Monday, October 30, 2006

Truth is Marching In

Playing right now: Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost (disc 6)

I often look at the beautiful Ayler box and think, "I need to listen to that more often. I've only gotten through most of it about two times. But not now. I need to listen to something else now."

So now I'm on it. I wish the violin player wasn't on so much of it. There are so many pieces where he saws away and sounds like he's playing between C# and D while the rest of the band is blowing in C.

Last night, Amoeba Knievel played a show at Quiet Storm. Sunday night shows can be a little weird and this was the fourth show in as many nights that celebrated the release of a local compilation of bands doing Halloween songs. Weird Paul was also on the bill, along with Marvin Dioxide and an out of town band.


Last Tuesday, Petra Haden performed at the Andy Warhol Museum, bringing her a cappella tribute to The Who Sell Out to life. She had 6 other female vocalists with her. It was a really great time. I always thought the opening seconds of "Armenia City in the Sky" were some of the best sonic moments in rock history............the whining guitar chord that leads into the thumping bass line, which sounds especially crisp and clear for such an early recording. Petra and crew replicated that bliss, even though it was done in a different manner. And "I Can See For Miles" was another level of bliss.


This morning, we had an 8:00 meeting at work. Then I'm done until 1 p.m. So there were 7 record boxes that I needed to mail at the post office. And they have to go to the Sq Hill post office because -- no I'm not making this up -- the people at the one closer to my house always insist on charging more to send records airmail. They claim they have to go parcel instead of letter.
So I get up to the Sq Hill post office, only to find that they're closed due to a power failure. Grrrr. Hopefully they'll be back up and running before I go to work.

If anyone reading this has a copy of the Nirvana/Melvins split single on Communion, in which both bands cover the Velvets, hang onto it. Especially if it's on purple vinyl. I just auctioned a copy for an insane amount of money. INSANE, I tell you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mr. B and Cecil & Derek

(Nothing playing right now)
This morning I listened to a Billy Eckstine album that I bought at an estate sale a few weeks ago. The album is called Don't Worry 'Bout Me and it has a picture on the front of Mr. B smoking a cigarette in a long cigarette holding. And he's looking off to his left.

There's a song on the album called "Stranger In Town" where he keeps repeatingthe lyric about being "a stranger in my home town." I realize it's only a song, but it's odd to think of that because for one thing, Pittsburgh is his hometown. And in his last days, he was living with a niece, who lives about 5 minutes away from my house. Stranger, my butt.


I should have known what I was getting into when I bought a used copy of the Cecil Taylor/Derek Bailey performance Pleistozaen Mit Wasser (Shakin' the Glass). Several years ago I remember hearing it described as very pointilistic music. Bailey makes all kinds of weird scraping, plinking noises with a guitar, Cecil plays all over the piano............what would it sound like together?

I didn't figure that I'd like Bailey's work and be disappointed with Cecil. He doesn't even touch the piano until about 10 minutes into the performance. Prior to that he does his "poetry" thing, which isn't miked so you only hear him in the distance, that is when he's loud. It's 62 minutes, broken into 2 tracks and while some of it is intriguing, I wonder how often I'll play it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More songs of my youth

So today was my first day back to work after four mental health days. During that time off, one of the things I did was spend a lot of time on YouTube looking at vintage clips from Sesame Street. Now I came of age when Sesame Street was just beginning to get its sea legs and some of the things on it were rather edgy and experimental.

Now stop for a minute and think: when you're three years old, you don't know what the words "edgy" or "experimental" mean, let alone do you know cutting edge educational tv when you see it. All you know is the pleasure principle, which I find myself again fighting against when I have free time and am not at work. But that's another story.

So here I am on youtube and I stumble across some listings with the title "Jazzy Spies." These were animated bits that emphasized counting up to 10, with each clip showcasing a different number. I ought to find some links to the youtube clips so you'll know what I mean. Maybe some of you will remember the melody if I can type out the phrasing:
"Onetwo three four five sixseveneight NIIIIIIIIIIIIINE Ten........"
And the animation always ended with 10 spies opening their coats w/each one having a number from 1 - 10. And the featured number showed up in all these weird scenes while the woman singing would kind of wail like Patty Waters or someone like that.

And dig this: the woman singing was Grace Slick! Ms. Counterculture was melting our minds with her heavy wailing about numbers.

There was another animated bit about the letter O and it's so fragmented and nonsensical, but you know what --- I knew 90% of the lyrics to the song all these years later because it was a risky piece of art that didn't kowtow to convention.

It's been a couple days since I've looked at this stuff but it's had a really positive impact on me. Meaning, it's made me happy. Kind of like meeting a friend you haven't seen in 10 years and in that time you've wondered if they thought you were a jerk only to find out that they really care about you. Maybe that's not a good metaphor. OK I'll be literal. It's nice to know that these stuff isn't totally lost to the ages or that I didn't just imagine it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Songs of my youth

Playing right now: Human Sexual Response - In a Roman Mood
(see previous posts for gushing praise of this album)

When I was a kid, probably around the ages of, let's say, 5 or 6, every so often my mother would buy an album for me out of the blue. Maybe when I was home sick from school. I was young enough to not remember the details surrounding them.
I'm guessing they were things she'd pick out of the 5&10 bargain boxes thinking "He might like this." But unlike a parent thinking a Connie Francis or Jerry Vale album was a good idea because there was a Beatles song on it, Ma Shanley had a good track record for obscure garage albums.
One was an album by a band called the Hassles. Funny name, so I dug that. Gatefold cover - always cool. Pictures and liner notes, which I couldn't read. And the music......half of it sounded like the band wanted to be the Spencer Davis Group (although they covered Traffic, they were into Mr. Winwood's soul side, not his trippy side), and other times, they sounded like Vanilla Fudge (a ponderous version of "A Taste of Honey" with stops, starts and all sorts of dynamic shifts).
Years later, I discovered that the keyboard player in the band, who was i.d'd as "Billy Joe," dropped the second part of his nickname and brought back his surname, which was the same as the jettisoned name, plus the letter L..............that's right: Billy Joel.
Now, I can't stand that guy. Yeah, some of his '70s stuff was kind of cool, but overall I find him to be dull and arrogant to such an extent that it overrides any good accomplishments. But I busted out the Hassles album the other night and I keep coming back to a couple songs on it. Twice today. "Giving Up" is a slow number with woodblocks keeping the beat along with the drums and a dramatic vocal (not by Mr. Joel, I believe) and I can't get enough of it. I think it was written by Van McCoy, who would bring us "The Hustle" in the '70s.
They also cover the Sam and Dave song "You Got Me Hummin,'" which sounds pretty damn soulful for a bunch of not-quite 20-year-old Long Island boys. That is, after they get past the "ehhhh"s at the intro, which always sounded to me like two guys trying to move something that was too heavy. As opposed to sounding ready to get it on.
Along with the Sugar Bears and the Rugbys (the other great Ma Shanley find), I hold a special place for the Hassles.
Oh yeah, their bassist, Howie Blauvelt (which is probably German for "a surname that will keep you from fame and fortune") was later in the band Ram Jam that had a hit with Leadbelly's "Black Betty."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Someone left the cake out in the rain....

Playing right now: nothing, but I just finished listening to "Thursday Night at the Vanguard" by Art Pepper.

A friend told me that he forwarded this blog link to another friend, whose comment was, "He doesn't post very often." Not to give in to peer pressure of the thoughts of one reader, but I do need to post more often. I've bought so much music lately that I have something to write about on a daily basis. It took me awhile to catch up with all of it, plus I had to write 4 CD reviews last week.

[Upon taking a bathroom break, I switched on the b-room radio, which is almost always programmed to old folks' station WJAS, which was playing "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris, an odd choice in general but especially for them. of course it was 1:20 a.m. when it came out. Anyhow, that explains the title of this post.]

So anyhow, I've been meaning for a couple months to talk about the new Nothing Painted Blue album Taste the Flavor (Shrimper). It's actually not new per se, because it apparently was recorded in 2001 and had been sitting around until earlier this summer when it finally hit the street. The recording time was three years after the last official NPB album, The Monte Carlo Method, came out. At the time that album came across as something of a disappointment. It was marked by some great pop hooks delivered with heavy abandon, and of course some great couplets courtesy of Franklin Bruno ("They confiscated my library card when they caught me in the shelves with a knife/ cutting out pictures of Curtis LeMay froma 1940s volume of Life"; another song rhymed "messiah" with "We Didn't Start the Fire"). But some songs didn't really achieve the usual brainy ends that I at least was used to expecting from the band.

In the meantime, Bruno (guitarist and vocalist, in case you missed previous posts) released one absolutely stunning solo album (2000's Kiss Without Makeup) and one really good one (2002's A Cat may Look At a Queen).

Just when it seemed like Bruno who disappear off into the sunset, doctorate in hand, NPB reemerged.

And Taste the Flavor has all the things that made the band great in the first place. They manage to rock out (thrash, even, on "Self-Contained") and keep a delicate poppy feeling going at all times. On first listen, "Back In Town" almost sounds like it could be any Middle American rock band, especially when the harmonica solo kicks in. But Bruno's narrative and the band's determination to not play it totally simple make it stand above the rest.

The lyrics are pretty remarkable too: ("I had an atom smasher/I used to use it to mow my lawn/ I was a party crasher / I used to stay until all of the guest had gone" ("One Who Fell"); "She looks like she's going to play tennis with a corpse and lose" ("[Jessica's Got A] Ropeburn").

All the words can be found at, where I might just print them all out. "Swansong" seems to be about the end of the world, or the possible breakup of the band, or both. Listen to this album before either happens.

PS I pulled out The Monte Carlo Method a few weeks ago since it's the one NPB album I don't play very often. Much to my pleasant surprise, it sounded better than I remembered. It's not as consistant as Placeholders, but it's a good listen.

wow, that title really looks like red herring now......I wonder what All Music thinks of Richard Harris..........