Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Whigs w/Gringo Star & Tedo Stone 12/19/14, Atlanta

Dates: December 19, 2014

Location: Terminal West, Atlanta GA

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It was Whigs night at Atlanta’s Terminal West, a big pre-Christmas gig turning into an annual homecoming event for this Athens-born trio, who packed the house with help from fellow-Georgia rockers Gringo Star and Tedo Stone.

Currently Nashville-based, The Whigs formed twelve years ago. They’ve since earned their reputation as one of the best and hottest live bands anywhere. Tonight they hit it hard with a set-list spanning all five of their excellent LPs, including their latest “Modern Creation,” and capped it with a spirited cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”

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If you don’t know the Whigs, start with any record, they are all that good. And go see them to have your socks knocked off. They will surely be at a venue near you shortly. And look for a new LP on New West Records in 2015. The Whigs are Timothy Deaux on bass, Julian Dorio on drums, and Parker Gispert on guitar and lead vocals. (Side note: Ever look around a crowd and measure the male-to-female ratio of the audience? I do, not sure why, but it seems to bode success for a performer or band that can master something close to a 50-50 mix. Besides outstanding songs and a giant stage presence, The Whigs have that going for them too.)

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Atlanta’s Gringo Star was 2nd on the bill – and they hooked me from the gitgo with their high energy punch and catchy songs. Gringo Star was founded by brothers Peter and Nicholas Furgiuele in 2008, and also had a busy 2014 on the road and has a couple of LPs under their belt as well as a new 7” on dizzybird. Can’t wait to check out their vinyl, and next show.

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Someone has to get the party going and tonight those honors fell on Tedo Stone, from Athens, Ga. Tedo (guitar, vocals) brings a distinctive Americana Pop sound to his originals, and has a great band to deliver the goods. Look for a new release in 2015.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Native North America Vol. One (3-LP Box)

Album: Native North America Vol. One

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Light In The Attic

Release Date: November 25, 2014

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Though I, like many music fans, was tangentially aware of indigenous Native American music as far back as the early ‘70s when I discovered the psychedelia of New Mexico’s Xit (whose ’72 classic Plight Of the Redman was released, improbably enough, by Motown), it’s likely that for the most part our basic frame of reference began with the folkrock of Buffy Sainte-Marie (who charted several times during the decade and beyond) and ended with the mainstream rock of Redbone (1974 hit “Come And Get Your Love”). Which is to say, not much of a frame of reference at all. Many years later, such artists as John Trudell and Burning Sky, and certainly the tireless efforts of labels like Arizona’s Canyon, would bring Native music of all genres – from country, folk and rock to chicken scratch, pow-wow music and new age flute — to the attention of a wider audience. But it’s still a good bet that those sounds continue to fly under the radar of average folks.

Native North America Vol. One aims, if not to fully rectify that situation, to at least acknowledge some of the artists who have surfaced over the years, in varying degrees of prominence, and to offer a resource/starting point for fans who want to delve deeper. Once again the ever-diligent archivists at Light In The Attic have enlisted the crate-digging talents of deejay/journalist Kevin “Sipreano” Howes (Jamaica To Toronto and Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-73) to compile an overview collection that tells a compelling musical story. Subtitled Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985, this eye-poppingly gorgeous 3-LP set (or 2-CD, should silver disc be your choice of format) presents exactly that, and with such attention to detail that a college level course could be designed using it as the core source material.

With 34 tracks to consider here, no review could do the anthology justice. Nor can I adequately delve into the lyrical content; suffice to say that matters of the heart, of the environment and of the Native American political milieu are prominent, with many of the topics touched upon still relevant today. Just to single out a handful of tunes:

*Quebec’s Willy Mitchell, who is represented three times, in particular his “Kill’n Your Mind,” a harrowing, minor-chord, Jackson Browne-esque rocker cut live with his backing group Desert River Band.

*Brian Davey, from Ontario, with a harp-and-guitar powered “Dreams of Ways” that’s bluesy and folky all at once, his high, keening voice a memorable instrument in its own right.

Cree singer and actor Morley Loon, of Quebec, whose “N’Doheeno” incorporates traditional percussion motifs to give the tune an almost Dylan-in-drum-circle vibe.

*Philippe McKenzie, singing (like Loon, who originally inspired him) in his native language Innu-aiman), both solo and with a trio, Groupe Folklorique Montagnais; his “Mistashipu” similarly brings a Dylan influence to a traditional guitar, drum and shaker arrangement.

*The Chieftones, known sometimes as “Canada’s All Indian Band,” who hailed from Alberta and managed to achieve a degree of success in the States in the mid ‘60s, probably due as much to the novelty of their onstage costumes (headbands, feathers and other “Indian” trappings aimed at appealing to non-Native audiences) as for their serviceable brand of garage rock on “I Shouldn’t Have Did What I Done,” a track that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Nuggets type compilation.

*Ontario’s Lawrence Martin, who with the twangy “I Got My Music” sounds a bit like Clarence White-era Byrds in all their country-rockin’ glory; this guy would’ve been embraced by the No Depression crowd had it been around in ’81 when the song was cut.

*Willie Dunn, a songwriter, filmmaker, playwright, activist and politician from Montreal who opens and closes the record, and who passed away last year while Howes was still working on the project. His hauntingly intense, 5 ½ minute pow-wow chant “Son Of The Sun” is perhaps the most powerful number on the album.

Equally important are the rare photos and exhaustive liner notes/track annotations that compiler Howes — who is Canadian — has done for Native North America’s booklet, which clocks in at an impressive 60 pages for the vinyl version. Each artist was extensively researched, with many of those who were still living contacted directly by Howes, ultimately yielding multi-page mini-bios for them and not just the one- or two-paragraph blurbs typical for most compilations. The lyrics to each song are also provided, including those sung in Native languages. Photo credits are dutifully listed, and each original LP, EP or 7” sleeve and label art is also reproduced wherever possible, no small feat considering how many of the releases were private pressings in the first place. The LPs are housed in thick tip-on sleeves with a hardback outer box (the CD version, likewise, is designed like a bound hardback book). All in all, a true work of art.

That, and as clearly a labor of love as they come,. For all the reasons outlined above, and also for the prevailing vibe of respect and honor for these artists — most of them obscure, but none of them unworthy — that comes through loud and clear. Encore, please.

DOWNLOAD: “Son Of the Sun” (Willie Dunn); “I Shouldn’t Have Did What I Done” (The Chieftones); “Kill’n Your Mind” (Willy Mitchell and Desert River Band)

MIKE COOPER – Trout Steel + Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co.

Album: Trout Steel + Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co.

Artist: Mike Cooper

Label: Paradise of Bachelors

Release Date: June 17, 2014

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The first time I ever heard of Mike Cooper was on a mixtape made for me by Jason Meagher of NoNeck Blues Band/Suntanma/Coach Fingers/Black Dirt Studios fame. It was part of my earliest introduction to the world of British folk, taking me on a path that led me to the musics of Bert Jansch, John Martyn, the Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band and Roy Harper while simultaneously helping me reassess the genius of Led Zeppelin III.

 But it was the work of this underrated Englishman, who had turned down a spot in the Rolling Stones that would soon be filled (albeit briefly and tragically) by Brian Jones in the early ‘60s, that resonated with me the deepest. His fearlessness in moving away from the standard trappings of folk and blues by embracing the direction of such avant-jazz greats as Pharaoh Sanders and Sonny Sharrock as well as early electronic sound architects as Steve Reich and Terry Riley have also made his long out-of-print early ‘70s albums very much in demand amongst a niche market of young sonic adventurers.

And after four long decades, Cooper’s greatest recorded accomplishments are made available once again thanks to the excellent North Carolina indie label Paradise of Bachelors, primarily known these days for their releases by such new school gurus of the art form as Steve Gunn and Nathan Bowles. 1970’s Trout Steel, produced by the great Peter Eden, is a heady mix of traditional songwriting and bold improvisation that served as a more conventional take on the shape of things to come for Cooper. A shape, mind you, that would take its permanent form over the course of his next two works, 1971’s Places I Know and 1972’s The Machine Gun Co., a pair of LPs originally intended to be a double album.

“Those two records were conceived as a double album aimed at covering the wide range of music,” Cooper explains in the album’s liner notes. “I was interested in and gently leading the listener from the more accessible Places I Know, with its Mike Gibbs arrangements, into the more (for the times) extreme areas of The Machine Gun Co. That never happened, and they were released as two separate records a year apart.”

Paradise of Bachelors, in all of their scholarly wisdom, has now righted the oversight commissioned by the guitarist’s previous label, Dawn Records, and conjoined these separated twin classics in order to tell the entire story arc. And when you sit down and listen to the totality of the set as it was originally intended by the artist, with the lush orchestral arrangements of Gibbs–known primarily back then as the musical director of the popular BBC TV comedy The Goodies–giving way to the non-linear electric dadaism of The Machine Gun Co. that very much lives up to the 1968 album from German free-jazz reedist Peter Brötzmann record of the same name.

Many thanks to PoB for bringing these two long overdue milestones in British folk back into the spotlight where they so richly belong.




VARIOUS ARTISTS — Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade

Album: Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych from Peru's Radical Decade

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Tigers Milk

Release Date: October 14, 2014

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The track slouches in on shimmering wah-wahed guitar, navigating the familiar blues chords from the opening to Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” Still, you are not very far into this cut before it shifts into a more heated gear. A rattle of congas quickens the pace, the guitars jangle in agitated counterpoint, the vocal, in Spanish, unfurls in quick bravado, floats to impossible falsetto. You can imagine the members of Jeliko, a late 1960s band from Lima, Peru, huddled with headphones over a battered Hendrix single, swallowing American psychedelic rock whole and spitting it out spiked with Latin syncopation.

Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade (Tiger Milk) is a double-vinyl, 16-track compilation that documents an extraordinary period during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when despite harsh political repression, a genre-omnivorous blend of rock, jazz, funk and traditional Peruvian music blew up in Lima. The set documents the entire reign of General Juan Velasco Alvarado, who took over the government as a socialist reformer 1974 (albeit in a military coup), but eventually sought control of all elements of Peruvian society – its economy, language, education system and culture. Like a lot of authoritarians, Velasco favored indigenous folk arts over foreign imports; he made Quechua an official language of Peru. So, just as Peruvian musicians were beginning to get easier access to Western recordings – and to absorb influences like West Coast psych, American R&B, funk and heavy rock – this kind of eclecticism became politically dangerous.

The music that Peru Bravo celebrates grew up underground, drawing in traditional art forms but mixing them with forbidden ones. It’s a heady mix, where slinky chicha grooves meet Tower of Power horn blasts, where smouldery Booker T. organ vamps sidle up to scorching hand drum syncopations.

There’s hardly a dead spot on this compilation, and the best stuff is very good indeed. Among the highlights, I’d count Black Sugar’s blistering hard salsa rampage “Checan,” Laghonia’s garage rock raveup “Bahia,” Los Holys’ super tight surf Latin cover of the Meters’ “Cissy Strut,” and The Image’s “Outasite,” a dreamy psych soul reverie that reminds me a lot of Tommy James’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Speaking of covers, Los Texao offers their take on Steppenwolf classic “Sookie Sookie.” Also included is psych band Traffic Sound (“La Camita”), which has long been a favorite of BLURT’s editor. But the best cut on the disc by a pretty good margin belongs to chicha heavyweights Los Destellos. Their “Onsta la Yerbita” starts in acid-trip bloops of wah wah and echo-shrouded spoken word, then kicks to life in a back-slanting, hip-shifting syncopated groove. An organ shimmers like a highway heat mirage and through it rips a lacerating fuzz guitar. It is radiantly beautiful and abrasive at the same time, and one of the most remarkable moments on an excellent disc.

You don’t really need the historical background to enjoy Peru Bravo, but it’s there if you want it in an extensive essay on Lima’s 1960s and 1970s music scene and notes on the artists and tracks. Along the way you learn how “in Peru, ‘bravo’ has a double meaning. It can refer to something that is edgy or dangerous but can also be celebratory, as in English.” The collection was expertly compiled by award-winning chef/restaurateur and best-selling author Martin Morales (he’s additionally worked with such artists as Matthew Herbert, Chucho Valdez, Oi Va Voi, Omara Portuondo, Tata Guines, Orquesta Aragon and Novalima), along with Duncan Ballantyne (who has managed Soundway Records, Brazilian label Far Out and Naive in the UK) and Andrés Tapia del Rio (of Lima’s Recycled Records).

But mostly if you like funk, soul, psych or rock, you’ll like Peru Bravo. Great stuff.


DOWNLOAD: “Onsta la Yerbita,” “Checan”


PHIL SEYMOUR – In Concert! / VARIOUS ARTISTS – Twilley Won’t Mind: Dwight Twilley Band Tribute

Album: In Concert! / Twilley Won’t Mind: Dwight Twilley Band Tribute

Artist: Phil Seymour / Various Artists

Label: Airline / Zero Hour

Release Date: December 02, 2014

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We power pop acolytes can be a long-suffering bunch. Many is the time when our heroes have seemed on the cusp of breaking big, only to be shoved aside by a more mainstream-stroking bandwagon-hopper or, worse, discovering that their supporters at the label were gone (or, even worse, the label itself had shuttered). This tends to leave us, the lonely fans, casting our hosannas year after year to the utter indifference of friends, family, foils and foes. Still, we persist, viewing our unconditional love as a noble cause. Once in awhile a true fan actually puts his money where his mouth is and finances an actual project.

Under consideration today: a pair of Dwight Twilley Band related releases. First, no less than the third installment in the Phil Seymour Archive Series, issued by Airline Records (which doesn’t seem to have, uh, a website; it’s distributed by Ingroove). Vols. 1 and 2 were released by quirky reissue specialist Fuel 2000 and offered up, respectively, an expanded version of the late Seymour’s superb 1980 eponymous debut (recorded shortly after the original Twilley Band had split), and its somewhat less inspired—though still quite enjoyable—followup, 1982’s 2. This time around we get a 2CD set with pair of live concerts from L.A. in 1979 and 1980.

The ’79 performance of Seymour and The Feel at the Hong Kong Café is high on energy but suffers from just average sonic quality, a kind of flat soundboard feel, something that actually won’t bother Seymour collectors since medium fidelity tapes swapped rabidly over the years have already primed the ears to settle for what we can get. Two obvious highlights are “Looking For the Magic,” from the classic Twilley-Seymour partnership that won us over in the first place all those years ago, and a cover of the Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love.” Indeed, the set is heavy on covers, including tunes from Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Bobby Fuller and Nick Lowe; as such, it suggests that Seymour, along with his band at the time, The Feel, was still working out his identity as a bandleader. The ’80 show is much better, from the setlist to the sound (it was originally recorded at Gazzari’s for an FM broadcast) to the musicians backing up Seymour. Gone is the hastily-assembled The Feel, and taking their place is a far more accomplished ensemble that includes the mighty Bill Pitcock IV, from the Twilley band, natch, on lead guitar. The set is accordingly frontloaded with Twilley/Seymour-centric material, notably Twilley’s luscious “Then We Go Up,” Seymour’s surprise hit single “Precious to Me” and a “Peter Gunne”-like thumper penned by Pitcock titled “Don’t Blow Your Life Away.” Among the covers are Lieber & Stoller, Bobby Fuller (again) and go-to power pop femme Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s.

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By this point Seymour has become a more confident frontman, partly due no doubt to having more seasoned players surrounding him and partly because with the success of “Precious to Me” he was staking his own turf rather than being simply “the other guy” onstage with Twilley. At times you can hear him taking on a bit of a McCartney persona, animated and clearly enjoying himself. (For proof see the live video of “Precious to Me,” above, although not that is not from the Gazzari’s show.) Sadly, Seymour’s record label would fold shortly after the release of the second album, effectively squelching whatever momentum he had, and although he continued to work for another decade (notably as a member of the Textones, with Carla Olson), he tragically passed away from cancer in 1993.

As sweet as it is to have previously unreleased Seymour in the record bins, most of us know that you ain’t been properly memorialized until a tribute album is recorded. Enter the power pop fanatics of Australia’s Zero Hour who’ve assembled a host of international indieites to redo some 23 tracks hailing from the Sincerely and Twilley Don’t Mind era, the two albums that the Twilley-Seymour team cut in ’76 and ’77. And while we all know that tribs are inherently compromised—yours truly has gone on record as saying they’re mostly a waste of time, and I still believe that—when it’s your personal fave getting the proverbial musical hat-tip, it’s easy to be generous if the performances are solid.

For the most part, Twilley Won’t Mind is exactly that. With 23 tunes, it’s inevitable that some of ‘em are gonna fall flat; several tracks are overly earnest, overtly schmaltzy, or just plain poorly recorded. But with such killer readings as Honeychain’s sleek, sexy and seamless “I’m On Fire,” Donovan’s Brain’s unbelievably accurate (right down to the backwards guitar), 12-string powered “Sincerely,” Michael Carpenter’s rousing handclapathon “Here She Comes” and the Slapbacks’ urgently buoyant “Looking For the Magic” it’s easy not only to be generous, but seduced. The musicians on the album have clearly studied and loved those two albums and their creators over the years, and the inspiration comes through in their recreations.

Writes journalist/archivist John M. Borack in his liner notes, “The Dwight Twilley Band [was] a true collaborative effort. No power pop duo could match the chemistry created when Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour played and sang together. Sincerely could have been subtitled ‘The Beatles Meet Elvis and the Byrds in Tulsa… a record for the ages. [And] Twilley Don’t Mind is nearly as perfect as the debut. Enjoy these covers, then go back and listen to the originals, too. You won’t have to look hard to find the magic.”

It’s perhaps significant that Borack and Bobby Sutliff from the Windbreakers perform on two of the tracks I’ve singled out above. Knowing both men’s deep, abiding love for power pop, I feel confident in saying that as long as they and their compatriots are around, the early Twilley Band’s estimable legacy will be in good hands. A hearty salute all around, gentlemen.

DOWNLOAD: Phil Seymour In Concert!: “Looking For the Magic,” “Then We Go Up,” “Precious to Me”; Twilley Won’t Mind: the tracks mentioned above, plus “That I Remember” (Lannie Flowers), “Rock and Roll 47” (The Mold Monkies), “Chance to Get Away” (The Bottle Kids), “I Don’t Know My Name” (Spike Priggen)



LOVE – Black Beauty

Album: Black Beauty

Artist: Love

Label: High Moon

Release Date: November 11, 2014

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When Arthur Lee recorded Black Beauty in 1973, he was at a crossroads. His solo career had fizzled with the failure of his album Vindicator, and he’d thought Love retired; he continued to gig, but his heart was no longer in the business of show. But the consolidation of a new band – guitarist Melvan Whittington, bassist Robert Rozelle, drummer Joe Blocker – re-lit the fire within, and took Lee back to the studio with a collection of old and new tunes to be released under the name of the old firm.

Unfortunately, Buffalo Records, the start-up indie label formed by Hair producer Michael Butler, folded right after Lee submitted the tapes, and the record has been lost to history since. Until now, that is, when a pair of acetates produced enough workable tracks to finally put Black Beauty together and out into the public space, courtesy the High Moon label (which also recently reissued Gene Clark’s classic, out of print Two Sides to Every Story album). Some of the material has circulated before on bootleg, but this marks the first official release.

As with all Lee releases post-1967, this one comes with a fair warning: this ain’t Forever Changes part whatever. (Yes, that album is a masterpiece, but c’mon, folks – get over it. Just because Lee never repeated it doesn’t mean he didn’t make good music after it.) That said, it’s not quite in the same space as the hard-edged blues rock Lee had explored with the post-Changes versions of Love, either. Lee’s new musicians were as comfortable with then-contemporary R&B as rock, and while nothing here approaches the slicker soul sounds to be found on 1974’s Reel to Real, recorded with the same band, there’s definitely a tighter groove and a looseness to the arrangements that usually comes from folks who’ve gotten funky a time or two.

“Stay Away” and “Midnight Sun” feature the Hendrixian rock of records like False Start, but with an airiness that opens up the sound beyond mere hard rock. “Can’t Find It,” “See Myself in You” and “Lonely Pigs” ride relaxed rhythms while still giving Whittington room to roam. “Young & Able (Good & Evil)” and “Product of the Times” (recorded live with a previous Love)  rock more aggressively, backing up the biting social commentary. “Skid,” written by Lee’s personal assistant Riley Racer and poet Angela Rackley, adds muscle to the band’s old folk-rock style for a tuneful highlight. As a reminder of the eclecticism of side one of Da Capo, “Beep Beep” adds a Caribbean groove, while “Walk Right In” rocks up an ancient Gus Cannon folk song that Lee had loved since childhood. Throughout, Lee and company sound focused and on point, knowing where they’re going and how to get there. It’s a shame that music biz shenanigans sidelined this album; while it’s unlikely Black Beauty would have set the charts on fire, it would have added considerable might to the band’s legacy while Lee was still alive.

Besides rescuing the audio from decaying acetates, High Moon tricks out this edition with a pile of extras. “Thomasine & Bushrod” is the theme song for an obscure film of the same name, and sounds of a piece with Love’s mid-‘60s peak. One of this Love’s rare live shows contributes three more previously unreleased songs; the quality of the raging “Every Time I Look Up, I Look Down,” the melancholy “Nothing” and the bluesy “Keep On Shining” makes up for the substandard audio fidelity. The straightforwardly rocking “L.A. Blues” comes from a mid-’90s session with the band Ventilator,

Furthermore, the package includes a 22-minute interview with Lee from 1974, lengthy liner notes by noted rock writer Ben Edmonds and Lee’s wife Diane, and a nice hardback case in which to wrap it all up. (The LP version comes on 180gm vinyl and is housed in a beautiful tip-on sleeve.) After decades in the ether, Black Beauty gets the issue it deserves.
DOWNLOAD: “Skid,” “Midnight Sun,” “Young & Able (Good & Evil)”

SPACEMEN 3 – Live at the New Morning, Geneva, Switzerland 18/05.1989 LP

Album: Live at the New Morning, Geneva, Switzerland 18/05.1989

Artist: Spacemen 3

Label: Mental Groove

Release Date: October 21, 2014

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Spacemen 3 fans can rightly be characterized as “long suffering”: the Rugby, England, drone/psych monsters imploded before reaching their full potential—although subsequent sonic investigations by offshoots Spiritualized, Spectrum, E.A.R., Darkside, Slipstream, etc. certainly yielded multiple mental fruits—and while there have been numerous posthumous releases, those sundry collections of demos/outtakes and live sets tended to be either mere shadows of the original albums or of only so-so sound quality. Though there are several classic singles (notably 1988’s “Revolution” and one near-perfect full-length (1987’s Playing With Fire) in the Spacemen 3 back catalog, that’s barely enough to toss the term “legacy” around unchallenged. Guitarist Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember has periodically hoisted the S3 flag skyward, once even mounting a Spectrum tour in which he performed mostly material from his former band, but with his erstwhile creative foil Jason Pierce apparently having vowed to never utter the bandname in public again once his Spiritualized earned enough fame to eclipse the mother ship, each passing year makes it more and more likely that Spacemen 3 will one day be but a vague memory of greying/balding shoegaze acolytes.

Still we persist in our obsession, and this year we received an early Xmas treat in the form of Live At the New Morning, Geneva, Switzerland, 05.18.1989 via Swedish custom label Mental Groove. Recorded at the aforementioned venue a quarter-century ago, it finds Sonic Boom, Jason “J. Spaceman” Pierce & Co. in superb, if smoked-up, form, from the trance-inducing anthem “Things Will Never Be the Same” to the revved-up “Bo Diddley Jam” paired with the Motor-city-riffic “Revolution” (which, sharp eyes will recall, was famously covered by Mudhoney) through the final half-hour long motorik dronefest “Suicide.”

The set presented here, is as it was…except the show was twice this length. We tuned and smoked for almost as long as we played.”—Sonic Boom

His comment in the liner notes is apt; the hour-long set presented here apparently also included a good deal of not-necessarily-superfluous tuning up and fucking around (particularly midway through “Suicide,” which Sonic adds involved “taped down keys and feeding back guitars propped against our speaker cabs [while we went] back down to the already too familiar dressing room. We rolled large smokes and cracked fresh drinks [then] re-appeared on stage… Extending the maelstrom as bloody mindedly as we could.” (For purposes of releasing this album, the errant noises and whatnot have been edited from the show.)

Bloody minded is right: these guys could make a right royal racket on even the most “off” of off-nights. Geneva was definitely not an off-night, what with The Perfect Prescription’s killer opening cut “Take Me To The Other Side” rewired for the concert stage with an almost feral ferocity and the aforementioned “Revolution” getting revved up to such near-Stooges velocity that you’re basically exhausted by the time side 1 has finished. That 29:55 is matched by side 2’s “Suicide,” which induces a listener’s trance of such tension that by the 15 minute mark you’re practically leaning forward in your seat, begging for a climax.

Rather than allow catharsis, however, the band simply… winds down, fades out, and shuts off, which is exactly how most drug trips end anyway. It must have been quite an experience to see Spacemen 3 in the flesh, because the group’s stated intention was to reproduce the drug experience.

The 1989 trek across Europe was in support of that year’s Playing With Fire album and there have already been several documentations both official and unofficial of that tour, in particular the Bomp! label’s 1995 release Live in Europe 1989. In that regard, Live at the New Morning doesn’t really offer any surprises, and the sound quality, while on par with the Bomp! title, isn’t particularly revelatory, either. (Also, when you try to cram a half hour onto a single LP side you are automatically somewhat compromised: releasing this as a 2-LP set might’ve made it a pricey affair, but speaking as someone who has heard a lot of live S3 recordings, I would have gladly ante’d up.) But for all those so-called long-suffering fans out there, it’s still an essential addition to the collection. Grab it, roll some large smokes, crack some fresh drinks, and cue it up.

DOWNLOAD: “Revolution,” “Things Will Never Be The Same”


Jingle Bell Rocks!

Title: Jingle Bell Rocks!

Director: Mitchell Kezin

Release Date: November 29, 2014

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Canadian Mitchell Kezin isn’t your ordinary music nut who collects Christmas music—he’s so devoted to it that he now collects other Christmas music collectors themselves, crafting this documentary not only to chart his own mania but that of the other people who share the same obsession.

As such, Jingle Bell Rocks! (Oscilloscope), released to coincide with Record Store Day’s Black Friday event and in time for this year’s holiday season, is a labor of love that tracks Kezin’s sad childhood, which led to an early attraction to holiday tunes, as well as a journey across America to find kindred spirits of all kinds. With a mostly absent dad, he turned to Nat King Cole’s tear-jerker “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forget” as a refuge and became a Christmas music fan right away. From there, the film chronicles his recent journeys meeting up with fellow fanatics.

Foremost among them is writer and former Def Jam publicist Bill Adler, who’s collected and compiled Christmas CD’s for his friends for years. Adler takes him to Joseph Simmons of Run-DMC to talk about the most famous holiday rap song “Christmas In Hollis,” which he wrote while smoking weed over his breakfast eggs, and to Brooklyn haunt Charlie’s Calypso City to meet owner Rawlston Charles, who’s recorded and sold plenty of Caribbean holiday music. We also meet Sandra Dedrick of Greenwich Village folk group Free Design who did the underground holiday classic “Close Your Mouth It’s Christmas”; and radio legend Dr. Demento, who talks about Xmas novelties. Kezin takes us on trips to: Chicago for writers Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’ Sound Opinions radio show focused on holiday music; Baton Rouge where he meet R&B singer Clarence Carter to talk about his “Back Door Santa” (which formed the music of the Run-DMC song later); Baltimore, talking with director John Waters about his R&B-fueled holiday music obsessions; Oklahoma to meet Flaming Lips honcho Wayne Coyne, whose own childhood holiday obsessions led him to make the Lips’ cult movie Christmas On Mars and the Poconos to meet singer and Schoolhouse Rock songwriter Bob Dorough who talks about a cynical Christmas music session he had with the grumpy Miles Davis.

There’s also onstage and backstage footage of former L.A. punk El Vez, the “Mexican Elvis,” who does annual holiday-themed shows.

As we travel through the collectors’ collections, we also see that what whets their appetite (and that of Kezin) isn’t the standard classics but the fringe, weird stuff like “Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile” and “Christmas In My Pants.” As former A&R guy and present radio holiday music host Andy Cizan observes, because of this strange nature of holiday songs, singles/45s is where the action is at since labels wouldn’t let these bizarre artists make a full length record. Bob George, co-founder of the massive ARChive of Contemporary Music, also observes that many Christmas greats were written by Jewish composers, maybe because they had nothing else to do during that holiday.

Towards the end of the movie, Kezin’s outlook becomes less cynical about the holiday’s over-commercialization as he seems to believe in its transforming power. In addition, Kezin also finds comfort in the fact that there ARE other Christmas music collectors out there, making him feel a little less weird.

Sure, a movie like this is meant for other holiday music obsessives but if you find yourself singing along to any of the old Christmas songs during December, you’ll probably delve in deeper here. As for us other Christmas music fanatics, this is indeed a holiday present.

RHYTON — Kykeon

Album: Kykeon

Artist: Rhyton

Label: Thrill Jockey

Release Date: November 18, 2014



Rhyton infuses open-ended psychedelic grooves with subtle Greek and Turkish influences. The band, led by Dave Shuford of the No-Neck Blues Band (whose Americana-slanting outfit is D. Charles Speer and the Helix), is a trio, but there are never just three instruments in play. Shuford layers the high staccato rattle of bouzouki over American six-string. Bass player Jimmy Seitang juxtaposes slow-boogie-ing bass with the whistling treble of keyboard. The drummer, Rob Smith, sticks to his kit, holding wild conjectures and improvisations together with the steady thump of percussion.

Kykeon, Rhyton’s third album as a band, shows increasing assurance in balancing groove with exoticism. “Sirens in Byblos” starts in a duel of noise as two instruments, one shrill and twitchy, the other viscous and frictive, create conflicting streams of feedback. A minute in, Smith lays down structure in a shambling beat, and the piece coalesces into jam. “Topkapi,” named for the Ottoman palace in Istanbul, is the disc’s most foreign sounding, built on a wavery non-Western guitar lick, and lattice-work picking. The two instruments, one assumes both played by Shuford, intersect and comment on one another, above the warmth of low subdued bass. Despite its intricacy, the piece feels relaxed, not in any particular hurry to finish.

“Gneiss” (whose name, aptly enough, means a layered kind of rock) is more of a boogie, with loose, blues-inflected guitar skittering over a fundamental groove, and “Pannychis” with its organ drone, sounds like a Stax instrumental with a bouzouki player making a guest appearance. “California Box Vapors” evokes Zeppelin heard from a few rooms away in its hazy, smouldery blues rock; there’s even a bit of singing on this track, though slipped so low and mutter-y into the mix that you can’t make it out. The closer, “The Striped Sun” is the one that will most remind you of Shuford’s old band, beginning in a loose and extended improvisation, where random rattles of stringed instruments bump up against sporadic, almost accidental bursts of bass and percussion.

Taken as a whole, Kykeon seems more cohesive, less add-x-to-y, than the self-titled debut. It’s not just putting psychedelic rock and blues up next to Mediterranean traditions, but finding the junctures that meld these sounds into one thing.

DOWNLOAD: “California Box Vapors” “Topkapi”




Album: IX


Label: Superball

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Trail of Dead


When …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead erupted in the mid-90s, it was a noise-driven ensemble reflecting not only the AmRep-inflected postpunk of the underground, but also the dissonant rock tradition (Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers) of its Austin homebase. Yet the shapeshifting quartet’s evolution into a full-on progressive rock band has been so subtle it went almost unnoticed, at least until its 2011 two-disk magnum opus Tao of the Dead. IX, which is indeed the band’s ninth album, continues the band’s prog odyssey, with sweeping melodies, widescreen arrangements and fantasy-based graphics that celebrate heroines and the feminine mystique in general.

Overpowering anthems “Jaded Apostles,” “The Doomsday Book” and “Lost in the Grand Scheme” reach for the sky, tear it open and keep going, in part because of the roiling rhythm engine driven by the band’s multiple drummers. “The Ghost Within,” The Lie Without a Liar” and “The Dragonfly Queen” pull back the bombast, concentrating squarely on pretty melodies and understatedly emotional singing – a surprisingly measured approach the band proves perfectly capable of exploiting. “Bus Lines” combines both approaches, moving dynamically between power and poise without jarring tonal shifts, while the instrumental “How to Avoid Huge Ships” puts a dreamy melody over a frantic polyrhythm. “Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears” turns on the prog tradition of adapting classical melodics to a rock arrangement, but does so with subtlety rather than theatrics.

The record also comes with a bonus disk containing the 20-minute cosmic journey “Tao of the Dead Pt. III,” effectively making this a double album. As it should be – with IX, Trail of Dead consolidates its stance as one of the ‘aughties’ most consistently interesting prog bands.

DOWNLOAD: “The Doomsday Book,” “The Ghost Within,” “How to Avoid Huge Ships”