Monthly Archives: November 2013


January 01, 1970

Green Pajamas 10-15


Formerly considered a lost album in the Green Pajamas’ catalog, November was recorded live in the studio in 1987 with the intent to capture a portion of the PJs catalog that had never been otherwise recorded. Released only on cassette in 1988, the recordings were remixed by Jack Endino and bassist Joe Ross ten years later, but never used until now. Given the profligacy of the Seattle psych rockers’ lead songwriter Jeff Kelly, augmented here by then-PJs Steven Lawrence and Bruce Haedt, it’s no surprise that enough songs from the band’s ‘80s era exist to fill out another record.


Most of these tunes rock harder than the PJs’ norm at the time; the stripped-down presentation here gives them extra urgency and verve. “Mary Magdalene,” “Susanne,” “Far Away” and “Strange City Days” burn with rock & roll fire in a way PJs fans might be surprised by. “Dance Away,” “Stephanie Barber” and “The Sickness Lovers Despise” emphasize pop over rock but still shiver with the same energy. Of course, examples of the band’s midtempo acid folk rock make appearances as well – “Pony and Me” and “Just Like Seeing God” will set rods a-twirl in a most familiar way. After a glistening run through the band’s eponymous pop tune, the record ends with a brief, vulgar take on “Michael Row the Boat” that sounds as if Kelly was completely knackered by that point. As puzzling as that is, it’s not enough to throw cold water on what was obviously a hot party.


DOWNLOAD: “Just Like Seeing God,” “I Wish That It Was Christmas,” “Far Away”

VAN MORRISON – Moondance Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970

VAn Morrison 10-22


Following a stint as a regular in the ‘60s squads of British invaders – courtesy of his role at the helm of the Irish band Them – Van Morrison decided to pursue solo success, scoring his first hit soon after with “Brown Eyed Girl,” and shortly thereafter with his metaphysical masterpiece, Astral Weeks. It was an abrupt change of pace for Morrison, one which abruptly boosted him to the highest plateau reserved for only the most preeminent singer/songwriters. While earlier outings ensured his standing on the pop charts (“Here Comes the Night” and “Gloria” with Them, the aforementioned “Brown Eyed Girl” on his own), it took the full depth and weight of his subsequent albums to ensure this shift in stature.

Still, at the time of this transformation, circa 1969, few were certain of Morrison’s intents, much less his change in direction. In retrospect, Astral Weeks remains nothing less than a singular achievement, one that’s frequently included in critics’ lists of the greatest albums of all time. Yet, it never sold well initially, and despite its transcendental qualities, it was deemed too obtuse for commercial appeal. It was left to its 1970 follow-up, the equally brilliant Moondance, to continue the connection between Morrison and the masses. With such soon-to-be standards as the title track, “Crazy Love,” “Caravan,” “Into the Mystic,” “And It Stoned Me,” “Come Running” and “These Dreams of You,” it possessed a soulful swagger, a rousing sense of urgency and determination, as well as an immediacy that its predecessor clearly lacked. They were songs so compelling, they became enduring anchors in Morrison’s ongoing trajectory.


Not surprisingly then, the decision by Warner Bros to offer an expanded reissue of this seminal effort — complete with alternate takes, between-song patter and tunes that didn’t make the original cut — was greeted enthusiastically by fans. Worth noting that it was received with considerably less joy by Morrison himself, who took to his website on July 18 to post the following terse commentary:

“Yesterday Warner Brothers stated that ‘Van Morrison was reissuing Moondance. It is important that people realise that this is factually incorrect. I did not endorse this, it is unauthorised and it has happened behind my back.

“My management company at that time gave this music away 42 years ago and now I feel as though it’s being stolen from me again.”

The statement now appears to have been removed from the website, but the artist’s attitude was certainly unequivocal. And for the most part, there’s really little here in the way of revelation. While the various takes of the aforementioned songs find the musicians faithfully repeating the same arrangements over and over — mainly spurred on by Morrison’s insistence that another take is needed — the repetition quickly wears thin, and even though the results were transcendent, hearing them over and over does become… well, ummm… tiresome. (Although, admittedly a song as beautiful as “Into the Mystic” does stand up to repeated listens.) Still, it’s to the credit of all involved that these tracks sound like they emerged fully formed, with both vocals and arrangements that clearly doe justice to the final versions even from the get-go.

As a result, the ultimate incentive to shed big bucks for the 4-CD and Blu-Ray edition, or even the more modestly priced two-disc set, comes in the form of the liner notes, the elaborate packaging and, mostly, the rarities. “I Shall Sing” provides the motherlode, a song later covered by Art Garfunkel but heretofore unreleased in its original incarnation. Sadly though, preliminary run-throughs of “I’ve Been Working,” a song ultimately destined for His Band and Street Choir are decidedly less compelling, given the rote, roughshod composition of these earlier attempts. Likewise, a try at the depression-era standard “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” garners passing interest, but little that measures up to the final set list.

Like any reissue of this sort, the bonus tracks struggle to attain the high bar achieved by the album in its original incarnation. A curiosity for collectors, it will likely only be deemed essential by the most dedicated devotee.

DOWNLOAD: “I Shall Sing” (final mix), “Caravan” (take 1),

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The East Village Other Electric Newspaper

January 01, 1970

East Village Other 8-20




Historians have opined that everyone in America was invited to Luci Baines Johnson’s 1966 wedding, due to all the media attention it received. This was likely due in no small part to the machinations of the father of the bride, Lyndon Johnson, the larger-than-life U.S. president at the time. In Lower East Side New York as all the events were unfolding, the editors of the underground East Village Other newspaper and a group of artists realized the wedding day (August 6) coincided with the 21st anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. More than a coincidence, it was an opportunity to make a statement, which led to the creation of the album The East Village Other Electric Newspaper. On the record, news reports of the wedding blared away (credited to “plastic clock radio”), with snatches of songs, poems, chants and noise superimposed over it. And who better to release the results than ESP-Disk, a label already notorious for Albert Ayler, the Fugs and numerous other albums that could leave people both impressed with their audacious quality and wondering if their contents were fit for release.


The East Village Other Electric Newspaper fit both criteria. Its mere existence deserves a five-star review. Never mind the fact that some of the conversations are drowned out by the banal interviews with Luci and her husband Pat Nugent, or that the album includes 10 nearly unlistenable minutes of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky chanting mantras. The overarching crazy idea makes it work. Of course, 47 years later, its reissue (on CD and vinyl, via the current incarnation of ESP-Disk, offers a fascinating convergence of free jazz musicians, denizens of Andy Warhol’s Factory and beat poets.


A year before The Velvet Underground and Nico was unleashed on an unsuspecting public, here are the Velvets making their unofficial debut with 1:44 of “Noise.” Their frantic strumming and viola scrapes linger briefly before Factory fixtures Gerard Malanga and Ingrid Superstar gossip about their friends. These both follow a brief song by Steve Weber of the Holy Modal Rounders, “If I Had a Half a Mind,” which sets the scene for the whole production. Next up is another short but focused blast of free jazz from alto saxophonist Marion Brown (at the time, soon to be an ESP artist), bassist Scott Holt and drummer Ron Jackson, who would become better known by his full name: Ronald Shannon Jackson.


The original side two began with the Fugs’ Tuli Kupferberg and Viki Pollon’s “Love and Ashes,” which lyrically contrasts the wedding and the bombing. For a guy who loved being the ham, Kupferberg gives a straightforward performance, and the duo sounds like a couple of typical coffeehouse folkies. Poet Ishmael Reed rapidly fires off an excerpt from his The Free Lance Pall Bearers, which is so rich in metaphor it takes a few listeners to fully grasp.




A few different reissues of this album have appeared in the last two decades, but this one is the first to restore “Interview with Hairy,” a scatological contribution by Ken Weaver and Ed Sanders of the Fugs, which ended the album. Previous versions faded out abruptly, causing confusion since the last track is titled “Silence,” and credited to Andy Warhol. This reissue’s press release explains the Pop Artist’s contribution isn’t an actual “track” inspired by John Cage but what Andy created in the studio while everyone else spoke or played. (“Hey, it was the ‘60s. It’s a concept, man,” the release says.)


There are probably people who have been waiting years to hear “Hairy,” their curiosity stoked by Lester Bangs’ reference to it in his infamous “Do The Godz Speak Esperanto?” essay. And while it’s nice to have the complete artifact, there is no stereo separation between the radio and the artists, so it’s hard to hear it clearly, even with headphones. The participants sound like they were trying to create their own X-rated version of “The 2000 Year Old Man,” as Sanders plays the straight interviewer and Weaver tells sexual stories. What comes across sounds more like a couple of 15-year olds trying to come up with the most depraved stories they can. (Even Bangs seemed somewhat put-off by it.) It makes you wonder if they intentionally put their voices low in the mix to bury the subject matter.


Like most current ESP reissues, this one recreates the original album cover, which included some far out liner notes and a subscription form (on the back cover, so using it would require cutting up your album). While some new liner notes would have been a welcome addition, the package is nevertheless a welcome reissue, taking us back to a time where it was possible to make a statement with music and art that brought together people that would never commingle like this again.


DOWNLOAD: Wait, what?

COSMIC PSYCHOS – Down On The Farm; Cosmic Psychos; Go the Hack Goner

Album: Down On The Farm; Cosmic Psychos; Go the Hack

Artist: Cosmic Psychos

Label: Goner

Release Date: September 13, 2013

Cosmic Psychos 9-17

In 1985 a Melbourne, Australia, power trio bearing the contradictorily-termed, yet perfectly descriptive, name Cosmic Psychos unleashed their 5-song debut Down On The Farm (via the equally colorfully-named Mr. Spaceman Records), and fans of no-nonsense, primal three-chord yawlp were summarily thrilled right down to their beer-stained Chucks. Fancy some Stooges/MC5 economy riffage? You got it, mate. Partial to the sound of Sabbath/Blue Cheer-esque Marshall overdrive? Have at it, lads. Enamoured of the Ramones’ daily-grind style of lyricism? Here’s three right blokes for ya. The band: Ross Knight on bass/vocals; Peter “Dirty” Jones, guitar; Bill Walsh, drums.
The full-length Cosmic Psychos followed in ’87, and by the time of 1989’s Go the Hack no less a North American tastemaker than Sub Pop had gotten involved. Soon to follow would be Amphetamine Reptile, which drafted Butch Vig to handle production chores for Blokes You Can Trust in ’91; frequent tours of Europe and even, occasionally, the U.S., along with several more records; and a gradually declining profile, particularly on these shores, membership changes and the occasional hiatus. Just the same, the Psychos never truly went away, and Knight continues to front the band (he’s joined currently by Dean Muller and John McKeering), even venturing away from his beloved family farm and tractors long enough this year to come play Gonerfest 10 in Memphis and to support the upcoming Nov. 5 release of the Matt Weston-directed documentary Cosmic Psychos: Blokes You Can Trust.
The Gonerfest connection isn’t exactly random: Goner has just reissued the first two records on one disc—it’s a slightly expanded version of the CD that Amphetamine Reptile issued years ago—along with the out of print Go The Hack. And whether you’re an old-schooler like me, who was collecting Australian records and writing about the bands in the mid ‘80s (one of the most entertaining interviews I ever did was with Knight, in fact), or a curious person new to the band’s oeuvre, there’s tuneage a-plenty here to convince you of the Psychos’ brawny brilliance and sheer rawk ‘n’ roll timelessness.
As a track-by-track review would risk simply repeating, ad infinitum, sentences 2-7 in the first paragraph above, perhaps its more appropriate that I just single out a handful of tracks suitable for Spotify-cation. I’ve a hunch that you’ll be rapidly swayed in favor of picking up the full, unfiltered records. In fact, the very first track on the very first release, titled somewhat inscrutably, “Custom Credit,” pretty much sets the stage for everything that is to come after. “Seen you round,” sneers Knight, at some unspecified individual, presumably a female, adding, “Ya drove me up the wall!” Considering the sheer brutality of the riffs that follow, it’s a good thing he and his bandmates are wielding musical instruments and not baseball bats. “Give us some wah-wah, Dirty!” he blurts, and Jones obliges with the filthiest slice of wah-wah this side of Ron Asheton. Ten tracks later, in Cosmic Psychos’ “Rain On You,” Knight is off the rails again, berating some “toothless runt” as the band unleashes a torrent of sonic abuse that’d make even Tony Iommi turn pale. And no commentary on the album would be complete without at least passing mention of the track “David Lee Roth”: while the musical sentiments are far removed from Van Halen, the lyrics (which include the febrile “I wanna be like David Lee Roth/ I want 40 girls to suck me off”), pretty much summon the operative aesthetic.

Go the Hack the group presumably had a tad more dough to spend on studio time, as the resulting sound was positively massive—it’s everything you might’ve hoped would have come from the vaunted Phil Spector-Ramones marriage, had Spector chosen to emphasize the group’s rock side rather than its pop side. Check “Lost Cause”: 3 ½ minutes of pedal-to-the-metal, four-square thumping, soccer-chant vocals (“she’s a lost cause, she’s a lost-lost cause…”) and three-chord nirvana. And “Pub,” from its so-logical-it’s-hilarious title—yes, that’s what the song is about—to the nifty Sonics-do-Hendrix psychedelic arrangement, is just about the greatest Cosmic Psychos tune… ever!
But don’t take my word for it. Hop in the family bulldozer (see the Hack sleeve art) and drive it down to your local indie record shop. If it ain’t stocking the Psychos records, well… what’s that ‘dozer for anyway, mate?
DOWNLOAD: The songs outlined above, duh.

BILL CALLAHAN 11/25/13, Denver CO

Dates: November 25, 2013

Location: The Oriental, Denver Co



Denver is (in)famous for having these big old, crumbling theatres that are music venues and The Oriental, in the now hip Highlands neighborhoods is no exception. I had only ever been here once before, for an Agent Orange show last year and I like the place so was excited to come back (Nov. 25).

Having missed opener The Howling Hex (Neil Hagerty’s band, he late of Royal Trux), I was bummed as I really wanted to see them, but I hear they/he now lives in Denver so hopefully more opportunities will come up.

I can’t remember the last time I saw Bill Callahan/Smog but it had to be in the ‘90s (he was also the first show I ever booked, in January 1994 at Café This in Santa Rosa, CA). Callahan hit the stage early, 9 PM sharp (yes!!) and had a guitarist and bassist, both sitting down in chairs and a drummer who played the bongo most of the night (while Callahan himself wasn’t afraid to strap on the harmonica for several songs, either) . They opened with a rambling version of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and afterwards Callahan dedicated it to Lou Reed who “we will all miss very much.” He also played “Too Many Birds” from 2009’s terrific Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle  and “America” from 2011’s Apocalypse and a few songs from his latest, Dream River.

It’s nice to see after so many years that Callahan is still a challenging (and unique) songwriter, willing to take chances where many other songwriters would not. The packed house at the Oriental certainly appreciated it and gave them the respect they deserve when he mentioned it was the last show on the tour.

[Photo borrowed from Bill Callahan Facebook page… zzzzzz…..]


Dates: November 22, 2013

Location: The Soiled Dove, Denver CO

Alejandro Escovedo by JD Bamford


Not having seen Alejandro Escovedo live prior to this evening—although I’d definitely heard Nuns, Rank & File and True Believers back in the day—I was not disappointed by his show at Denver’s Soiled Dove on November 22.

He picked a perfect opener on the tour, California-bred/ Austin, TX based Amy Cook. She was sassy and charming, armed on stage with only herself and her “Gretsch guitar and Mesa Boogie Amp” (when she mentioned the amp I yelled out, “Petaluma, California!” and she smiled and said “Yup….Petaluma, California”). She really appreciated the crowd response and the crowd certainly appreciated her, too.

Alejandro and his band the Sensitive Boys bounded on stage at 9 PM sharp. He was dressed to the nines, with a powder blue jacket and rolled-up jeans (“He looks like a Mexican Buddy Holly,” as one of my pals said). The guy has been releasing solo stuff since the early ‘90s and played a generous dose of songs from all of his solo records. He told some great stories as well, about the time his mom and dad packed all 12 kids into the family car to drive to California for a visit, only it wasn’t a visit, they ended up staying and Alejandro spent his youth playing music, seeing music and surfing in the Huntington Beach area.  He dedicated another song to “greats like Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club and others who have passed on.”

Some of the tunes he played included “Bottom of the World” (this one was about Austin and “how it used to be a great town but has lost much of its charm” said Alejandro) , the gorgeous “San Antonio Rain, the kickin’ “Sensitive Boys” (the song that wound up giving his current band its name), a song about his days of surfing in his youth, “The Swells of San Juan” and plenty more. He played a handful of covers as well including Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane’ (he did a sort-of tribute/medley to Lou at the end of the set including part of “Street Hassle”).

The night came to an end when he had the whole crowd singing along to Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” before calling it a night and suggesting everyone go say hello to his son and daughter the merch table.

THE GREENCARDS – Sweetheart of the Sun

Album: Sweetheart of the Sun

Artist: Greencards

Label: Darling Street

Release Date: August 20, 2013



 The Greencards are far from greenhorns in the Americana/bluegrass worlds. Since releasing their first album in 2004, the trio (now consisting of the Australian-born co-founders multi-instrumentalist Kym Warner and bassist Carol Young plus Oregon-bred guitarist Carl Miner) has developed a strong enough following to crowd-fund their last album (2011’s The Brick Album); however, broader success has remained elusive. Sweetheart of the Sun, in its own soft-spoken way, should draw newcomers to their flock. There’s a bucolic beauty to their acoustic-based sound that should appeal to fans of Lady Antebellum and Nickel Creek (with the Greencards being less poppy than the former and more than the later).

 The band weaves a water theme through the album. More than just appearing in the song lyrics, water gets reflected in the music itself. There’s a shimmery, glistening quality to the Greencards’ sound. The mainly acoustic album is filled with subtle touches from an array of instruments – from bouzouki and ukulele to pedal steel and violin – that create a sound that is smooth yet with real depth. “Ocean Floor,” for instance, holds an echo-y, gauzy sound similar to floating on water. Young, who handles most of the lead singing, glides over the music with her crystalline voice. On the opening track “Once and Gone,” her vocals literally rolls in like a gentle wave and throughout the album her singing conveys a sense of tranquility and warmth.

           The album, which features several instrumental interludes, flows effortlessly from track to track, taking the listener on a peaceful, yet rejuvenating musical journey. The understated, easy-going music lingers in your memory, with “Forever Mine” and “Traveler’s Song” standing out as two particularly strong tracks. The more uptempo “Wide Eyed Immigrant” offers a nice change-of-pace and you can also pick up an Australian country cadence, which brings to mind Paul Kelly. “Boxcar Boys” features an evocative Spanish guitar while Warner and Young’s singing recalls the sophisticated pop of Marti Jones’ work with Don Dixon.

 The closing track “Fly” nicely summaries the many strengths of Sweetheart of the Sun. The song features some nifty but not flashy playing while Young’s vocals soar gracefully and inspiringly. Sounding comfortable and confident, the Greencards have created a lovely acoustic album, full of alluring, quiet moments, that is joy to listen to.

 DOWNLOAD: “Ocean Floor,” “Forever Mine”

MINIBOONE – Miniboone

Album: Miniboone

Artist: Miniboone

Label: Ernest Jenning Record Co.

Release Date: September 10, 2013



 New York’s Miniboone plays a particularly catchy brand of power pop. But unfortunately that only describes the first half of their self-titled debut. The second half is pretty standard pop rock fare, not bad, but not particularly memorable either.

  With a vocals that sounds strikingly similar to Jonathan Richman (in fact, “Gimme Gimme Gimme” could have come off of a Modern Lovers album circa the mid-80’s), the band take just as much influence from groups like Squeeze and Talking Heads as they do from contemporary rockers like Weezer.

 The first few songs off the record, like the opener “The Superposition of Human Affection” and the stop and start guitars of “I Could, I Could” are proof alone that this band can write one hell of an earworm. But Miniboone starts to run out of steam about six songs in and by the 13th and final track they sound like a complexly different band.

 With a number of 7”s and a couple of EPs already lining their merch table, this marks their first proper full length. Maybe another EP would have been the way to go.

 DOWNLOAD: “The Superstition of Human Affection” and “I Could, I Could”


THE WARLOCKS – Skull Worship

Album: Skull Worship

Artist: The Warlocks

Label: Zap Banana

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Warlocks 11-26


It’s been five long years since the last spell cast by the Warlocks. But bandleader Bobby Hecksher and his latest set of cohorts break the silence with Skull Worship, allegedly the final part of a trilogy started with Heavy Deavy Skull Lover and peaked with The Mirror Explodes.

 Though Hecksher’s melodic sense – a combination of floating melody and acid-drenched drone – remains intact, he’s tempered the band’s usual aggression with a more measured pace. “Dead Generation” and “Endless Drops” follow a familiar repetition, but keep the intensity set at smolder rather than burn. The band also heads in some new directions – “He Looks Good in Space” adds appropriately cosmic synthesizer flourishes to a wispy tune that floats in zero gravity, while “Silver & Plastic” follows a lush, semi-acoustic path that hints at a Midlake LP or two spinning on Hecksher’s turntable.

 Some of the half-crazed momentum is missed, particularly during the meandering tracks that end the LP. But mostly the Warlocks thrive in this environment of release-free tension, letting Skull Worship seethe rather than rage, and it’s no less effective for the restraint.  

DOWNLOAD: “Endless Drops,” “Silver & Plastic,” “Dead Generation”

LOVERS – A Friend in the World

Album: A Friend in the World

Artist: Lovers

Label: Badman

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Lovers 9-24


 Like a handmade Hello Kitty lunchbox, Lovers, out of Portland, splices pop ephemera with DIY freshness and honesty. A Friend In the World’s perky synthetic keyboards and dance rhythms conjure princess pink diva-pop, but singer Carolyn Berk weaves knowing cock-eyed melancholy through it all. It’s like Mirah’s peppiest dance party ever, like cold wave synth revival warmed to bath temperature. Someone never told the women of Lovers – Berk, Emily Kingan and Kerby Ferris – that electropop had to be chilly and inhumane. Their version breathes and sighs and confides, even as it urges the girls to dance.

 Lovers are a power trio, more or less, though bereft of the preening guitar-centrism that usually defines such enterprises. Berk is the instigator , a singer, guitarist and songwriter whose solo project has blossomed into this. She has a charcoal shadowy voice that slides into and around melodies, hazing bright melodies with ambiguity. Kingan plays the drums, pounding explosive, tonal, off-kilter fills have a whiff of Phil Collins (listen to how she rampages in “Tiger Square” the only exclamation point in a sea of slithery ellipses). Ferris is the synth player, strewing silvery tones, hatching bubbling plots, filling out stark disco beats into viscous rotundity. Two of or more them sing, weaving sinuous counterparts into primary colored tunes. The effect is not silvery and harmonic like, say, Grass Widow, but rather warm and twining, like kudzu vines that criss and cross and double back.  

 The best songs here cloud the certainties of commercial pop with a hazy ambiguity, hanging gauzy massed vocals off the structural underpinnings of dance pop. “Lavender Light,” for instance, pulses with staccato electronic bleats and blots, and reaches, with its chorus for the fist in the air catharses of Miley-ish pop. Yet in an artform usually drawn in stick figures, Berk and her mates shade with delicacy. Berk’s voice never rises over a murmur, never glosses over its vulnerability. She is flanked by soft harmonies, deep banks of synthesizer sound. It’s a pop song sensitive enough to wrap in cotton batting. 

 Still, you can’t help but feel that these Lovers are holding back a little, that in among the perfectly curved and artfully revealing melodies, they might have slipped a few shouts and groans. Friend in the World is utterly pleasant, idiosyncratic and charming, but it doesn’t bite very deep.

 DOWNLOAD: “Lavender Light” “Tiger Square”