Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Mike Wran, the Readers Digest Version

Summary of previous post: Baltimore's Mike Wran was a fucking psyche-pop boy genius in training who shoulda got more attention for this record.

Chasing Down Storms (130 kbps VBR, 4.5 Mb)
There She Goes (155 kbps VBR, 4.7 Mb)
Parallel Sky (147 kbps VBR, 4.6 Mb)

Note: It's come to my attention that although people are visiting the previous posting, they aren't bothering to download the music. Maybe my posts are too long and people's eyes are glazing over with my pompous verbosity. So let me make it easy for ya by putting the cuts up front. This is out of print stuff, never on CD to my knowledge and probably won't ever be heard again. I'd love to hear y'all's opinion on it and whether I'm totally off base in wondering whether this is some tragically overlooked shit. Also, should my posts be smaller? Should I post the music up front? Or am I just stupid to expect people to try something different?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mike Wran
Parallel Sky
Pink Society Records, Balt MD, 1986

It's a sad fact and a cliche that most musical efforts are born in great enthusiasm and generally end in tragic whimpers, corpses along the vinyl and tape strewn road. One moment you're surfing on top of a mosh pit and the next day you're Pauly Shore. Generally, most bands and musicians deserve this fate (and I speak from experience). The same could be said about alot of music that gets popular - just check out the Bubblegum Machine sometime or MTV when they actually play music (between 5 and 7 AM). But there are those few corpses along the littered highway that deserve resuscitation and I'm here to bring some long awaited CPR to the career of one
Mike Wran.

Poor Mike - here was a debut album coming out of a place and time - a Baltimore underground that worshipped loud guitars and bands you could go out and see. He was an odd duck without a band (all music written and performed in the studio) and, predictably, Mike had trouble getting attention. It fell to the greatest punk rock DJ of the era - Rod Misey of the late lamented Baltimore local music show (WCVT) to push Wran in front of our faces - playing cuts from this record incessantly for a few weeks in late '86 even though it was hardly "punk" as it was currently defined. I even seem to remember Misey had Wran come into the studio for an interview even. In any case, he got MY attention and I went out and bought this sucker and played it more than several times.

Background: Wran originally started to make an album with his good friend
Mark Harp that sounded like it was going to be an interesting take on Talking Headsstyle new wave. Abruptly, he quit that project, (Harp says they had a falling out) to concentrate on this solo effort - renting a studio with a synthesizer (and an early sampler), several guitars and a drum machine. I have to guess there was more than just a disagreement between friends as Parallel Sky is a completely different direction than where he and Harp were gonna go.

Yes, the results are a stunning debut album that shamelessly steals the best from the previous decade's classic rock and pop as well as the then-popular British dance pop and psychedelia AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. This is headphone music, not dance music - hard to describe since it is so broad in its influences - perhaps
Pink Floyd meets New Order or a Soft Cell gets together with Prince (in his rare "rocker" mode). I'm also hearing a slight bow towards prog-rock, but its only wee - no 8/5 measures and obtuse drum solos --- that said, you do sense deliberate composition (a bit more like King Crimson than say Crack the Sky?) that someone sweated hours over. At any rate, there's absolutely no punk influence here at all - except the fact that this was a pure DIY (to the nth degree) production.

The record is not without its flaws. Flaw 1: Wran's voice is not the strongest in the world (to his credit, there's very little studio enhancement outside of reverb). Flaw two: there is a very fine line between synthesizer and "casioization" -- not to say the "casio sound" doesn't work in some pieces but in Wran's grand compositions its like a finger nail on the chalk board when it peeks out from beneath the mix (I know, that's a horribly mixed metaphor). At any rate, I didn't include those pieces that tottered on the edge. To his credit, though, the drum programming never annoys. Flaw number 3 (not really a flaw but an observation): Wran is an excellent musician but his guitar playing is at times halting and he flubs a keyboard line here and there. He's about two or three years from going from a great musician to a master.

Alas, this was not to be... or least if it was, there was no follow-up. We hear Mike didn't do too well in the ensuing years. We won't go into details but as far as I know, no recording companies were banging on his bedroom windows, no Swengali arrived to guide him through a career, no band formed to take these songs on the road.
Mark Harp graciously sent me the photo above which is circa 1990- this was about the time when things started spiraling out of control for Wran. He's still around, though -- Harp says he talked with him about another music project several years ago but it came to naught.

Here are the best cuts on the album (as always, they will be up for a limited time and meant to further discussion and interest into Wran and similar music):

"Chasing Down Storms" - This is the opening cut and it grabs your attention with its sparing use of guitar to lay in the hook to the chorus - the quiet opening is somewhat marred by the perfidy of vinyl (and the fact that I don't own a $1200 turntable). In a more inneresting world, this cut would have accompanied the much rumored broom closet sex scene between Ringwald and Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club (I kidding).

"There She Goes" - This is the closing cut on the record and my favorite. I've included the little vignette that opens it -- every cut in the album except the first one has one of these pieces - this one recalls some of the
Beatles "No. 9" experiments. According to Mark Harp, Wran got to experiment with an early sampler and to his credit, he used sparingly and didn't turn it into a science club experiment (there are others in the period who showed little restraint with their samplers when they should have, eh, Mr. P. Rogers Nelson???). This is really a great little '80s psychedelic synth pop piece. Stick this in your iPod, go out for a walk and I dare you not to start singing the chorus "theeeerrreee sheeee gooooes - wandering, wandering"... there's also a really fine hallucinatory interlude about 2:10 into the cut that's not to be missed.

"Parallel Sky" - Wran shows off his guitar prowess here in what sounds like a duet between a "Doves Cry"
Prince and a "Dark Side-era" David Gilmour that swirls about Joe Jacksonian piano chord progression. I like his singing here most - but its the smashing (as in smashing guitars) ending that sells this song.

  • Thanks to Mark Harp for providing some background on Wran and the photo. His monster-sized archive is a treat to peruse - lots of Baltimore weirdness and cool sounds in the tradition of the city's favorite son, Frank Zappa. You can hear some Wran songs from the doomed album that he and Harp were going to put together. "Just So Far" is worth a spin, even with its demo quality.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

"After You're Gone" - Al Jolson

The last episode of the Singing Detective (1986,available on Netflix): a scarecrow pops up in Philip Marlowe's hospital ward singing this song in order to taunt him of his fears of being a cuckold like his father.

The chorus kicks in as various infirmed patients and nurses join in switching back and forth between the reimagined film noir and Marlowe's tormented visions of his wife and her supposed lover. Dennis Potter makes Jolson relevant again and a classic TV moment is born.

The series was remade into a movie that received some critical aclaim -- I haven't seen it but I understand the soundtrack is completely different and includes an entire disc of songs by the lead Robert Downey Jr!

From The Jolson Story Part 2

Friday, November 26, 2004

What My Hell Will Be Like

Steven help me, I'm going to go see a "jam" band tonight. I hope I don't come home smelling of patchooie oil. They actually have songs with lyrics that include "hurdy gurdy" and "get loose with the caboose".... shuddder.... the things I do for friends. I recently responded to an interview about Vinyl Mine and one of the questions was whether there was any music I would never post -- I forgot about "jam bands"... the sad awful truth is that I am in kind of a jam band (college buds & we only play for ourselves) but I've tried to reform them.

I'm listening to the songs of this band now -- you can download them from the WahPo Mp3 archives if you want to commiserate (or conversely if this sort of thing turns you on). They're actually named after a friggin' Gr@teful D3@d song (just trying to avoid the search engines by using weird characters). I guess they're good for a jam band but I'd rather listen to a tacky country band or a "quiet storm" cover band. Their claim to fame is that the D@ve Mat+hew$ band opened up for them once.... that's something to brag about?

Can I paint my iPod earbuds flesh-colored and listen to something else without my friend noticing? God help me, will they expect me to twirl? Anyone have any recommendations on payback for my friend? Thalia Zadek is in town on Sunday....

Mitigating factor: alcohol and hippie chicks are a winning combination

UPDATE: I'm still intact and didn't once "shake my rump" to the bar band boogie. Jam bands are like baseball. More fun to watch than listen. More fun to play than watch.

Both bands were very good (the guys I play with are a 2 and both these bands are a 100 in terms of bar band jam boogie) ...

Note to self: when I rule the world the first law we pass is a ban on all bar bands playing "Sweet Jane" or any Velvet Underground covers. And what is it about jam bands and reggae... does all reggae start and end with Bob Marley? You'd think they could find some other interesting covers in the reggae genre.

At one point the New P0tat0e C@b00se had 11 people on stage - I began to think it was a musicians yard sale with just people milling around trying all the different instruments.

It's been about 20 years since my last "Dead" concert - the ladies have gotten older and larger but then haven't we all, haven't we all.

Now my friend owes me -- if you can suggest any upcoming shows so I can start getting him out of his 40 year 60's rut, I'd appreciate it.

As for my "quiet storm" comment (that rhetoricpig commented on) - I'm not sure what the genre is but it always seems to be playing in clothing stores - it's the music where the female singer just endlessly wails in pseudo-orgasmic fashion. Since I seem to remember Anita Baker doign this alot, I've likened it to "quiet storm" genre but it could also be urban gospel soul? I dunno what to call it but I hates it, I hates it.

"A Nice Song in the Key of D" b/w "Return to Beneath the Planet of Adrenalin O.D. V.S. Godzilla Strikes Again. In 3-D"
Buy Our Records, 1986

I've revisited my extended adolescent jonesing for melodic thrash once already with AOD so I won't bore you again. Not sure I always appreciated their puerile attempts at humor and gimmicky band photographs and concept albums but they could write a good song and play some of the fasted speedcore. Their 1000-mile-a-minute cover songs of TV themes like Masterpiece Theater and Spiderman always liven up a mix tape.

"A Nice Song" is a good example of their melodic style of thrash, but without their lame attempts at humor and lowbrow cultural crud obession. Not that I look down on that - while everyone was trying to do emo, they kept their sense of humor, such as it was. Evidence being the b-side which is extended continuation of their obsession with B-movies and appears on their '96 Sitting Pretty collection.

This 7" is out of print (and supposedly people collect these things and put value on the fact that the orange lettering means it was the 1st pressing) but
on which this song appeared (with what sounds like a different mix) is still out there if you care - it's in one of my boxes so I might be belaboring you with them in the future.

Enjoy and please leave a comment for once. I'm interested in iPod owners and whether they think my songs need more volume (and maybe someone who can clue me in on how to get the volume up - I'm already turning it up in the "get info" menu but it still doesn't measure up to the stuff I rip from CDs or buy from iTunes).

"A Nice Song in the Key of D" - Adrenalin O.D.

Here's the 7" cover:

UPDATE: A commenter points out that the LP that this single originaly came from was recently reissued. You can buy it here directly from RELAPSE records at a steal of $12.00 since there's like 30 songs on this album that's like fiddy cent a song or sumpin'.

The Brunchmummies feature Bruce Wingate of AOD on guitar. Download their MP3s or buy their lunchbox here. Thank you commenter.

Splash cartoon above courtesy and without permission from Karen Moy & Joe Giella's always lame Mary Worth.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Vinyl Mine's "We're Sorry 2004" CD Mix


RULES: All songs must have been released or performed in 2004 and total time/size must fit on a regular audio CD (to hand out to friends who may not have MP3 CD players).

All cuts in GREEN are linked to iTunes - go buy 'em already - the rest are hosted by the bands or record labels so its mostly legal (see notes).

  1. A Little Explosion Text Adventure Fantastic Disaster
  2. Dripping Dream Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse
  3. Wake Up The Arcade Fire Funeral
  4. Clowne Towne - Xiu Xiu Fabulous Muscles
  5. All Of Our Hands - Joseph Arthur Single
  6. Green Grass - Tom Waits Real Gone
  7. Gonna Never Have To Die - Guided By Voices Half Smiles Of The Decomposed
  8. Portland Oregon (with Jack White) - Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose
  9. Black Jack Davey - The White Stripes Single
  10. Dirt Mission Of Burma - ONoffON
  11. The Good Times Are Killing Me - Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Love Bad News
  12. Here Comes Your Man - Pixies 5/1/2004, Coachella Music Festival, Indio, CA
  13. Are we going down? (not a direct link)- Andy Zipf Untitled - 09-30-04
  14. Good Ol' Love - Masta Ace Single
  15. Misery is a Butterfly - Blonde Redhead Misery is a Butterfly
  16. Sister - Sufjan Stevens Seven Swans
  17. Drink To Me Babe Then - A.C. Newman The Slow Wonder
  18. A Lack of Color - Death Cab for Cutie Music from The O.C. - Mix 2
  19. California - Some Weird Family -(originally found at Selfstarter Foundation)
  20. Something Else - Gary Jules Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets


  • Yes, I know that the The Death Cab song came out in 2003 but I only noticed it when it came out on the OC Mix 2 (2004) so there.
  • The Pixies cut is of questionable legality but since it isn't offered commercially anyywhere and comes from a live concert that's only available on DVD. Aggravated Records hosts it and I found it via an MP3 search engine.
  • The Some Wierd Family cut came from a mix that Self Starter Foundation put up in August but I can't find anything on this band anywhere. I've hosted the song myself. Anyone got a clue?
  • Alas, I could not find a legal place to download the Tom Waits song -- you'll just haveta buy it!

Sufjan Stevens @ Black Cat, 11/25/04

The Black Cat (mainstage) is a firetrap refreshingly set in the "real downtown" of Zone 1 DC ... There's no good tequila behind the bar but the bathrooms are clean, the people who work there have their attitudes in check and there's plenty of space to sit and lean for us weary 40-somethings. My recommendation, though, if there ever is a fire, is to go behind the bar, drink some of their flavored vodka and then wrap a damp bar-rag around your face and climb over the bodies that will be crushed in front of the door - you might have a better chance than trying to get out with the stampede. In case you are worrying about my demophobia, this was my first show in 3 1/2 months (thanks to a close friend). I'm also telling myself I'm going to go see Bob Mould's show tonight and New Potato Caboose / Eddie from Ohio tomorrow night.

The warm-up is a bizarro world version of William Hung. Unlike Hung, he's handsome and if you like Van Morrison ripoffs, he can sing. Key difference is that his songbook is gooey crap while William Hung can at least pick decent covers. His name was Nicholai Dunger but we will call him Bizarro Hung. IF William Hung did his songs, it might be markedly better because at least it would be interesting - that's why its bizarro. We hates Bizarro Hung... hates, hates, hates... makes him stops and makes him stops writing like Gollum...

In contrast, Sufjan ("Soof-jhan") Stevens is an original and any buzz that was killed by Bizarro Hung was quickly freshened by his arrival on stage. His band (the
Michigan Militia) consists of two "utility" singers-bassists-banjoists- keyboards-guitars, himself (he also switched off frequently among instruments), a trumpet player and a drummer. The drummer starts off a marching band song and they rip into a song about visiting all the states. Everyone cheers when he gets to Washington although I think he's singing about the state of Washington. The way someone explained it to me at the bar later on was that this opening song is on the double LP (Michigan) but not on the CD but that's probably dubious. It was a great opening piece and got everyone's attention.

He then explained that he wanted the audience to imagine the club as a big tour bus and we were heading to Michigan - whereupon he played the tender "Flint" from the Michigan album. Other Michigan cuts were "Say Yes To Michigan" and he also did "Sister" which appears on Seven Swans but is also a Michigan song as his sister lives in Detroit. They get the audience to help on this one and the results were nice since the audience also gets to sing soft.

He introduced a new song from his album about Illinois - in this case about Chicago (but not about Chicago since part of is about his time spent sleeping in vans in New York City). This led into several songs from his Seven Swans. I did an odd version of the Star Spangled Banner, which he semi-apologized for since he said he realized people might think it was sarcastic (basically it's the lyrics to the Banner + some stuff about Christianity over a new melody)... the next song was something he introduced as his protest song ("All Good Naysayers Speak Up Or Forever Hold Your Peace"). The fat bald guy next to me kept on laughing as if he was in on a joke.

My take on Stevens is that you know how all the big arena classical rock bands had their "soft" songs ("wussy folk" as Scott Stereogum calls it) in the 70s and 80s? the ones where the audience would quiet down and maybe someone would pull out an acoustic guitar and the lighting would go all simple, perhaps just a single spotlight? Examples are "Dust in the Wind" (Kansas), "From the Beginning" (ELP), "And You and I..." (YES) ... Sufjan Stevens is the exact opposite. All his songs are those pretty "soft" songs... but without the grandiose orchestrations. That's not to say he isn't a classical rockhead. The band is playing from something that's been written down, the trumpet player was reading music, people actually follow dynamics and songs have complicated structures that would be jazz if he allowed for improvisation. You see him flinch when someone misses a note.

So you are thinking that if all his songs are the "soft" rock songs, that means he must have one loud fast song? And you would be correct. The closing number from his 2000 A Sun Came (available on i-Tunes) is "Supersexywoman" which he introduced by saying something like, "we journeyed through Michigan and this country, now its time to journey into my psyche"... eeeeasssh - TMI...... but it was nice to close on a fun and stupid song after so much poetry and cerebral music. His band came out and did a Broadway bow (which the fat guy thought was funny, too)

Sufjan did an encore, acoustic guitar only but I wasn't concentrating since I generally hate encores. I checked out the table. The Michigan album is on vinyl -- as a double album with five tracks not on the CD - yay for vinyl plus-ups! The Sevens Swans vinyl is beyootiful - album art the way its meant to be (for that matter so is Michigan) -- suitable for framing. Bizarro Hung has a t-shirt with this pretty face on it but nobody is buying. Me has schadenfreude and hopes next time we see Bizarro Hung he is panhandling outside so we can put our cigar butt in his cup.

The MP3s linked to above come from Sufjan's page on the Sounds Familyre website. Learn more about his work at his main website, Sufjan.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hey Fat Boy, Yer Krushin' Me
Krush Groove
Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Warner Brothers, 1985

I saw Krush Groove back in 1985 in a multiplex outside of Washington DC. It was a matinee and the theater was totally empty - it was like having a private screening. I remember being astounded at the appearance of Cool J, like everyone else, saying 'eh" to the Beastie Boys who just seemed to be trying too hard, being in awe of Run-DMC who performed "Walk This Way" in the opening, thinking that Blair Underwood was actually Russel Simmons (until the closing credits) and snickering at the cheese factor that came with a pretty amateur production. And so, after renting the DVD (Netflix rules) and listening to the soundtrack, I am inspired to provide:

Krush Groove
reconsidered, critiqued, countered-critiqued and sampled:
  • The movie: A laughably bad movie, poorly written, lame plot elements (a love triangle, evil record company heavy, three stooges try to break into society).
    • Mitigating factor: The music, the music, the music. Was a cultural phenom that changed the face of 42nd street* and introduced alot of people in the 'burb multiplexes to rap and hip-hop (you know, back when it was good).
  • The Cast: Introduced Blair Underwood in his first (and not last) role as the sensitive, successful (eventually), smart AND street smart black man
    • Mitigating factor: It also introduced the Beastie Boys, a kangol wearing LL Cool J and had a cool fantasy sequence with Kurtis Blow doing "If I Ruled the World". My first thought upon seeing him: Rick Rubin is white?
    • Counter-mitigating factor: The Fat Boys
  • The Cast (continued): Thanks to Warner Bros., co-starred the horribly miscast and out of place Sheila E.
    • Mitigating factor: Prince is right, though, a chick playing timbales is pretty damn hot
    • Counter-mitigating factor: "Rock, rock, Holly Rock, everybody do the Holly rock"
  • The Music: Had a soundtrack that fails to include one full tune from the musical standouts of the movie - Run D.M.C.
    • Mitigating factor: Had a soundtrack that included "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (LL), "She's On It" (Beasties), Chaka Khan, Debbie Harry wrote a catchy Latin dance song with 'Jellybean' Benitez and Toni C. for the soundtrack ("Feel The Spin") that doesn't suck and, you know what, I can live with "All You Can Eat" (Fat Boys) once every 20 years.
    • Counter-mitigating factor: The Gap Band's awful "Love Triangle" and oh yeah, did I mention "Holly Rock"?
    • Counter-counter-mitigating factor: Force M.D.'s Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis "Tender Love" (the song every prom band had to learn in the '80s and '90s) kind of holds up as a curiosity - I would have probably sneered at it back in '85 but now its somewhat sweet.
Samples: And now - thanks to the wonders of PC-based digital editing software, we can finally hear the Krush Groove AllStars do "Krush Groovin'" without the Sheila E. rap (thank ye, thank ye). Don't say music blogs don't have any socially redeeming values. Do you miss her?

"Krush Groovin' (Sheila Deleted)" - Krush Groove All Stars (Fat Boys, Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow and Sheila E.) (149 kbps, 4.9 Mb)

Also, for your enjoyment the opening Chaka Khan rap-soul hybrid (a first?) "(Krush Groove) Can't Stop the Street". ... you can't stop the street, man! We're going to break dance right here, right now and play our boomboxes real, like, loud so don't play the fool.... we got common ground with uncommon people... oh, if you can't love this song, yer just plain dead.

(Krush Groove) Can't Stop the Street" - Chaka Khan (128 kbps, 4.9 Mb)

  • From what I can tell this soundtrack is out of print although individual songs might be available on artist collections and other LPs ("Feel the Spin", "She's On It" and "Can't Live Without My Radio" are available on iTunes for instance). I think the Chaka Khan and KG All Stars cuts might be hardest to find.
  • * Read about the Krush Groove riot that changed the Forty Deuce (Popsmear)

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Crystalized Movements

"Dog, Tree, Satellite Seers..." LP
Forced Exposure Records, 1987

The first "proper" album from singer-songwriter Wayne Rogers'
C. Movements is EXCELLENT piece of 80's Boston-sound psyche-punk -- Side 1 is the lesser side yet still a worthy listen that has more good than bad attributes. "She's No More," my fave cut on this side, channels the Ramones and leads into "It's All Gone Black," a more traditional garage psychedelic 60's cut marred by muffled vocals and a not-so-exciting guitar lead. "Up Falling Down" isn't the tightest cut on the album but features some off-beat (if poorly recorded) drums and chord progressions. "She Don't Care" is about the closest we get to the 'mersh 60's psyche / REM jangly guitar sound - can't say alot of good about it but let's just say I'm putting it in the playlist for further consideration. "Wondering Where" is perhaps a notch above "She Don't Care" but a bit formulaic, predictable.

But its Side 2 that is a near-perfect raging 17 minutes. "Spinning Around," leading off the pack, is perhaps the best cut on here and maybe the best psyche-punk song of a year that included You're Living All Over Me (Dinosaur Jr), Warehouse (Husker Du) and Locust Abortion Technicians (Butthole Surfers) - and if you said, well what about Surfer Rosa and Daydream Nation - well, yeah, but they debuted in 1988 (not to mention the Afghan Whigs). Interesting to note that Dinosaur Jr and Pixies both hailed from the same general metro area as Wayne Rogers and his Crystalized Movements but the latter seem to get all the attention and "legacy" despite the fact that Rogers is 1) running a great label (Twisted Village), 2) running a great record store in Cambridge MA(also Twisted Village) and fucking formed a band with Naomi and Damon (Galaxie 500) known as Magic Hour (but you knew that, right?) after Dean went splitsville to Luna. But I digressed...

"In Other Words" is the other super track on this superlative side. It kind of sounds like a more psychedelic
Mission of Burma (yet another Boston contemporary I forgot to mention above). "Down to Reach You" has the quietest sound of what is otherwise a loud record and has that cool detached feel that you might get with ? and the Mysterians minus the organ or Electric Prunes without the fuzz. I like that kind of retro but I could have done without the improv space-Deadjam on this side - "Don and Nancy's Trip" - fortunately, its mercifully short and is counter-balanced by a quite worthy snake-charmin' jam ("Death Rats") that features some random vocals from future Movements and Magic Hour guitarist Kate Biggars.

But, this was before Kate joined Rogers. That's not to say Eric Arn (now in a more trad. psyche band -
Primordial Undermind) trading off rhythm and lead with Wayne Rogers (guitar and vocals) isn't a well-matched duelist for Rogers. Scott McLeod on bass is capable (he doesn't fuck up but doesn't stand out) and Teri Morris (now with Tizzy) has her MO'ments pounding the drums.

"Spinning Around" (231 kbps VBR, 4.9 Mb)
"In Other Words" - (269 VBR, 5 Mb)

  • This LP was a limited run of 1300 and out of print for several years but Forced Exposure has reissued it for a steal at $8.00.
  • Twisted Village website has news, tour dates, etc. Go visit, all the vinyl will bring a tear to your eyes, I swear.
  • Damon and Naomi interview tells how they hooked up with Wayne and Kate. G-500 fans will enjoy.
  • Piero's history of the Movements is useful background and includes counterpoint review on this LP - Piero's website is increasingly become a major resource for this journal
  • Primordial Undermind is Eric Arn's band - their label has their history and their other label has an MP3 for download - v. psychedelic...
  • Drummer Teri Morris's band is Tizzy

Obituary & Letters from Featured Artists

Cy Coleman died last week. Here's his VAST song collection. You might recognize more than a few. One of his "firsts" is introducing a true jazz score to a Broadway music which, if you can believe, wasnt done until his 1990 City of Angels.

My favorite of his songs, though, is:

"The Best Is Yet To Come" as interpreted by Frank Sinatra.

MAILBAG: It's always great to receive mail and when it comes from some of the artists I covered in recent weeks, it's always a welcome surprise (especially when I didn't say anything too horrid about them)!

Here's one from Ralph Carney of the GREAT Tin Huey whose "Coronation" was recently posted and their album reviewed way back in February... (links):

Subject: Tin Who-ey
greetings, thanks for the lovely Tin Huey review (even though i seem to be

your least favorite thing about Tin Huey) we have
some new stuff that we are trying to finish up and put out....
maybe we can do some mixes without me for ya.....

cheers, Ralph "obnoxious horns" Carney
For the record, I don't remember saying "obnoxious horns" but that I wasn't a big fan of soprano saxes - too much Tom Scott played for me by a 'jazzer" roomate as a youth. Unfortunately, they won't be doing much touring. Visit Tin Huey here and Ralph's waycool AkronCraker site (And yes, MP3s for download at both).

I reviewed David E. Williams first vinyl a few weeks ago and received this very nice note from him:

Well, what a lovely review of PSEUDO EROTICA. Thanks very much!

You might be interested in knowing that this EP will be re-released on CD next Spring by the Italian label Old Europa Cafe (along with about dozen other DEW songs from the same era). I think we're calling it PSEUDO EROTICA AND BEYOND: 1986-1998.

Anyway, do I know you? Very few non-acquaintances of mine actually own this record, so there's a good possibility.
Well, thanks again and all the best.

David E. Williams

Check out his site - there's a mini-tour diary onf his recent European gigs in the news section. David, I will buy your new record -- I just need to straighten out my Paypal problems.

Friday, November 19, 2004

World of Distortion
"Let's Go" b/w "Welcome Home"
Stanton Park Records, 1987

Born 20 years too late for inclusion on Nuggets, and 10 years too late to join the Ramones, Aram Heller can content himself with a string of worthygarage-pysche bands (Kenne Highland Clan, Hopelessly Obscure, Dark Cellars, Plan 9) running an extremely cool New England Label (Stanton Park) and writing liner notes for bands and supposedly a book about the Boston scene. So, I guess WoD will do if you want to get your kicks this weekend.

Heller wrote about Head & Hares (Italy) something that might as well be applied to "Let's Go": "Many bands who take the 'primitive' road wind up sounding kind of silly. They overdo it. Too much fuzz. Too much snarl. Not enough song!" Amen, brudder. "Welcome Home" is a worthy enough b-side but doesn't have the same throat-grabbing upfrontness of "Let's Go"....

"Let's Go" - World of Destruction (207 kbps, 4.1 mb)


Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Zombies
Time of the Zombies (2-LP)
Epic Records, 1974

The Zombies (1964-1967) are of course best known for their "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There" -- songs that are rightly bestowed the moniker of classic. They shot to fame with the release of "She's Not There" - it was perhaps too much too soon and after their spotty 1st album, they released a spate of singles but only one hit the Top 10 ("Tell Her No") and the record companies soon lost interest. With the money they earned from the singles and some CBS backing, they recorded their second and last album in 1967 and broke up, thinking they were over. Most of them left without any money to show for it (the two songwriters Rod Argent and Chris White, excepted). Odyssey and Oracle wouldn't have been released in the states without Al Kooper lobbying for it. Subsequently, their biggest hit, "Time of the Season" didn't really hit the charts until two years after they broke up. Every few years, they go into "revival" -- currently, two of the key members have reunited under the Zombies name for an album of new songs.

If you don't count the charting of "Time of the Season" a revival, this album, Time of the Zombies, now long out of print, came out during what I think was their first revival in 1974 (I didn't buy it until 78) - when FM rock radio rediscovered "Time" and "She's Not There." Back then, I bought a lot of singles so I could put them on tape and play along with them on my drum kit - I was entranced with the intricate yet simple beat of "Time of the Season" but it was impossible to find it in any of the department stores within bike-riding distance. It wasn't until I could drive that I could get out to a Tower Records, with its bigger selection, and find it. But alas, this was the only Zombies they had at the time. Unfortunately, it was on this double LP which was not exactly in my budget. It took me several trips of mooning at it before I finally broke down and bought it.

The first disc on this collection includes some of the better cuts from the first album and some of their singles. Unfortunately, the second side is mostly stuff that was not released, and rightly so. It is at times underproduced (one song has the drums sounding like they were recorded with the mic shoved into a pillow - heresy for a Zombies song, which always was pretty good about letting you hear each instrument) -- this second side serves as an example of the worst excesses of the British Invasion (I) - mostly failed attempts to mimic American black music. I listened to it again and it only confirmed my original opinion. This is dreck and wasn't worth digitizing.

The second LP in this set is essentially the entire Odyssey and Oracle, their highly touted 2nd album. This is considered by some to be on par with Pet Sounds and Rubber Soul but I wouldn't go that far. Still, there are some decent songs on it worthy of discussion (and putting into my library).

From Side 1:

"She's Not There" - with that well known Merseybeat introduction of drums and bass, the Zombies shot to fame with this teenage classic hit, one of the first in a minor key. Written by Rod Argent and featuring Colin Blunstone's velvety voice, it tells the story of a boy spurned by a female ingenue -- he's trying to act non-nonchalant about it: "How would I know why should I care?" but quickly it degenerates into the frantic chorus once he starts remembering "the way she looked, the color of her hair." A classic that can be listened to time and time again. It's available on iTunes although you have to search for it by song rather than by The Zombies.

"Tell Her No" - next to "She's not There" and "Time", this is probably one of their better known songs and the second top tenner. The protagonist, still pining away for the girl of "She's Not There" is offering "advice' to a friend that he can't trust her "with her charms". His warning is not entirely altruistic: "Don't hurt me now, for her love belongs to me;" he poetically whines "Don't take her love from my arms." Near the end the song includes that classic reverb hand clap - here's a sample.

"Whenever You're Ready" - Rod Argent's upbeat Merseybeat composition from the first album includes a drum and bass beat similar to the one that he later perfected in "Time" (although it's in a major key). It reminds me of some of the Herman's Hermits stuff - poppy and upbeat, bubblegum that sticks the roof of your skull... imagine the boy singer of "She's Not There" actually finds "her" and let's her know that she can call him whenever he's ready but if she does, "you have to treat me in a better way." Man, that guy is pathetic. But Colin Blunstone's soulful vocals make this believable.

"You Make Me Feel Good" - this is one of two songs by the other songwriter in the Zombies: Chris White. It was only released on post-humous collections and is a bit harder to find. Unlike the unrequited Argent, White seems to have better luck with girls. Some think that White's best work was his later songs that appeared on Odyssey but I like his early stuff better. It wears its early Beatles influences on its sleeve with that cool laid back beat and harmonious vocals - White was a great copycat composer but he's less self-conscious about it than his later songs. I think that's him singing the lead with Blunstone backing up.

"I Love You" - another Chris White song that has more of a cool quotient than Argent's nerdy fumbling. Again, it is heavily influenced by The Beatles but leans more heavily toward whiteboy soul than McCartney ever could. Unlike Argent, White is more proactive about getting laid - might as well just come out and say it but he can't. The soul-searing answer to the chorus of "I Love You/Yes I Do" is "And I don't know what to say" recalling early Eric Burdon and the Animals. This appears on the singles collection.

"Is This the Dream" - A successful tribute by Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone to the Phillysound of the '60's. This didn't appear on their first album but was released as a single and appears in the still-available singles collection (which their fans say, is a must-have). Go here to check out a sample or buy it.

"Summertime" - although The Zombies covered a lot of songs in their career (mostly soul and Motown), this is the only one that is included on their two official records. It seems tailor made for Blunstones' smooth voice and Argent's jazzy electric piano. You can download it and a whole host of "Summertime" covers on this page. Check out Paul McCartney's lesser version.

Sides 3 and 4 which is the same as Odyssey and Oracle:

"Care of Cell 44" - This song sarcastically reads a letter sent by a boy to a girl serving time and how he's waiting for her return when "we'll get to know each other for a second time and then you can tell me about your prison stay." It includes a cool Beach Boys style chorus. It also appears on the singles collection.

"I Want Her She Wants Me" - One of the better songs from Odyssey and Oracle, Argent appears to be getting laid, finally. One of the things about Odyssey was that it was partially self-financed and The Zombies were pretty much given artistic freedom (no sidemen). And so this is somewhat experimental in that the instruments are placed in full stereo. The harpsichordish keyboards and bass are fully in the right channel and backing vocals are in the left channel. What's interesting is if you turn the headphones around, it really doesn't work.

"A Rose for Emily" - I typically don't like these flowery songs that seemed to crop up on a lot of Brit Invasion albums (and later perfected by the Beatles with "Dear Prudence" and "Eleanor Rigby") and this almost didn't make the cut but the harmonies combined with the under-stated piano are too beautiful to pass it up.

"Time of the Season" - their "last" recorded song (that is their last before various "reunions,' fake Zombie bands and their current "incarnation").... Still, this song is one of those that never really sounds that dated. The drums and bass recording was among the best of that era, everything is clear and up front including that famous clap and exhaled breath. I think Rod Argent was one of the first that successfully brought organ into rock and roll (later he would be known for the organ-heavy "Hold Your Head Up High"). As the last song of their canon, the boys have come full circle - now instead of being the prey of some winsome lass, they are the seducters. This can be found on iTunes (and is probably kicking around in some of the indexes) and is a welcome addition to any playlist.
Here's a sample of that famous drum, bass, clap and human beatbox beat - use it in your mash-ups.

Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone using The Zombies monker have released a new album. I listened to it at Tower Records here in DC and was very much underimpressed. With the exception of the first song, it mostly sounds like the worst of late '80s Elton John as filtered by early '90s VH-1. Pass it up.

While Odyssey and Oracle is highly touted (a remastered version with extra tracks is available from Rhino), I think if I was looking for a definitive Zombies record, I'd go with the Singles Collection (I am linking to CD Universe because they seem to have the best price).

The Zombies fan page was key to doing research for this post. It's a great site with an awesome discography (listing all the song names is key, in my mind, to a proper discography) and well worth checking out.

For a slightly different and more comprehensive take on the Zombies check out Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews.

PopMatters also liked Odyssey and Oracle more than I did.

Rod Argent's home page, a poorly designed tribute to all things Argent (no mention of Chris White in his "short history" of The Zombies) but it does include a fawning interview of Argent by REM's Peter Buck that originally appeared in TheStranger.com. Argent, you might know, led a group called, um, Argent and was famous for the organ grinding Mullet-rocking goose-stepper: "Hold Your Head Up (High)" ...

Colin Blunstone's home page.

Modern incarnation: Franz Ferdinand?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Perfect Day?

Theo Van Gogh buried today... murdered, apparently, for his art (although not all the facts are in). In any case, I found his films online and thought them touching and inspiring.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is seething with
fear, violence and hatred ...

The mourners left his funeral to the strains of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day".

People are leaving cactus plants, beer and cigarettes at the place where he was slain. It was a trademark gift that he gave to people on his TV show after he battered them in his interview.

Source page for MP3 is here - with lyrics in English.

Excessively easy guitar tab here in case you want to play it.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ivy - Four Song EP
Quixotic Records, 1992

I wrote recently about Beat Happening and how their appearance on the scene inspired hundreds of other lo-fi bands to do the DIY thing unshackled by "the rules" of the punk scene - we're still seeing the harvest and it only seems to get better. Lid was one of those flowers that bloomed for a short time in the early '90s and then died a quiet death. Their label, Quixotic Records was inspired by Unrest and Mark Robinson's Teen Beat Records and the label owners started, recorded and played in a number of bands including Airlines (Chicago music writer and Jersey zine-boy Jim Derogatis was their first drummer) and The Giant Mums. Lid was drummer Dave Roby (who later played with Wharton Tiers, yet another Branca alumni) and guitarist-songwriter Jim Quinlan. Once they got together, though, they realized they needed a bass and found Deanne Draeger.

If you're going to pick anything here for starters, I'd take the one track written by Draeger called "Bloomsday" but I may just be partial to unemotional non-distorted grunge sung by with a sexy female voice. I have no idea how this fits in with James Joyce -- I'm thinking its more about a song about two people meeting in a bar on Bloomsday and the inner voice in one of those people's mind and she considers going home with him. But, that could just be me. I also like "Ivy" next - a heartfelt piece that proves the lo-fo dictum, yet again, that a good hook can made with just a strummed electric guitar.

All tracks "free and legal" from the original label:

Hit the Silk


Quixotic Records put out handful of beautiful 7"s:
- Lid home page
- The story behind this EP
- Quixotic MP3 stash (including Airlines, Mums, Bugskull)
- Airlines Home page

SamSam's Dayout

So Technorati started this new feature where they link the top 20 MP3s that the "blogs" are talking about. As of 6PM today, I'm number 20. It links to a song (linked from Thrill Jockey Records) from this post on Fish & Roses and Sue Garner. The song is probably the best in the mix and I recommend (again) you checking it out.

It's called "Day Out" although I wrote it as "Dayout"... So I'm guessing there are some bugs in Technorati algorithm since no one I can tell is "talking" about this song! But it turns out that the word "dayout" is linked with "Dayout with SamSam" and apparently my MP3 was somehow associated with this.

So in honor of SamSam, whomever that is, here are some other pieces that I have been listening to lately:
  • Oh Look At Me Now - Tommy Dorsey w/Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines and Pied Pipers. This was Frankie's breakout song with Tommy Dorsey. The composer, Joe Bushkin, died recently. He's remembered as a "wisecracking, musically graceful pianist" which you gotta admit is a great way to be remembered. That's him, I think, on this recording (courtesy of Swing Era Net)
  • I Know You - Henry Rollins. This is the Blogger's Desiderata. Seemed to fit my mood as of late, you know, adolescent angst which is pretty sad for a 40-something. There's another version out there with Nine Inch Nails backing but I like this one better. (courtesy Lawrence.com and this site)
UPDATE: I'm at number 16 now! Hey, I'm also listening to "Foreign Affair" by Tom Waits that I picked up from this Dutch MP3 blog.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

No Mp3s in this post... move along...

But since this is a music weblog and I am also a musician (once professional now an amateur), I thought this might be of some interest ...

So, I'm playing in the pit orchestra for a show these days. The "pit" is actually in a back room where we are mic'ed and watch the show via TV monitors.

Here's two snaps of my set-up:

The drumset belongs to the company and I'd like to replace the snare head so I can get a better sound for the brush work but it's servicable.

We have two drummers and switch off parts. This is the percussion corner. I designed the set-up (with my partner's help). There's a set of large roto-toms that act as surrogate for timpani. A bell set covers the glockenspiel and (using soft mallets) the vibraphone. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit the xylophone into the space so the conductor covers those parts on a synthesizer. You can't see all the auxillary percussion but on the left bottom you can see the "laptop" conga which is great for saving space. There's also a bell tree (handheld), claves, woodblocks, sandpaper blocks, wind chimes and even a "hotel bell" for the climatic ending (it's supposed to mimic a typewriter bell). During the latin piece, I've enlisted a sax player to play maracas. This is a blast playing although the schedule is harrowing especially with a day job. I'm playing four times this weekend, for instance. The show ends 22 November.

Fish & Roses
self-titled EP
Lost Records, 1987

Fish & Roses consisted of Sue Garner (bass, vox, other), Rick Brown (drums, vox) and David Sutter (keyboards, vox). This Lower East Side loft combo jammed sans guitar on an eclectic mix of 80's era Knitting Factory odd metered avant-jazz and songs that, depending on which cut, recall Antietam, 1/2 Japanese and Bongwater but, as noted, without the guitar. Nearly every song has a different feel, beat and influence so its hard to quickly categorize Fish and Roses.

My favorite cuts are the ones fronted by the Georgia-born Ms. Garner, with her voice that's part Tara Key and part Dolly. I put the haunting "Booth" on a mix tape back in the early '90s and out of all the other obscurities it was the only one my correspondent came back wanting more info. Its a bit more Hoboken than LES and stands out among the other cuts. I've included the longish "Apt. 31" as it is more representative of the rest of the album with its light ambient jazz feel and odd metering - listen for Garner's violin in the background.

Sue Garner's later work both with Rick Brown, Run On (a band which included guitarist Alan Licht) and with folkie Angel Dean remains stellar. I've included some links to her more recent songs (free/legal) to create a sort of Sue Garner mix. "Asphalt Road" is a more upbeat cool song from Sue and Rick's CD with a haunting slide guitar and marimba in the mix. "Dayout" is a surprisingly sultry voiced indie rock piece with an easy feel and a C&W guitar riff - it comes from her solo CD. "Losing Ground" is a folkie Jeff. Airplane piece with 60's style protest lyrics that comes from her country-folk CD Pot Liquor with Angel Dean.

A Sue Garner/F&R decade-spanning mix:

"Booth" - Fish & Roses from self-titled EP (1987)
"Apt. 31" - Fish & Roses from self-titled EP (1987)
"Asphalt Road" - Sue Garner and Rick Brown from Still (2000) (via insound.com)
"Dayout" - Sue Garner from Shadyside (2002) (via Thrill Jockey Records)
"Losin' Ground" - Angel Dean & Sue Garner from Pot Liquor (2004) (via Diesel Only Records)

A recent picture of Sue Garner and Rick Brown (from Unpop.com)

NYC Coolness Factoid: Fish and Roses EP was produced by long-time collaborator Chris Nelson (The Scene is Now, Mofungo). Recording engineers for this EP included Martin Bisi (helmed both "Booth" and "Apt. 31") and Mark Kramer.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Post US/Afghan Election Triple Play Tribute

This is for all the Music Bloggers for Democracy cats... my styrofoam Uncle Sam hat off to ya... and Mr. Karzai - don't blow it!

Coronation - Tin Huey - originally reviewed here in one of my earliest posts - it's improtant for both Karzai and Bush to remember that you may have won a mandate or have political capital to spend but you ain't king. Factoid: Tin Huey were politically active in the last cycle and played several benefits for Rock the Vote and John Kerry

Conspiracy - The Kenne Highland Clan - originally reviewed here - lots of conspiracy theories being hatched to explain the wildly divergent exit polls in Ohio.... hmmm.... Factoid: Ken is a former Marine and founding Gizmo.

and a new record is added to the digital fold:

Accidents Will Happen - Elvis Costello - from the promo EP that was in the original Armed Forces LP. Live at Hollywood High, 1978 (FroogleSwagged here). When I quit being active in listening/creating/etc. new music from '93 to '03, Elvis was one of the few I kept on buying (I think "When I Was Cruel" ranks as one of his best, by the way). What's the tie-in to the election? Well, this can be the either the new theme song for the Democratic Party or George Bush's mother, depending on your views.

And finally, I got a new camera this past week and here is a picture I took at the Jersey shore where I was on business travel - my little oil painting of the week: