Have Another Tantrum
Splotch Have Another Tantrum LP (Menlo Park, 1996)
It is not often that I post something that was made a mere 11 years ago but I decided that since I am doing a Splotch 7" over at Static Party, I might as well pair it up.
Splotch were a New York City band, incredibly noisy and always direct. While not 100%, their two records are certainly worth searching for if you have a hankering for Bunnybrains, Harry Pussy, Royal Trux, and like din (also check out Bird Flu). The only tidbit I can tell you about them is the guitarist is the daughter of jazzbo Carla Bley.
I picked this record up new at the Subterranean Records warehouse when I was there buying records for the store. It had just come out. I was drawn to it by the handmade sleeve with caulking for a border.
Walter Steding Get Ready 7" (Red Star, 1979)
God knows how much print and film has been devoted to New York's mid 70s underground rock scene? I know that there is nothing that I can add to the verbiage other than "Enough!" Some great music, yes, but not the center of the universe and frankly a lot of bullshit passed of as godhead (check out any of Soul Jazz's New York Noise comps for a lot of bands that should be little more than footnotes, if not forgotten). But, but, but because New York is so big and because it draws so much creative attention, there are plenty of things going on that fall between the cracks (such as the mess of mediocre bands on the NYN comps!). Currently, there is a guy in NYC named Billy Syndrome who has been making great outsider punk for the last couple decades, a guy I am sure few of you have heard of because his life exists in those aforementioned cracks. This here Walter Steding is another crack dweller.
Steding did have his time in the spotlight, however that light was indirect, reflected off of those artists he played with rather than shone straight on him. A pal of many of the NY new wave and punk crowd, Steding opened for Blondie and fellow label mates Suicide. He had a couple LPs produced by Chris Stein. Robert Fripp guested on his records (heard here on Hound Dog). But like that other punk rock violinist, Nash the Slash, Steding wasn't able to stick (though his performance has been preserved in the film Downtown 81). His records are obscurities and not sought after. Part of that is because they are spotty, part of that is that they are either too slick or not slick enough, and part of that is due to the fact that becoming a star playing violin in rock & roll has happened but once and it will never happen again. I doubt that Steding cares that he is pretty much an afterthought in the history of New York underground rock. He seemed to have a nice run at the time and he is now an accomplished visual artist and his music has seemed to venture into the avant garde.
This single was made in 1979 and was produced by Chris Stein. I've had it for years and it only started to really sink in over the last few years. There is something hinky about the production and the songwriting seems a bit stiff and premature. That used to bug me, but now I realize that those are strengths. Slicked up this stuff might be pretty miserable. The oddness of the sound is what saves it for me.
Jerry Lee Lewis Southern Roots LP (Mercury, 1973)
I have another rule for you to write in the Book of Soriano: When Jerry Lee Lewis sings about meat, you listen. And that he does on this album of (mostly) R&B songs. Backed by the MGs, James Brown, Carl Perkins, Tony Joe White, Mark Lindsay (?!), the Memphis Horns and others and produced by the great Huey Meaux, the Killer decides to drench himself in Memphis soul and why the fuck not? Memphis 1973 was a pretty hot scene and if he can get the cats above to back him... So Jerry Lee does Meat Man, which is pretty good, somewhat of a novelty, though it is worth a listen just to hear him smart ass his way to the end. A couple songs in and you hit the real meat. Jerry Lee takes on Sam & Dave's Hold On I'm Comin' and Wow! It won't hit you at first, but a couple minutes in and you know you are deep into a magical track. Of course, anything Jerry Lee sings comes off as a little sinister, but his version of Hold On... strips away all pretense that Jerry Lee will be arriving at your house as fast as he can just to hang out. And we leave you with a version of Doug Sahm's The Revolutionary Man, a song tailor fit for JLL. While Southern Roots is not 100%, the gems on it are worth the pick up.
Uge Mad Charles b/w Mad Charles Love Theme 45 (WGW, 1974)
Why is the moon made of cheese? Is the ocean really filled with God's tears? Who buys midget porn? What was the event, the force, the explosion that resulted in Uge's Mad Charles? These are all questions which have no answer, riddles that will plague us until our dying day. Perhaps there is no explanation for a record about a robotic karate master who seeks peace but will fight and destroy when need be. Maybe there is no explanation for why a song that sounds like it was made some time between 1966 and 1969 has a release date of 1974. And why the song doesn't go on for another five, nay ten minutes so Mad Charles can fight every single stereotype known to man is something we will never know. I think it might be a good idea just to let the genius of Uge be.
I lucked into this record. I was behind the counter at the bookstore one day when Mike Trouchon walked in and gave me the Uge 45 with the words, "You are gonna dig this." I thanked him and he disappeared.
The Topics Living Evidence LP (Topic, 1970)
The world of Private Pressing Rock & Roll is very, very dangerous for the price minded record freak. For years, one could stroll into a thrift store or dollar bin and dig up a handful of private or vanity pressings. Since very, very few of these records were listed in Goldmine or other price guides, many record dealers ignored them for Beatles, Elvis, and the now worthless (and thoroughly shitty) Mom's Apple Pie LP with the vagina cover. Then came the internet, followed by ebay, followed by a bunch of momentarily Richie Rich dot.commers, followed by the infamous record auction boom years where one could sell the worst piece of crap records for the stupidest prices, which was fine and dandy as I financed my record collection and a record label from my ebay gains but it also drove up the price of and created a market for real scarcities like private pressings (while also driving prices down on price guide priced common records like David Peel's Have a Marajuana).
The problem with Private Pressing Rock & Roll (PPRR) records being collectible and spendy goes beyond me being a cheap bastard. You have probably figured out that I am not a casual record hound but a digger with a disease. That being the case, I find plenty of great record for less the cost of a greasy spoon breakfast special. The problem with PPRR being pricey is that most private pressings suck. For the most part PPRR is either self released or released by a friend or manager of the artist. Such an arrangement means that there is little or no Quality Control. Sometimes that is what spells the success of a record. I mean, thank god no one was hovering over the Shaggs, trying to tell them that My Pal Foot Foot wasn't up to snuff! Unfortunately, the Shaggs are the exception. Pick up a random PPRR LP and chances are you are in for an evening of mediocrity. A lesser percentage of PPRR have just one or two good songs on them. Often - as with Alter Ego's Obsessional Schizophrenia - a couple good songs are all you need. And once a year or so (which with the volume of records I pick up means once every decade for most of you) I find a PPRR that is 95% - 100% mind blowing. In my record collection of 8,000+ there are couple dozen PPRR records (I don't consider DIY punk or indie labels PPRR) that are astounding - that isn't a ratio you want lay a stake on. (Which brings me to the need for someone to compile all these single great PPRR album cuts. Why there isn't a Killed By Death series of PPRR album cuts is beyond me. Instead we have bootleggers and reissuers rereleasing albums where you buy 9 tracks of mediocrity (and paying good money for 'em) in order to hear one killer song. Or people bidding up so-so albums that are mostly full of crap, thus pumping up the price on all PPRR, good or bad.)
And with that I introduce to you the Topics. I presume the Topics are from Bremerton, Washington, as that is where their record company, Topic Records, originates. The liner notes suggest that an album came before this. What it sounds like I have no idea. Living Evidence is a great mix of 60s pop, Vegas rock, and lounge music. When it works, it works really well and when it doesn't, well, there is your majority mediocrity. The Topics' Living Evidence is one of those "A Few Songs are Cool, the Rest are Drool" records. Here are The Cool, plus a long and entertaining version of Louie, Louie.
Charlie the Hamster plays Gospel Music
Floyd Robinson Charlie the Hamster plays Gospel Music LP (Singcord, 1975)
...and then there are times when a record is exactly what you expect. Welcome to the strange world of Charlie the Hamster. Perhaps the most demented Christian kid's record outside the Marcy albums, Charlie the Hamster Plays Gospel Music is the perfect mating of Christianity and absurdity. Sure, "Song Evangelist" Floyd Robinson has a reason he invented Charlie the Hamster. He believes that children need to know the Bible at an early age and Charlie, Stanley and Huey singing and playing gospel tunes is the way to do it. According to the liner notes, "thousands of children" have been turned on to God through these three hamsters and who am I to dispute that? I mean really, given the choice between the Absurdist Floyd Robinson and the Avenger Christian Push Button Warrior George W. Bush, I'll enlist in Charlie's Family any day of God's Good Week. Sure, Charlie is little more than a Holier Than Thou Alvin Chipmunk, but David Seville never used the sound of a seal getting squeezed as a rhythm track (just listen and you'll figure it out). And no Chipmunk record got as progressively whacked as these Hamsters do. It isn't often that a record sleeve this great delivers what it promises. And for only $5, who said Thou Shalt Not Steal?
Songs for L.D.S. Children
The Three D's Songs for L.D.S. Children LP (Continental, 196?)
I love it when my preconceived notions are smashed! I dug this Three D's album out of a stack of record propped up against a wall in my living room, expecting that I'd either get a horrid religious album or something really fucking zany. Both expectations were wrong. When I dropped needle, what I head coming over the speakers was a gentle guitar and some great vocals. With the sound of rain and cars passing over the wet street, the Three D's made a great soundtrack for a stormy night. Listen a little closer and the not so veiled threats that go with religiosity show up in the lyrics ("Watch your actions/night and day"). Ah and then there is the tale of Joe Smith's finding of the Golden Plates and a nice medley that incorporates an ominous version of Eensy Weensy Spider. While not altogether mind blowing, the Three D's Songs for LDS Children is a really good record and given the context (that it was made for Morman kids), it is a very surprising one. Of course, with these guys the vocals are what makes them so good, which are especially sweet on Dearest Children. In my research on this record, I read that the Three D's made a handful more, including a blues record. That is something I really want to hear.
Teo Macero Explorations 10" (Debut,1953)
While notable for being Miles Davis's producer's first record, made when he was a senior at Juilliard with a young Charles Mingus as a sideman, what makes this record such a great listen is Teo Macero's thirst to experiment. The compositions on this record are not too far from what others in the jazz world were doing at the time, though those others number quite few; however, the sounds are certainly not what the Cool crowd on the West Coast or the Hard Boppers on the East were making. There is something a bit darker here, a noir sound. There is also a lot of space, the tunes are slowed down so the music breaths. It reminds me of a dark stretch of wet highway. And then there is the accordion. I don't know who invited Lanny Di Jay to the party but I am glad they did. When one thinks jazz, accordion is one of the last instruments to come to mind. Polka, yes. Rancheros, sure. But jazz? Listen to this and you will wonder why accordions are not in more jazz ensembles. The grinding notes squeezed out of that box fit perfectly in the eerie landscape created by Macero. The last cut here, Explorations, is Macero by himself, a series of overdubs. Take all three songs and you get a great insight into the producer Teo Macero became. Think of his willingness to push sound around and you will never ponder why his records with Miles were so great.
An Interesting Breakfast Conversation
Space An Interesting Breakfast Conversation LP (Arch, 1984)
Sometime in the late 80s, I was sitting in the loft space that I called home, listening to KPFA on a radio rigged with some crazy homemade antenna when I heard a magical abstract collection of horns and vocals. Saxophones gobbled and blurped, while a vocalist hiccuped, galoofed, and soared. The song ended and a crowd cheered. A couple more songs of similar brilliance passed and the host announced that the group playing live on the air was called Space (I am not sure if the performance was archived or in real time). I drank my coffee, hopped on my bike, and peddled down to a local record store, one that specialized in jazz. I found a copy of Space's first album for a whoppin' $2.50, bought it, brought it home, and dropped needle. For the next couple weeks I was transfixed.
A couple years prior, a local poet had given me his collection of Art Ensemble of Chicago albums, thinking that a young lad like me would be captivated by such noise. I was. So when I saw that one third of Space was AEC member Roscoe Mitchell I was excited. The second horn player, Gerald Oshita, I had never heard of but dug his sounds once I heard them. However, the real kicker for me was Tom Buckner, player of "extended voice."
Singing is hard to do well. There are plenty of people with good voices who never get the magic of singing down (and some with "shitty" voices who do quite well). Take the voice and use it in music as an instrument that does much more than sing and you can count the successes on your fingers and toes. Tom Buckner is one of the successes. Listen to the three cuts posted and you will hear but a slight bit of what Buckner can do. He has a resume that reads like a who's who of free jazz and experimental composition, one that is so strong that the man is due a cover photo on The Wire.
So hear you go, a bit of vocal strangeness and a healthy dose of experimentation.