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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
SKIP JAMES : "GREATEST OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS" CD......
A couple folks took me to task a few weeks ago when I posited that, of the 1960s SKIP JAMES "rediscovery" discs I'd heard, none were really worth spending any quality time with. Tsk tsk, some of you said, and you know what? At least in one instance, this very fine set of live-to-mic solo studio recordings called "Greatest of the Delta Blues Singers", you were spot-on. Of course I've got a built-in bias centered around trotting out a guy who made such masterpiece, ethereal blues recordings in 1931, and then expecting him to come anywhere near that level thirty-three years hence. I'd be like expecting the Rolling Stones to make another "Exile on Main Street" in 2005 or a reunited Black Flag to come up with another "Damaged" ten years from now. Mere competence would be plenty enough, and James exceeds that in spades here. Even more so, he came bursting back with brand new songs that had depth and soul and warmth that most musicians would just kill for, particularly "Sick Bed Blues" and "Washington DC Hospital Center Blues", both of which take an almost silly premise -- James was in the hospital and he became lonely because no one came to visit him -- and turns it into a sort of wry, funny but still sparsely-played blues that is unmistakably the master of bleary-eyed depresso blues himself, Mr. Skip James. His strange tunings and off-putting falsetto are still hanging around as well, a little worse for wear but a damn site better than so many of his rediscovered contemporaries. He also was not adverse to mucking about with his old material, either; it took me a good twenty seconds to recognize the god-given classic "Devil Got My Woman" because of a new arrangement that James threw together -- not sure if he was bored, drunkenly ham-handed or simply aiming to reinvent & reassert himself, but it worked. It indeed is refreshing to hear a session that captured so much of the guy's magic so far down the line, and I thank TA especially and others who called me on my BS a few weeks ago & offered convincing aural evidence to the contrary.
Friday, August 27, 2004
RED CROSS : "BORN INNOCENT" LP......
I'm forsaking the commoner's spelling of the band's name, "Redd Kross", in favor of the band's original, pre-threatened lawsuit moniker and the one that graced the first editions of this incredible record. You know, take a step back for a second here with me. We talk a lot about raw DIY masterpieces here at Agony Shorthand, records in which the relative lack of talent of the musicians & general bash-it-out spirit speaks louder and more forthright than records made by professionals in search of dulled edges and easy winnings. That said, why don't we bray about RED CROSS more often? It's not that I'm not a fan or even a newcomer to the early (1979-82) band's charms -- my two college radio shows in the 80s were called "White Trash" and "Notes and Chords Mean Nothing To Me" in honor of tracks performed by the stellar McDonald/McDonald/Housden/Lea lineup captured on this record. No, I reckon I've just taken for granted how genius this stuff is after listening to it ad nauseum for so many years. Whenever I'm asked for a list of my Top 20 albums of all time (which is never, but I'm ready!), I always have 1982's "Born Innocent" fired up and ready to go. Now I will proceed to impart several of my many reasons for having it loaded and at the ready.
"Born Innocent" saw a band in which half the members -- the very young but already veteran LA punks, Steve and Jeff McDonald -- were overcoming early teenage ineptitude and were learning to play fast, loose NY DOLLS-style cockrock, with the wild abandon and revved-up tempo of peers like Black Flag, the Descendents and the Circle Jerks. Stuck on the other pole were their new rhythm section recruits Tracy Lea and Janet Housden, two very young, musically unexceptional party girls who were chosen mainly for their willingness to take direction and party hard on a moment's notice with the McDonalds. You couldn't have asked for a better yang for the ying, if you know what I'm saying. "Born Innocent" is the fruit of this polarity -- a rollicking, shambling goodtime punk rock party record full of joy, bacchanalia and plentiful offerings to the garage/trash gods. No matter how often the subject matter approaches topics friendly to dark pop culture-obsessed 16-year-olds (Charles Manson, Linda Blair, "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls" etc.), you still walk away with an ear-to-ear grin and an urge to hear the thing again & again. Top representative moment that sums up the pituitary joi de vivre of the disc: the inept, three-second "bass solo" that pokes its head up for a nibble at the end of "Kill Someone You Hate". Love it. My favorite "cassette tape" for years was a side of a C-90 I titled "Red Cross - The Early Years"; it had their first EP, "Born Innocent" and every one of the many comp tracks made by the 1979-82 model(s) of the band: "Notes and Chords", "Rich Brat", "St. Lita Ford Blues" etc. Of these, the very best two are included on the CD reissue of "Born Innocent": the bafflingly named motorized screamer "Tatum O'Tot and the Fried Vegetables" (in which the band truly sounds like they can PLAY) and my all-time fave "Notes and Chords Mean Nothing to Me" -- a trite statement of purpose to be sure, but a killer harmonic punk rock song in anyone's book. That tape enlivened many a car trip for years, just as "Born Innocent" will your music collection -- indeed, your life -- when you click this link and order the expanded compact disc version today!
Thursday, August 26, 2004
"KING TUBBY'S STUDIO VS. CHANNEL ONE STUDIO IN DUB" CD........
In the late 70s/early 80s these heavyweight bout-style "dub fights" were all the rage, usually teaming one set of Kingston studio wizards vs. their counterparts a few blocks away in a hyped-up contest to see who could crank out the fattest drop-outs, hardest grooves and most mind-boggling dub trickery, all in the context of one 40-minute LP. The battles I've heard all feature an announcer between each track who "prepares" the listening audience for the full-on dub onslaught about to commence in an inimitable Jamaican pidgin English patois. This one, featuring what truly WERE the two heavyweight studios of the late 70s locked in mortal dub combat spread over 9 terrific tracks, is about as good as it gets. I'm still trying to get myself schooled on all the heavy hitters of the day, but I know that crazy dub magician SCIENTIST is all over the place here, as is Tubby and someone called "Crucial Bunny". The winner? I'm going to give all my cards to the Channel One crew this time -- their "Introducing Crucial Bunny From Channel One", "Be Channel One Guest" and "Stricktly Rockers From Channel One" are packed with surprise speaker fades, deep-haze horn echoes and an amazing proclivity to create a real gone, gone, gone mood that is the keystone of any dub worthy of the name. I guess now that I've heard so much of KING TUBBY's work from this era (and it just keeps pouring forth every year on innumerable reissue CDs), his moves are almost telegraphed to the point to where even I know what's going to come after musical Tab A is inserted into musical Slot B. I'm sure even this guy had to be phoning it in a lot of his days on the job -- lord knows you and I do at work, right? Of course every Tubby track on this brief document is great, but I think the Channel One studio was a little bit hungrier for the chalice this outing. I'm anxious to hear if any subsequent bouts were staged between these giants; for now, this is one dub CD that's on high rotation when the Hinman family peace pipe makes its way around the living room.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS: "SAINTS AND SINNERS / DEAD VANDALS" 45......
I have a nice closetful of early 80s new wave skeletons that I like to revisit from time to time; despite some winning junior high & high school discoveries of THE CRAMPS, VELVET UNDERGROUND and a few hardcore punk bands I still listen to, my 1980-84 teen music obsession was also heavily pocked by some feverish SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, BAUHAUS, THE JAM and SIMPLE MINDS collecting. I mean feverish, serious, serious collecting -- entire discographies of said bands' 45s and 12" singles once resided in the house in which my parents still live, all of which washed upon the shores of Los Angeles used record stores a few years later when I hit college. Incidentally, I feel far less shame about the aforementioned than I once did, and own a few resurrected star tracks here and there by all of them (you can't tell me that Bauhaus' "Dark Entries" or any of Siousxie's early singles aren't worthy of at least a couple minutes of your listening time every five years). And I never owned a Kajagoogoo record, for what it's worth.
I hit up a few record swaps when I was 16-17 with my fast-food earnings, and one of the items I proudly walked away with for a mere 8 bucks was this 45 by JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS -- or, as they were known months later, SIMPLE MINDS. I'd never heard it prior to purchase, but totally dug it from note one -- and still think it's one of the best UK punk singles of its day. "Saints and Sinners" is built around a brisk hot rod guitar riff and mega-amped production, and it's just a stellar example of the below-the-radar, totally unrecognized British (or in this case Scottish) punk of the day. I bring this label up way too often, but if this 45 had been on RAW RECORDS it would've made complete sense, as "Saints and Sinners" is just the sort of full-on, buzzsaw, snot-filled punk that label made its stock in trade. "Dead Vandals" takes the tempo down a notch but is nearly as fantastic, with somewhat nonsensical lyrics and the squeaky-voiced vocals of a young Scottish punk who's a bit wet behind the ears. You have to wonder how guitarist Charlie Burchill, who hinted hard and had his chance to be one of the best firebreathing punk rock guitarists, felt once his contributions were hosed down behind washes of synthesizer and lush blurring effects (come to think of it I can't even hear a guitar in most Simple Minds songs; quite the contrary on this one). The British music press used to have a field day guffawing over photos & stories of UK pop stars' punk rock pasts, but somehow this 45 and the short-lived Johnny and the Self-Abusers barely got the airtime they richly deserve.
VARIOUS ARTISTS : "GOD LESS AMERICA" CD.....
Tim Warren, longtime head of kingpin garage and 60s punk label CRYPT, is one of the more enigmatic characters I've come across over the years. I barely know the guy and we spoke maybe 20 words to each other during our only mano-a-mano encounter, but I've always chortled at the good-vs.-evil battle lines the guy draws with regard to music and general hipster culture. You're either a righteous supporter of kick-ass rock and roll music (exemplified by cool risktakers like BO DIDDLEY, THE SONICS and THE PAGANS, for instance), or you're a flat-out square, dweeb or homosexual. I believe a good chunk of his stance is tongue in cheek & that the guy's got a thick skin & a strong sense of humor, and with the exception of a (very) few Crypt-housed NEW BOMB TURKS-molded clunker garage bands in the 90s, his taste in raw rock, R&B & soul music is strictly top-drawer. If Tim says, in his now-online, Paypalable Crypt catalog, that something is essential and will improve your record/CD collection and luck with women, you really ought to pay heed. I've never found the guy to be wrong, ever.
For years he's been churning out amazing compilations under a variety of label names to avoid close, copyright-wielding eyes -- "Sin Alley", "Down And Out", "Loo-key Doo-key" and so on. When I heard about a decade ago that he was involved in a country & western compilation, I bought it with nary a moment's hesitation. "GOD LESS AMERICA" (the name taken from a photographed cover-shot motel sign missing the "B" in "Bless") is a very worthy collection of "sinner" country, roughly translated as 1950s-60s cautionary country songs all dealing with alcoholism, drunk drivers, girls who smoke marijuana on their path to hell, LSD-blasted hippies wondering how to get off a bad trip (Mohawk and The Rednecks' great "Enchanted Forest"), and the usual array of cheating wives and murderous husbands. Very few of the songs stand up as first-rate country numbers outside of their lyrical content; "God Less America" is all about the stories and the sinning and the sorrow, not the pickin' and the fiddlin'. I will, however, direct you to a few standouts if you need further convincing -- by all means, take a listen to Chuck Wells' "Down and Out" and the opening heart-puller "8 Weeks In A Barroom" by Ramblin' Red Bailey. 8 weeks in a barroom. Hey, we've all been there. Tim's slowed up his release schedule the past few years, and others have gone out and done the hardscrabble archival work that he, and he alone, once undertook. But if you want to catch a glimpse of one man's warped yet exceptionally well-informed view of all that was great and good in American lowbrow culture the past 30-50 years, Tim's compilations are still the place to start.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
RECORD STORES OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST, VOLUME ONE : SINGLES GOING STEADY......In this, our first and only edition of RSOTGN, we take a close look at Seattle, Washington's SINGLES GOING STEADY, a "punk rock" record store near the banks of the tranquil and inviting Puget Sound. Why, it was literally only yesterday that I spent an hour in the store's welcoming environs whilst vacationing in Western Washington, though I regret to inform that I walked out with nothing so much as a copy of a couple of free music magazines, both of which were in the trash -- nay, the recycle bins -- within 10 minutes. See, I lived in Seattle for a couple of years not so long ago, and when I wanted a "punk rock" record (or even a compact disc!), I went to FALLOUT, which my peers tells me has fallen by the wayside (I didn't even check, lest I find a gaping, empty hole where a large chunk of my wallet once lay). Fallout, faults though it had, was run by garage, punk and 60s surf fiends and stocked with merchandise to match, with a comics and skateboards (!) section to boot. If they didn't have it, it wasn't out yet. My Northwest peeps tell me that Singles Going Steady is Fallout's nearest replacement circa 2004, so I ventured, debit card in hand, accordingly. I tried to forget that last time I'd been in the store, right before I moved from town in 1999, I'd been none too impressed.
None too impressed I remain. SGS is good on vinyl, in fact they put a high premium on new records as opposed to new CDs, and had new reissues from CRIME and other 70s punk luminaries up on the wall. I also dug their prices; used CDs were typically $8, and the selection of used garage and raw punk stuff was plentiful and pretty ace (is Seattle in the midst of a great punk sell-off??? Could be a leading indicator...hmm...). But for a young man with pedestrian tastes such as myself, multiple sections of music called "crust" can only lead to utter bafflement. Crust? Is that a new movement in future-facing avant garde musics? Or, as the covers of said "crust" releases might indicate, a pseudo-speed metal knock-off circa CombatCore records' awesome 1986 lineup? Anyway, Singles Going Steady is big on the Crust, as they are on the Oi, the "Street Punk" and something called "Peace Punk" (what the hell is that?). These new genres are crowding out the tried and the true, and thus I found nothing worth bringing home, framing & putting up on the mantle the way I used to during my long, long days spent foraging at Fallout. If you're on 2nd Avenue in Seattle anytime soon, maybe take a peek inside SGS for a couple of minutes -- you might even meet a real peace punk! Then head to the Virginia Inn and settle in with a Mac & Jack's African Amber -- a $3.50 that'll pay dividends well beyond what you'd get from the latest crust-punk 45.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
LET'S TALK ABOUT NEIL......
Well, I finally did it. I completed my pre-1983 NEIL YOUNG back catalog accumulation two weeks ago by purchasing that very first one from 1968, "Neil Young" -- the one you never hear anyone talk about; the one with the bizarre cover that has Neil looking like he's been carved into Mt. Rushmore by a drunk 10th grader; the one that sits forlornly in the priced-to-move budget racks in every record store I've seen it. Never knew if it was any good, but there it is. My take on it after a handful of listens is that it's mediocre in all regards -- for Neil -- when stacked next to the titanic releases that followed it the next six years, legend-making records like "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" , "On The Beach", "Zuma" and the rest. The tracks that bring it home the hardest are the ones I already knew from "Decade" ("The Loner", "The Old Laughing Lady") plus a top-notch closer in the winding and forlorn acoustic "Last Trip To Tulsa", which is 9 minutes of the Neil we came to know and love -- weird, mysterious and rocking hard even when flying 100% solo. The record suffers a bit from toss-away tracks, like an opening instrumental called "The Emperor of Wyoming" that's pleasant enough but a bit odd in placement, as well as the ultra-produced classical interlude "String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill" which is just one producer's (Jack Nitzsche's) flat-out bad idea. Almost makes you want to check out "Greendale" -- it couldn't be any more self-indulgent than this, right? Neil bounces well between folksinging-troubadour mode and hard-driving, guitarslinging outlaw mode but apparently was only months away from honing his craft to a sharpened T. He found rock and roll valhalla on the next record, the incredible "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", and was off & sprinting for a impressive run that continues off and on to this day. This one, I'm glad to have it bookending the collection, but I'd hardly want to start any Neil fixation here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
VISIT THE VINYL MINE.......While I soldier on through an impending move & limited time in front of a computer for pithy music-related commentary, let me instead direct you to a great site called VINYL MINE. The gentleman, Jim H., who puts this together is big on the digitization front & takes it one step further by posting a lot of his vinyl for you to swipe. He's also good at linking to others in the MP3 blog sphere doing the same thing. It appears that he's got a Jukebox Jury of his own going on right now as he wades through a bunch of 1980s vinyl in hopes of a reassessment that might purge it from the collection. I know the feeling. Check it out by clicking here.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
TOMMY McCOOK : "BLAZING HORNS / TENOR IN ROOTS" CD.....
TOMMY McCOOK was an original saxophone-wielding member of 60s ska heavyweights THE SKATALITES before he lit out on his own, straight into the boiling cauldron of reggae fragmentation & experimentation in the 1970s. This very satisfying, all-instrumental Blood and Fire release is a CD collection of two of his late 1970s LPs, along with a small helping of odds and ends. McCook took a real jazzman's approach to his sax, so even while he's blowing over echo-laden dub or peppy roots reggae, the guy sounds like he's teleported himself to a smoky Village Vanguard stage. His hornlines are deep and soulful, in stark contrast to the staccato bursts of horn you hear in the Skatalites or in most 60s ska and rocksteady. Album #1 was, of course, a 1979 effort called "Blazing Horns" -- its centerpiece is right there from the get-go on track one, the 8-minute+ "Blazing Horns (extended)", a stupendous dub workout that's less about trippy effects and heavy reverb and is instead a cascading series of solos laid over some deep low-end rumble. The record features Sly & Robbie on rhythm, almost always a trademark of quality, and is predictably pretty first-rate. Also ace is the never-released "Tenor In Roots" LP set down with producer Glen Brown; this eschews the dub and goes for more of a vocal-less roots reggae vibe, with a little bit of old school ska creeping into the mix here & there. Rather than throttle the listener with blips, blurps and effects, this release goes down smoothly and is a pleasant way to acquaint oneself with a guy who had his fingers in the Jamaican musical pie longer than just about anyone else.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
PINK FLOYD : "1967 - THE FIRST 3 SINGLES".....
Among my favorite collections ever is this very brief six-song CD-EP containing PINK FLOYD’s first three singles, all from 1967: “Arnold Layne / Candy and a Currant Bun”, the incredible “See Emily Play / The Scarecrow”, and the less heralded but still worthy “Apples and Oranges / Paint Box” 45. Contrary to what many who’ve been subjected to untold years of SYD BARRETT worship may think, I almost feel that there still needs to be a full accounting of the man’s songwriting genius, and a definitive 2xCD collection of his top moments. That would include every track on this EP, the searing rocker “Vegetable Man”, about half of the first Pink Floyd album, rare bootleg-only tracks like “Birdy Hop”, and large chunks from his solo records. Yet this one is the guy’s (and the band’s) hands-down masterwork. “Arnold Layne”, a bizarre hit 45 about a convicted laundry-stealing crossdresser, cemented the band’s early template as a dark, addled, space-& time-traveling force to be reckoned with, whereas its flip revealed the jaunty & tripped-out world of Syd Barrett front and center. “See Emily Play” is only one of the greatest 3-5 rock and roll songs of all time – one guy called it “...a near-operatic, soaring, experimental psychedelic pop monster”. Buy that man a beer. It took me far longer to hear it on “classic rock” radio than any of the band’s early 70s megastadium anthems, which is a crime. A crime! The other three tracks are varying shades of genius, creatively wacked, ultra-intense "free form pop", none of which sound a whole lot like anything that made it to the debut album. For some reason getting all that early stuff together in a coherent package has been elusive, outside of this release, bootlegs, and things buried deep within box sets. It sure makes a homeboy wonder, doesn't it?
“PSYCHODELICIAS” FOR “UN POCO DINERO”.....There’s a large-hearted gentleman in Switzerland who has put together his own 8-volume CD-R set of 1960s South American & Spanish beat, psych and pop rarities & “hits” called “PSYCHODELICIAS”. He is putting the good word out to Agony Shorthand readers that you too can own these handmade, multiple-track CD-Rs if you’re willing to pop for the color covers and postage to wherever it is you reside. That’s it. In US currency, he’s asking $8 for one CD, and a mere $20 for all eight of them. Are they any good? I’m midway into Volume One and I’m enjoying it a lot – some hard, power-chord friendly KINKS / CREATION-like pop on this one so far, along with some moody ZOMBIES and off-balance OS MUTANTES psychedelia from acts like “Los Brincos”, “Los Walkers” and don’t forget “Los Angeles”. He’s working on a 9th volume to come soon, but if you want the first eight CDs for a mere song, drop a line to email@example.com or click here.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
JOHNNY REBEL : “FOR SEGREGATIONISTS ONLY” LP.....
I once received a promo package in the early 90s that felt like molten Kryptonite once I opened it & realized what it was: a pack of “white power” punk cassettes from some racist label up in Seattle, so laughably dumb and musically abhorrent that I had no choice but to immediately parcel them off my most politically correct friends with no explanation. I don’t remember anyone getting too offended, because the stuff’s so dated and beyond the pale that it’s like hearing someone vehemently argue for corsets and chastity belts. Anything that places its “politics”, dubious as they are, in front of the actual music being made is going to suck every time, and what I’ve heard of “white power” rock proves that from stunted minds comes supremely stunted music (that includes Skrewdriver, including their “but they were totally awesome before they were racists” 1977 crap). There was a time, however, when the US racists, fresh off a couple of landmark defeats such as the Civil Rights bill, were not only running scared but actually still thought they might be able to rally the populace to their side. Their weapon, outside of George Wallace’s presidential candidacy, was a heady brew of redneck country music, militaristic Klan anthems and wistful paeans to old Dixie. The pinnacle recording, as I understand it, was JOHNNY REBEL’s “For Segregationists Only” LP from the mid-60s, which I guess is something of a holy grail for modern wimps who, in 2004, honestly feel threatened by other races, as well as for those who traffic in deep irony & revel in listening to taboo words and ideas thrown around with abandon.
I’ve got an associate who I’d put in the latter camp, a guy who, among other genres, collects XXX stag party records, Norwegian death metal, developmentally-delayed childrens’ choruses, and anything else that might bring a wry snicker to his lips. This demented rogue was kind enough to send me an unsolicited CD-R of a collection called “Klassic Klan Kompositions”, which includes the JOHNNY REBEL record and another 60s compilation called “For Segregationists Only, Volume 2”. Both contain ample usage of the “n-word”, to say the least, and portray America as being under massive assault from federalists, welfare moms, liberals and most of all, what we now call African-Americans. The caricatures are crude, hostile and filled with paranoia. There was a whole (rather large) posse of self-styled “conservatives” who saw their South under attack from the US federal government, forcing them to integrate and live with people whom they’d had under their thumbs for generations. Johnny Rebel and his cohorts tapped into their claustrophobia with a bizarrely playful, sing-songy racism that often sounds like the country-era JERRY LEE LEWIS if he’d taken his lyrics “one toke over the line”. It’s not violent per se, just cantankerously crackers, and often straining for a clever rhyme. And it’s completely transparent in the sense that “Johnny Rebel” is obviously several different session men recording under the same name; the vocals shift several octaves from track to track, making this a cobbled compilation of cheap studio recordings with a common paranoid theme. The schizophrenic nature of these releases, on Reb Rebel Records – and indeed of “Johnny Rebel” himself – is captured in this excellent article by Nick Pittman in New Orleans’ Gambit Weekly. From the article:
“Johnny Rebel's first release was a 45 rpm with "Lookin' For a Handout" on the A-side and "Kajun Klu Klux Klan" on the other. Trahan followed with five more 45s, each with a B-side, bringing the complete Johnny Rebel catalog to 12 songs. His subjects: the laziness of blacks. How blacks and whites were meant to be kept separate. How a black would lose a spelling bee to a donkey. Only two Johnny Rebel songs, "Keep a' Working Big Jim" and "Federal Aid (The Money Belongs to Us)," were not about race. The first was a tribute to New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's efforts to solve the Kennedy assassination. The other was critical of foreign aid. Along with the 45s, Reb Rebel included four Johnny Rebel songs on a full-length compilation album titled For Segregationists Only. According to the album notes, the songs "express the feeling, anxiety, confusion and problems of many of our people during the political transformation of our way of life." If you had a taste for "subtle, rib-tickling satire," these songs were for you.”
I recommend reading the whole thing, as Pittman tracks down the guy who may or may not be the real Johnny Rebel. Was it real? Was “Rebel” recording this stuff strictly for a paycheck, or did he seriously believe what he was singing? Who knows, but there’s probably 25 or so bald oi-heads out there who still think this stuff is the gospel truth, rather than a weird curio from a long-gone era in American history. Still mad at LBJ, still upset at that rabble-rousing Martin Luther King, and skulking away in chat rooms with their creepy kin.
Monday, August 02, 2004
VARIOUS ARTISTS : “PACHUCO-SOUL!” CD.....
I feel like I’ve been cranking out all sorts of mealy-mouthed reviews lately in which I praise a given band or release’s few high points and pointedly dismiss the rest. This review is no different. “Pachuco-Soul!” is a collection of 1960s/70s soul/R&B 45s from East Los Angeles, or more accurately, from Eddie Davis’s Rampart Records, known as “the Motown of the California Chicanos”. So does that mean that this is chock-full of banda-like accordian, lots of fake crying and “ahhhh-ha-ha-ha-ha”s, and “low rider”-esque percussion? Nope, not at all – if you tried to play guess-the-ethnicity on this platter you’d have 9 out of 10 doctors guessing “African-American”. This is-no-doubt-about-it soul music, folks, and the content of its character overrides the color of its skin on just about every track.
Of those tracks, the big one, and only one I’ve heard before, is CANNIBAL & THE HEADHUNTERS’ “Land of 1000 Dances” – and if that were it, there’d be no reason to read any further. But I found three knockouts that I’ve been playing over and over, especially a heavy riff-tastic, horn-led stomper called “I’m In Love With Your Daughter” by THEE ENCHANTMENTS – wow. This riff will not leave your head for days, enough so that you’ll forget that the guy’s vocals are pretty unexceptional. Put this backing section behind a Screamin’ Joe Neal or even Gerry Roslie and you’ve got a hothouse, sweat-soaked track for the ages. My other discoveries are a goofy, frantic instrumental called “Chew Chew Chaw” by SHORTY & ENCHATING SOULS and a soul smoker from THE ATLANTICS called “Beaver Shot” (complete with porn-snapping camera noises that liikely went right over the head of 99% of the listening audience). The rest of the compilation ranges from pretty neat to supremely frustrating. Scattered among the decent soul/funk workouts is some of the worst Teddy Pendergrass-eque lite soul/MOR you’re gonna hear anywhere, which is sort of baffling given the “teen dance”-invoking packaging and cover shot, yet thoroughly in keeping with the high highs and low lows of most 60s label retrospectives. Your CD player’s skip function will really come in handy, but don’t give up the ghost too early because the real good ones are scattered all over the 30 tracks here. Thanks to TA for helping me find them.
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