Blue's Men Prohibido Prohibir 10" (Odeon, 1967)
There are only a few genres in rock & roll and R&B that automatically get my attention. Late Seventies Los Angeles punk rock is nearly always a high. Early Seventies deep funk usually is a given. And up until recently, early to mid Sixties garage punk was a sure thing. I write until recently because within the last ten years there has been a flood of reissues and compilations of Sixties punk, so much that now the most mediocre band warrants a triple CD box with 20 page booklet documenting their non-career. Comps are released with material that is not good, only "rare," which often means a 45 was so lame no one bought it and most the pressing was deservedly destroyed. So it is probably no surprise that I have mostly written off Sixties punk as something I already know enough about and don't want to waste my time on aesthetically worthless reissues. That said, there is an exception. I am always willing to try some non Anglo/American Sixties band on the chance that there might be some clash of cultures or anything out of the standard Wolly Bolly/You Really Got Me chug.
While in Mexico I picked up a number of bootleg reissues of Latin American Sixties garage. Some of it turned out to be a band doing covers of American/UK hits with vocals in accented English (Apocalipsis, Los Hitters), others wound up being off enough to be intriguing (Los Temerarios with one member as band handclapper - very maniacal!). That I was prepared for. What I could not predict was that I was about to be completely blown away by Argentina's Blue's Men.
I can't tell you much about the Blue's Men's history other than they were from Buenos Aires and had five members in them ranging from 18 to 21. They released on record in 1967, which was either originally an LP or a 10", on Odeon. And I know that some time in the last five years a label named Mystic bootlegged the Odeon release. The boot is what I found.
From the piano intro at the record's start, which heaves into a drum guitar Who/Kinks "We're Here!" kabam! I knew I was in for a treat. And then when the vocals came in I was in Heaven. Because while the band is hard-hitting and the production is fantastic (more about that latter), it is the vocalist, Miguel Witis, who stands out and makes this band go from great to one of the best ever.
Witis has a vocal style/sound that I can only describe as Van Morrison doing Bryan Ferry doing Tom Jones doing Steve Martin influenced by Tampax. He is so over the top and the vocals take such nice unexpected turns that Witis is to the Blue's Men what Reg Presley is to the Troggs, Morrison to the Them and Gerry Roslie is to the Sonics. Yes, Witis is that good.
Upping the Blue's Men a little bit more is whomever produced Prohibido Prohibir. If he would have been content to not spice the recording, the record would still be great, but adding jungle noises behind "Honey on the Vine," a 50s sci-fi sounding feedback over a Bo Diddley beat on "The Day the World Fried My Brain" (which is as good as the title and especially exceptional because the reason the subject's brain got fried is because "she....loves....me!"), and murky piano on a few other cuts. One "trick" that totally works happens in the song "If I were a Carpenter." The beat is established in the beginning by a piece of wood being sawed, when the song takes off the saw is replaced by a hammer that accents the beat. And behind the Witis and the studio tricks is one hell of a band with a strong drummer, a tight enough to be loose rhythm section, and a very good guitarist. The song choices - from Billy Joe Royal's "Hush" to Caetano Veloso's "Prohibido Prohibir" - is great. There are no flaws here.
There is a small stack of Sixties punk albums records that I consider undeniable. The first LPs by the Troggs, ? & the Mysterians, and the Music Machine are all perfect. Same goes with the two Them records, Here are the Sonics, the Wailers' Out of My Tree, The Seeds' Web of Sound, and Love's Da Capo (you can also throw in a singles collection by Jacques Dutronc). The Blue's Men's Prohibido Prohibir can be added to that list.
First, I need you to make me a copy of this record.
Second, are you really down with side 2 of Da Capo? Side 1 is undoubtedly perfect, but I can't say I flip it over much....