Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hawkwind – 77

January 01, 1970

(Secret
Records U.K.)

 

www.secretrecordslimited.com

 

Hawkwind
is one of those few rare bands that definitely defy categorization. Formed in
1969 by guitarists David Brock and Mick Slattery and vocalist/saxophonist Nik
Turner, the band went through various names and roster changes before settling
on Hawkwind. At one point, even Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister played bass with
the band, adding vocals to “Silver Machine,” their one hit song,
which hit number three on the U.K. charts in 1972. Only Brock has been constant
across the band’s checkered forty-plus-years history, the guitarist serving as
Hawkwind’s (meager) tether to reality, the planetary body around which various
creative satellites have orbited.

 

In 1977,
punk broke in the United
Kingdom, and while conventional wisdom leans
towards classifying the stripped-down, raw rock ‘n’ roll sounds emerging from
bands like the Damned and the Sex Pistols as a “musical revolution,”
people on the street knew better. As documented by the most excellent music
journalist Dave Thompson, among others, the impact of punk rock in Britain
looks a lot better in the rear view mirror than it did in the “there and
now.” One thing is for certain, though – punk, at its heart, was revolting against the bloated,
over-produced, and commercialized music that was dominating the charts in both
the U.S. and England.
Even the punks knew better than to mess around with Hawkwind, however, and it
can be safely said that any band that counts Johnny Rotten and Henry Rollins
among its fans had nothing to worry about from the “revolution of
’77.”

 

Truth is,
in spite of the lip service paid to the concept
of “anarchy” by many young punks, Hawkwind epitomized the philosophy
like no other band then or since. While the band certainly had its share of
interpersonal problems and unhealthy relationships, the revolving door that
members were constantly exiting through swung both ways and many musicians have
come and gone more than once. Musically, while the band had evolved from 1960s era
psychedelic-rock, it was a mutation that quickly grew horns and a tail,
venturing off into flights of fancy that nobody could have predicted at the
time.

 

The first
bona fide “space rock” band, a Hawkwind song felt like you were soaring the cosmos with the band, their sound a
unique and original mix of psychedelia, progressive rock, proto heavy metal,
and undefinable squalls of electronic squeals, jolting feedback, and raw energy
that crackled from their performances like a lightning bolt straight from the
hand of Zeus. Throw in acid-drenched lyrics that were obsessed with science fiction
and fantasy elements – legendary U.K. fantasy scribe Michael Moorcock (Elric) even penned lyrics for the band –
along with the sort of deep philosophical meanderings one enjoys with Hunter S.
Thompson levels of recreational drug use and you have a recipe for 100% crazy…

 

Hawkwind’s
anarchic live performances are the stuff of legend, and the recent two-disc set
77 (issued on England’s Secret Records label) collects
17 of ’em from across the entire year 1977, culled from the band’s appearances
at various outdoor festivals and indoor dives. Hawkwind had already delivered
six studio albums and an acclaimed double live set, Space Ritual, by the time that punk reared its ugly head in the U.K.
and they spent much of the year putting the finishing touches on what would
become their seventh LP, Quark
Strangeness and Charm
. Decried at the time as the band taking a left turn
towards a more commercially accessible, pop-oriented sound, you sure couldn’t
tell it from the performances of the three songs from Quark included here. By this point, with the better part of a
decade under their belt, it’s clear that anything short of howling at the moon
would be deemed “too pop” by the band’s rabid fans.

 

There’s no
lack of full moon lunacy on display across the 17 songs on 77, beginning with the band’s classic “Masters of the
Universe.” From their 1971 album In
Search of Space
, “Masters” showcases a band shooting for the
stars. Frontman Robert Calvert’s hoarse, gravel-throated vocals are used sparingly;
instead we get hurricane-strength tsunamis of synthesizer and keyboards
creating a rhythmic “woosh” as a backdrop for Brock’s wiry,
imaginative, and completely out-of-this-world fretwork. By contrast, “High
Rise” is comparatively down-to-earth, more prog-rock oriented with flowing
instrumentation, classically-styled keyboards, and but a few synth-squeals,
relying instead on Calvert’s eccentric reading of the lyrics.

 

The band
tries out “Damnation Alley” from Quark on the crowd, breaking the song into two pulse-quickening parts stitched
together by a short instrumental passage. Calvert’s relatively calm vocals are
mostly buried…hell, they’re overwhelmed…by the Sturm und Drang of the band’s
claustrophobic wall of sound. I hear the singer saying something about a
“strange world” and a “radiation wasteland,” making me
believe that the song is some sort of ecological warning, but in light of the
sheer sonic overkill applied herein, and subsequent references to “Dr.
Strangelove” and the “pony express,” methinks that the band has
been dipping into the sugar cube punchbowl, if you know what I mean (and I
think that you do). “Angels of Life” is equally trippy, Calvert’s
echoed vocals emerging from a glorious din like the voice of some sort of
divine entity while Brock’s guitar screams in rage and synthesizers wail like
banshees dancing merrily on your grave.   

 

Hawkwind
plows straight into “Quark, Strangeness and Charm” to open disc two
of 77, the then-upcoming album’s
title track belying any hint of commercial considerations save for, maybe, an
infectious sense of melody lacking in much of the band’s industrial-strength
jams. While the vocals are somewhat cleaner than previous, and there’s a bit of
harmony thrown in for good measure, when the passe-by-77 synthesizers kick in
like rabid bats flying through a Head East song, any hopes of chart position
have been thrown out the window. “Death Trap” is one of the band’s
most muscular, proto-metal tunes, and while it wouldn’t show up on record until
1979’s PXR5 album, it was an exciting
live staple in 1977. Calvert’s doom-and-gloom take on a dying racecar driver is
provided properly chaotic music, swirls of guitar and heavy drumbeats clashing
against twisted-metal synths with punkish fury until the song’s heartbeat
simply fades away.

 

It’s clear
from 77 that Brock and company were
quite prolific in cranking out the tunes, working a couple of albums ahead of
themselves, trying out material on an enthusiastic audience and discarding the
bombs. Case in point, “Who’s Gonna Win The War,” from 1980’s Levitation album, and “Sonic
Attack,” a longtime live fave from Space
Ritual
that, nevertheless, wouldn’t be waxed in the studio until the 1981
album of the same name. The former is a dirge-like ballad with chanted lyrics
and complex, multi-layered instrumentation that takes on a sort of dark beauty
with melodic fretwork, washes of synth and keyboards, and rolling drumbeats
that create a haunting martial rhythmic backbone. The latter is one of the most
powerful songs in the Hawkwind milieu, an odd little anti-war/anti-fascism
screed with a uniquely British perspective that pairs eclectic spoken-word
lyrics with buzzing, humming synthesizer drone, syncopated drumbeats, and
jagged shards of guitar that hit your ears like a rattlesnake strike.

 

Hawkwind
is still plying its trade today, the band recently releasing its 26th album, Onward, as bandleader-for-life David
Brock celebrates his 70th birthday. The band’s musical formula has changed
little since the material showcased on 77 and if Brock – Hawkwind’s creative heart all these years – has lost a step or
two in the interim, or repeats himself occasionally, the fact is that nobody
has pursued musical anarchy with the fervor and ferocity of Hawkwind for
anywhere near as long. 77 is a
delightful find, documenting the band at what is arguably the height of its
powers, offering up a classic line-up of talent and an unparalleled selection
of songs. A welcome reminder that rock music can, indeed, blow your mind, 77 provides the soundtrack for your own trip
to wherever you’d like to go.   

 

DOWNLOAD: “Masters of the Universe,”
“Angels of Life,” “Welcome To The Future,” “Sonic
Attack” – REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

 

Carol Kleyn – Takin’ The Time

January 01, 1970

(Turtle Dove Records/Drag City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

Blonde and beautiful, exuding peaceful musings and an unguarded
air of innocence, Carol Kleyn was a free-spirited minstrel who came along too
late. Blessed with a voice that melded the soaring soprano of Joni Mitchell and
the cautionary tones of Janis Ian and Judy Collins, she sang idyllic odes
cloaked in incense, patchwork and patchouli. Utilizing harp as her principal
instrument, Kleyn conveyed a free-spirited, flower-powered approach affirmed
through sparkly, sun-dappled melodies that bow to idyllic California environs.

 

Sadly, Kleyn, never achieved wider recognition, making this,
her 1980 sophomore set and swansong of sorts, little more than a footnote in terms
of modern folk fare. All blithe and breezy, it’s a throwback to less harrowing
times. The sprightly, ‘60s-sounding “Jethro,” a cheery and tropical “Sailor
Take Me” and the wistful and wide-eyed “Could Be Heaven” all attest to a free-spirited
stance. Though slightly precious by modern standards, Takin’ The Time remains a gentle gem of an album, ten winsome
ballads retrieved from history’s undertow.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“Jethro,” “Could Be Heaven,” “Sailor Take Me” LEE ZIMMERMAN

20/20 – 20/20-Look Out

January 01, 1970

(Epic/Real Gone Music)

 

www.realgonemusic.com

 

 

At first glance, 20/20 is one of many power pop acts swept up in the usual major label signing frenzy
whenever a representative of a certain style takes the charts by storm. Unlike
the Knack, who kicked open the door to the short-lived top 40 revival of
Beatles/Kinks/Who guitar melodicism in 1979, the Tulsa-to-L.A. transplants had released an
indie single (“Giving It All”) on legendary tastemaker Greg Shaw’s Bomp! label
in 1978, and the band was already prepping the release of its major label debut
when “My Sharona” was topping the charts. And what a debut it is. Tightly
arranged and energetically performed, the brash “Yellow Pills” and the blazing
“Remember the Lightning” stand as the best-known tracks, and deservedly so. But
they’re hardly the only gems on offer: the soaring “Cheri,” the bittersweet
“Leaving Your World Behind,” the rollicking “Tonight We Fly,” the bristling
“Action Now” and the plaintive “Tell Me Why” just as thoroughly show off the
band’s talents for tight harmonies, inventive arrangements (kudos also to
producer Earle Mankey) and, most importantly, memorable tunes.  In a genre where artists tend to have one
classic tune and a bunch of pleasant filler, 20/20 stands as a landmark: a LP packed with potential hit singles.

 

Released in 1981, Look
Out
, 20/20’s second and final album for a major corporation, suffers from a
lack of cohesion – despite the preponderance of collaborative writing, it
sounds as if the unified vision that made the first LP so powerful has
fractured. The stomping “Nuclear Boy” contrasts widely with the brittle “Out of
My Head,” while the sweetly tuneful “A Girl Like You” sits uneasily beside the
angular “Alien.” “Life in the U.S.A.”
nods to rootsy bar band rock & roll, while “The Night I Heard a Scream”
puts a dark spin on the Byrds’ chiming folk rock. “American Dream” dives into
the synth pop that was beginning to infiltrate the charts during the New Wave. All
of these are fine songs, mind you, but they sometimes diverge so much the
record sounds like a various artists compilation – more White Album than Revolver, in other words. Trading a lot
of the personal politics that drove the debut for a more worldly (and worried)
outlook, the quartet creates a collection of songs, most of which are
individually striking, rather than a statement of purpose.  

 

This two-fer reissue includes “Childs Play” and “People in
Your Life,” a pair of excellent Look Out B-sides never before digitized, as well as liner notes that delineate the story
of the band and these two records. Leaders Steve Allen and Ron Flynt are still
active, both together and separately, keeping faith with melody-driven rock
& roll.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Yellow
Pills,” “Remember the Lightning,” “Alien” MICHAEL TOLAND

Maga Bo – Quilombo do Futuro

January 01, 1970

(Post World Industries)

 

www.postworldindustries.com

 

Maga Bo, the American-born, Brazilian-based DJ,
brings together a polyglot mash of rhythms, instruments and ethnic styles into
the future, marrying samba beats to booming sub bass, gritty urban raps to
hand-fashioned instrumentation. A crew of mostly Afro-Brazilian but also Caribbean-via-Brooklynite collaborators turn up the
verbal heat, while Maga Bo stages a knife fight of cross-cutting, slashing
rhythms.

 

 Maga Bo,
who has ties to avant-world-beat luminaries like DJ Rupture
and Filastine, works a syncretic art, drawing on Brazilian rappers (BNegaio of
Planet Hemp), Guyanese dancehall MCs (Jahdan Blakkamoor) and Panamanian hip hoppers
(MC Zulu) to flesh out his multilayered, irresistible rhythms.  The emphasis is more on syncopation than
melody, but some singers, Rosangela Mercado, in particular, add a soulful
flourish to sunbaked beats.  Tradition
sits alongside machine-polished modernity everywhere. Mestre Camalaeio puts the
single-stringed, primitive twang of berimbau up against electro-shocked drum
beats on “E Da Nossa Cor,” while Funkero and BNegaio’s “Piloto de Fuga” layers
intricate, wholly organic lattices of hand-drumming over the hollow thump of
sub bass and the sound of racing motors.   

 

Non Portuguese speakers will have trouble
deciphering the content of these intriguing beat dramas, though Jahdan
Blakkamoor, rhyming in English, makes a case for an world-spanning,
culture-crossing dance extravaganza.  
“‘Roll with it rock it,” he insists, inviting women from Senegal, Togo,
Ghana,  Soweto, Morocco, Paris, Djibouti,
Somalia, Uganda, the West Bank and many other places to join in the general
boogying down. One beat, one world, one party…sounds like a pretty good time to
me.

 

DOWNLOAD: “E Da Nossa Cor
(featuring Mestre Camalaeio),” “Maga Traz a Lenha (featuring Jahdan
Blakkamoor)” JENNIFER KELLY

 

White Wires – WWWIII

January 01, 1970

(Dirtnap)

 

www.dirtnaprecs.com

 

We can forgive
you not having ever heard of The White Wires. After all, they hail from the
great white north (that’s Canada,
kids…specifically Ottawa) but they’ve been given
a kind home here in America
on the Dirtnap label complete with plenty of food and friends. They’re in good
company.

 

On their third
release entitled, yup, WWIII (duh)
they still ape The Ramones to a certain extent but this isn’t 1-2-3-4 ,
by-the-number punk rock , they slow it down, if just a bit , and they toss in
chunky riffs and plenty of handclaps too (and even if I’m not hearing
handclaps  on the record, I’m adding my
own). “On My Own,” “Everywhere You Were,” “I’ll Give You Everything” and “I’ll
Remember You” are all mid-tempo rockers that bear repeated hearing as do a few
others. Honestly, though, I was kind of hoping for more hooks, but sometimes
forget that every record can’t be Singles
Going Steady

 

When the White
Wires release a greatest hit collection that might be just what I’m looking for,
but in the meantime, WWIII will do.

 

DOWNLOAD: “On My Own,” “Everywhere You
Were,”  “I’ll Give You Everything,”  “I’ll Remember You” TIM HINELY

 

 

TEEN – In Limbo

January 01, 1970

(Carpark)

 

www.carparkrecords.com

 

Brooklyn’s TEEN is a band
of sisters, quite literally. Teeny Lieberson, who used to play in Here We Go
Magic, decided she wanted to play music with siblings Katherine and Lizzie. A
new practice space, some new song ideas, probably a couple of beers, and TEEN
was born. Of course, nothing’s ever really that simple, but judging by the
band’s debut album, at times it sounds like the concept for TEEN was.

 

Mostly, the band picks a
riff and plays it over and over again, building layers of synths and sounds
upon it, with cool, Nico-like vocals anchoring the tune. This can be incredibly
charming, as on the album’s opening track, “Better,” over which Teeny
alluringly sings “I’ll do it better than anybody else” on repeat, often with a
little yip at the end of the phrase. “Electric” is another example, with
echoing snare hits, a single-note bass line, some Blondie-style spoken vocals
and a creepy, descending guitar pattern. But the band also shows some range on
tracks like “Huh,” a mopey synth track that would fit in perfectly on The Cure’s
Disintegration, or “Charlie,” a space
age update on a 1950s girl group number.

 

The album does lose some
steam as it nears its end, with songs like “Roses & Wine” a ballad that
feels like a rehash of ideas previously toyed with. But overall, the tinny,
sterile production (there is nothing lush about the sounds on In Limbo, nor is there supposed to be)
and the fresh take on psychedelic and indie rock sounds pretty fine.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“Better,” “Electric” JONAH FLICKER

Old Ceremony – Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide

January 01, 1970

(Yep Roc)

 

www.yeproc.com

 

Ever lament the fact that you don’t have very many records
in the “O” section of your collection? Maybe Outrageous Cherry and the Only
Ones. Well, fear not, because once you hear Fairytales
and Other Forms of Suicide
, the fifth LP and big indie debut from the Old
Ceremony, you’ll fill your Os up fast.

 

The pleasures of OC are twofold. On the one hand are the
acoustic-based yet cinematic arrangements, which blend wide-ranging folk,
atmospheric rock and pretty much any other sound the band feels like borrowing
or adapting to its cause. On the other hand is the imaginative songwriting by
leader Django Haskins, the kind of tunesmith that makes you wonder why you
haven’t heard of his work before – this is an individual who understands craft.
For example, the strange tale of “Beebe Arkansas,” which saw a mystifying rain
of dying blackbirds, could be used as mere novelty, but Haskins convincingly
evokes the boggled minds of observers without histrionics. “The Royal We” takes
on the airs of the privileged and makes its point without descending into rage
and name-calling. The shimmering “Star By Star” sits comfortably by the lovely
“Elsinore,” while the woozy “Catbird Blues” contrasts
with the nearly strident march of the title track. The psychedelic sheen of
“Middle Child” shares time with the straightforward rock/pop of “Sink or Swim,”
which could and should become the band’s calling card.

 

These are the types of songs that induce frenzied searching
through record stores to find everything the band has ever done. After
listening to these Fairytales, the
next response should be “more more more.”

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Sink
or Swim,” “Elsinore,” “The Royal We” MICHAEL
TOLAND

 

Amy Cook – Summer Skin

January 01, 1970

(Thirty Tigers)

 

www.thirtytigers.com

 

It would seem a wide divide between a swagger and a sway,
but credit Amy Cook’s restive spirit for bringing the two extremes that much
closer.  Not surprisingly then, with Summer Skin, Cook’s excellent new album,
Cook ups the musical ante and her own profile as well. Reared in California, she effectively ingratiated herself with the Austin elite, beginning
with her mentorship with Alejandro Escovedo and, then on this — her fourth
offering to date — a star-studded circle of friends who grant her further
affirmation.  

 

It says something that Robert Plant, Ben Kweller, Patty
Griffin, Jonathan Wilson and Meshell Ndegeocello are among those that lend their
support, but it’s even more impressive that Cook continues to hold her own,
even when surrounded by the various famous names. It’s her ability to carve
indelible melodies that manage to blur the distinction between the tender and
tenacious that ought to earn Cook her kudos, a sound and style that brings to
mind the expressive qualities of both Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris all within
the scope of a single song. Through it all, her searing emotions are front and
center, whether it’s the withering “Waiting 4 the World 2 End,” the sublime and
sensual “Sun Setting Backwards” or the soft strummed caress of “Hello, Bunny,”
“Levee” and “When I Wake Up.”

 

An album that bears repeated listens, Summer Skin is nothing less than extraordinarily affecting.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“Waiting 4 the World 2 End,” “Sun Setting Backwards,” “When I Wake Up” LEE
ZIMMERMAN

 

Charlie Mars – Blackberry Light

January 01, 1970

(Rockingham Records)

 

www.rockingham-records.com

 

Over six albums, Mississippi
native Charlie Mars has perfected that laid back, guitar case open, just
busking for change troubadour sound – like Jack Johnson with a few more chords
in his repertoire or a cooler, indie version of Jason Mraz. Nowhere is that
more apparent than on Blackberry Light.
Back on a small label, the songs comes off with little to prove and that
relaxed I-don’t-give-a-fuck vibe is pretty appealing.

 

Though he’s got the folkie thing down pat, it’s his
injection of blues and soul, like on “Back of the Room,” that makes Blackberry Light stand out from most of
his earlier efforts. The guy can write a love song that doesn’t come out trite
(“I Do I Do”) and still brag about his I like to party life (“That’s How I
Roll”).  

 

The album peters out a bit at the end, weighted down with
some of his moodier tracks, but all and all, it’s a pretty solid record from
someone who’s managed to survive the ups and downs of playing album-length rock
in a singles-focused music world.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Let
the Meter Run,” “Pacific
Oceans,” “I Do I Do”  JOHN B. MOORE

Dan Deacon – America

January 01, 1970

(Domino)

 

www.dominorecordco.us

 

Sometimes it’s hard to
know what to make of Dan Deacon. There’s a youthful, unfettered exuberance throughout
his catalogue that makes itself known via repetitive and chaotic but extremely
tightly composed excursions of percussion and electronic tones. But just what
is it? Is it pop, electronic, punk, post-rock, drone-wave, or maybe all of the
above? Deacon’s occasionally lengthy songs often unfold like post-punk gamelan
compositions, with multiple tones, rhythmic patterns, repeating melody lines,
and vocals clashing and colliding, but resulting in some very listenable experimental
rock. His latest release, America, is
the most fully formed and thought-out of his albums, perfectly joining his
concept of a free-form punk mentality with classically influenced structure and
arrangement.

 

America is divided into two parts. The first part consists of several individual songs,
the best of which is the lush “True Thrush,” a track formed by whirling guitars
and drum patterns and glued together by Deacon’s actually very well sung
vocals, backed by an epic chorus of “ah’s” and “oh’s.” “Lots” is a harsh and
abrasive tune, awash in fuzz that coats vocals and instruments alike. Deacon
settles down for some appealing, tinkling ambient-style drones on the aptly
titled “Prettyboy,” a track that offers a moment of clarity before the driving
“Crash Jam.” The second part of the album is a song in four movements called “USA,”
which references the band USAISAMONSTER. It is tempting to dismiss this as
grandiose overreaching for undeserved importance, but Deacon has a well-formulated
plan here. The movements segue into each other and range from inspiring horn
and string heralding to electronic dance-floor bumping to meandering blips,
bleeps and static. This section of the album is best listened to as a whole in
order to really get the full picture of Deacon’s unconventional musical vision.

 

Deacon is clearly full of
ideas jostling around in his bearded head, and America seems to be a fine way to work them all out. At times the
songs drag and seem to over extend their welcome, but those moments are
infrequent. Mostly Deacon knows when to quit and when to change a tempo or add
a new sound to the mix. Though at times his music may be difficult to sink your
teeth into, it only takes a few listens to hear that, despite his unorthodox
approach, Deacon is creating experimental music that is actually based on some
basic pop principles.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“True Thrush,” “USA II” JONAH FLICKER