MELOMANIA'S RSD22 EXTRAGAVANZA! all releases coming for Saturday, April 23rd in limited quantities that..
will make your record collection SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT! (also, Happy Birthday to Dean of Music Critics -- ROBERT CHRISTGAU!)
BETTY HARRIS - The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul [2LP](Soul Jazz/Redeye)
The significance of New Orleans Soul is a fact that slips through all the attention given to all the major cities. Not to take away from their cultural impact, but the true rhythmic changes that lead R&B to Soul - come from New Orleans. With producer/arranger Allen Toussaint (those horn charts are truly badass) and a backing band comprised of the future Meters, Betty Harris was a brassy R&B singer who they tried to lead in a pair of directions. The familiar Irma Thomas-like quiver in her voice (“Mean Man and the breathy blues on “Sometime”) was blended with an Aretha-esque shout (she sells “What’d I Do Wrong” with real fire, while the Solomon Burke-ish “Hook, Line & Sinker” even has her backup singers singing “Baby I Love You.”) From 1965-1968 she recorded most of these singles with Toussaint’s Sansu. Then in 1969, Harris joined Shelby Singleton’s SSS (also the home of another New Orleanian, Johnny Adams whose 1969 debut “Heart and Soul” is one of the first great Southern Soul albums) where she laid down her best single ever in the second-line hop-skip-jump of “There’s A Break In The Road.” While that Zigaboo hiccup beat was pitching minor hits on Meters songs (“Sophisticated Cissy,”) the funky “Break” could not catch one. So, Harris retired in 1970 to raise a family. “The Lost Queen” puts all her great singles together and will convince you that had these songs been released just two-to-three later (when Funk was infiltrating EVERYTHING,) there would be an Apple commercial now where some obscured figure would walking, dancing and gyrating wildly to “There’s A Break In The Road".”
WIRE - Not About To Die [LP](Pink Flag UK)
Piecing together the early history of Wire is challenging. In the grand scheme of things, the first chapter of Wire’s career consisted of three years and three dramatically different albums. Their only common characteristic is the use of minimalism. However short and bracing “Pink Flag” was (especially as a standard-bearer for generations of minimalists,) “Chairs Missing” and “154” get deeper with more listening and say so much about their skills as writers and arrangers. “Not About To Die” is a long sought-after series of demos of the tracks that would comprise this pair of records. Their scratchy and rough surface (apparently, they were smuggled out of EMI - a testament to their popularity and respect from the so-called cognoscenti) cannot hide the dark desperation that was packed into and then unleashed from these cuts. Without the clarity of production (and sadly, its artificiality,) “Ignorance, No Plea [I Should Have Known Better]” feels like a state of psychosis. “The 15th” actually feels closer to “Pink Flag” with its “Three Girl Rhumba”- like march, while weirdly the delivery is reminiscent of “Map. Ref. 41°N 93°W.” If these recordings were eye-opening for fans of the band at the time, one can only guess what murmurs about the wicked snarl of Colin Newman taking on a detached and icy sound were bandied about around the office behind their back. Still, the demos do not feel as alien as the studio versions do. While as uncomfortable in places, there is a strange warmth about these songs putting into slow-motion the move toward Post Punk. As they are clearly developing these ideas (and no disrespect to producer Mike Thorne,) I cannot help but think of how they would have fared going at these tracks in the studio with all the freedom of Television recording “Marquee Moon.”
SPEED, GLUE, AND SHINKI - Eve [LP](Atlantic/Rhino)
On their 1971 debut, the Japanese power trio Speed, Glue and Shinki coalesce around their past as a Blues band and the wave of Psychedelia sweeping Japan. Like companions Flower Travellin' Band, "Eve" is a learning experience for the band. Although, SGS skips right into songwriting with rumbling Blues Rock that is filtered through giant tom fills, Joe Walsh-ian vocals (the James Gang-ish jam of "Stoned Out Of My Mind") acid-tinged guitars. Like the first Flower Travelin' Band, the solos burn brightest of all - but their take on the Blues is marked by reverb-drenched melodies that squeeze an extra squeal out of all the bending. Like American Biker Rock, this is music for the road as fifty years later Speed, Glue, Shinki feels well-traveled and fits perfectly with the "Brown Acid" discoveries in American music and that maverick Rock that was sadly ignored in its day.
Various - JAZZ DISPENSARY: SUPER SKUNK [LP](Craft Recordings)
The latest edition of the Sixties and Seventies Funk series "Jazz Dispensary" dispenses with the cohesive reason to assemble these lost cuts from the Concord Records vaults in favor of just bringing the FUNK. Cannonball Adderley (with help from Mtume and Michael Henderson) makes the low-rolling Soul of "Pyramid" fit into the same realm as Donald Byrd and Bobby Humphrey. The Bar-Kays (circa 1978) roll out an almost New Orleans-ish version of Traffic's "Feelin' Alright" using some killer stops. The Acid Jazz favorite Houston Person fits his swinging sax into the big (and almost Big Band) Funk on "The Houston Express." Most importantly they dig deep in the Stax archive to retrieve the Soul Jazz of Art Jerry Miller's understated "Finger-Lickin' Good" and what sounds like a private press version of Catalyst's Bob James-ian "New-Found Truths" from 1972. Another prescription for funky times is delivered to you from the Jazz Dispensary.
RORY GALLAGHER - Live in San Diego [2LP](Chess/Universal)
After a tumultuous but still triumphant tour of Ireland in early 1974 (documented on "Irish Tour '74" and its massive deluxe set,) Rory Gallagher and his airtight Blues/Rock band journeyed to the States where they were still trying to develop a foothold on US audiences. The Blues guru of Ballyshannon was riding high after guest appearances on records from Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis (plus another Gold album.) This never-before-released date opening for Uriah Heep is a feature-length study in his Blues fire. He tangles with longtime bassist Gerry McAvoy and is consistently inventive on his solos throughout. New drummer Rod De'Ath is a little showier than the workmanlike Wilgar Campbell (De'Ath brought with him keyboardist Lou Martin,) but it works because "Live in San Diego" is a show. Rory burns Muddy Waters' "I Wonder Who" and extends album tracks "A Million Miles Away" and "In Your Town" way beyond where they went in the studio. Finally, the live favorite "Bullfrog Blues" makes this a great companion to "Irish Tour '74."
JAZZ SABBATH - Volume 2 [LP/CD](Blacklake)
In the second of their expertly recreated Jazz Sabbath albums, the mysterious Milton Keynes-led trio takes on an evocative instrumental version of eight favorites that fans know by heart. The chilling "Black Sabbath" carries a strange warmth on the piano during its verses, but Keynes's pedal work emphasizes the drama and signals the build-up his group (now with horns) needs to take to twist it toward its swinging conclusion. For a band that erects their own mythology for how these sessions "happened" concurrent to the original releases, Jazz Sabbath's biggest trick continues to be fitting these elaborate riffs into the Jazz realm without losing a note.
CHARLES MINGUS - The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's 1972 [3LP](Resonance)
Having already cemented his cultural legacy through his groundbreaking Jazz records from 1956-to-1965 ("Pithecanthropus Erectus" through "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,") Charles Mingus returned in the Seventies to find a Fusion-shocked world that needed both his sense of experimentation and standards-based composition. So he started with a large, familiar group ("Charles Mingus and Friends" in 1971) which he then whittled down to this traveling band featuring Jon Faddis, Charles McPherson, and Roy Brooks - future bandleaders in their own right. Along with Bobby Jones and John Foster, the sextet covers Mingus' history including three nearly half-hour-long takes on "Mind-Readers' Convention in Milano (AKA Number 29,) "Fables of Faubus," and "Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues." Originally scheduled for release on Columbia in 1973, it was lost when the label cut all of its Jazz artists except Miles Davis. Another piece of Jazz history reassembled by Zev Feldman.
ALBERT AYLER - Revelations [5LP](Elemental ESP)
While Free Jazz might be daunting, saxophonist Albert Ayler gave it the most human voice in this set of recordings for ORTF Radio in July 1970. With two more hours of recordings, this longtime import-only set comes to American shores. Ayler’s saxophone “voice” was always larger than life. His auspicious first recordings in Sweden made the backing band sound like they were in the next room. The range of his melodic excitation only grew and expanded with the adoration of his admirers. Seen by many as the heir to John Coltrane’s path into Free Jazz, Ayler may be playing for some distant portion of the ionosphere - but his heart is really in what he emits. “In Heart Only” scatters his melodies like rays of sunshine. While he may go ballistic and squeal, race and run through his notes on the hard “Spirits,” you feel like the higher he goes - the more passionately he is reaching for a higher plane. The more “earthy” cuts (“Holy Family”) let you really feel his penchant for the Blues and oddly how it underpins most of what he is playing. In fact, the total effect of “Revelations” is that Ayler was constantly playing to escape the Blues. On the heels of the powerful pair of Impulse albums ("Music Is The Healing Force of the Universe" and "New Grass,") Ayler would be found dead in New York City's East River just four months later.
Various - PUNK 45: I'M A MESS: D-I-Y OR DIE! ART, TRASH & NEON 1977-78 [2LP](Soul Jazz/Redeye)
In this rare edition to the PUNK 45 series, these are singles lost in the wake of Punk. In true Brit fashion, you get both Daleks (The Art Attacks) and Cybermen ("Cybernetic Surgery.") Its best songs actually hearken back to Punk's predecessors. The title cut is derived from a 1975 7" from Stormtrooper. This Hammersmith Gorillas-style assault (yet saving its clarion call guitar solo for the end) was written in response to their rejection by yet another record label. Recorded in Summer '75, the band was over by Christmas. Elsewhere, the New York Dolls-energized Trash maximize and speed through a Glammy basher only to call in a white-hot guitar solo that makes it all worthwhile. Finally, the saxophone-drive Neon Hearts speed up Pub Rock to lightning speed on their 1977 single "Venus Eccentric." Like the other Punk installments (Los Angeles, New York, and Ohio,) at their best, they reconnect the dots that brought the immediacy of Punk to these areas - even though it was largely too mercurial to have anything but a delayed impact.
FRANKIE & THE WITCH FINGERS [LP](Greenway/The Orchard)
Their mythos all began with this loud, ratting lo-fi debut. "Revival" gives you a good glimpse of exactly how the group is carving their own place in Garage Rock out of their inspiration Thee Oh Sees. While the dense polyrhythms are not quite there yet, the Psychedelic blues of "In Your Head" (and its mind-blowing Monster Magnet-esque vocal effects,) the sinister looooong-notes sung on "Diamonds" and the upward waver on "Vibrations" are neatly revealed as part of their evolution and refinement of sound.
BARDO POND - bufo alvarius [2LP](Fire UK/Redeye)
Chapter One of the Bardo Pond mythological journey is this vast and wildly Psychedelic lo-fi double album. With the ethereal vocals of Isobel Sollenberger there to balance the massive low-end whoosh, the eight songs of "bufo alvarius" are the early incarnation set to stun. "On A Side Street" is a meandering, druggy notion of a song that grows from feedback guitar and a Brian Jonestown Massacre-esque two-chord structure to hold its own for seven minutes. Later on the double record, they go for the Boris length jam on the headphone destroyer "Amen" where you can hear their Spacemen 3 influences (and drugs) clearly take effect. This is early Bardo Pond deducing how to make songs appear from thin air ("Capillary River") and creating sounds that remain largely unidentifiable after all these years and 13 albums.
THE DAMNED - Strawberries [LP](LMLR)
As the first Punk band to release a single (the classic "New Rose",) The Damned could have easily broken up after their second album in 1977 and secured their place in history. However, the London band of misfits pressed on incorporating Gothic elements and increased melodicism in their music. By 1982, they were actually better known for their dark, locomotive singles ("Smash It Up" and UK Top 20 hit "Love Song.") "Strawberries" was a great leap forward adding keyboards, cellos, and background vocals - without losing their chilling edge. "Strawberries" in the best Eighties album for the Damned balancing their twin loves of Goth and Psychedelia into one streamlined Rock album.
VOIVOD - Nothingface/Angel Rat [LP](Real Gone Music)
Canadian Heavy Metal has a consistent history of crossing over into the United States. The Science-Fiction based driving Metal of Voivod came close to crossing over with this pair of still forward-thinking albums. These former Speed/Thrash metallers amped up their Prog tendencies on 1989's "Nothingface" before growing more conceptual on 1991's "Angel Rat." "Nothingface" still sounds like a more paranoid and dark Rush. So it is fitting that Rush's former producer Terry Brown would guide them into Psychedelia on the follow-up.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - Live Seeds [2LP](Mute)
Even though live albums were still seen as contract-fillers in the Nineties, Australia’s Nick Cave had developed such great performances with his band from their complete catalog - “Live Seeds” was a necessary ending to the first chapter in his storied career. Several versions of these thirteen live tracks are often listed as favored above their studio companions (“The Ship Song,” “The Weeping Song,” and especially “From Her To Eternity.”)
THE CURE - Pornography [LP](Fiction/Elektra/Rhino)
In honor of the announcement of the first Cure album in fourteen years ("Songs Of A Lost World,") they rolled out yet another limited repress (only 9000) of a Cure classic. Although critically savaged upon its arrival forty years ago, their fourth album became their first UK Top 10 (even though it boasted no hit singles.) Darker and more phantasmagoric, this was the band almost collapsing. “Pornography” remains The Cure at their most bleak and hopeless, yet you can (almost) always hear the fight in Robert Smith’s voice. “One Hundred Years” is the first standout blueprint “dark” song in the classic Cure motifs. There are definitely moments on “Faith” that are like the end of days, but “One Hundred Years” begins the cycle of “Sinking” (whose elegant sounds are then revamped for “Plainsong,”) and “Torture” where their most Gothic tendencies are backed by propulsive rhythms. Lol Tolhurst’s drumming here is primal (the still-bracing “The Hanging Garden,”) guitars are bent and shaped inside of mountains of effects. Once where synths were mere additions to their sound palette, “Cold” uses it to add to the already ominous atmosphere. However, as much as one wants to paint this Grand Guignol of depressing post-Joy Division gloom, “Pornography” is also the album where the quietest, loneliest moments crystallize as their most emotionally devastating. The denouement and Smith’s continuous repetition of “I will never be clean again” on “The Figurehead” are still harrowing (especially considering it pauses for a second then dives back into the black night for “A Certain Day.”) Thanks to classic cuts like "One Hundred Years" and "The Hanging Garden," the record today is often compared to Lou Reed's "Berlin" and David Bowie's "Low."
GENCO PURO AND CO. - Area Di Servizio [LP](BTFF ITA]
An early Seventies curiosity that melds Pop and Prog together into a very singer/songwriter-esque album. Italian singer Riccardo Pirolli had clearly written more personal songs than on his previous releases, and his voice shows increasing depth as the album moves to side two. "Alice" is a bouncy jaunt into McCartney-esque Pop/Rock. While the ballad "Nebbia" creates some genuine drama in its haunting opening. The main attraction is Pirolli's help from a mysterious figure named Ed DeJoy - who turns out to be fledgling synthesist/composer Franco Battiato (whose 1974 album "Clic" is a classic.) His composition and arrangement style really shows through "Biscotti E The" as it turns wistful Beatlesque Rock into a heartening la-la-la conclusion that fades into an elliptical Battiato style ending.
SOUREN BARONIAN - The Middle Eastern Soul of Carlee Records [3LP](Modern Harmonic/Redeye)
In the days when an artist had to work within studio limitations and summon that passion to record the music that they drew inspiration from, you can find these Middle Eastern delights from clarinetist Souren Baronian. Baronian's wild runs, the random shouts, and the closely-miked interplay of native instruments like dumbek, kanun, and oud fill these lost recordings with a lot of heart. The band tears through many of the songs ("Shek Mazerov") and their common practice of group singing in response to these memorable melodies will make you want to sing with them. As the group changes, they begin to experiment with odd-time signatures ("Eench Anem" from their 1976 album) while Souren picks up more instruments that make the Armenian and Arabic music he is playing blend together.
VARIOUS ARTISTS - Atenção!: Novos Sons do Brasil [LP](Aquarium Drunkard/ORG)
Brazilian music post-MPB craze runs in so many wild directions it is far too easy to get lost or just stick to the artists on the main road. “Atenção!” is an exploration of all the aspects most listeners love about this music (the Psychedelia that courses through Chico Bernardes’ brooding but jangly “O Espelho) and the acoustic pyrotechnics (“Kiko Dinucci’s “Olode.”) However, Irmao Victor’s loping lunacy on “Reflexoes Navais” is both charming and weirder than Os Mutantes’ craziest moments and the male/female voices of Josyara, Giovani Cidreria beautifully guide you through the quietly abstract sounds beneath “Anos Incriveis.”
GONG - Gong In The 70s [2LP](LMLR)
Mid Seventies Gong is a bit of a puzzle. The 1971 lineup ("Camembert Electrique") seems to lay down the foundation for the Ph. P routine that plays out during the fantastic Radio Gnome trilogy. Drummer Pip Pyle from 1971 is replaced by the less manic/more precise Pierre Moerlen. (Although, Pyle appears here on "Seems Like A Tropical Fish.) Didier Malherbe's saxophone does a great job of bridging the gap between Daevid Allen's weird vocalizing and the central melody most of the later Gong tracks really need. (These are best represented here by the trilogy "Seems Like A Tropical Fish," For Selene" and especially "Glidding" which sails along and is strangely more subtle than on the album.) Without Gilli Smith's whispering/ghostly voice, the "Flying Teapot" version of Gong takes a lot of time to discover its identity. Steve Hillage's "Om Riff" as well as his soloing on the aforementioned three (again, esp. "Glidding") lend direction to the cuts and at their best renew your interest in the main riffs. Finally, the collection ends with a spirited "Down The Oily Way" where Malherbe's flute and Hillage's guitar tradeoff beautifully - but you can really hear that it is Mike Howlett's bass that holds the whole piece together. "Gong In The 70s" makes a good point at hearing how much work went from making the leaps in the Radio Gnome Trilogy and helps explain how they wound up being more spacey after 1974's "You."
and the deep dive…
RAMONES - The Sire Albums 1981-1989 [LP BOX](Sire/Rhino)
With four classic albums in their early years, it is easy to see how their real reach for the golden ring of stardom on 1980's "End of The Century" would fall short. Punk peaked. "New Wave" was all the rage. The Ramones at the risk of becoming artifacts, recorded with their idol Phil Spector. So in 1981, it was back to push Pop music into the remains of Punk on "Pleasant Dreams." Graham Gouldman's more direct production is a better fit for these songs as the drums are placed up front and there is more room for sonic (and song) experimentation. (The surf touches on "Come On Now," for example, although, the additions to tracks elsewhere do overwhelm) The Who-ish "It's Not My Place (In The 9-to-5-World)" is not the best fit, but you can hear just how much they want to break the mold calcifying around them. The Punk songs fare the best ("The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "You Sound Like You're Sick") harnessing that thrust AND the harmonies they were after on "Century." However, the massive "She's A Sensation" and the angry "We Want The Airwaves" are the true singles and steps forward into the Eighties.
For their leap into the dawn of the MTV age, The Ramones stayed anachronistic and enlisted Bubblegum producer Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin. In rebellion, they also kicked off "Subterranean Jungle" with a pair of covers ("Little Bit O'Soul" and "I Need Your Love") to set the mood. As all Ramones albums have been so far, the best songs are raw and ready. There are tradeoffs. Joey's voice has a great room reverb on it, while the drums sound plastic (especially Marky's snare.) "Subterranean Jungle" is more savage than both "Century" and "Pleasant Dreams." The band's problems may hamper the songwriting ("What'd Ya Do?" and "Somebody Like Me" are a little too much like tracks from "Rocket To Russia" - but still lit up by Johnny's searing guitar) but that conflict is clearly fueling the performances. Their Psychedelic cover of the Chambers Brothers "Time Has Come Today" perfectly encapsulates the slightly anesthesized spirit of early Eighties dread and even plays into the lead-up to the Paisley Underground’s coalescence on the other coast. "Outsider" is a rager that remains one of their great deep cuts (so naturally, Green Day covered it.) However, it was the unleashed "Psychotherapy" that proved to be a single and their MTV breakthrough.
1984's "Too Tough To Die" kicks off with the classic cry of "1-2-3-4" and hails the return of Tommy Erdelyi to the producer's chair. Erdelyi is only back to take them back to their roots with a brash live sound that sounds like a tougher version of the debut album. New drummer Richie Ramone is a real basher raising the band's energy on the slamming songs ("Wart Hog" with Dee Dee on vocals) while bringing a surf-style Cramps-ian intensity ("Mama's Boy.") The songs here are all like most of the darker moments from the first four albums. Joey debuts a new low-register growl and many of the early songs on the album are "short and heavy" according to their wishes. "Chasing The Night" brings in Jerry Harrison on synth, but does not take away from its Sixties redux. While Benmont Tench is just one of the additions to the single "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)" which manages to bridge their love of Bubblegum, punky rhythms, and fulfill the desperate need for a timely hit. "Too Tough To Die" is a return to form, but also quite possibly the end of their tight sense of collaboration.
The internecine seeds of conflict that were laid as far back to "Pleasant Dreams" ("The KKK Took My Baby Away,") and emotional stress ("Psychotherapy" and this album's "Mental Hell") pushed 1986's "Animal Boy" toward sounding their angriest. With the surprising production of Jean Beauvoir of The Plasmatics, "Animal Boy" makes a meal out of The Ramones at their most Heavy Metal in sound and least melodic. Dee Dee's "Love Kills" may be a little too close to the truth. "Crummy Stuff" hearkens back to earlier glory. However, like "Too Tough To Die", "Animal Boy" got away with packing singles that sounded different than the album. "Somebody Slipped Something In My Drink" is Joey at his most caustic, but "She Belongs To Me" counters it in classic jangly ballad form. Should-have-been-hits "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)" and "Something To Believe In" would prove to launch their second wave of classic Eighties singles.
1987's "Halfway To Sanity" would be the beginning of what we will call “the touring Ramones.” Producer Daniel Rey described them as "impatient" while tracking in the studio. However, their craft still shows through on a pair of classics. The desperate twang and winning chorus of "I Wanna Live" and the Psychedelic Sixties boom of "Garden of Serenity." Like "Animal Boy," "Halfway To Sanity" seems to make sure its titles sound like a catalog match ("Weasel Face") but the band seems to be filling a quota. By 1989, the Ramones wisely brought Daniel Rey and Jean Beauvoir back as producers (with Bill Laswell) and welcomed Marky Ramone back into the brotherhood for "Brain Drain." Using the same formula of "Sanity," they pound out three classics ("I Believe In Miracles," "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight,)" and an actual radio hit in "Pet Sematary" (written for the film.)) However, with Joey returning to write more prominently again - the band lost Dee Dee who quit in 1989.
The second chapter is truly not as consistent and inventive as the first. However, The Ramones pushed themselves through a myriad of personal problems and survived the collapse of Punk to even find a place on the very commercial MTV. If anything, the Eighties years of The Ramones are more about them learning to make their own records and write songs that meet the standards of both longtime fans and the newer ones that joined the fold (inspired by Punk, Thrash, Metal, and even the growing movement of College Rock, Modern Rock, and Alternative.)
We will return next week with more! IS there a release you want to share with us?
ARE there comments you wish to register? Simply write and we will do our very best.
Thank you for reading, sharing, listening, and supporting music and criticism that we hope helps enhance the experience.