Monthly Archives: October 2016

THE BLURT JAZZ DESK: Latest MPS Vinyl Reissues


Germany’s MPS label has just dropped a quintet of 180-gram vinyl reissues. According to MPS, “Edel:Kultur unties another bundle of re-releases from the catalogue of the iconic MPS label situated in Germany’s Black Forest. The newest package from the Reforest the Legend series embraces the decade of 1970-1980, and covers a wide diversity of styles. Once again sound engineers Christoph Stickel and Dirk Sommer have scrupulously remastered the original recordings. The resulting Edel:Kultur releases are high quality 180g Vinyl pressings enclosed in record jackets containing the original artwork.” Our Jazz Desk editor takes a closer look (and listen)… [Go HERE for previous installments of the Jazz Desk.]


 Monty Alexander Trio – Montreux Alexander

Alexander’s seventh release for MPS, Montreux Alexander is a document of the pianist’s trio live at the Montreux, Switzerland Jazz Festival in June 1976. As the liner notes explain, neither Alexander nor his rhythm section – bassist John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton on drums – had any advance idea of what songs they would perform. The sharpness of the performances belies that; while there’s a palpable sense of spontaneity on the six well-known tunes in the trio’s set, it’s all impeccably played. A ten-minute reading of Ahmad Jamal’s “Night Mist Blues” is an effective melding of smoky, late-night club ambience and sophisticated polish. Every now and then, Alexander breaks out of the bluesy mold – often for a mere measure or two – and delivers his melodic lines in another style.

Perhaps Morris Albert’s “Feelings” was less of a cliché in the mid ’70s than it is today, but Alexander’s trio gives the song a suitably understated reading that makes it more effective than it would otherwise be. Still, it’s the weak point of the set, veering uncomfortably close to easy-listening lounge jazz. It’s redeemed slightly by Alexander’s silky-smooth delivery.

Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” enlivens things greatly. The tune jumps and swings, and the uptempo blues arrangement features some tasty three-way musical dialogue between the musicians, eliciting applause less than a minute into the tune.

Nat Adderley’s classic “Work Song” is oddly understated for its first 20 seconds or so; from there it blasts out of the gate. Playing more subtly than in the typical readings of the song, Alexander’s trio still has some fun with playful key changes. Clayton’s bass is showcased here.

Henry Glover’s 1956 composition “Drown in My Own Tears” had, by 1976, been recorded by many artists including Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Alexander mines the tune’s gospel roots, calling to mind – but not aping – Charles’ reading of the chestnut.

The set closes with the American traditional “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After Alexander plays a brief melodic figure, Hamilton takes the cue and dives in with some nice brush work of his own. After a minute or so of back-and-forth, the band kicks into a swinging rendition that brings the house down. Deftly-placed glissandi up the ante, and the crowd responds in kind. Nearly 30 seconds of applause wraps up the release, available on 180-gram vinyl in a beautiful, sturdy (albeit non-gatefold) sleeve.

Joe Henderson et. al. – Mirror, Mirror

Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone
Chick Corea – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Billy Higgins – drums

One of the most consistently thrilling qualities of jazz is the manner in which artists team up in different combinations, often just for a single session. Whether onstage or within the confines of the recording studio, the result of these musical summits is always open to chance and circumstance; therein lies much of its appeal.

And while 1980 was nobody’s idea of a high point in jazz, this set for MPS – recorded not in Germany’s Black Forest but in a Los Angeles studio – has all the thrill and musical interplay one could hope for from the four superb artists who took part.

There are no electronics to be found here: the piano and bass are acoustic instruments, and the live-in-the-studio vibe is very much apparent. Six numbers – three per vinyl side – are on offer: one by nominal bandleader Henderson (Joe’s Bolero”), two each from the pens of Corea and Carter, and one standard, “What’s New.”

Ron Carter’s “Candlelight” is primarily a showcase for Joe Henderson’s mellifluous sax work, though near the song’s end Corea takes a largely unaccompanied solo turn. The bassist’s “Keystone” features some appealing unison playing from Corea and Henderson. Higgins turns in some splashy yet controlled drumming.

As one might expect from reading the title, that drumming is at the center of “Joe’s Bolero.” But there’s much more in the way of melody here than in Ravel’s somewhat monotonous classical piece. Henderson’s sax here is unbridled – detractors might suggest “out of tune” – but the one-chord workout is fascinating in its own way.

“What’s New” is the shortest cut on Mirror, Mirror; it’s also among the most tradition-minded reading in the set. Placed between “Joe’s Bolero” and the final track, it’s an example of thoughtful sequencing. The record closes with “Blues for Liebestraum,” a lengthy workout in which all four players push the boundaries of the blues form, often all “soloing” at once. It’s a tasty closing to an album that may have escaped the notice of many jazz fans on its original release. The 2016 MPS reissue is 180g vinyl inside the label’s customary high-quality packaging.

Freddie Hubbard – The Hub of Hubbard

Don’t let the relatively generic cover art of The Hub of Hubbard dissuade you from checking out this 2016 reissue of an album originally released in Germany in 1970 (and in the US two years later). Cut in the Black Forest for the German MPS label, this four-tune set features trumpeter Hubbard blowing impressively while backed by pianist (Sir) Roland Hanna, Richard Davis on bass, and drummer extraordinaire Louis Hayes. (Eddie Daniels is on hand for tenor sax, too.)

The ensemble charges right out of the gate with Vincent Youmans’ “Without a Song,” an example of deceptive labeling if there ever was one. It’s a song and a half. Hubbard and Daniels trade licks throughout.

Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” is controlled cacophony, a fine example of jazz’s technique of using a song as little more than a mere canvas upon which to paint an original work. All five players are in fine form as they blast full speed ahead through the seven-plus minute performance.

“Blues for Duane” – a Hubbard original composition – is sexy and swaggering, yet still somehow subtle. Davis’ bass holds things together nicely, and the tune has an even more “live” feel than the record’s other cuts.

Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne’s “The Things We Did Last Summer” ends the album on a sultry, romantic note. A bit of (natural?) reverb on Hubbard’s horn lends just the right melancholy air to this understated piece. Hanna occasionally reaches inside his piano for some clever and effective strumming of the strings; that zither-like effect would be used to good effect at roughly the same time (1969) by Keith Emerson on ELP’s “Take a Pebble.”

The album’s original gatefold sleeve is reproduced here, with a liner note essay in both German and English. Oddly, the essay doesn’t match up with the record’s sequencing, but that shouldn’t take away from the listener’s enjoyment.

Note that since this is a straight reissue of the original LP, the bonus track found on CD releases (Hanna’s “Muses for Richard Davis”) is not included here.

Baden Powell – Images on Guitar

This 1973 album for MPS is listed on Wikipedia as a live recording; it’s “live” only in the sense that it was cut that way in the studio. Recorded October 1971 at MPS’ Black Forest studio, Images on Guitar features Brazilian guitarist Powell (born Baden Powell de Aquino) backed by Ernesto Gonsalves (bass), Joaquim Paes Henriques (drums) and Alfredo Bessa on atabaque and other percussion. Janine de Waleyne shares vocals with Powell.

Four of the tunes here are vocal-led, four are instrumental. One of the latter – “Sentimentos – Se Voce Pergunta, Nunca Vai Saber” is a Baden Powell solo. All tunes are very much in the acoustic Brazilian style made popular by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Powell and a select few others.

“Petit Waltz” is perhaps the disc’s most effective number: its first half features a finely-textured performance by Powell and Bessa; only after that has run its course does the rest of the band join in. Powell accents his precise and expressive chording with a bit of picking, but it’s mostly a showcase for the effective uses to which guitar chords can be applied.

The crystalline voice of Waleyne is equally evocative when warbling wordlessly (“Ate-Eu”) or singing in Portuguese (“Violao Vagabundo”). On the latter, she engages in some scat vocalizing; even if we don’t understand her language, the emotions come through loud and clear.

The most playful and upbeat tune on the set is “Blues a Volonté.” Its composers – Powell and Waleyne – smartly hybridize Brazilian musical forms with North American blues structure; the result is thrilling and invites repeat plays. It’s the clear highlight of Images on Guitar.

Powell’s solo “Sentimentos” slows things back down, presenting an intricate and pensive performance from the guitarist. “E de Lei” features a descending melodic line that gives Powell plenty of room in which to do some interesting things with his instrument; it’s also the least “Brazilian-sounding” tune in this collection.

Images on Guitar closes with the unimaginatively-named “Canto.” Thankfully the song is more creative than its title. With a Spanish feel, it’s mysterious and slightly foreboding tune with lots of space between the notes; those spaces – and Waleyne’s wordless vocals – only add to the mystery.

The 2016 reissue features a gatefold sleeve with black-and-white photos plus liner notes in German and English.

The Oscar Peterson Trio – Walking the Line

Recorded in MPS Records’ Villingen, Germany studio over four days in November 1969 (and released the next year), Walking the Line features pianist Oscar Peterson joined by bassist Jiri Mraz and drummer Ray Price.

Peterson is absolutely on fire from the very start, with a reading of Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” There’s a sense of subconscious connection among the three musicians as they charge through eight tunes, most taken from the pages of the Great American Songbook.

The pianist shows that – had he wanted to – he could have been a soul-jazz giant by showcasing the record’s sole original composition, “Rock of Ages.” Playing a mile-a-minute, Peterson never misses a beat on the ivories. It’s a five-and-a-half minute thrill ride that will leave the listener wanting more.

But the trio shifts gears for “Once Upon a Summertime,” wherein Mraz shares the spotlight with Peterson. The kinetic “Just Friends” is the briefest track on Walking the Line, but in terms of notes played, it’s among the fullest. Price’s drums propel the tune along at a high rate of speed.

The high energy performance continues on Side Two with “Teach Me Tonight,” a bluesy, swinging number. “The Windmills of Your Mind” is built upon a challenging percussion foundation courtesy of Price. Peterson and Mraz glide effortlessly across that tricky foundation, turning in engaging performances.

“I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” finds Peterson simultaneously intricate and understated; his band mates even more so. The number would serve as a fine set closer. But instead that honor goes to a reading of Cole Porter’s “All of Me,” delivered in style.

The Oscar Peterson Trio recorded and released several albums in the very early 1970s; all are recommended. There have been many reissues of Walking the Line since its original release, but the 2016 gatefold-sleeved vinyl reissue from MPS will be hard to beat.


Bill Kopp is the Blurt Jazz Desk editor. You can bug him directly at his most excellent music blog, Musoscribe.



Or, the unlikely return of one of the great, lost Athens, Georgia, bands.


Nathan Webb last sang on record nearly a quarter century ago, back when the Internet was largely a plot point in cyberpunk novels and phones never left the home. In fact, Webb didn’t own a phone of any sort in 1991, nor did he own a TV. If you wanted to talk to him, you had to go to his house.

Now, in the song “Light is the Empire,” he sings of a loved one’s face bathed in the glow of a cell-phone screen, a moment of incongruous 21st Century beauty offered up in a voice only vaguely familiar to those of us who used to follow his band Seven Simons way back when. It is a robust, lived-in voice, bolstered by assured musicianship. Above and around these shimmering notes one discerns phantom traces of all of the albums Seven Simons never made.

Well, they did in fact make two fine records: Clockwork in 1988 and Four Twenty-Four in 1991. And there was a mesmerizing, if little-heard, 1994 set titled Spring Phantoms released under the authorship of Seven Simons’ two chief architects: Webb and his songwriting partner Keith Joyner. But now, with Post, one of the great lost bands of the Athens, GA music scene has returned to deliver new material alongside the very best selections from the wealth of music they recorded but never released. For a group noted both for its abundance of pop hooks and its insistence on quality control, this is as comprehensive an overview of Seven Simons’ recorded history as we are likely to get. (Below: watch the official album trailer.)

The band came into being in 1986 as a Decatur-based power-pop trio comprised of drummer Jeff Sullivan (soon destined for Drivin’ N’ Cryin’), bassist William Mull, and guitarist/singer/songwriter Keith Joyner. Joyner, still in high school yet already a veteran of an early iteration of the Black Crowes, was a Beatles fanatic as well as an avid follower of The Church, R.E.M., and The Three O’Clock. (Mull shared his passions for R.E.M. and The Beatles, and very quickly became a Church convert.) As a trio, Seven Simons specialized in well-crafted pop songs showcasing Joyner’s virtuosic guitar playing and sweet, vulnerable tenor. It sounded good in the practice space, but at unforgiving venues such as Atlanta’s Margaritaville, it went over about as well as Nick Drake in a biker bar. After one especially disheartening gig, Joyner concluded that the band needed something more, and Mull had a pretty good idea of who could provide it.

Webb can vividly recall the night Mull sought him out after a performance in his hometown of Macon. “I remember it was raining heavily,” he says, “and we sat there in Bill’s car listening to this tape while water ran down the windshield. My heart and soul were with the band I was already playing in, but the moment I heard Keith’s beautiful songs, I was ready to jump ship. I said, ‘When?’”


He auditioned for the group a few days later. Webb discovered that he could harmonize with Joyner effortlessly, his powerful baritone providing a just-right counterbalance to Joyner’s higher register, though their personalities took a bit longer to gel. Joyner was quiet and withdrawn, and, with his bowl haircut, nervous demeanor, and tendency to avoid eye contact, “looked like he had walked straight out of Harold and Maude,” Webb says. Webb, in contrast, was very much a “guy’s guy,” albeit one who came with his own grab-bag of eccentricities.

If the extroverted singer and introverted guitarist led outwardly dissimilar lives, their musical points of intersection mitigated such distinctions. “We bonded over the Beatles’ Revolver,” Webb says. That album, with its wide-open creative possibilities counterbalanced against its musical economy, served as an inspiration and jumping-off point for Seven Simons’ own brand of tightly structured songcraft. Add in Joyner and Webb’s literary tastes (Philip K. Dick, Madeleine L. Engle, John Kennedy Toole, and Mark Twain, among other writers) and you had a winning combination of influences. Initially, Joyner wrote the lion’s share of music and lyrics, though Webb’s contribution grew substantially over time. To be sure, they took themselves a bit too seriously—“brooders before our time,” as Joyner puts it—but their chops were strong enough to attract the attention of R.E.M.’s manager Jefferson Holt, who signed them to his fledgling label Dog Gone Records. In short order the band, with new drummer Michael Zwecker in tow, relocated to Athens, lured both by that town’s fabled music scene and the ready source of funds provided by University of Georgia student loans.


Despite its proximity to Atlanta, Athens is an insular town, and by the mid-to-late 1980s the music scene—once distinguished by its freewheeling, anti-commercial ethos—had become fiercely competitive. (“Everyone wanted that [R.E.M.] fame so bad,” remarked onetime Athenian Matthew Sweet). So the fact that Seven Simons, three of whose members were barely out of high school, ended up seemingly on the fast track, was surely remarked upon. But any resentment of that sort was misplaced. It is not libelous to say, at this removed juncture, that Dog Gone was not run with the precision that had characterized the R.E.M. enterprise. That is not to say that Holt wasn’t passionate about his new charges; indeed, he allegedly told one friend that he believed he had found in Seven Simons a “new champion horse.” But Dog Gone’s struggles to secure solid distribution, coupled with the more pressing needs of Jefferson’s “main squeeze,” meant that Seven Simons had to carry their weight like any other band. Sadly, the melodically gorgeous Clockwork, while locally popular, never did secure the wide audience it deserved.

What Holt was able to do very effectively for the band was provide access to his roster of industry contacts: first Ian Copeland, whose F.B.I. Booking had handled R.E.M.’s tours since the early ‘80s; and, later, engineer and producer Scott Litt, who, in the midst of his high-profile work with R.E.M., assisted Seven Simons in recording several tracks in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to secure a deal with Atlantic Records.

F.B.I. put Seven Simons on the road regularly from 1988 through 1991, though in retrospect it is questionable whether their stint opening for a balding Flock of Seagulls was as beneficial as R.E.M.’s Copeland-brokered supporting gig for the Police six years earlier.  (A subsequent tour with The Fixx is more fondly remembered by the band members).

Trouser Press’s otherwise laudatory review of Clockwork homed in on another perceived weakness: “[Seven Simons] lack only the sense of mystery that might ensure high scene credibility.” In one sense, that was not a fair characterization: Joyner’s lyrics were plenty oblique. But one glance at F.B.I.’s publicity photo for Seven Simons underscores Robbins’s point that here was a band that seemed to telegraph its intentions.


If mop-topped Keith looks an adorable 12 in the photo, Nathan doesn’t look a day over 14. With his dishwater-blonde hair, pouty lips, and wide, sullen eyes he channels McCauley Culkin somewhere between Home Alone 2 and the subsequent juvenile delinquency. This is not Hanson, but at first glance it looks closer to that paradigm than, say, the young Gang of Four or Wire. Again, this is a misleading representation. In person, Webb was a handsome and dynamic frontman, and Joyner was a ringer for ’65-’66 era George Harrison. But that’s not the picture that went out.11182066_10153200385307349_6727486249351935585_n

Perhaps this all explains the blurred and shadowy photos that adorned Four Twenty-Four, the band’s denser, darker sophomore effort, released in 1991 by TVT Records. The music largely traded its previously ebullient jangle for tightly coiled grooves that conveyed dread and claustrophobia, the transformation aided and abetted by the arrival of a new rhythm section in Travis McNabb (drums) and John Gusty (bass). That album’s second track, “White Fox,” may be the definitive Seven Simons song. Carried aloft by its vaguely Arabic guitar pattern, hushed vocals, and lyrics referencing manors, hearths, the midnight hour, the titular white fox “blitzing through the headstones,” and the “dinner guests” who “should just be getting home,”  it strongly evokes a sense of place. But what place? If it’s the South, then it is surely the South of literary imagination—Poe’s crumbling gothic South—not the actual geographic Southeast of the early 1990s. Seven Simons were, at heart, Romantics and fabulists—about as far removed from Bruce Springsteen’s blue collar realism as you could get, preferring to navigate their own peculiar brand of inner space.

This dynamic began to shift, ever so subtly, during the band’s twilight. On Post, one can hear the beginnings of a movement away from the abstract and toward the concrete, as songs like “Scepters” and “Those are Pearls That Were His Eyes” give way to “Wedding Day” and “Unrequited.” This was due both to Webb’s growing influence and Joyner’s increasing confidence in reaching outward for inspiration.

We could speculate all day about what ultimately doomed Seven Simons. Journalist Dan Matthews did not exaggerate when he noted in the Athens Banner-Herald that Four Twenty-Four had been greeted by “mass indifference” upon its release. The band’s local following, once sizable and enthusiastic, had dwindled by 1991. By the tail end of that year they were performing to small crowds at the Uptown Lounge when they ought to have been headlining the Fox Theater in Atlanta. To be fair, the lyrics on Four Twenty-Four seemed precision-engineered to stymie audience sing-alongs. Webb sang earnestly about the aforementioned white fox, the “mushroom mother,” “a little black Angus,” and Uncle Fester. (“I can barely begin to fathom what some of these lyrics are about,” Joyner says now). Perhaps, too, the world had simply moved on from this style of music. 1991 was, after all, the year that Nirvana’s Nevermind roared onto the airwaves, shoving aside both hair metal and guitar-based pop (Seven Simons’ specialty). Whatever the reason for the decline in interest, the band at the center never stopped putting in the work. They wrote incessantly, toured frequently, and recorded far more than they ever released. They always performed with energy and commitment regardless of the size of the audience. They seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and Nathan and Keith both maintain that they would have continued collaborating had geography and life events not separated them. Keith was the first to go, enticed by an impossible-to-refuse gig standing in for Johnny Marr on The The’s Dusk tour. By the time he returned to Georgia, Nathan had graduated from UGA and had drifted west. Joyner, too, left the South, eventually landing in Los Angeles. He continued to write and record, first in Revolux and later in Twinstar—whose final album The Sound of Leaving is, in this writer’s opinion, something of an unheralded classic. (Below: Seven Simons performing at CBGB in NYC)


In time, Nathan abandoned the music industry altogether, returned to school, and now enjoys a flourishing career in a field far removed from his previous life. (I am being intentionally vague here, as Webb values the separation between his artistic and workaday selves). He got married and started a family, and his kids and his wife are about the only people that have heard him sing with any regularity during this century.

Yet the creative bond between the two friends never fully waned, and at Nathan’s wedding in 2013, Keith found himself wondering if they might have some unfinished business to take care of. “There was a moment that really struck me,” Joyner says. “Nathan was never one to break out the guitar and break into song, but I think the occasion called for it. He pulled out a guitar and just began singing a simple folk tune. I had forgotten how beautiful his voice is, and it felt like home, you know? Familiar. I think that went a long way toward motivating me to make this new album happen.”

Webb, too, had always felt frustrated by the fact that Seven Simons had never released many of their best songs. The two began tentatively exploring the idea of finally releasing what amounted to their “lost” album—and, inevitably, that led to a discussion of collaborating on new material. They launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2015—as much to gauge interest as to actually raise funds—and were pleasantly surprised when they exceeded their targets. Both of the band lineups got on board, and by the end of the year several of the musicians—including Webb—congregated in a Los Angeles studio to track as much of the new material live as possible. Those band members who were unable to attend in person recorded their parts remotely.


“To be singing again in a studio after so many years felt great,” Webb says. “But it was also terrifying in a way. I had to relearn the process. I had to relearn how to sing into a microphone. But everyone got along so well, and there was none of the old bullshit. Immediately the question came up: why not do a whole album? In the end, we decided to focus on making these three new songs as good as possible.”

The results are impressive. “Sky Blues” churns along like a hybrid of Abbey Road’s “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” and the entirety of Plastic Ono Band—all grungy baroque blues, with Webb howling “I can’t forget—you!” during the chorus. Ostensibly a coda to a tumultuous romance, those words could just as easily be interpreted as pertaining to the old band, or the act of music-making itself. “Rhyme of Fallen Leaves” showcases the Clockwork lineup in a midtempo slow-burn of a pop song that steadfastly refuses to over-emote and is all the more powerful for it. “Light is the Empire” manages to fuse the two approaches, veering between bruised emotion and quiet understatement, with the musical shifts to match. It’s a shock to the system when the album jumps from the present back to the older songs. The voices suddenly jump to a higher register, the lyrics become simultaneously more precious and more earnest, yet it’s not really a drop-off in quality; the concentration of hooks is so strong in this material, the performances so assured, it sounds like any other band’s “best of” album.

Here I will paraphrase Allen Ginsberg, who famously dedicated the first published version of Howl to his friends Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, stating that their signature works—On the Road, Naked Lunch, and The First Third—all unpublished and unread at the time, were nevertheless “published in Heaven.” If it is too grandiose to say that the songs of Seven Simons are “hits in Heaven,” let us at least say that they are hits in some other world, in some other time.

Below: the musicians today (L-R) Keith Joyner, Nathan Webb, Jeff Sullivan and William Mull.


Is there a future for Seven Simons? Certainly not as a performing entity. Joyner is adamant that the album represents a conclusion, not a new beginning. But I can sense, in talking with these two friends, that their partnership may be a lifelong one. The onetime polar opposites have, with the passage of time, come to mirror one another. Joyner has become relaxed and outgoing, while Webb has turned inward and has abandoned any interest in public performance. And when they speak individually, each amplifies and complements what the other has previously said. Post could very well mark the end of Seven Simons, but it would be a shame if it signified the end of Joyner/Webb.

Joyner once remarked to me that Seven Simons were “of their time and place.” He did himself a disservice; much of their material sounds great in the here and now, and the occasional dated production technique or over-emotive vocal can be easily forgiven in light of the overall quality of the band’s output. A compelling argument can be made for Nathan Webb as one of the strongest vocalists to have participated in the Athens music scene, and Keith Joyner as one of its most inventive guitarists. But the high-flying dreams of this long-ago band ran to ground in 1991, when thousands of copies of Four Twenty-Four failed to clear record store shelves. Right around the same time, those student loans came due. And so it seems fitting that one of the final tracks on Post, allegedly Seven Simons’ final album, mashes up some lyrics from the band’s chief inspiration—The Beatles—before acknowledging the reality of a band that had run out of options.

That is you can’t, you know, tune in ‘cause it all works out

But I have my doubts

They may not have realized their full potential—Seven Simons’ own Revolver never came to pass—but more than a few discerning industry professionals saw in Seven Simons the seeds of greatness. And it’s a testament to that erstwhile belief that a number of these people— longtime manager David Prasse; producer and multi-instrumentalist Don McCollister; former Mighty Lemondrop and Blue Aeroplane David Newton; and Travis McNabb (who, in the interim between his time in Seven Simons and now has played with everyone from Better Than Ezra to the Indigo Girls to Sugarland to Beyoncé)—have all chipped in to help make Post a reality. The album is full of the music that animated that faith. And anyone who listens to it with fresh ears will hear what those of us who love this band never stopped hearing.


BLURT contributor Robert Dean Lurie is a musician (he produced and performed on tribute album The Dark Side of Hall and Oates) and author (including No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church and We Can Be Heroes: The Radical Individualism of David Bowie). Track him down at his official website.



British songwriter and mainstay of the Sarah Recs gang weighs in on his long and varied career. (This interview originally published at the mighty Dagger zine.)


I have to admit I didn’t know a great deal about British musician Harvey Williams when I asked him if he’s like to do an interview. Oh sure, I have some of his solo records and those under his solo moniker, Another Sunny Day (all on the Sarah Records label), but hadn’t read as much about him as maybe other musicians from that stable. He also played in the Field Mice with Bobby Wratten and later in Wratten’s other project, Trembling Blue Stars (who I was lucky enough to see twice), but as you’ll read below, he’s done much more. A lot of his music is acoustic-based with plenty of keyboard work, but he can also rock with the best of ‘em.  The guy is a terrific songwriter so that should be reason enough to listen to his music if you’ve yet to do so (or go spin one of his records right now if you’re already a fan). With is dark-framed glasses and that blonde hair you can’t spot him from a mile away. If there’s ever an indie pop hall of fame he’d easily be a shoo-in. Ladies and gentlemen….Harvey Williams!


Where did you grow up?

In Newlyn, a small fishing port in west Cornwall.

What was the first instrument that you picked up?

I had some piano lessons when I was maybe 9-10 years old. I quite enjoyed them, but always preferred lessons in music theory. I was hopeless at sight-reading, and still am. My parents gave me a cheap nylon-strung acoustic guitar for Christmas in 1976, I think, which was much easier to deal with.

Was punk rock a big deal to you at the time? New wave? Something else?

Oh yes, it changed everything. It seemed as if one moment my favourite bands were 10cc and Queen, the next moment I was buying Damned & Stranglers records. It was partly peer pressure I suppose (my elder brother was a bigger fan of punk than I was, and was more attuned to its sensibility than a mere 11 year old me), but the more melodic end of new wave/power pop (Buzzcocks, Nick Lowe, other Stiff acts) was absolutely my kind of thing. It also opened the door into the wider world of non-chart-oriented music in general, and started me listening to the John Peel show.

What was your first band?

I’ve never really had a band. I suppose circa 78-79 I used to get together with my brother & a couple of his mates occasionally & we would…I hesitate to use the word “jam”, but free-form Swell-Maps-esque stuff would just emerge from us.

What were some of the first bands you saw live? Were those shows in London?

By the early ‘80s I was a huge fan of Kraftwerk, and in the summer of 1981 I took the 300 mile journey from Newlyn to London to see them. They were the first band I saw live, outside of folk groups that we would see as a family outing when I was younger. I didn’t start seeing bands regularly until I moved to Plymouth in the mid 80s (Smiths, Primals, Microdisney, Talk Talk…). Plenty of bands played in west Cornwall in the 70s, somewhat surprisingly, as it’s well off the beaten track, but I was far too young to see any of them (though I did lurk briefly outside the Penzance Winter Gardens on the night the Sex Pistols played there).

How, when and where did you first meet Bobby Wratten? Did you join the Field Mice shortly after that?

I was back living in Newlyn in 1988 when Clare & Matt sent me the first Field Mice EP. I was really impressed by the staggering heartfelt simplicity of it. I knew I would be moving to London within a few months, so I wrote to Bobby suggesting we might want to form some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement whereby I would have them as a rhythm section, they would have me as a second guitarist. He seemed to think this was a good idea, so that was what happened. We played a few gigs where Bobby & Michael would join me in an Another Sunny Day set, and I would join them in a Field Mice set (sometimes mixing each band’s songs within sets), but it became apparent very quickly that they were much more productive (and popular) than I was, so Another Sunny Day sets were kind of wound down. Which was fine with me.
I think I met Michael first.


When/how did Another Sunny Day come about? Was that before or after the Field Mice?

Another Sunny Day came first. I’d been writing songs since maybe the mid-1980s (when a couple of friends & I pooled resources & bought a 2nd hand Fostex X15 portastudio), but not really doing anything with them. By 1986 the songs were becoming more influenced by the prevelant guitar pop sound, and by mid 1987 I’d started sending cassettes out to folk who might be interested (actually just two: Matt Haynes & Bob Stanley, both of whose fanzines were utterly inspirational).

At the time of the A.S.D. stuff, were there any other labels other than Sarah that you wanted to be on?

Not really. As you’ll have gathered, I didn’t really send tapes out to any labels, rather fanzine writers. I didn’t for one moment think that a record label would be interested in releasing my music. I suppose it might have been nice to have been on Creation around that era, but I was far too provincial a person to be part of that scene. And (if I’m going to be honest), I wasn’t writing the kind of songs that a label like Creation would have been interested in.

What was the reaction like when “You Should All be Murdered” was released? (god I love that song- ed.).

Thanks! I don’t really remember what the reaction was like, although I think it was the first record I was really happy with. I’d never had a particularly enjoyable time in recording studios up to that point; in fact, for my second EP, we’d resorted to using the –far more satisfactory- demos I’d recorded at home on that Fostex rather than the half-hearted 16 track re-recordings. In contrast, working with Ian Catt was a joy; very welcoming, very sympathetic, very skilled.
I have very mixed emotions about that song nowadays.


How did you feel about the cult-like love for Sarah Records, both while it was happening and after the label dissolved?

It ought to be stressed that at the time, it was a minuscule scene. The people who loved those records really loved them, but there weren’t many of them. I was one of the first signings to the label, and had no expectations whatsoever. Any reaction at all was a good thing as far as I was concerned. The down side of course is that the insularity of the scene makes it quite a struggle to break out of, but I had no desire to break out of it, at least as a solo artist.
The fact that people are still talking about the label is a constant source of surprise (and pride) to me.


With Sarah Records, did you feel like you were part of a musical community, maybe something you had been looking for?

That is absolutely how it felt, and yes, it was exactly what I had been looking for. People on the same musical and emotional wavelength.

How did your involvement come about with Trembling Blue Stars? Were you in the band for their entire tenure?

I was in the band on-and-off for I think 5 years. Bobby was considering playing some live shows to promote the first LP. I offered my services (on guitar/keyboards/sequencers etc), and he accepted. I was only on a few of their recordings from around that era, but enjoyed playing live with the band from 1996-2001. After the US tour of 2001, Bobby put Trembling Blue Stars on hold for awhile, at least in terms of a live band, as he didn’t –and doesn’t- enjoy playing live. I don’t really know what happened after that.


How did the California record come about? How do you feel about it today?

I’d stayed in touch with Matt (and Clare also) after Sarah shut up shop. I had a few songs I thought might make an interesting record, sent him some demos, and he agreed to recording an album for his new label Shinkansen. How do I feel about it today? As with You Should All Be Murdered, there are elements of it that I feel uneasy about nowadays. But it’s the record I’m most happy with. It’s really a shame no-one else likes it.

Any other bands I’m missing that you’ve been part of?

Towards the end of 1991, after The Field Mice split up, I was asked to join fellow Sarah act Blueboy as second guitarist, which I was more than happy to do. I was asked to leave the band (along with keyboardist/vocalist/cellist Gemma Townley) after Sarah closed down. I think Keith & Paul had ideas for the band that didn’t necessarily include us. Blueboy always was a very personal vision for the two of them, and all the better for it, I think.
I also helped out with The Hit Parade on occasion, and was also briefly in the first line up of Saint Etienne (well before their line-up had settled into the Sarah/Bob/Pete formation).

What’s been your proudest moment as a musician?

Gosh. I will never forget switching on the radio one evening sometime in May/June 1988, and not immediately recognising the record being played (it turned out to be Peel’s first airing of  I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist). Those few seconds when the cogs in my head were whirring…oh yeah… oh my god!! I guess I’m also really proud of contributing to other people’s records; playing something that you think works, but also that the songwriter thinks fits perfectly with what they have in mind.


Are you curerently making music or in any bands?


What are your top 10 desert island discs?

Oh blimey. This will be tricky. Autobahn, Sunflower, Odessey  & Oracle, A Hard Day’s Night, Someday Man (Paul Williams), Randy Newman’s first, With Love From The Hit Parade, 69 Love Songs, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, Polnareff’s. Easy!

Who are some of your current musical favorites?

I’m not sure I’ve bought any records by new bands this year. I liked that C Duncan record from last year very much. (aside: Tim, if you don’t know this one, youtube “I’ll Be Gone By Winter” and you’ll know the kind of record I’d want to make now if I thought anyone would be interested).
John Grant, BC Camplight. Wave Pictures. Darren Hayman.

Do you get out to many gigs these days? If so who’ve you seen recently?

Not as often as I used to. The best two shows I’ve seen this year have been Burt Bacharach & Carole King. I cried all the way through both gigs. Draw from that what you will.

What’s your day job?

I work for the BBC in film preservation/restoration.


BONUS QUESTION:  Who is one living producer that you’d like to work with?

I’d like to make a record with Darian Sahanaja at Liam Watson’s studio. Please.




THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN? The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominations


From better-late-than-nevers Yes, MC5, and the Zombies, to the somewhat questionable likes of Tupac, the Bad Brains and Chic, to outright headscratchers Jane’s Addiction, Journey, and Electric Light Orchestra, the annual Jann Wenner-powered Rock Hall ritual remains ripe for rants. Luckily the fans themselves get at least a partial say by voting for their faves. The full list of nominees: Bad Brains, Chaka Khan, Chic, Depeche Mode, ELO, J. Geils Band, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Journey, Kraftwerk, MC5, Pearl Jam, Steppenwolf, The Cars, The Zombies, Tupac Shakur, Yes.


Ed. Note: the Rev. Keith A. Gordon, a longtime BLURT supporter and contributor, is a veteran rock scribe going back to the dawn of recorded time. He currently helms a mini-publishing empire and music journalism blog, That Devil Music, always a solid and credible source of music opinion. Speaking of which, we’ve conducted a number of interviews with Gordon over the years, most recently in 2014 (on the occasion of the publication of Best Rock Writing 2014, which, incidentally, included contributions by several BLURT regulars), and then again last year (when he published a compendium of his blues writing, Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’). So if his below observations on the yeas and nays regarding the recent Rock Hall nominations for 2017 find you agreeing with him or, alternatively, wanting to put his head on a spear, I trust you will also find similar solace with the interviews. He also has a brand new book titled Let It Rock! Rock ‘n’ Blues Album and Book Reviews, and you can get more details on how to order that or any of his other in-print titles via What can I say? Support the home team! Okay, take it away, Rev… (This essay originally appeared at


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation released its 2017 list of nominees for possible induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio next spring. As usual, the list elicits a tsunami of hot takes as people debate the merits of each of the otherwise worthy nominees. The Reverend has taken a pretty firm stance on the Hall of Fame in years past, and this new list of nominees is no different.

I’ve offered my own takes below on who should get inducted – and who shouldn’t be inducted – into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; if you think differently, please feel free to state your case in the comments section below. Keep in mind that beyond the performers listed below, a number of worthy artists remain unconsidered for the Rock Hall, including the Moody Blues, Humble Pie, Motörhead, Jason & the Scorchers, Roxy Music, and King Crimson, to name a few. Also remember that the Reverend is a lifelong rockist and an old fart raised during the classic rock era of the 1970s…the music really was better back in the day, and this perspective is reflected in my picks below…

Yes to Yes!

What makes an artist or band “worthy” for induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I’m not sure what Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s guidelines are (the Foundation has little to do with the physical Hall of Fame in Cleveland but chooses who is inducted), but here’s my take. A Hall of Fame artist should possess agreed-upon talent (by industry, critics, and fans); exerted influence on the evolution of the genre; push the musical envelope creatively; and while commercial success isn’t a necessity, in combination with the above traits, it adds to an artist’s legacy. By these standards, there’s really no damn good reason why British prog-rock legends Yes aren’t already in the Hall of Fame.

Now, my friend and colleague Martin Popoff has literally written the book on Yes and has previously argued in favor of their induction, so it’s unlikely that I’ll add much to this discussion. For both their groundbreaking creative endeavors in progressive rock, and their amazing commercial run of Top 10 albums during the 1970s (Fragile, Close To The Edge, Relayer, and Going For The One remain enduring, influential works), Yes has earned their induction. The band’s virtuoso musical talents through the years – singer Jon Anderson; guitarists Peter Banks, Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin; bassists Chris Squire and Trevor Horn; keyboardists Tony Kaye, Rick Wakeman, and Patrick Moraz; and drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White – defined a genre and inspired several generations of musicians to follow.

Detroit’s almighty MC5 are a conundrum, another band that should have already received induction into the Rock Hall. Yes, they only released three albums during their fast-burning career, but they made a lot of noise and arguably helped create both punk rock and heavy metal. If fellow Motor City madman the Stooges are in (inducted 2010), so too should the MC5. Pearl Jam’s nomination was a gimme, and the band’s status and importance during the Grunge era are unparalleled. Pearl Jam brought arena-conquering muscle and sinew back to rock ‘n’ roll after the (mostly) wimpy ‘80s, and their pro-consumer actions on behalf of their fans is the icing on the cake.

The Zombies deserve induction, not only for their outstanding early body of work, but also for the enduring influence of those albums. The J. Geils Band are on the bubble for me – I love the band, and those early albums (their 1970 self-titled debut, 1971’s The Morning After, 1972’s Live: Full House, and 1973’s Bloodshot) offer a high-octane fusion of blues and rock that was as influential at the time as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was a decade earlier. Sensing changes in the musical currents, the J. Geils crew beat fellow travelers ZZ Top to the line, albums like 1978’s Sanctuary, 1980’s Love Stinks, and 1981’s Freeze-Frame mixing radio-friendly synth-pop into the band’s heady brew of R&B and blues influences and scoring on the charts. Call ‘em the “poor man’s Aerosmith” if you will, but I’d put ‘em in…


No to Hip-Hop & Pop

As I’ve argued many times, it’s called the “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” for a reason, and no matter their contributions to art, music, or film, hip-hop and pop artists should never be inducted. If it’s a “pop culture” hall of fame, then drop the pretense and call it such. Otherwise, cut out these gratuitous nominations made in the name of some sort of false diversity. For instance, somebody on the nominating committee really wants to see Chic inducted so they’re back on the ballot again this year. They shouldn’t be inducted for the sole reason that they aren’t a rock band by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, main man Nile Rodgers produced a great record for David Bowie, but that’s just not enough to make the cut. Sorry, Chic lovers…

The legend of Tupac Shakur has undeniably grown in the years since his death, and although the rapper released four acclaimed, influential albums during his lifetime, he wasn’t a rock artist and his influence on rock music was minimal (and I’m not even discussing the posthumous flood of dodgy album releases). I’d also include Janet Jackson under this category – a talented and popular dance-pop artist with one foot in the R&B grooves of the ‘90s – but she’s not a rocker, no matter Wenner’s fever dreams.

Joe Tex’s nomination is problematic in that while he was a great R&B singer, I don’t consider him to be a great artist and don’t feel that his influence extended to rock musicians the way that, for instance, the work of James Brown, Ray Charles, and Little Richard did. Tex’s career was almost entirely played out on the R&B charts, and he had only a pair of crossover hits stateside and only one single ever charted in the U.K. The nomination of folk music legend Joan Baez is some sort of joke, because beyond her brief flirtation as Dylan’s muse, there’s nothing in her career that even remotely “rocks.”

Willing to risk pissing off what little punk readership we have, I’d also nix Bad Brains from induction into the Rock Hall, and I’m kind of surprised that the band was nominated in the first place. Moderately influential on the ‘80s rock scene, the bulk of Bad Brains’ artistic output came via indie labels like ROIR, SST Records, and PVC Records – which, in itself, doesn’t disqualify them for induction – but much of the band’s music just isn’t notable and wasn’t distributed widely enough to have made a big difference. Quick, name a single Bad Brains album beyond their self-titled 1982 debut…yeah, I thought so. Sure, they influenced the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone, but I’d rather induct the latter and forget about the former.


Not This Year (Or Any Other)

Sheesh, is there a more overrated band on the planet than Jane’s Addiction (save for maybe Smashing Pumpkins)? Yes, Perry Farrell and gang have a loyal and vocal following, but they released a mere three over-hyped albums during their short heyday (1987-90), hitting the upper region of the charts but once, which is not a Hall of Fame worthy career in my mind. Sure, they made some innovative music before spiraling into addiction and pretentiousness, and kudos to Farrell for traveling freakshow that was Lollapalooza (at least before the event became as bloated as Farrell’s bands), but we also have JA to thank for rap-metal outfits like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Yikes!

Never, never, never for Journey, a rock band in name only. Through their arena-rockin’ years during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, they were closer to the pop world than true rockers. Former Santana guitarist Neal Schon squandered his talents on this horrible band, and Steve Perry was a grating, faux soulful vocalist fronting a bunch of career opportunists. Synth-pop new wavers Depeche Mode were hot shit in their U.K. homeland, but their commercial peak in the U.S. came late in the game, and while they chalked up four RIAA sales awards, they never really made any waves stateside and their influence is restricted to a bunch of electronic-rock wankers and dance-pop outfits.

I could make a similar argument with Kraftwerk, who were an undeniably influential band in the very narrow sphere of electronic rock (a/k/a “Krautrock”), but the band literally disappeared early in the 1980s, and only scored one commercial and critically acclaimed album stateside with 1974’s Autobahn. I’d also question the merits of electronic rock and its place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but I’d promote artists like Brian Eno, Keith Emerson (ELP), or Rick Wakeman (Yes) – all of whom pioneered the use of synthesizers and Mellotrons in rock ‘n’ roll – before I’d induct Kraftwerk.

The nomination of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) is also a hard one as I’m a fan of the band, but although they had a sweet commercial run in the mid-to-late ‘70s with four Top Ten albums and a pair of Top 20s, I can’t readily argue their overall importance to rock ‘n’ roll music. If anything, I’d rather induct ELO frontman Jeff Lynne’s earlier band, the Move, and even Lynne’s side gig as a superstar producer (Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Brian Wilson), where he often coaxed great performances out of the artists he was recording, has more real potential for Rock Hall induction than does ELO.

As for 2017 nominees that I haven’t mentioned in this rant, well, it’s because they aren’t much worth mentioning. You have until December 5th, 2016 to vote for your favorite artists, so hit up the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website to register your choices.


Contact the Rev at


PURE POP FOR FREEK PEOPLE: Jim Freek & Teenacide Records


The SoCal label was nothing less than a trademark of quality, as this interview with the founder, originally published at Dagger zine, reveals.


In the 2000s I started getting promo packages from a Southern California label called Teenacide. Its proprietor was a guy named Jim Freek (his real last name!). The covers all had a certain bubblegummyness to them and when I spun them the bands sounds were similar. Bands like The Checkers, The (all-female) Rocket, The Shakes, The Holograms (another all-female bunch), The Blondes (dudes), etc. I dug these sounds quite heavily but the bands never seemed to tour. I wasn’t even sure if they were actual bands or just like studio projects and Jim being the Phil Spector/ Kim Fowley ish figure (I did see The Checkers on their tour stop in Portland and they were most excellent). Soon the packages stopped coming and the label seemed to vanish as quickly as it appeared. I never saw anything further from any of the bands, either. Being friends with Jim on Facebook I decided it was high time to toss some questions his way and find out just what made him and his terrific label tick. Here goes nothin’…


Q: Were you born and raised in Fullerton, CA?

A: Born in Westminster, just a Coppertone bottle’s throw from Huntington Beach where my mom grew up, and spent the next 20 years of my life in Fullerton.

Q: Did you get hooked, at all, on the So. Cal/ Fullerton punk scene (ie: Adolescents, Social Distortion, etc.)?

Actually, just those two that you mentioned. I love the first albums from both of those bands and it was exciting to be “from the same town as them.” Remember how long it took for SD to release a follow-up? By the time Prison Bound came out I thought they were washed up and that nobody would give a fuck about them. I guess that’s why I’m not David Geffen, right? I thought a lot of the other local OC bands were kinda cheesy: Hvy Drt, Doggy Style, etc. The actual first punk gig I went to was 7 Seconds, Uniform Choice, The Dickies, and Doggy Style at a roller rink in whiter-than-white Placentia. Doggy Style tossed donuts out to the crowd on a Go-Nuts level during “Donut Shop Rock” and within minutes the whole placed got smeared with chocolate frosting. If you showed up late in their set you’d think that G.G. Allin had been on the bill. The next day, I drove by the skate rink on my way to work and there was all this police tape out front and they were cleaning it all up. There were lots of other Fullerton bands that I found out about much later, like The Mechanics and The Pontiac Brothers, but as far as early ‘80s punk stuff, it was just SD and the Adolescents for me.


Q: What was the first song you remember hearing that really knocked your socks off? Hmm, wow. Well, I remember “liking” songs I heard on the radio while growing up, but the first one that really blew my mind was – and it was heard at a junior high school dance! – “All Day And All Of The Night” by The Kinks. Of course, I’d heard all the standard Beatles and Stones hits by that time and a Kinks tune here or there, but nothing deeper into the garage/punk realm. The school had hired this “hip” DJ guy who had a Badfinger haircut, and he played all the usual safe and sane 1981 teen dance fare and even turned down the volume on the Stones’ “She’s So Cold” during the “goddamn” part, but near the end of the night he blasted that Kinks song and I went stampeding over to his equipment and demanded to know who did it. I think that nasty guitar part is what did it for me.

Q: Had you been involved with music/labels before Teenacide?

I had done nightlife columns and various writing for local mags ‘n rags, and DJ’d a lot around town and got to know the bulk of the local scene that way, but most of this question will be answered by the next one.

Q: Tell us about your zine Fruitbasket Upset. When/how did it start and when/how did it end?

In early 1995, my best friend Shaun and I (he was at the life-changing dance where I heard that Kinks song, I’ve known him that long!) started going to see this all girl surf band called The Neptunas. We found ourselves out on the town even more than usual, and since the band played EVERYWHERE, we were exposed to lots of new clubs and different bands. At some point, we decided we should just start writing about all our adventures with the band and beyond, so we started a zine based on the name of a game we used to play in first grade called Fruitbasket Upset. We padded it with horrible customer stories from the hotel in Santa Ana that I worked at during that time, plus foodie stuff from Shaun, record and show reviews, and a column from our six year-old neighbor girl named Echo. The real reason we started it was to get free stuff from record companies, and it worked. We snuck over to the place where Shaun worked and pillaged their copy machine and I sent out copies using the postage meter at my work. No one at either place ever caught on to it. Since we live near L.A., it was easy for me to pop by labels and drop off a stack of the mag and leave with armloads of free product. It was particularly fun hitting the offices of the legendary Del-Fi and the old MCA building. Anyways, after awhile I started handing out FUs to bands at shows and eventually some local paper peeps ended up with it and I got some writing offers, and my writing career just kinda happened after that. Did the magazine for about two years but it became more difficult to do once Shaun moved to the East Coast.


Q: Tell us about the beginnings of Teenacide?

There was a local band called The Shakes who I just thought were just totally amazing. They sounded like a cross between The Monkees and The Real Kids. Janet from Redd Kross was the bass player and Ribbie Rist (Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch) was their first drummer when they were originally called Big Drag. Anyways, they’d played tons of shows around town since 1995 and I think they only had one song that had been released (on a power pop compilation called Closet Pop Freak). Meanwhile, they’d recorded an album with Ward Dotson of The Gun Club/Liquor Giants/Pontiac Brothers producing, and nobody wanted to put it out. I decided I wanted to release it, so I did.

Q: What labels influenced you when starting yours?

Norton, In The Red, Stiff, Frontier, Damaged Goods, but mainly Bomp!


Q: Was there a theme for the label (ie: seems like lots of girl groups)? Were a lot of them real bands? Like The Holograms (above) or Rocket? Were they working bands that played gigs or more like studio projects?

A: We wanted to originally take all the crazy pop, indie, garage, punk, and cheap synth and drum machine music we were into and add a definite Southern California twist to it. That’s why you have the three girls named Lauren in Rocket posing in pink and orange striped shirts in front of Hot Dog On A Stick in Santa Monica, or The Blondes (who sounded like a version of Big Star from the San Fernando Valley) singing about getting stoned, or surfing in Topanga. Most of the bands were real. I made up Cheer Car Wash for the song on the Hey! It’s A Teenacide Pajama Party! compilation. It was me on instruments and this teenage girl who was hanging out at the Wango Tango concert at Dodger Stadium to see Britney Spears. She told me she wanted to be a singer and that she was a cheerleader at her high school so I wrote a song around that called “Still Smells Like Teen Spirit.” John Peel played it!!!!! When we recorded it her mom sat next to her on the couch and read magazines. Rocket started out as a studio project because the girls told me in the Spaceland parking lot that they had a band called Rocket, but after we recorded material and they started getting all kinds of traffic and attention on their Myspace page, they found some other girls who played instruments and made it a REAL band and toured the country and even ended up on a show on Fox. Sisely & The Safety Pin-Ups were fake for art’s sake…just Sisely from the Holograms and girls from The Glossines (awesome girl garage punk from San Diego) and Peachfuzz, with Clem Burke from Blondie on drums. That song still gets played a lot on Little Steven’s station on SiriusXM. (Below: Rocket, with CC Deville from Poison)



Q: How/why did the label end?

Ran out of money and bands that I liked. Almost finished the label off with an album by Sparks/Milk ‘N Cookies sound-alikes S’cool Girls, but I lost interest in the label by then. BTW that band is now called Hammered Satin and they’re on Burger.

Q: Who are some current bands that you like?

Tacocat and Beach House. Taco Cat sound like early Go-Go’s on Kill Rock Stars.

Q: Care to list your top 10 desert island disc?

A: 1) 20/20 (first album)

2) Fleetwood Mac (Tusk)

3) Best Coast (Crazy For You)

4) The Monkees (Headquarters)

5) The Raveonettes (Lust Lust Lust)

6) Bootsy Collins (The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away)

7) Talulah Gosh (Backwash)

8) The Barracudas (Drop Out With The Barracudas)

9) The Raindrops (The Complete Raindrops)

10) TIE: AIR (Moon Safari) and The Chamber Strings (Month Of Sundays)

Q: These days are you in California or Oregon?

Happily married and living in Oregon but seriously missing midnight trips to Malibu.

Q: Think you’ll ever start up the label (or a different label) again?

Only if I don’t have to work at a real job again and had time. I didn’t work for the eight years that I did the label, so I was always able to come up with ridiculous ideas and song titles or ideas for posters/flyers, etc. and was able to execute them in the middle of the day or the middle of the night because I had no other responsibilities at the time.


Q: Tell us one thing about Jim Freek that the world might be surprised to know.

I saw Debbie Gibson on her first tour. On purpose.

Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s one band you would love to release a record by?

The material that Celebrity Skin (notorious late ‘80s/early ‘90s Hollywood rock gods who were like a bubbleglam version of early Alice Cooper and featured Don Bolles of The Germs/45 Grave) recorded with Earle Mankey in like 1990. All that came out was an EP, but there’s more, and the album they did was produced by Geza X and didn’t capture their clowncore insanity at its fullest. I’d be so excited to put that out!




On their fourth album in as many years, the Tarheel rockers craft heartland rock and offer lyrical musings with an uncommon grace, depth, and redemption.


Ed. Note: Since forming in 2012, Charlotte’s Temperance League Jay Garrigan (piano, organ), Bruce Hazel (vocals), David “DK” Kim (drums, percussion), Shawn Lynch (guitar, vocals, percussion), Eric Scott (bass), Chad Wilson (guitar, vocals)—have consistently delivered the musical goods, and pretty much the entire Blurt braintrust can claim allegiance to their powerful, emotional brand of heartland rock. For evidence simply check out our reviews of 2013’s Rock and Roll Dreams, and 2015’s The Night Waits, or read our 2013 interview with the band. In that interview, guitarist Lynch told longtime contributor John Schacht that delivering those goods is their whole reason for existing: “We’re not skinny young dudes, we’re not young, we’re not necessarily hip anymore, our only weapon is that we’re good. We play our asses off and write awesome songs, so we just need to do that as best we can. If we can’t, then there’s no point in doing it.” Frontman Hazel agreed, saying, “I really just love doing this. And there’s no reason to stop— it’s not keeping me from doing anything else, and it doesn’t hinder my life in any other way. It fits perfectly in.” Amen to that. Take it away, Dr. Schacht, and meanwhile, everyone feel free to check out our recent premiere of the song “Long Shot” from the group’s remarkable new album, Day of the Dove.

In a musical landscape where digital singles and electro beats have practically driven guitar-driven album rock underground, and titans of the art form like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty take what amount to nostalgic victory laps, it’s hard not to hear a band whose DNA is so strongly rooted in that past as anything but anachronistic.

But that, as they say in the sports world, is why they play games—or, in the case of this Charlotte, N.C.-based quintet and their fourth album, Day of the Dove, why they spin the black circle. (Or, in this case, the white vinyl; the band typically does its albums on colored wax.) This need to make rock ‘n’ roll whatever the long acclaim odds, and whatever the shrinking rewards, says as much about the art form’s pull as it does its Quixotic practitioners. With producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement) overseeing recording at his Fidelitorium studio, Temperance League has slightly reframed its earlier references—which have ranged from working class Springsteen anthems and rebellious Heartbreakers’ singalongs to Ramones fuzz and the Byrds’ jangle—into a work whose sonic depth matches that of its lyrics.

It’s made more impressive by the fact that the band members have entered middle age with just as much dedication and desperation as they did trying to break in as young men. Now, though, it’s the dwindling clock that fuels the band’s surging tempos and multi-guitar attack, all of it dialed higher by singer Bruce Hazel’s heart-on-sleeve lyrics and fevered delivery —”I’m scared of growing older/I’m scared of starting over,” he cries on the propulsive rocker, “Long Shot,” “but I’ve never been one to give up.” That song, like many on Dove, finds the band opting for more Wall of Sound textures, trading in some of the immediacy of their earlier LPs for a deepness that may, in the end, suit them better. “Cathedral in the Sky” toys with their sound like never before, background narratives peeking out from Beatles-esque backwards guitar-lines and distorted drums. There’s even a whiff of Summerteeth-era Wilco on “Like New,” especially in its mellotron wash.


The LP saves its best for last, though, with the anthemic “The Good Fight” standing in for not just the last days of rock ‘n’ roll, but for the sunset of hard working Americans for whom it provided release and redemption. “And what about all the compromises?/And what about the consequences? Who was it for?,” Hazel sings as the Rickenbacker’s jangle, piano comping, and huge Spector-esque drums frantically tighten the tension, before it breaks into the chorus with what feels like a life-time’s release: “It keeps getting harder and harder and harder to keep up the good fight/You keep clinging tighter and tighter and tighter, hold on for your life.”

In asking these questions, Hazel and Temperance League already know the answers; they fight on despite them. And that’s what gives these songs grace, depth, and redemption no matter what’s going on in the culture outside of them—that is what makes the fight worthwhile in the first place. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Rock is dead, they say? Long live rock!




An expanded reissue of the erstwhile Plimsouls leader’s 1986 solo debut cements the notion of its songwriting/arranging brilliance—and inherent timelessness.


In 1986 two albums captured my imagination so thoroughly they still reside in the firmament of all-time faves. One was David + David’s debut Boomtown. The other was ex-Plimsouls leader Peter Case’s self-titled debut.* A combination of record reviews and hearing “Welcome to the Boomtown” and “Steel Strings” on the radio drew me to both like the proverbial moth to the flame. While the former languishes in bargain bins and streaming sites, the latter gets a long-overdue reissue via Omnivore. Does it hold up? Boy howdy, does it ever.


Produced by T Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom at that distinctive time in the’80s when both men were trying to bring a modern aesthetic to roots rock, Peter Case sounds little like the Americana records that would come in its wake while citing it as an inspiration. Opening cut “Echo Wars” is a good example: a pop melody picked on swirling acoustic guitars and supported by swaying acoustic and electronic percussion lines that, at the time, sounded neither like the bands on the roots rock side of town (Jason & the Scorchers, the Long Ryders, etc.), nor the slicker ‘80s pop hitmakers. The whimsically introspective “More Than Curious” similarly rides a busy percussion groove, augmented by a rubbery bassline. The supremely catchy “Steel Strings” adds a burbling synthesizer riff under the irresistible hooks. Some might argue that these sounds and arrangements date the record – and plenty have – but to my ears they make it a more unique sonic experience that any other LP he’d go on to make.

That’s not to say there isn’t a more straightforward attack on many of the tracks. The guitar/harmonica simplicity of the menacing “Walk in the Woods” and the country blues stompin’ “Icewater” (which finds Case putting words to a tune from Lightnin’ Hopkins) need no extra instrumentation to be effective. “Old Blue Car” also uses the blues as a jumping-off point for a rollicking bopper, while the poppy folk-rocking “Horse and Crow” (featuring John Hiatt, a year away from revitalizing his career with Bring the Family, on harmony vox) is practically a blueprint for (the best of) the Americana movement 15-odd years later. Case even nods to his past life in power pop trailblazers the Plimsouls – the blazing “I Shook His Hand” hails from the last days of that band’s life, and “Satellite Beach” is just a hair’s breadth away from being power pop itself.

As good as this record sounds (and that’s as much due to Case’s near-perfect folk/rock/pop voice, cutting and soulful and winsome all at once, as the production and performances), it’s all in service to the songs, and this is among the best set he ever wrote. Rarely indulging in heart-on-sleeve emotion or bald confession, Case instead creates characters and plucks moments from their lives to celebrate, denigrate or simply inhabit. “I Shook His Hand” covers meeting a major political figure (JFK?), “Three Days Straight” describes the aftermath of a mining disaster, “Small Town Spree” (arranged and conducted by Van Dyke Parks) bares its teeth at a killer seemingly getting away with his crime. “Steel Strings” is the album’s anthem, a tribute to music and Case’s instrument of choice that never becomes sappy or clichéd. Case finishes the album with the Pogues’ masterpiece “A Pair of Brown Eyes” – aided by Roger McGuinn’s 12-string chime, Case burrows so deeply into the song’s soul he handily relieves its creators of it, making it forever his own. Case must agree with the continuing power and relevance of these songs – he still includes many of them in his sets thirty years later.

As is de rigeur for reissues, this one includes several bonus tracks. Stripped down acoustic versions of “Steel Strings” and “I Shook His Hand,” a mix of “Horse and Crow” that removes Hiatt’s vocal and adds clattering percussion and an early version of “More Than Curious” reveal what hardy songs they all are. Even better, there are three previously unreleased songs. The solo acoustic “North Coast Blues” and “Trusted Friend” deserve revival in his repertoire, while the full band pop tune “Toughest Gang in Town,” while perhaps a bit too close to the sound of “Horse and Crow” and “Satellite Beach” for inclusion on the original LP, scans well worth hearing.

Peter Case is one of those albums that, even thirty years on, is rarely out of my listening circulation for long. But this reissue is still a welcome chance to rediscover its brilliance. Indeed, if anything, Peter Case shines even brighter now than it did when it blew my mind the first time around.

 *I mention these two together not only for their impact on my future music nerd self, but also because they toured together in support of these records. I didn’t get to see any of those shows, alas.

Find Case at his lively Facebook page.


Austin City Limits Festival Weekend #1 9/30-10/2/16


Still going strong and boasting two weekends, the Austin mega-bash hosted, during the first weekend (second weekend is Oct. 7-9), everyone from Mumford & Sons, LCD Soundsystem, Haim, and Kendrick Lamar, to Bomba Estereo, Flying Lotus, Band of Horses and Radiohead.




DAY 1 (SEPT. 30)

 Eliot Sumner (+ Pierce Brosnan, looking on)




Jess Glynne






Maren Morris







Die Antwoord












DAY 2 (OCT. 1)


Nothing But Thieves







City and Colour





LL Cool J feat. DJ Z-Trip







Cage the Elephant







Kendrick Lamar







DAY 3 (OCT. 2)





Brett Dennen




Kacey Musgraves





Pete Yorn




Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats





Mumford & Sons










This is what the world looked like before WordPress, punks. And it was a more vibrant, exuberantly tactile world, too. Our resident fanzine expert Tim “Dagger” Hinely weighs in.


Print is still alive and well and here’s some rags to prove it! (See Part 4 of this series elsewhere on the Blurt site.) Fall is here, which mean that the baseball season is slowly coming to its conclusion, so with that in mind….


Zisk (#27) I have to start off every review of Zisk by stating that it is “The baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines.” Mike and Steve will never quit. Ever (and we hope they never do). This ish includes Mighty Joe Young! The all-time World Series team, some serious hate for Roger Clemens and much more. Come on man, don’t we all hate Clemens? For that alone you need this.

Vulcher (#1) Long-time Los Angeles based writer Eddie Flowers has dusted off his old mag and restarted it again. He and his pal Kelsey Simpson have gathered up a gang of folks to put a new spin on a classic old rag. You might not hear Eddie’s name in the same breath as Bangs or Meltzer but it should be: During his early days in Indianapolis, he was a member of now-legendary punk band The Gizmos and part of the creative team that gave the world the mighty fanzine and record label Gulcher—hence the ‘zine title here. He’s got a hard-working crew of writers (including yours truly) that rivals that of Bull Tongue (see below). It’s packed to the gills and excellent. Write Eddie for a copy at

The Big Takeover (#78) Speaking of someone who nevers quits (and we hope he doesn’t) is Jack Rabid, editor of this long-running mag. It started off 100 years ago as one piece of paper and now has grown into a nice, glossy mag covering the gamut of punk and indie rock. In this ish is Savages (cover stars) plus other interviews with John Doe, The Thermals, Tanya Donnelly, Kid Congo, Lemmy (RIP), Great Lakes, La Sera, and more interviews also hundreds of reviews and much more. Lotsa bang for your buck. 152 pages.

Bull Tongue Review (#5) Byron Coley and his motley crew of writers just keep on keeping on with this thick monster (close to 80 pages). You get reviews of whatever the writers feel like writing about and with a lineup like this you’ve gotta be tuning in: Gregg Turner, Tom Lax, Michael Hurley, Eddie Flowers, Thurston Moore, Bruce Russell, Richard Meltzer and too many others. Tune in, turn on and get intoxicated (on these writings).

Casting Couch (#4), Miranda Fisher hails from Austin, TX, and seems to be soaking up all that fair city has to offer. Fuck the high rents and overpriced lattes, she’d rather head down to Beerland and catch a band then write about it (I’m assuming here). Casting Couch isn’t all Austin though. In here she’s got pieces on Lavender Flu, La Misma, Golden Pelicans, Crazy Spirit plus reviews and a lot more. The Golden Pelicans even pose for a color pinup on the back cover, hell, this is issue is worth it for that alone!

Dynamite Hemorrhage (#3) San Franciscan Jay Hinman used to do the punk-garage zine Superdope. He then got married, had a kid and settled down, if just a bit. Well he came roarin’ back a few years ago with DH #1 and now he’s up to issue #3 and it’s spectacular. It’s a perfect mix of old and new, olde as the Velvet Underground are on the cover plus a piece on old San Fran band World of Pooh, but he also scribbles about new bands, too. White Fence, Unit 4, Sara Fancy and others. Plus there’s reviews, pics and it looks beautiful (bound with a full-color cover).


Exploitation Retrospect (#52) Editor Dan Taylor used to do an awesome food zine called the Hungover Gourmet but I had no idea he’d been doing this rag on obscure films. I guess he’s been doing E.R for like thirty years or more, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this one. Anyway, this is a bound, digest-sized rag that calls itself “the journal of junk culture & fringe media.” Inside this ish is WAVE Productions, Nikkatsu Erotic Films, novels and movies featuring The Destroyer and plus reviews and a lot more. One issue and you’ll be hooked.

Fuckin’ Ziggurat (#1) This zine is put out by the folks behind the Emotional Response record label but mostly done by Stewart Anderson and this zine come with a 17-track cd as well. In this ish is Bobby Carlson, Ginnels, Primitive Calculators, Quaaludes and others plus no reviews but plenty o’ comics! It’s all bound up in a zine that slightly bigger than a half-sized one. On the cd are the names listed above plus Bing and Bob, Tangible Excitement, Croque Madame, Wanda Junes, etc. Dig into the zine, the CD and the label. Go!

Incremental Decrepitude (#4) Done by Mr. Dave Brushback who is no stranger to the zine scene having previously done zines like Run It and Brushback as well as others. This one is pocket-sized and is all record, zine and live shows reviews except for the interview with Bonus McGinty. Dave only made a handful of these but write to him anyway and see if he has any left (if not he probably has a new zine in the works anyway).




A previously unpublished conversation with studio engineer Jeff Landrock, who recorded the iconic primitivists’ second album.


This Shaggs piece was found stuffed in the same envelope as the unpublished Warren Zevon interview that I recently unearthed for BLURT. If I remember right, it was written around the same time (circa 2000), and I bailed out on it after deciding it was a bit lacking in substance. And maybe it is, but it’s not bad.

Near the end of the last millennium an amazing thing happened. The Shaggs, the best worst band in the world, had ended up on the same label as Elvis Presley. Yes, the Wiggin Sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire, who conquered rock’n’roll by not only not knowing how to play it but not even knowing what it was, have taken their rightful place in the pantheon. It was truly the beginning of a new age.


So now, belatedly, in 2016, the time has come to find the people who gave us the Shaggs. Austin Wiggin, their father and prime mover, died years ago; as did Bob Hearn, who recorded their classic 1969 album Philosophy of the World album. Their second—and much lesser known—opus, Shaggs’ Own Thing, was captured on tape by a certain Jeff Landrock at Fleetwood Studios, near Boston, in 1975. Landrock, a young engineer who was typical of sound engineers of the time in having been dazzled by the brilliant studio accomplishments of the Beatles and George Martin, was just starting out and looked forward to an artistically fulfilling career with multi-track fantasies of his own. The Shaggs were a very strange wake-up call from the real world. Below is his story.


Incidentally, Philosophy of the World was reissued a little less than a month ago, on colored vinyl, no less, on the esteemed label Light In The Attic. (To mark the occasion, Dot Wiggin—who was interviewed here at BLURT in 2013—made several public appearances, and there was even a tribute concert in NYC featuring members of the B-52s and the Dresden Dolls.) The album has been reissued several times over the years, including by Rounder and RCA in 1988 and 1999, respectively, but Shaggs’ Own Thing has not been afforded similar archival status, with—as best as can be determined—only a Rounder CD which, like the original 1975 album, quickly went out of print. Perhaps LITA has plans to resurrect SOT in the near future.shaggs-4


THOMAS ANDERSON: You recorded the Shaggs’ second album. How did you get the gig?

JEFF LANDROCK: Basically what happened was I’d been (at Fleetwood) for maybe a year or two, and the studio owner comes up and says, “How’d you like to do an all-girl rock band?” I was single and had this picture of gorgeous women, with a name like the Shaggs–long hair and all that stuff.

So I’m there when I’m supposed to be and there’s a knock at the door and the Shaggs plus Cousin Rachel, a brother–Bob, I think–and Austin come in. I didn’t know if they were just roadies or something. They just came in and set up, they were very quiet. I mostly did the talking with Austin, they wanted to do it just like they did it at the Fremont Town Hall–set up and set the mics around them. So I’m like, “You don’t want to record the drums and bass first?” “Oh no, no.” They didn’t really seem enthusiastic, like they were doin’ something great. It was more like this was their chore, like instead of washing dishes that night they were recording an album, y’know? So I just sort of set ’em up live and it was…quite horrifying (laughs).

  Horrifying in what way?

Well, first of all, the studio owner knew about the Shaggs, and the chief engineer didn’t want to do it because HE knew about ’em, so I was sort of conned into it; like, “Yeah, this great rock band, all girls!” Just picture me listening to them. And what do you say? When they’re that far into what they’re doing, it’s not like you can make a suggestion–you just sort of let it happen. I felt really bad.

 What was your take on the Shaggs themselves?

I was feelin’ really sorry for them. For example, I walked into the bathroom and the boy–the son–was smokin’ a cigarette. I sort of startled him and he’s like, “Don’t tell my dad! Don’t tell my dad! He’ll kill me!” I’m like, “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna say anything.” I didn’t want anything else to go wrong that night. The girls didn’t talk much except for the youngest cousin Rachel, and she was sort of flirtin’ with me. Y’know when we used to cut tape we had those yellow china markers? I saw her writing on the edge of one of the tape decks with one, and she’d put her hand over it whenever I went over there. After they left I saw she wrote “I love Jeff.”

But they didn’t say hardly ANYTHING. They sort of loosened up towards the end but they were never saying “Wow, this sounds great,” or anything like that; almost like they knew it wasn’t…regular stuff. I don’t know if they did it just to please their dad, but he was saying it was great and all this stuff, and askin’ me, “Don’t you think this is just great,” and “These girls are gonna be stars.” I had been an engineer long enough to know you don’t agree but you don’t disagree.

 Are there any unused tracks from the session?

I read that there were but I can’t remember. I thought that was the whole ball of wax, but like I say, it was a long time ago. It was just a one night recording session–a couple of reels of tape, maybe started around 5:00 or 6:00, got over at 11:30 or 12:00, something like that.

 So, you didn’t feel like this was a defining moment of your life?

No, I didn’t. I sort of hid the fact that I did that album for a long time. I didn’t want my name associated…I didn’t want people to know I did that (laughs), y’know? It was very competitive back then, and that wasn’t a good thing to come out with and say “Hey, listen to this!”