hard Disk recorder and eventually into GarageBand
on a Mac, which naturally led to Logic. Fast forward to now and I’ve been
working in studios for fifteen years, the first few mainly as an observer as my
bands were recording, but a few years into it I really got immersed and fell in
love with working in studios and the art of making a record. And the most
important thing for me has really been trial and error. There is no right/wrong
in recording, mess around, study the past and find out what works for you and
your ears.

 

All of your records always have an incredibly high
production quality. Do you have any particular philosophy and approach that you
apply to all of your productions, mixes, etc.?

I think my only
philosophy is to make a great ALBUM out of something. It seems with the
onslaught of digital information, our attention spans have gotten really short
and people listen to things on shuffle or listen to one song they downloaded or
DJs play short snippets of songs but I used to love to come home with an album
and make it an experience….every part of it was special to me – from opening
the packaging, staring at a cover, reading credits and sitting down and
listening to the WHOLE thing from start to finish. That’s really the most
important thing for me, as for production and mixes, obviously I lean towards
the sounds of the 60s/70s but everything is fair game really, whatever works
for my ears.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the new Echocentrics release and how it came
together?

Sat down one
day after a bit of writers block and thought I’d do a cover song as an
exercise….shuffled through a bunch of music and somehow figured Timbaland
would be the most challenging as it’s not as obvious as say George Harrison or
Morricone or something which lends itself to the instrumentation. One turned
into another and I thought that’d be a fun theme, Timbaland has always been one
of my favorite producers and because of his association with some pop I think
he gets overlooked in an artistic sense. To me he’s like a modern day Phil
Spector or Norman Whitfield, someone who makes pop (and some awesome hip hop)
super out there and interesting.  

 

Grupo Fantasma won a Grammy Award in 2011 for ‘Best
Latin Rock Alternative or Urban Album.’ How has that changed things for the
band since then?

Not much, if at
all, honestly. It’s just something they use to announce us now.

 

Ocote Soul Sounds releases stuff on Thievery
Corporation’s label, ESL. What sort of doors has that relationship opened up
for you? Do you have any more projects in the works with Thievery Corporation?

Thievery and
ESL have been super great and generous with us and very supportive from the
early days. We’ve toured with them and Eric Hilton helped us produce our last
Ocote Soul Sounds album. The whole DC crew is great.  

 

I recently noticed that you were the producer on the
CD Pussyfooting by Foot Patrol, an album dedicated to foot
fetish funk. That’s an outrageously funky record, in a mid-80s sort of way.
What’s the story on that release?

I actually only
helped them mix the record, didn’t produce it. I’ve been friends with a few of
them for years and they asked me to mix the record a couple of years ago and
sent me a few songs which I loved. It was a challenge for me because of the ‘80s
production aesthetic which I enjoy listening to but don’t ever really attempt, that made it a lot of fun as it took me out of
my comfort zone. The record was recorded in different studios over a long
period of time and song to song often differed on production aesthetic and
that’s actually something I’ve been very used to working with as several of my
bands’ albums have been done like that and you face the challenge of making the
record cohesive. 

 

How did you come to do remixes with Graham Reynolds
and Golden Arm Trio?

Graham’s an old
friend of mine from my first band in Austin, Blue Noise Band. We used to do
shows with him often even once did a legendary Golden Arm Trio vs. Blue Noise
Band show where we played their music and they played ours. He emailed me about
it out of the blue.  

 

Can you talk a bit about the genesis and going-ons at Level One Studios? What have you been working on there lately?

Been doing
informal recording and production sessions out of my home studio for years,
decided to make it official, boutique yet also somewhat portable, basically LOS
is just the name for my productions, I move around to different studios in
Austin that I love quite a bit – Big Orange, Wire Recording, Public Hifi, EAR,
etc. etc. but generally always finish production at my home spot. Lately – just
finished an EP for Daniel Johnston, doing some stuff with David Garza,
Echocentrics vocalist Natalia Clavier’s solo album, Funk Ark’s record from DC
which I produced last year just came out, a collaboration with Adrian Younge
from LA, some friends called Baby Atlas, new Echocentrics material, etc. etc.
Some other cool stuff I’ll reveal later….May also be doing some stuff with
some Tucson
folks soon I hope!

 

How did Grupo Fantasma get to play with Prince?

Our old manager
knew someone who used to work with Prince and mentioned his club in Vegas at
the time, 3121. We sent a copy of our live album, next thing we know we’re
playing there on Thanksgiving, then the house band, so on and so forth.  

 

***

 

This interview is in conjunction with BLURT blogger Carl Hanni‘s “Sonic
Reducer” blog – go here to view his full roster of entries.

 

[Photo Credit: John Speice]

EVEN CHEAPER THRILLS Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company

A thrilling archival release containing the inimitable sonic imprint of
soundman (and LSD guru) Owsley “Bear” Stanley
puts the ‘60s San Fran legends in full focus.

 

BY MIKE SHANLEY

 

The term “epic” gets thrown around
loosely when it comes to the vintage rock songs. But one that deserves such a
designation, or set the gold standard, was Big Brother and the Holding
Company’s version of “Ball and Chain” on their Cheap Thrills album, released by Columbia in 1968. From the opening
howl of James Gurley’s overdriven guitar to the slow burn of Janis Joplin’s
vocals, it was a high watermark for white hippie blues, which has rarely been
achieved since. Their performance of it at the Monterey Pop Festival might be almost
its equal – there’s a reason the film of the festival cuts to Cass Elliot
mouthing, “Wow, that’s really heavy,” right after. But the posthumous version
from Joplin in Concert with the Full
Tilt Boogie Band lacks the sonic punch and is memorable more for Janis’ rap
about “Why is half the world still crying and the other half is still crying
too, mannnn?

 

The recently released (and verbosely
titled) Bear’s Sonic Journal Presents Big
Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Live at the Carousel
Ballroom
1968 (Columbia/Legacy)
posits a different argument. Here, “Ball and Chain” follows the same
arrangement as the one on Cheap Thrills (which was also recorded at the same venue after it became the Fillmore West).
The song also packs the same wallop, with Gurley peeling the paint off the wall
and Joplin taking ownership of Big Mama
Thornton’s tune. It leaves you wondering if the band was this hot on a nightly
basis. No wonder this music felt like a revolution was happening, motivating
all that free love in the first place. This was epic.

 

Or maybe the band just had a run of
good nights.

 

 

 

 

Either way it’s evaluated, this
current set captures a moment where everyone
was firing on all cylinders, no one was in danger of a come-down, and that chick
from Port Arthur, Texas was about to take the world by storm.

 

This complete concert, plus one song
from a previous evening, comes from the “Sonic Journals” of Owsley “Bear” Stanley. The soundman for the Grateful Dead, he was
installed at the Carousel which was briefly run as a cooperative by the Dead,
Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother. According to
this album’s detailed essays Bear had unique ideas about live sound, which led
venues to include stage monitors in their set-up, and he fueled the obsessive
taping of Grateful Dead shows. (He died in a car accident last year in his
native country of Australia.)

 

Those concepts
are apparent from the opening moments of this album. One channel features all
the guitars, while the other contains drums and vocals. An essay explains the
“right” way to listen to the mix, by moving both speakers together. With no
effects of any kind on the voices, the picture is almost too clear, especially
when it comes to the falsetto “woo woo” backing vocals on “Combination of the
Two.” At the same time, Bear must have been doing his job because the members
of Big Brother, all of whom either sang lead or at least back-up at some point,
stay on pitch for the whole set.

 

That comfort gave them the ability to
rock out, which they do with ease. Gurley allegedly took inspiration from John
Coltrane in his solos and while his prowess might not be in the same league, he
pushes the energy level to great heights. “Summertime” has a strong example of
controlled energy, where he and fellow guitarist Sam Andrew work around each
other and maneuver in tandem without getting in Joplin’s
way.

 

 

 

Rather than being a vehicle for
Joplin, or having her as an extra ornament in the band’s presentation, most of the songs find her integrated with Andrew’s
harmonies or vice-versa, making them really seem like a hard-edged counterpoint
to Jefferson Airplane’ amplified folk. The dynamic drop in “Catch Me Daddy”
includes some steamy moans and pleas from Joplin (“I gotta have it/ ‘cuz I need it,”) proving that the
sexual side was there, which probably came off as threatening to both the
hippie boys and Hells Angels in the audience.

 

Not every cut on the album is tightly
focused. It wouldn’t be 1968 without at least one overly long blues jam. But
most of the time, the band keeps it tight, which makes a great listen, and the
music gets complemented by the elaborate histories of both the band and Bear
which appear in the booklet.

 

[Photo Credit: Baron Wolman]