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Howling madness.

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I haven’t done much heavy rock stuff on this blog because I simply don’t listen to that much of it any more.  While my teenage years were dominated by the likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and later college years led to a keen appreciation of certain Judas Priest albums, other than Sabbath and “Communication Breakdown” (which is more freakbeatish than metal) I can’t say much of it gets any spin these days.

Via the afore-mentioned Judas Priest phase, I came into contact with “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown),” covered on their HELL BENT FOR LEATHER album (N.B. not one of my Priest favorites).  Their version is about as evil as an average Priest song, which is to say cartoonishly, if at all.  But when I sought out the original Fleetwood Mac version for comparison…

Peter Green was going crazy (predisposition and drugs are a bad combination; ask Brian Wilson) and this is the chronicle of that descent.  It conveys the drug-haze obscured threat of oncoming madness as well as any song from the SABOTAGE album and one ups Iommi in the guitar department.  It sounds crummy on iPod headphones and amazing turned up on a stereo.  Even the B-side, the instrumental “World In Harmony” is a winner – not to mention an uplifting experience (the yang to Manalishi’s yin).

Of course Fleetwood Mac would go on to evolve into an enhanced version of Buckingham-Nicks, and would thus not tread these paths again.  Peter Green went away, then went solo, and pops up on the international radar occasionally for things like quitting a band named after him.

The Green Manalishi:

World In Harmony:

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Categories: Rock

Your internal organs: on strike.

May 22, 2011 1 comment

So a while back at the ridiculous thrift store vinyl stash (everything CHF1!) I ran into a bunch of 1973-4 WEA-distributed singles – promos and stock copies.  Most of them were Elektra but there were a few WB and obscure offshoot labels (Kwanza! Palladium! Raft!) mixed in.  A lot of them were from the US, but there were also promos from Germany and some UK stuff as well – all with similar handwriting on the sleeves.*

Considering who was signed to Elektra at the time, someone must have gone through and rescued all the Carly Simon and Bread already, and this is what was left.  Fine by me, at “en Stutz” apiece I will take a chance on Courtland Pickett, the Capital City Rockets, Tim McIntire, and the best of the lot, today’s entry by Dennis Linde.

Mr. Linde, I found out, has a reasonable claim to rock fame – he wrote “Burning Love” for Elvis.  (He also had scads of charting country hits, but I’m continuing to pretend that the commercial country genre doesn’t exist.)  It’s likely given the timing that the global success of “Burning Love” in 1972 earned him Elektra’s attention and a contract; Elektra was going through some changes, having been recently merged with David Geffen’s Asylum, and it would seem that a lot of obscure artists were signed up at that time.**

One constant with all of the 1973 Elektra singles I’ve bought so far – excellent sound.  Most of them, Mr. Linde included, were cut at Elektra Sound Recorders in L.A.  Jac Holzman (founder of Elektra) went on to be (among other things) chief technologist for Warner Communications and an Atari board member – he obviously knew his gadgets.

About the song – this is singer/songwriter pop with a bit of a kitchen sink arrangement, which kind of sounds like “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon, if it was produced and arranged by Cat Stevens.  The trick is that it’s a good song, because I unfortunately can’t call Mr. Linde’s voice amazing.  But I like the song a lot, and it gets stuck in my head, which is always a good sign.

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*How someone so effectively assembled a collection of worldwide WEA records I’m not sure – perhaps an ex-employee?  Or did WEA send its product around the world to test the waters for a release?  How the fuck did Stretch Thomas’ only single get over here?  I mean, really, I want answers!

** …and probably promptly dropped when the label moved to California in 1974.

Categories: Pop

Getz/Pimento

May 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Purple pepper, orange pepperNOTE: Repost from April 26th, 2010 with updated link and some article edits.

Let’s face it – your grandparents probably weren’t cool enough to have any John Coltrane or Miles Davis records – maybe a copy of Kind of Blue if they were really tuned in.  My own grandparents had virtually no jazz in their collection, and even less that would be considered important historically – a lone fake-stereo copy of Ellington’s RCA “greatest hits” was lost in between “exotica” albums and multi-LP sets of opera.  (Not blaming them, mind you – just observing.)

If average white suburbanites of the day did have more than a stray album of real jazz, who might it have been by?  Well, Dave Brubeck, possibly.  Benny Goodman, maybe.  But even more likely than that, Stan Getz.

Before the Beatles obliterated all previous notions of “craze,” Getz had been the subject of his own cult of musical personality.  The albums JAZZ SAMBA and GETZ/GILBERTO, which contained “Desafinado” and The Girl From Ipanema” respectively, started a craze that Kurt Cobain and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would have been in awe of.  “Desafinado” (re-)introduced Latin American rhythms into the American popular consciousness, which was the basis for the issuance of an enormous amount of product in the “latin jazz” vein**.  It also claimed a casualty in Getz’s reputation – his record company, so assured of sales, wouldn’t even let him put out non-bossa albums at one point.  His “commercial” reputation persists to this day – even the Blues Brothers movie later took a swipe at him (or at least latin jazz in general) by putting a version of “Ipanema” on in an elevator.

So what did he do to regain his (much-deserved) credibility as an all-time great saxophonist?  Collect his checks.  Then, in 1972, having waited out the end of the bossa era, as well as the jazz era in general, he cut a badass album with the Francy Boland/Kenny Clarke big band.  A total break with his well known hard bop and bossa styles, CHANGE OF SCENES boasts really unusual (avant garde?) big band arrangements.  Getz is by no means the undisputed star of the show, and it sounds like he took it in stride.

My grandparents didn’t follow Getz down this path – they left the latin jazz era behind and moved on (to pop music and “exotica” like Gabor Szabo – more on him later).  But you, the educated listener, can.

Only available on CD briefly in 1998, CHANGE OF SCENES – due to its obscurity and adventurousness no doubt – is available for under ten bucks on Amazon.  The LP is harder to track down, because it was only issued in Germany, although I had some luck locally in Switzerland with an original copy and an Austrian copy made by the ex Libris music club (same stampers).  The two peppers are definitely one of my favorite LP covers ever.

Hope you enjoy Extravagances – this track is from the CD.

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** JAZZ SAMBA ENCORE, GETZ/GILBERTO VOL 2, GETZ/ALMEIDA, GETZ AU GO GO, GILBERTO/JOBIM, Astrud Gilberto’s solo albums, Lalo Schifrin’s entire career…the bossa craze can be found in both a dollar bin and under glass at the counter in a record store near you.

Categories: Jazz

Maceo!

May 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Once upon a time, James Brown’s whole band quit.  He went out and hired Bootsy Collins and crew, and the rest is history.  But the historian in all of us CRIES OUT for an answer to the question: What happened to the band?

Maceo Parker, saxist extraordinaire, must have been well tired of JB’s antics by 1968 to have walked off.  However, my guess is that once he had assembled the crackerjack band that played on this side and put it out on House Of The Fox (owned by Kenny Rogers’ brother Leland!), he probably realized what JB brought to the table, besides name recognition and showmanship: business acumen.

House Of The Fox might be a cult sensation in this day and age, but neither this nor the other well-known HOF release – Eddie Bo production of Curley Moore (“Funky Yeah” b/w “Shelley’s Rubber Band”) – were anything like a hit.  Leland Rogers’ biggest hits on any of his labels were the 13th Floor Elevators, who were the very definition of cult, and the recognition factor goes down from there.

So I guess when you have to deal with the all around (yes, talented) a-hole that was James Brown, you have to balance the good with the bad.  Maceo stayed away for four years before coming back to the fold, and spent a considerable amount of time with the P-Funk crew in the latter half of the 70s.  Obviously his career didn’t suffer much, so all’s well that ends well.

About this track – jazzy funk cover of Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin).”  Maceo does not really try to outdo the original, which is smart since the original is one of the best commercial funk tracks ever in my mind (Larry Graham, OMG, not to mention the B-side).  Instead I think he’s acknowledging that and going for a more hardcore thing here, executing on the funky side of the track while ditching the poppy side.  There are advantages in being less commercial, naturally: Maceo is definitely rawer.  Your mother isn’t going to sing along to Maceo since the lyrics are mostly deleted.  There hasn’t ever been a shitty fake stereo version of Maceo that pollutes Youtube like industrial waste in the Gowanus.  I could go on, but I’d run out of reasons.

Sadly, most of the ideas present here would be poached a ridiculous six years later by Wild Cherry, who would take “Play That Funky Music” (white boy) to the higher reaches of the charts, and explode irony in the process.

Worth noting that the B-side is a near-6.5 minute extravaganza that interpolates “I Want To Take You Higher” as well.  I’m posting the top side because I don’t think the other side postulates enough new ideas to justify its length, but oddly the B doesn’t sound all that bad considering how usually going over 3.5 minutes is a death sentence for a 45RPM cut (the groove must be smaller, therefore less sound can be captured and it’s more fragile for dust/scratching).

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Categories: Funky

Inez Foxx – You Shouldn’t Have Set My Soul On Fire

May 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I am not quite sure how to grade “You Shouldn’t Have Set My Soul On Fire.”  On the one hand, it is really unique – especially horn/string minor key intro sample-fest.  Funky-dark is a fairly unusual musical combination – even Motown’s saddest songs always had happy arrangements (the law of “Tears Of A Clown” in more ways than one).   On the other hand, the chorus is very straight ahead torch-soul, maybe erring a bit on the side of the Supremes – which surely doesn’t make it bad, just more conventional than you’d hope from the intro.  Actually this song would have made a great radio hit in its era – wears a lot of hats but none too pointy.

I have no such doubts about the performer: I know for sure that Inez Foxx is awesome.  As a solo artist as here, or as a part of the duo Inez and Charlie* Foxx, Inez was a great performer who put out a bunch of great 45s on the Dynamo and Symbol labels.  The Symbol stuff is more famous and arguably fits better into the Northern box than today’s selection, so if you’re dogmatic about your purchases/downloads, you may want to wait for a future Foxx post.

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*thankfully her brother, not her Ike

Categories: Funky, Pop

If I let you win, I die…

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Why would a song that’s an international hit fail to break in the US?  Could be record companies’ or producers’ fault.  Could be it was recorded in a foreign language that isn’t French or Astrud Gilberto-ese.  In my opinion, it mostly has to do with its lacking one or more of the fundamental elements of rock and roll – especially a driving, consistent backbeat.  Truth be told, you can absolutely have a hit song in Europe without worrying about any element of what America would consider quality (as anyone who tuned into the recent Eurovision Song Contest can attest to).  But drawing the actual border and dividing up what could have been a hit, and what couldn’t have been a hit in the USA – that’s a tough judgement call.

The Easybeats’ sole US hit was “Friday On My Mind,” which most people love, and I tolerate – with the caveat that I think it would be on hell’s shitty oldies station, playing 50 songs on ENDLESS ETERNAL repeat.  It straddles the line of what can be a hit song in America – combining ditter-ditter-ditter-ditter-doo cheese (a tradition which reached its peak in 2008 with the Germans and their midwestern descendents chanting “Seven Nation Army”) with an actual backbeat – subtract the latter and you have fodder for Sunshine FM.  Once in a while “Friday On My Mind” is fine to listen to though, and I even have the original US 45.

The Easybeats had a lot more songs than that, though – what happened to the rest?

Short answer: more ditter-ditter-ditter-ditter-doo.  Or, in other words, melody was concentrated upon at the expense of rhythm.  Yes, songs like “Good Times” or “Remember Sam” could have been US hits, and are reasonably backbeaty.  But look at what’s on the A-side of the various German/UK Easybeats singles I have: “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” “Hello, How Are You,” “Heaven And Hell,” and “The Music Goes Round My Head.”  They’re not bad songs, they’re just not really rock songs – occupying that “soft” niche in pirate radio, to be played alongside the Walker Brothers.

Now, before you accuse me of being closed-minded, I like three-fourths of the Easybeats songs I mentioned above.  In fact, today’s selection, “Falling Off The Edge Of The World” is an excellent dramatic ballad with an unusual melody that grows on you – and, cheating a bit, has a backbeat for much of the song.  But there’s absolutely no fucking way it would have made it to US radio.  We had the Supremes to do “You Keep Me Hanging On” and didn’t frankly need a bunch of funny-looking Aussies** (and a grinning Dutchman) to do something similar but whiter.  Black music is what saves Americans from turning into Europeans, I’m convinced.  (For the icky, non-delicious proof, please do listen to “Hello, How Are You,” which went to #20 in the UK.)

No matter – George Young’s even funnier looking brothers would go on to conquer the world as AC/DC, with George (and grinning Dutchman Harry Vanda) at the helm for most of the Bon Scott-era albums.  Those guys had spent the extra few years in Oz snorting as much Chuck Berry as they could get their hands on, thank god.

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**The lead singer is always the “cute” one, right?  Stevie Wright looks like Julian Casablancas mashed up with Michael Palin and a basset hound.

Categories: Pop

Isley Brothers: severely underrated

May 9, 2011 Leave a comment

You’re thinking – how can that be?  “It’s Your Thing” might be the most overplayed funk song in history, and we all know “Shout” from ANIMAL HOUSE Isley Brother imitators Otis Day and the Knights if nothing else.  But let me invite you slightly deeper into their catalog…

1. “Nobody But Me” – after it flopped for the Isleys in 1963, this song was covered by the one-hit-wonder Human Beinz an astonishing FIVE years later for a smash hit.  So you can interpret that one of two ways – that they were that far ahead of their time, or that record company and radio factors prevented the people of the USA from hearing the song.  I guess I’m not completely discounting the latter, but I do find it odd that they would only hit position 106 with this song after going number 17 on the same record label with “Twist and Shout.”  Of course the Beinz did have the “advantage” of sounding almost exactly like the Guess Who.  A relatively hard to find single because of its low charting – saved only by medium-low demand.  Side note: Bert Berns produced – no producer cranked out more hits that are lasting classics in a shorter life (he died at 38 in 1967).

2. “Who’s That Lady” (1963 version) – Derek of Derek’s Daily 45 had a post on this with a very scratchy 45.  I will cheat slightly and substitute my CD rip from THE COMPLETE UA SESSIONS** as I haven’t got the 45.  The song resembles a giant moody crescendo, but not in the shitty Godspeed You Black Emperor way – more like an Ellington chart from the 40’s (Spanish Tinge included).  (I think there’s a musicology thesis to be written about the black music continuum from Jelly Roll Morton to Ellington to disco, but I’m a few years past my university music appreciation classes.)


3. “That Lady – Part 1” (1973 version) – Included by no means for its obscurity, but rather for contrast to the above, and to further my pseudo-academic argument.  And also because it was sampled on PAUL’S BOUTIQUE.  Whomever’s playing synth-tar is having the time of their life here.  (Part 2 is practically all rockin’ synth-tar soloing!)


4. “I Know Who You Been Socking It To” – I know this is verrrrry similar to “It’s Your Thing.”  I however LOVE the song and especially the bass/guitar/piano intro.  It’s also about mutual blackmail, stalker-ish behavior and voyeurism, which is better than average lyrical material.  Was the first track on Side A of IT’S YOUR THING so obviously they thought it was catchy too, however in the single realm it was consigned to the B-side of (the admittedly great) “I Turned You On.”

5. “This Old Heart Of Mine” – sorry the 45 is a little rough but with Motown it’s particularly important to stick with the original hit mix and format – they did a LOT of post-production.  “This Old Heart Of Mine” is a beautiful track which you might already be familiar with from oldies radio.  It’s their only Motown hit and really one of the few chances to hear into an alternate reality where the Isleys were less independent.  In many ways this is exactly the classic Motown sound – right down to the drum fills and strings. Plugging them into a H-D-H/Funk Brothers arrangement has the Brothers sounding more Marvin Gaye-ish than like their past catalog.  It’s a good thing, but it’s probably a good thing that their Motown stint was a short experiment.  (Reportedly “It’s Your Thing” summarized their feelings about working for Berry Gordy, so we can thank Motown for that song indirectly.)

6. “Twist and Shout” – how many of you have heard the original Isleys version (especially in MONO)?  I think there’s a lot of people out there that believe John Lennon wrote this.  Obviously he did not, but I for one am glad it was out there for him to imitate.  (And for the Isleys to imitate as well – where else in the universe would we have gotten a song called “Surf And Shout”?)

**2 1/2. “Conch” – Want to hear Jimi Hendrix strumming on a rave-up track that would have been (was?) a great set opener?  In 1964?  Here you go!  (also from THE COMPLETE UA SESSIONS)

Categories: Funky