REISSUE/OLD SHIT REVIEWS SPRING 2008
Key: (RK: Rich Kroneiss)(MS: Mike Sniper)(SB: Late Twenties Steve)(BG: Brandon Gaffney)(DH: Dave Hyde)(CM: Collin M.)(LB: Lance Boyle)
Amebix "No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings" LP/CD
I am certainly no expert when it comes to UK Anarchopunk or early Crust or whatever category you want to file Amebix in. I am, however, enough of a music nerd where I try to know at least a little about most genres, if only to see what I might be missing or just to have that point of reference. Amebix are regarded as one of the seminal Crass-influenced Anarcho-UK bands that birthed the Crust genre along with Flux of Pink Indians (who ran the Spiderleg label), Subhumans (UK), Conflict and Rudimentary Peni and lesser knowns like Antisect and Sacrilege. Not my genre of preference, certainly, but just about anyone daring to be punk should be in love with RP and at least be familiar with some Crass. Amebix aren't as good as either of those bands to the ears of anyone who isn't really into crust, although some might give them more credit for ultimately defining the genre. The Spiderleg records date from 1982-84, before they released their most widely known record, 'Arise!' on Alternative Tentacles in '85, which might be the place to start if you want to get into the genre. Bleak doom soaked punk-rock that doesn't always reach what you might think of as hardcore velocity-wise, but definitely fits the bill in restrained agression and mad-at-the-world general anger...ugly music made by ugly, poor and foul-smelling squatters. The black-and-white imagery and lifestyle surrounding the genre is almost as important as the music itself. It's music made in dire circumstances by desperate people, who could probably barely afford to eat or buy drugs most of the time, much less pay for instruments and recording time. The madness and stench of the musicians involved comes across on record via crunching guitars and eerie synth and barked vox. Creepily anthemic at times, drawing on dark emotions and paranoic sentiment, heavy in a corrupted way, like the dreary Birmingham-work-at-a-factory-until-you-die no future ethos of Sabbath taken into the worst possible socio-political climes of the Eighties. It's music for people without hope trying to cling to anything to give them something to live for, whether it be Anarchist sentiment, violence, drugs or the very music they are creating. I think that may be the reason I never got too into crust...it's truly depressing and bleak and real. Amebix in particular. These guys were actually homeless and strung out at times, with real instances of murder and mental illness being part of their story. Absolutely grim yet fascinating in that they were still driven enough to create music. Where Rudimentary Peni were out on such a fantastically weird limb and Crass were so serious that I couldn't take them seriously, thus allowing me to enjoy them, Amebix are just honestly dirty and crusty, and powerfully so. Anyway, that's me rambling about crust, a genre I really don't even care about, for a paragraph or so. Amebix are great at what they do, and this is a nice package of their early days, remastered from the original tapes, coming in a nice digipack with booklet or LP with a bonus seven-inch, compiling all thirteen tracks from their three Spiderleg releases. Grab yourself a bottle of cider, forsake showering for a couple weeks and dig right in. By the way, Amebix had every right to do this in 1985 and they lived the life. Modern-day crusties, well there's just no excuse for you.(RK)
(Alternative Tentacles // www.alternativetentacles.com)
Bobak, Jons, Malone "Motherlight" LP
By 1970, the progressive rock movement was in full swing in the UK. Despite the good intentions of Soft Machine, Family and King Crimson, they created a monster. A horrible, horrible monster. There are few exceptions to the "prog sucks" rule. It's a good rule, and it's a rule for a reason. Nevertheless, I swear to god, there's some good records in there. Near the top of this list (along with Spring's s/t LP and few others) is Bobak, Jons, Malone's "Motherlight."
A one-off project originally released on Morgan Blue Town (home to the excellent pop-psych of Orange Bicycle and Cliff Wade), the trio were not a band, but the in-house engineers. The thing about this record, which is definitely in the prog pantheon, is that it has loads of melodies and no noodling. "On A Meadow-Lea" is an ethereal, melancholic beauty which begs for comparison to "I Talk To The Wind" by King Crimson, only this is better and has no long, boring instrumental part. "Mona Lose" has an exciting loping riff that is almost like an Freakbeat update.
It really doesn't veer from there, as the remainder of the record (save one instrumental) is melodic-based and interestingly arranged, without going over the top. Some of the pop songwriting is top notch and the overall mood is a "downer," but they all have a soaring quality.
I would recommend dozens and dozens of UK records from the "classic" psychedelic period ('66-'69) before I'd even get to 1970, but this is a really nice little record for your next headphone session.(MS)
(Timeless // see mailorder list)
Cilibrinas Do Eden LP
I'm a bit at odds with the record collector's infatuation with all things foreign. I find myself listening to the newest rediscovery of Peruvian or Turkish "psych" and wondering, would anyone like this if it was sung in English? I feel as if a lot of people skip over North America and the British Isles and just get full-blown into French, Japanese, Dutch or (overwhelmingly) Brazilian music from '66-72. Yeah, people who have every Jacques Dutronc and Erkin Koray reissue but don't bother with "The Who Sell Out" or "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" are starting to get under my skin. HOW EXOTIC.
That being said, this unissued LP of 1973 material by former Mutantes' star Rita Lee and her pal Lucia Turnbull is pretty good stuff. It's a melodic and well played record with just a hint of the Mutantes crazed arrangements, here appearing mostly in some Moog flourishes. Despite the positive qualities, there are some moments of somewhat lukewarm heavy/boogie rock. The taglines call it "glam" but, eh, no.
The softer parts are quite excellent though, and the mastering quality is great for a bootleg. LP is only a 500 press and it looks like most places are outta these things! Has some cool Mutantes out-takes at the end to round it out, too.(MS)
(Nosmokerecords // see mailorder list)
Cultural Amnesia "Enormous Savages: 1981-1983" LP
Last "issue" I highly recommended Vinyl on Demand's 2xLP reissue of cassette and unreleased recordings by this UK post-punk/synth band. Anna Logue's "Enormous Savages" was actually released 2 years ago, but since there's not a hint of this record on any distros, it's appropriate to air it out for all those who are gobbling up the steady stream of reissues from VoD, Enfant Terrible, etc.
None of the nine tracks featured here are on the VoD 2xLP (the band recorded 150 songs in their 3 year career) and there's some real gems on here. The opening cut "Kingdom Come" is a throbbing slow-tempo churner with some great noise-guitar and belted vocals with lyrics like "Dolly, I don't shit miracles!". "The Wildlife of the Tranquil Vale" is like a more song-oriented version of Cabaret Voltaire during there "Heaven and Hell" phase while "Blind Rag" is a haunting electro-pop tune reminiscent of TG's "United." Recommended for fans of the genre and anyone who enjoyed the VoD set. Ltd. to 400 and almost gone.(MS)
(Anna Logue Records // www.annaloguerecords.com)
Das Kabinette "Spy Thriller" LP
Let's just talk candidly, shall we? While I respect the opinions of some synth-haters, let's be advised of this, once and for all: We know they are not a replacement for guitars. Conversely, guitars can not replace the sound of a synthesizer. That should settle the argument, but it never does. Especially now, where we're in another "interesting" time in underground music (when, really, it's always been interesting) where you see more and more bands using keyboards on their records. At the same time, bands that would never use keyboards: "No way, man! Not me!" It's an instrument. It makes a sound. Sometimes, under the right circumstances, it's the best instrument for the music you need to make.
Das Kabinette's music is not possible without the synthesizer. I've reviewed many, many Eighties Synth records (no, I will not use the "m" word anymore) on this site, and although I've never felt the need to open a review of a record of that style with the above introduction, I thought let's just do it. So, everyone who is reissuing these great synth records and every good modern band who uses synths primarily or secondarily, please continue to without fear of the impending backlash. Mainly because I am greedy and I like it. Feel free to read any of my other reviews on the other zillion kinds of popular music I like if the cold, cold, harshness of the future-primitiv is something with too much make-up on it for your taste.
"The Cabinet", the opening track on this LP (video . here) was originally released in '83 on a 7", and has long been heralded as an underground classic. With good reason, as the track has everything you could want in a dark, post-punk track. Brooding, horror-inspired lyrics sung in the flat, English accent that this kind of stuff craves. Pulsating syncopated layers of zon-zong-zong sounds analogging your brains out. Yes, the world has room for two darkwave songs about a classic Horror movie (this one about "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" the other one was by some band I forget before the singer started Dali's Car. Tee-hee?) "Fudge It" the B-Side of the single is also included here. It's a reworking of "The Cabinet," and while that is usually the kind of lazy retreatment that bothers me on B-Sides (fake dubs?) I really like this one. Maybe because it's staring from such a nice slice of otoro?
Label spared no expenses with the die-cut sleeve and heavy, heavy, heavy vinyl. Good sound too!(MS)
(Minimal Wave // www.minimal-wave.org)
Drills "Skull Death 2" 7"
Saved-from-obscurity Seattle band who played no shows, released no official records (aside from some comp tracks) and pretty much existed only in the memories of the dudes in the band, some Seattle archivists, and the tape collections of Jello Biafra and Scott Soriano. Ravaging '81 basement hardcorepunk played with lots of distortion pedals, two guitars, a bass and a real yammerer of a singer. Sound quality is fantastically dirty. Reminded me of both a meaner and guitared Numbskull and a less acerbic Bobby Soxx at times. The one cut with a drum machine is a real plodder, there's a couple of snippets that are just the guy gurgling blah-blah-blah with some noise behind him, but the three actual cuts with a live drummer (at times being Tom Price of U-Men) are real nasty gassers that are worth remembering. Not a true mindblower, but nicely priced for the lover of regional delicacies and sub-KBD squalor. The fact that this little Seattle tidbit has been unearthed gives me hope that somebody might actually find an Extreme Hate tape for me to listen to someday. Punk rock record dreams, man, this is what it's all about. 500 copies, with insert. For the complete Drills story go here.(RK)
(Dirty Knobby // myspace.com/dirtyknobbyindustries)
Earles and Jensen "Just Farr A Laugh: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever Vols. 1&2" 2XCD
The Cimarron Weekend zine (along with Tesco's FE stuff) is unquestionably some of the funniest zine writing I've ever had the pleasure of guffawing to while sitting on the throne laying some cable. Peppered with obscure pop-culture references ranging from Live Skull to Stuart Pankin, perhaps the longest fake-band interview ever attempted (with footnotes!) and good-natured ribbing (an early issue refers to a young Jay Reatard as "Little Lord Punkleroy") aimed at both sacred cows and little known also-rans, it's the type of thing that merits constant re-reading, and the yucks still keep coming years after the fact. When I started TB I dreamt of having Andy Earles on staff, which regrettably never happened, probably because the guy is too busy writing record reviews for Cracked Magazine (online version). Anyhoot, aside from the zine, Earles & Jensen had a side-business doing prank calls, which they released on their own as Vol.1 of this CD and a 7" called "The Patio Tapes", the actual existence of which I'm unsure of. When it comes to prank calling, there are the greats like Turkington's "Great Phone Calls", the Tube Bar tape, Captain Jenks and maybe some early Jerky Boys. There are also not-so-greats, like any gag on Crank Yankers or whatver your local Morning Zoo is doing. Where do Earles and Jensen fit in this genre? Not sure. Their calls are never mean-spirited. Their aim seems to be not so much to razz the recipient into a cursing lather or to set up some big punchline, but perhaps to just to see how long they can string the callee along and insert as many ridiculous references in the interim. Sometimes the calls are straightforward gags: making a reservation at an Arby's or Garfield the cat calling a restaurant for lasagna. They do some requisite celebrity impersonations: Ed Asner, Michael Anthony, Kurt Loder, Danny Aiello's son. They've created their own endearing character, Bleachy, a 4'10" 250 lb. manchild who subsists on nothing but Big Buford's from the Rallys chain of restaurants and enjoys Murder, She Wrote. Sometimes the calls seemingly go nowhere. Sometimes you're wondering what the point is. But therein lies the genius. Right? As is usual with prank calls, the best ones occur when you get a willing participant on the other end who is either bewildered or good natured anough to play along for the duration, which they're lucky enough to get a few of. And your enjoyment of these calls hinges greatly on your knowledge of Z-grade cultural epehemera such as: the Press Your Luck game show, Morris Day and The Time, Elayne Boozler, Simon and Simon, the Betamax format, the Quiet Storm genre, Go-Gurt, The San Diego Chicken, Murphy's Romance, and other long-forgotten one-star attractions of the Eighties and Nineties. Obviously, these are the "thinking man's" prank phone calls of choice. My only complaint: they could've done so much more with the call to a local role-playing game establishment (Gamemasters) as Zontar the chaotic/good elf. Really, that one could've been good for an entire disc's worth of material. But maybe that would've been too obvious. I'll leave those decisions up to the experts, and these two are certifiable Prank Call MDs. The perfect comedy salve for when music's got you down but you still need something to listen to in the car on the way to work. Nearly sixty calls ranging from hilarious to totally-fucking-hilarious, with frequesnt victims/premises being tattoo parlors, Isaac Hayes, people in Memphis running ads looking to start a blues band and dudes on acid. These aren't some punk kids half-assing some calls here, these are grown men with nothing better to do than painstakingly think of and set up jokes involving Gallagher's assistant or David J.'s former roommate. If that sounds like good times to you (and it certainly does to me), please jump in the deep end of the pool. Comes with a massive booklet featuring liner notes and blow-by-blow details on every call (which might even be funnier than some of the actual calls), this is a must-have release for anyone with half a sense of humor. Warning: your wife and/or girlfriend will absolutely NOT think this shit is funny, so don't bother trying. You can check out more of Earle's stylings here: failedpilot.com. Oh, and for those of you who need someone else to let you know when something is cool or not, these calls are 100% Goner Records-approved. The best Matador Records Memphis-related signing since the Jay Reatard blockbuster of 2007.(RK)
(Matador Records // www.matadorrecords.com)
Electric Vomit "1979 Montreal Punk" 7"
Archival release from the Montreal punk scene, Electric Vomit were led by Rick Trembles, who you may know from his entertaining Motion Picture Purgatory comics if you're a B-Movie goon like me. I actually met this guy once in Toronto, real nice dude, signed his book for me and chatted about film for a bit. Had no idea he was in a punk band at the time or I would've asked questions. Anyway, four tunes, pretty standard '79 punk, mid-tempo plunkers about boredom, telling people to shut up and fuck off and stuff. I'd rate this as medium-gauge, "No End" could find a place on a later KBD volume due to it's semi-ineptitude and lo-fi snot. As far as Canadian punk (and Montreal in particular...what else was up there in '79? 222s?) this is decent pre-hardcore doings. In the bigger KBD-punk picture, this doesn't rate so high. Recommended for French Canadians and North-of-the-Border punk aficionados. You might get more entertainment value buying Trembles' book instead. Nice looking package, with liners and cool sleeve. (RK)
(Garbage Can Records // www.myspace.com/garbagebagrecords)
Thee Headcoatees "Here Comes Cessation" LP
The first of Damaged Goods' reissues of Thee Headcoatees out-of-print Vinyl Japan full-length releases (also to include "Bostik Haze", "Ballad of the Insolent Pup" and "Have Love Will Travel", all of which are probably available now via discerning import mailorder catalogs...), on heavy and lovely butter colored vinyl. I guess the argument will have to be made that if you own one Headcoatees records you own them all. For your average bloke, sure, I guess that may be a valid point. Others will argue that if you're gonna mess with Medway gal groups, the Delmonas are the only way to go anyway. Another argument that I can't say is totally incorrect. But all this pish-posh aside, Thee Headcoatees never made a record I didn't like. Even if Billy and Bruce were always behind the scenes pulling the strings these suave sisters never seemed like mere puppets (poppets?) to me. Sure, maybe they almost all did grander things before or after (A-Lines, Buffets, the already mentioned Delmonas, Holly's massive solo career), but all of their records as Headcoatess were unabashed fun and possessed of a certain undeniable sexiness (albeit in a sort of homely English way at times). I've never once thought of selling any Headcoatees record, which is more than I can say about a lot of bands. I love them all to varying degrees, which is my segue into an actual review of this record instead of the band. "...Cessation" is one of their most solid albums (more groovin' garage - less raucous punk - little if any shrillness), not too heavy on covers (keeping it Bo with "Roadrunner" and an excellent "Keep Your Big Mouth Shut") and Bongo Debbie is absent on this one. Title cut is one of my favorite of theirs, top three for 'tees LPs, no filler and sans some of the goofiness/cutesiness they treaded into towards the end (I'm talking that Jackie Chan/"My Boyfriends Learning Karate" stuff...). I've listened to it a half-dozen times in two days now and I'm still smiling. Kudos to Damaged Goods for the repressing (and they've hinted at other artists/records from the Vinyl Japan catalog coming soon as well...), I would've never imagined the demand was high enough for these to be reissued, but I'm certainly not complaining. If you already have an original there's no difference here aside from colored vinyl. Reasonably priced for heavy import wax (looks like $15-17 retail on average) and a great way to round out your collection.(RK)
(Damaged Goods // www.damagedgoods.co.uk)
Hellhammer "Demon Entrails" 3XLP/2XCD
As a preface to this review, I must point you in the direction of the piece written about this record by Chris Corry (of bidhardcore.com) over at the esteemed shit-fi.com website (where this pic was borrowed from as well, sorry Stuart). Referencing another review in one's own record review: lazy? I'm not trying to be, I just think I'd be remiss not to mention it, as it's one of the best reviews I've read in some time. I have a few things to say anyway. As a young hesher, the Hellhammer demo tapes were something only whispered about by the most astute of metalheads. Legendary stuff for the burgeoning Celtic Frost fan to dream about hearing. I remember finally getting a listen to an nth generation dub of 'Satanic Rites' while stoned out of my mind in someone's attic sometime in eighth grade or so. It sounded like a Venom record played at the wrong speed...the tunes hung thick in the musty air and weed smoke, sweaty and dankly evil. It was something that I really couldn't wrap my head around at the time, but the sheer brutality of it stuck with me for years. Much later, when I finally became internet capable, one of the first things I searched for on a file-sharing program were these demos. I've mentioned many a time in these pages my love of demo-quality metal, and these tapes may be the Rosetta Stone of that make-believe genre. Not totally incompetent, but a definite borderline case, Hellhammer plodded in all the right ways...heavy doom-laden riffers with absolutely no finesse at all. Just piledriver after piledriver of shit-fi heaviness. These recordings date from two different 1983 sessions, with the 'Satanic Rites' stuff being recorded slightly cleaner and showing some actual (turd) polish in both technique and songwriting, and the 'Triumph of Death'/'Death Fiend' stuff coming from the lower rungs of hell's garbage can (in both recording quality and content), with some authentic tape hiss in evidence. The bass sounds absolutley awful at times, the drum sound is anorexic, the vocals are heavy and growled in your ear...a truly fantastic piece of work from a time before the Death and Thrash and Doom and whatever other metal sub-genre lines you can come up with were so strictly regimented. Hellhammer could conceivably fit into all of them at points and unquestionably influenced each as well. Truly epic shit. I keep trying to think of ways to get the average TB reader to jump on this...music in any form doesn't get much rawer than this. Even if you're of the type who isn't big on metal, I think this transcends...people into the extremism of Brainbombs or the lo-fi hammering of Seventies sub-Sabbath basement heavies should be able to find a point of reference or two here. It is most definitely metal (and I'm not trying to say they sound at all like Brainbombs, but are perhaps categorically "punk" via a similar and perhaps unintentional aesthetic), but a rare breed of metal that I think should appeal to adventurous sorts not opposed to dipping their feet into heavy stuff that might not be within their genre of preference. How about this for a TB-approved selling point: HomeBlitz's "Apocalyptic Grades 2005 A.D." references Hellhammer's lone "officially" released recording. Okay, that's a stretch, but I'm just doing what I can to get some of you on board here. This stuff is just dying to be heard. As far as packaging goes, it is a record collector's dream. Three thick-ass LPs, each with individual picture jackets, a heavy-duty gatefold sleeve, poster insert and a massive booklet filled with liner-notes and every piece of minutiae surrounding the band possible (I'm talking pictures, fliers, tape inserts, promo sheets all the way down to a very metal drawing done in pencil on graph paper by the bass player). Retailing at $30 (or under), it seems impossible that it could be this well done for that cheap. This package puts most other reissues to shame in many ways. Stop being a pussy and go buy this instead of yet another modern weird-punk instant rarity.(RK)
(Century Media // www.centurymedia.com)
Iron Virgin "1974 Scottish Glam Rock" 12"
A few years ago I went to see the Raspberries play in rural Wisconsin and afterwards my buddy Crowbar played me a glam compilation CD with an Iron Virgin tune on it. To tell the truth I was too drunk at the time to remember much about how it sounded, but the band's name was hilarious enough to leave a lasting impression on me. Fast forward a couple years and I was flipping through recently acquired singles at my buddy Todd's house and I noticed Iron Virgin's "Rebels Rule" 45 in the stack. He was compiling a mix tape for me at the time and I asked him to throw "Rebels Rule" on there. That tape ended up carrying on a love affair with my car's tapedeck for the duration of that summer, and as a result "Rebels Rule" became ingrained in my head like a piece of shrapnel gradually enveloped in flesh. So when I heard about this Rave Up release compiling all three Iron Virgin singles onto one 12" I was pumped like breast milk. Then I got it, listened to it once or twice, and for some reason hardly ever pulled it out again. Revisiting it now to write this review has me wondering why I've given it such little attention. For those of you that haven't heard it, "Rebels Rule" is a total fucking glam rocker of very high caliber. It's far more rooted in the hard-rocking side of glam than the fey pop side, although it's still very catchy. After that though the record takes a turn for the worse with a superfluous cover of Wings' hit "Jet." Now in their defense they only cut this tune at the request of their label, but it's still not very compelling listening. Much better is the anthemic hard rock of "Teenage Love Affair" and best of all, the boogie strut of the awesomely named "Shake That Fat" - perhaps the only tune on here that can stand toe to toe with "Rebels Rule" in terms of sheer rockingness. Like the a-side though, the second track is a bit of a letdown compared to the others, and upon further inspection it looks like both of these were from the same single. $20 for four good songs (this is a six song 12" and not a proper LP) might be worth it to some people - and I don't regret buying this - but those of you with deeper pockets will probably just want to get the original "Rebels Rule" and "Ain't No Clown" singles instead. Recommended for fans of the genre though.
Postscript: I thought Rave Up only did reissue of US bands? Does the appearance of this "Scottish Glam Rock" record herald a loosening of that stance and the opening of the European reissue floodgates? I've got my fingers crossed.
Postscript the second: On the cover of this record - which I believe is taken from the "Rebels Rule" 45 - the singer is wearing a giant medallion over his dong-region that bears the script "No Entry." While at first I thought this was a rather thinly-veiled reference to matters of a prurient nature, further contemplation has me baffled as to the true significance of this sign. Now, if he was a female, or if the medallion was hung over his ass the meaning would be clear: ie that the orifice in question is NOT open for business/deposits/dropoffs/turkey basters. However, those of you with a basic knowledge of human anatomy know that entering a man's penis is not a part of sexual intercourse, nor is it even possible for a body part to do so. All I can come up with is the guy had problems with his kidneys and was affraid of getting a catheter up his schlong. Or maybe he slept with a chick/shim/dude of questionable background and had to get the rash he developed checked out, but was scared of the process? If you've got a better idea, please let me know!
Postscript the third: Would this band be near as well-regarded if their name had been "the Mellons" or "Wiggle Stick?" I've yet to decide, but the matter warrants further contemplation.(SB)
(Rave Up Records // www.raveuprecords.com)
Tommy Jay "Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Trauma” LP
The old line about The Velvet Underground is that not many people saw ‘em, but everyone who did started a band of their own.* At the very least, this seems to have been true in Ohio, where the Velvets gigged at La Cave in Cleveland at least semi-regularly. By the mid-70s Cleveland had a small scene of bands formed by folks who’d seen those shows—most notably Rocket from the Tombs and The Mirrors. And while I don’t know if Tommy Jay had made the trip up from Harrisburg, it does say something that in 1974 he recorded a cover of “The Ocean”—a song only known to tape/bootleg collectors until its release on a live album in September of that year. That track, along with another 1974 basement recording, “I Was There,” is the earliest of the dozen songs on Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Trauma. The album, originally released as a cassette on the legendary Old Age/No Age label, compiles tracks from over a decade of Tommy Jay’s recordings. Backed by familiar names from the Columbus music underground (Nudge Squidfish and Mike Rep, among others) Jay’s songwriting offers an extensive palate. The two tracks that most immediately bring to mind the turn-of-the-80s DIY underground—“Memories” and “Last Hurrah”—offer very different approaches. The former is melancholy minimal synth while the latter is more calculated and angular post-punk. The whimsical “Old Hemingway” brings to mind rolling hills with fairies fluttering about…at least if you can ignore the line about “shooting sharks with a machine gun.” There are tracks that bring to mind Iggy Pop/David Bowie collaborations (“Lust Honor and Love”) as well as introspective folk (“Winter Nomad” from 1978). Taken as a whole—and there’s a lot to take in—Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Trauma is a vivid snapshot of an era of unconventional, adventurous songwriting in Jay’s life. As such, it’s an album worth spending substantial time with—and worth putting away, out of your mind, for a while and coming back to. It’s a mysterious and haunting ride, but in the end the rewards are worth the effort. As an aside, I can only hope that this is the first in a series of vinyl reissues of Old Age/No Age releases. There are some true gems on the label that deserve a wider audience than they’ve had. Start with “Blind Boy in the Backseat” and move on from there.(DH)
* Fact checking attributes this quote to Brian Eno, and it’s actually about people who bought their debut LP upon release, not about seeing them, but I think my point remains.
(Columbus Discount // www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
The Joneses "Criminals/Tits and Champagne" CD
The Joneses glam-trash Johnny Thunders worship formula of rock and roll was most definitely a bit out of place in early Eighties Orange County; not a popular reference point while hardcore ruled the strip malls (somehow, they ended up on the BYO compilation “Someone’s Gonna Get their Head Kicked In” with their anthem, the fantastic ‘Pill Box’ though...). As a straight-up rock and roll band, they were loose and probably way too trashy for the LA rock scene. Subsequently, they were swept aside by both camps. This compact disc combines two 12-inches: the ‘Criminals’ and ‘Tits and Champagne’ EPs. The early Eighties ‘Criminal’ offers up an aggressive punk side: the ripping title track and "Fix Me" most notably. There are also hints of what would come later with the saxophone and pounding pianos (around this time, Greg Kuehn would also pound the keys on TSOL’s 'Beneath The Shadows' LP) on the more throwback rock and roll songs, all done with an overtly trashy swagger. And lots of ‘ludes.
The ‘Tits and Champagne’ 12”, which came out in 1989, would obviously offer more of the glam/trash/Thunders-ness of their later period while clearly being the weaker of the two (in terms of urgency and general goofiness), but it too has its moments. Each EP “side” has a track not found anywhere else, although these are by no means key Joneses tracks. Hopefully the vinyl issue has a little more to offer, because visually speaking this CD package is barebones. Aside from brief notes from Jeff Drake and Kuehn, there is not much information here at all (or anywhere else, for that matter) except song lyrics and a half-assed press release (lacking key info). Also available as individual 12” EPs.(LB)
(Full Breach Kicks // www.fullbreach77.com)
Last Sons of Krypton "Effortless Piece of Shit"* LP
Last Sons of Krypton epitomized an era wherein bored teens fought middle-of-nowhere, nuthin’ to do ennui by skipping class, raiding mom’s liquor cabinet, memorizing the Killed By Death comps, and starting a band. What they lacked in talent they made up with attitude, perfecting a snotty delivery that fit so well with the times. Before calling it a day, the group released a handful of singles (most notably “Atom Bomb,” which is an absolute classic debut) and demos (and, they’ll gladly tell you, were on the cover of an issue of MRR). In addition to this modest output, the band made countless other recordings which, aside from trickling out via Soulseek and MP3s here and there, have never seen the light of day. With a wealth of material it’s shocking that it took until now for someone to compile and release some of it in album form. There’s a good song selection here with plenty of unreleased material in addition to alternate takes to some of the singles tracks as well as covers of “Mindless Contentment,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Psycho Killer.” Content-wise this is a pretty great release so it’s a shame that the quality of the record itself couldn’t match. Issued as a lathe-cut LP in extremely limited quantity with no artwork or information of any sort at all, the end product forces the “what could have been?” issue. The band had portraits done by some extraordinary photographers; in addition, band members archived their existence and there is as deep a well of photos and flyers as there is music to compile with. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to throw together a sharp-looking sleeve. Enough with what could’ve been…looking at the release at hand, I’d recommend that anyone who can find it should grab it. Although the quality of lathe-cut vinyl can be uncertain, mine has some minimal surface noise but is overall enjoyable. Some copies of this came with a DVD that included 19 video clips from LSOK performances. Maybe this stuff will get reissued with the quality package it deserves.(DH)
* The album technically may not go by this title, but seeing as there’s no info to the contrary, and this is how a copy appeared on eBay, let’s roll with it. Editor's Note: LP pictured is the copy that appeared on eBay, with sleeve created by the seller.
(self-released // www.geocities.com/braddaugs/bradx.html)
Mission of Burma "Vs.", "Signals, Calls & Marches", and "The Horrible Truth About Burma" 2XLP + DVD
I couldn't be more thrilled to have these records in my possession. Absolutely deluxe packaging of Burma's three Ace of Hearts records (and the only Burma you really need to own in my opinion) that have (along with he Hellhammer reish) set standards for reissues that I imagine few releases will live up to in the future. Each record comes as a double LP (180 gram, mastered in analog at RTI) with one thick slab devoted to the actual record and the second devoted to four "bonus" tracks per release (the "Academy Fight Song" 7" and two others from that session, outtakes from the "Vs." sessions, the B-Side of the "Trem Two" 7" and more), making for grooves wide enough to drive a truck in and impeccable sound. In a nice touch, the original Ace of Hearts labels are left intact as well, which I thought was charming. There's also a live DVD with each record, documenting (in great quality) live sets from 1979-80 and both of their "last" Boston shows from 1983 (afternoon and evening sets) of which I've only been able to finish the first of, or you'd be reading this interview next year. Thick gatefold jackets, plus massive 32-page LP sized booklets in all of them, with interviews with the band and Rick Harte, and totally over-the-top visual documentation of the band via pictures, set lists, fliers, pages from notebooks, original lyric sheets, effects pedal schematics and tons of other interesting tidbits. And a a free digital download coupon for each release. These must've cost a ton to manufacture, yet they're available for the nice price of $24, which is a steal. Even if you get just one (I'd suggest starting with "Signals.." or "Vs."), that's what, the price of three import seven-inches you'll listen to for a week and file away and forget? When you could spend that $24 on some timeless post-punk from a band whose understated influence set the stage for modern independent rock? Use your head, man. Burma released their first record when I was about six years old, when an indie release could sell 10,000 copies on it's first run (which their first 7" did) and before indie-rock really broke ten or so years later. They're a band I've always had a love for, but also something you rarely hear people rave about, which perhaps speaks to their sort of stoic stature. Burma made intelligent rock music, emotional and anthemic at times, stark and straightforward at others, but undeniably beautiful no matter what emotions they were channeling. Their records always sounded smart (and in my youth I always thought of them as the US counterpart of Wire, though I'm not sure how much sense that correlation makes now) but not in a dry by-the-numbers style. There was a certain underlying wildness to them, a sophisticated savageness almost, perhaps British sounding but having an unquantifiable American feel. I heard Sonic Youth before I ever heard Mission of Burma, and that wide-open guitarscape vibe SY could create certainly owes much to Burma, who were doing the same thing without Lee and Thurston's free-jazz wank-outs. Burma were never too arty, they always kept the rock structure intact, which is what I appreciated most about them. No goofy tricks or frills unless you're counting Martin Swope's tape manipulation, which was near subliminal at times...there'd be some swipe of feedback or something and wonder how they made that guitar sound, and it took me a while to get wise that is was Swope's tape-deck trickery. I would get into a history lesson about the band now, but I'll let you do your own research (or look here for the scoop on these records and what they contain). Let's just say that these three reissues document the truly important era of this band, before their semi-recent reformation, so if you've heard one of those records and not this seminal stuff, please correct that. This stuff has been reissued before via numerous Taang! and Rykodisc comps and such, but never as beautiful or concise as these packagings. "Signals, Call and Marches" is their earliest and angriest stuff, containing standards like "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" (one of the best songs ever written, honestly), "This Is Not A Photograph", "Academy Fight Song" and the instrumental "All World Cowboy Romance". Legendary stuff, absolutely powerful guitar rock that shows what could be done with the form after punk rock ripped it to shreds, pretty at times and always exciting. "Vs." shows a bit more focus, vibrant and loud, lush even. My personal favorite Burma release, with "That's How I escaped My Certain Fate" and "The Ballad of Johnny Burma" being obvious standouts, it might not have the "hits" of "Signals..." but as a whole I think it's their best material. There's no filler material on any Burma record, each song's craftsmanship is impeccable and engaging, wandering around pop structure and melody but never drifting too far off the deep end. "The Horrible Truth About Burma" is all recorded live, and although the weakest of these three records, is still a powerful document of their last US tour in 1983. If you think Burma were stuffy in the slightest listen to them tear through a cover of "1970" and quash that notion. A true rock band going ballistic on a classic. There's also an epic "Heart of Darkness" plus original Burma winners like "Peking Spring". I never really thought of this as a "live album" per se, but more like an official release instead of the B-grade status most live LPs get. It's not as 100% quality as the other two, but there's still plenty worth hearing. So, back to the purpose of this here ramble, everyone should have at least one of these beauties in their collection. If you've never heard Mission of Burma before, I'm jealous, because to hear this stuff for the first time is a revelation. Some of the best post-punk ever made, and a band that laid the groundwork for indie-rock heroes from Sonic Youth to Yo La Tengo to Guided By Voices and The Pixies. If you want to hear some punks do the same shit GG and The Dwarves have done and perfected years ago, well maybe you should go do some more coke or something. If you want to hear some intelligent music that is just as punk, pick these reissues up. These are available on CD with all the booklets, extra tracks and DVDs as well, but why not spend the extra $10 and get the vinyl...(RK)
(Matador Records // www.matadorecords.com)
Neutral Spirits s/t LP
To me this has always been one of THOSE records. The one you'll never be able to afford, much less even find, that will just never get played on your turntable. This has always been near the top of my "please reissue" list. The concept of five teenagers getting together and recording this in one day, seemingly all in one take (mind you, the same day they played back up on a gospel record) then losing 350 of the 500 copies in a house fire is the most pathetic-via-charming by way of "of course" history of a record I can think of. That sentence made no grammatic sense.
One listen to the stupidity/brilliance of "Look What You Done To Me," "Speak Freely" or "Power City" left my mouth gaping. Stooges/Velvets gotten to accidentally via Doors reverance. Cracking voices. Bum notes. The overuse of Fuzz on the bass. One song, "Scenic Void" is just fuzz bass and drums. It sounds like what drinking an alligator might taste like. Four or five bum notes on that song alone, played on the only instrument on the track. Perfect. Exquisite. Kugelberg-wantlist-worthy.
Then comes "Can't Leave it This Way." Hard and heavy music should always be played by amateurs. Or Black Sabbath. This is the '65 Kinks with a half-conscious Geezer Butler on fuzz bass, regular Kinks bassist Pete Quaife on regular bass (yeah, there's two) and an atonal Jonathan Richman singing lyrics made up on the spot. Now imagine if that band sounded good. On the other hand, don't. Why think about music? Who wants to hear guys who are good?
We'll never know why the Neutral Spirits made this record. Maybe the Gospel singer they backed paid them with extra studio time? They must have made a TERRIBLE gospel band. Just dreadful. This Neutral Spirits record is amazing. Keywords: Private, Brigman, Proto, Vulcan, Amateur, Real People. Condoms. Diapers.(MS)
(Void Records // www.forcedexposure.com)
New Shiny Things 7" EP
New Shiny Things were a duo from Albany, whose lone '82 7" is a very tough find these days. 2 tracks of this EP are the A and B side of that single. I have to say that "Changing Colors" and "Breadlines and Dissidence" really don't do it for me. Both the male and female vocals are overly dramatic and the music is more or less a little too "pastel" for my tastes. However...the extra track, recorded in '84 under the moniker Operation Pluto, "Crayola Psychosis" is top-rate weird-wave. Almost like a lo-fi outake of "Freedom of Choice." This is the cut that (almost) makes this record worth purchasing. Some people would probably go nuts for the other two tracks, though. (MS)
(Anna Logue Records // www.annaloguerecords.com)
Solvent Abuse s/t LP
Solvent Abuse is one of those bands—there are many—that was destined to be forgotten. Although they stuck around for a few years, got their names into zines, and gigged with the right bands, they dissolved without having made their mark. Without a vinyl release lingering in the bins and keeping their name alive, they may have vanished from the memories of all but their closest friends. Their saving grace comes in the form of their 1982 demo, a ten song affair that, along with demos by Plasmid and Warwound, has become a staple of tape traders keen on Discharge and all that they inspired. Solvent Abuse had a vocalist of each sex and wore different hats to suit the vocals of each. The male-sung songs, “Nuclear Fallout” and “Vigilante” in particular, sound like Discharge songs deconstructed and reinterpreted. The formula and riffs may be familiar but this has legs of its own. The female fronted tracks are less aggressive and play with Jar’s ability to carry a bit of a melody (as much of a melody as possible in UK82 hardcore). The high point of the demo is “Chant,” a tune that reminds me a bit of “Panic” by The Comes. It’s an outstanding demo and Demo Tapes Records thankfully thought it worthy enough to warrant a vinyl release. The 12” is backed with their not as memorable (but still good) follow-up demo from 1984 and includes a nicely assembled booklet with source material on the band (full color photos, rejection letters from Clay & Riot City, lyrics and the like).(DH)
(Demo Tapes // ??)
Tactics "The Sound Of The Sound, Vol. 1" CD
Right, going to eat free casino buffet in an hour. Let’s knock this one out…
Jeff Dahl has bragging rights on me. While he was a teenage glam fag, I was a late pubescent/early 20s Nick Cave enthusiast. I remember the first time I heard ole Saint Nick; I knew it was great because I couldn’t stop laughing. The spoken or rather shouted intro to ‘Sonny’s Burning’ – ‘Hands Up, Who Wants To Die?!?!’ – off a cassette copy of Birthday Party ‘Hits’ on cheap alcohol in a roommate’s car driving nowhere round at night: ‘ha ha ha, ha ha ha, ha ha! Now that’s comedy!’ (not an Ultravox! album title). Add to that equation my prior exposure to things punk and/or post-punk being extremely minimal (‘are Pulp a punk?’) and you have love at first shrike. In turn, Australia became my Xanadu-de-jure by simple reasoning that if Nick came from there, there had to be others that sounded like him or at least trotted a similar gate. Throwing this Nick-fit, I came away with some worthy returns (Go-Betweens, Crime & The City Solution, Moodists, These Immortal Souls) and more than a few mouthfuls of chaff (why I bought that first La Femme LP I’ll never know) and, eventually, a lot of the straight-leg Oz Punk stomper-stuff I was probably supposed to get into in the first place. Which is when/where/how I heard Tactics.
Perhaps best known for their amphetamine-gazelle-goes-to-Akron anthem, ‘Standing By The Window’ (the theme song to ‘Babe: Pig In The City’ had it been scored by Dave Thomas – not the Wendy’s guy!), Tactics hailed from Canberra and seemed to share with the D.I.Y. Ubu dance-party-set an affinity for adrenalin-propulsing stimulants and in-general bad-vibes. One of the all-time classics of speed-dissonance certainly, the ‘Long Weekend EP’ has eyes Polaroid-red and a Fu Manchu of dried spittle encircling its mouth. However, unlike a lot of the twisted switches off the learning tree of sulphate (tch tch tch, Slugfuckers, Seems Twice, Primitive Calculators, Voight-465, etc), Tactics seemed to possess a greater survival instinct or perhaps just larger reservoirs of patience. Intent on something more than inflicting noise on a pub full of punters or a loft full of friends, Tactics bided (bided? Bade? Bidd?) their time and maybe toned down their intake and definitely saved their most sweeping and cinematic ideas for their debut LP on Green. And unlike so many of their contemporaries – Australian or otherwise – desperately scraping resin from the bowls of Eno, Bowie and Burroughs, Tactics aim for the true mainline – the head, not the heart: making intellectual gloom and guitars spindly-as-spider-silk speak, not to flesh out some web of lush personal sadness or cop-out dada, but to convey the many uncomfortable contradictions at the core of Australia’s settler history. And as a former History major, I can certainly dig that!
Sonically, ‘My Houdini’ scales back the yowling self-harm of ‘The Long Weekend’ for ports in the region of the best of the Homosexuals, Wire’s ‘154,’ the Go-Betweens’ ‘Send Me A Lullaby,’ the Rowland Howard authored material of the early Birthday Party and, yes, even the Cure’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ (the only record that band should have ever made). ‘The Sound Of The Sound’ couples ‘My Houdini’ with 1981’s follow-up, ‘Glebe,’ another abstract landmark in the genre of uneasy listening, only slightly less spectral and skittering, but still retaining its flavour on the bedpost overnight. Demos, radio sessions and live takes beef up the package to over forty tracks strong, yet the real aural exciter remains in the girth of ‘My Houdini.’
A perfect soundtrack for a grey overcoat summer. Not as cool (or catchy maybe) as a pinball summer, but the best we can hope for from an age lost with its thumbs down its ass-crack.(CM)
(Memorandum // www.reverberation.com.au)
Unseen Force “In Search of the Truth” CD
Woah, Greta, the bass player, is now the touring bassist for Moby! Fuck, if that doesn’t sell it for you, nevermind. And is that Gwar I see in the member family tree? Wtf. Anyways, this is some quality archival hardcore from Richmond, Virginia, reissued on a little plastic frisbee in lots of 1’s and 0’s for the computer generation. Chronicles the process of American hardcore slowing down, increasing in proficiency, annexing that metallic edge and presenting some complex geetar wails and general song structure lying atop the foundation of skins like interweaving garnish. 1986 in a nutshell, I’d say. Not that I was around. They shared members of White Cross, and while I prefer that band and its like, this is similar in that the slower transitions can’t be confused with winding down, the aggressive whirlwind being retained throughout, bumbling along at different tempos and shite but never losing momentum. Promo sheet has it that they shared the stage with Agnostic Front, COC and DRI. Good context. Apparently No Way Records is reissuing just the original eleven LP tracks on vinyl later this year, but holding out will mean missing the bonus 10-song live set which tickles my fancy/prostate the way Poison Idea’s “Pick Your King” does. Verderami even sounds like a slightly less venomous Jerry A. The pre-Unseen Force band 2000 Maniacs demo from ’84 wraps the disc up, has all the components expected of first wave hardcore’s last throes but is definitely too by-the-numbers to stand on its own merit. The Moby and Poison Idea influenced stuff is pretty sweet though. (BG)
(Grave Mistake Records // www.gravemistakerecords.com)
V/A "Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli" 2xLP
This is the second 2xLP volume of the Wayfaring Strangers series from the Numero Group. The first, "Ladies of the Canyon," was devoted to the private press world of femme folk, while "Guitar Soli" is a beautifully packaged 2xLP set of solo acoustic guitar instrumentals.
Drawing from Ragas, other eastern modes, jazz, blues styles and psychedelia, this small but productive US scene thrived from '68-'80, the scope of this compilation. The timing is perfect for this reissue with the current revival of this style, spearheaded by people like Sir Richard Bishop, and the current insatiable interest in the backcatalogs of John Fahey, Robbie Basho and Sandy Bull. The acts on here draw liberally from these artists, as well as Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder and eastern oud musicians such as John Bereberian, however each has their own style. I suppose that's the most charming thing about the comp, the singularity of every track, even though they effortlessly blend together as they play along, so much so I feel no need to talk about any one artist or any one song. Did I just contradict myself? Probably.
The packaging is superb, with a beautifully screened sleeve printed on the textured raw material that seems to be lifted from Neil Young's "Harvest" (nice touch, that). Expansive and well done liner notes and wonderful mastering make the package complete. This probably isn't for the typical TB reader, but anyone with an interest in any of the aforementioned artist will probably want a copy. Affordably priced, too!(MS)
(Numero Group // www.numerogroup.com)
Scott Walker "Scott"/"Scott 2"/"Scott 3"/"Scott 4" LPs
Ever since the mid-Nineties and a very enthusiastic push at Other Music (anyone else remember the "Decadence" section?) Scott Walker has become elevated to the endless reinvestigation list, Second Tier (along with Nick Drake, Syd Barrett, Judee Sill, etc. etc.). Every 3 years, there's a bit of Scott fever, maybe a BBC special, maybe a feature length documentary (like this year) and his stuff gets repackaged and reissued. But not until now has someone put two-and-fourteen together and finally put them all out on vinyl.
You've got to approach these as a foursome. I'm sure when they came out, this wasn't the case. However, after Julian Cope's berzerk fandom, culminating in a Cope-compiled Scott LP in the 80's, it's a all-or-nothing game. With few exceptions, you can put the needle on any groove of any one of these 8 sides and within minutes you'll know if you can or can not tolerate Scott Walker. Another 15 minutes will need to be taken to figure out if you "do like" him.
I happen to be a Scott Walker fan. I'm not ga-ga about the guy, and at times I do think he's even a bit over-rated. He has some great songs, some great arrangements (does he play bass on these records, anyone?) but I don't see his legacy as one that should surpass contemporaries like Roy Harper or Kevin Ayers as much as it does. There's a huge gap in fan base there. That's not to say that Walker is not as deserved of praise as those two, I'm just of the opinion it should be more equal to theirs.
I suppose Walker's uniqueness comes partially from turning-his-back on the wayward psychy songwriting and arrangements of the latter solo artists, preferring the lush, almost orchestral production of Phil Spector and the arrangements of the great contemporary soundtrack artists of the day, like Morricone. Beyond that, you have to get down to the real divide, Walker's voice. More Chet Baker than Barrett and severely controlled and "thought about," Scott's voice is the real dividing line in the "like or not" question. With his selection of morbid Jacques Brel songs and his own dramatic lyrics, it's sometimes easy to dispel of his legacy as pretentious and decadent. Yet, there's some kind of sincerity there that brings it over the hump and really makes it all work.
So, just like everyone's doctor says, "If you're going to only get one, get Scott 4." It's the obvious choice. The darkest, the one where all the songs are self-penned, the most and least pretentious of them all, SCOTT 4.
4 Men With Beards continue their simple-yet-good product of sound and faithfulness to the originals. Please reissue more stuff like Scott Walker and Chris Bell, and let's end this charade of reissuing 70's Aretha Franklin records. Come on, people!(MS)
(4 Men With Beards // www.forcedexposure.com)
Yves, Serge & Victor "Cagibi" LP
France in the Seventies was a busy place. Lots of exciting and wild music coming from small, tiny microcosms in the cities and villages. Heldon, Gong and Magma all had mainstream success. Let alone all the crazy psych, electronic and proto-punk free-jazz experimentalism going on in the underground.
Yves, Serge & Victor made music of equal to any of that, and were nowhere near anything even remotely experimental, psychedelic, or proto-punk/wave. "Cagibi", a record made by three friends on a two-track tape, recorded and pressed in an edition of 300 to give to friends, is a sombre, lilting folk-rock record filled with harmonies. And it's incredible. It's as good an example of the genre as you're going to get in many ways.
The primary influence on this record is Neil Young. It pervades every track. While the voices are more Hollies, the dark mood, exciting chord changes and overall feel is like a really, really good Neil Young song. The fact that the guys making it are French and not American makes no difference, as it didn't matter that John Fogerty was not from Louisiana and that Neil Young was not from Laurel Canyon, or even America.
Yet, Yves, Serge and Victor have a uniqueness all to themselves. A charm that can only be gained by a couple of friends making music without any care of who listens, so far from the commercial pressures that they don't even leave the living room. But, still they make melodies that make you immediately catch your breath due to the heavy waft of nostalgia.
Another review that probably falls well outside the ever-widening margins of most TB listeners, yet still so damn good I've got to let the few of you who would be interested aware of it.(MS)
(Guerssen // www.guerssen.com)
PROF.SNIPER'S AFRICAN MUSIC REISSUES ROUND-UP
With the surprising response from TB readership in the Group Inerane LP, it's good timing for anyone who wants to go back a few years and seek out more music from this continent as there's been no shortage of reissues in the past few months. Here's just a few of them that I found to be particularly good.
Amanaz "Africa" LP
Sidetracking away from Highlife of West Africa, we go south to Zambia. Here we have an underground psych reissue from 1975 by the ethnic Bantu group Amanaz. Like Witch and Blo, Amanaz distil western rock forms through a uniquely Southern African perspective.
The band adequately plays a sort of heavy-ish psych rock with a lot of fuzz and wah lead guitars, kind of in the vein of later Hendrix. Many American and European bands emulated this formula in the 70's, but the great deal of them sound very pedestrian. Luckily for Amanaz, their approach and style makes it a much more strange and ethereal affair. Very muddied and lofi recording enhances (to me) this effect.
While there are some great tracks in here sung in English, my favorite tracks are the ones sung in the Bantu dialect Bemba. There's a certain gentleness to the language that really lends itself well to the proceedings. The standout for me is the title track "Africa." A great amalgamation of psych and african music with a beautiful chant. A truly remarkable track.
This is a solid Afro-Rock LP with plenty going for it, but it loses out to Witch's "Lazy Bones" (also from Zambia). Shame to compare the two, but it's impossible when they're released so closely together and are from the same time and place. Underground 70's psych fans will definately want to pick it up, though. If they can tolerate the mammoth Shadoks pricetag.(MS)
(Shadoks // see mailorder list)
Orchestre Regional De Kayes LP
Off to Mali we go via the always fantastic Mississippi Records operation. Continuing their fine tradition of bringing their clientele great finds from across the globe, they bring us this fantastic Highlife-inspired LP by Orchestre Regional de Kayes.
There were "Orchestras" for every major town in Mali which would compete at their biannual arts festivals. Kayes is a northern town, right on the border with Senegal, and in 1970, their orchestra represented on this LP won the contest.
Whether this band was pooled by finding the best musicians in Kayes or if they were already a cohesive unit that became the Kayes' Orchestra is almost irrelevant. They come off as a band on this record. Their style is somewhat haunting, high on nuance and the ethereal with an almost melancholic approach to their takes on classic tracks and originals. The slow, mournful "Nanyuman" is a great display of vocal and saxophone melodies trading the lead lines, almost turning into a duet.
While it may not be the first record I'd suggest to anyone who's only getting started with West African music, it's still a great stand-alone LP good enough for anyone with taste.(MS)
(Mississippi Records // see mailorder list)
V/A "Ethiopian Urban Modern Music Vol. 1: Ethiopian Soul and Groove" LP
While it feels culturally insensitive to include Ethiopian music in this review, since the country is so vastly different geographically and historically than sub-Saharan African countries, it's still technically part of the continent, and it has more similiarities to music from Lagos than, say, Manchester.
L'arome is a wonderful little company making vinyl products from reissues previously only available on CD (kind of like Mississippi.) For this series (of which this is only a representative), they've mined the exhaustive catalog of the fantastic Ethiopiques series. Already a legendary comp, Ethiopiques exposed the western world to the class of Ethiopian pop music from the 50's-70's, and brought worldwide acclaim for bandleader and vibraphone player Mulatu Asatake.
This LP focuses on the more "soul" inspired side of Ethiopian Seventies pop. Since they're culling from the entire series of CDs, every cut on here is a classic. From the barnstorming instro "Muzqawi Silt" by the Wallias Band to the killer middle east-meets JBs "Aynotchesh Yerefu" by Samuel Belay. I am not a huge fan of funk, but the oddball vocal timbre and instrumentation of these cuts take them into a whole 'nother world.
There's really no going wrong with this one, or the other series of L'arome vinyl reissues of the Ethiopiques series. Do pick all of them up if interested, as they're all highly affordable.(MS)
(L'arome // see mailorder list)
V/A "Nigeria Special Part 1+2" 2xLP sets
The simple explanation for Highlife, a unique brand of African popular music which originated in Ghana in the Twenties, is that it's an amalgamation of western blues and jazz worked in with traditional African music and rhythms. While on the surface this is true, by the Sixties, it had developed into its own weird stew that leaves the prior influences almost lost in the sound.
While most listeners of Seventies African music prefer the afrobeat and funk of Fela Kuti and his constituents, I have always been more attracted to Highlife. Perhaps because of it's different-ness and total African-ness as opposed to an African version of a popular western style. The slinky guitars, the pained almost bluesy singing, the odd timing, rock and roll instruments being played against their purpose, it all kinda fits for me.
With that out of the way, these two new reissues by Soundway are some of the best I've heard in the genre. All culled from rare Nigerian records, a country who at the time of these recordings ('70-'76) was just getting itself back together after the Biafran war. The joy of such a terrible thing ending mixed with the pain of seeing such inhumanity is all evident on these records. The sorrowful "Okwukwe Na Ncheckwube" by Celestine Ukwu and His Philosophers National is as good an example of the genre and is a sure headturner for even the casual African reissue listener. Do those exist?
These records are really a peek into a special time, place and scene that'll never be repeated. Superior packaging, liner notes and Soundway's always nice price for imported vinyl (the low $20's for double LP sets from the UK, pretty unheard of!) makes this a mandatory purchase for the more adventurous TB reader.(MS)
(Soundway Records // www.soundwayrecords.com)
To find any of these releases we recommend:
and we highly endorse www.ebreggae.com for all your reggae needs!
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