Sunday, July 13, 2008

Seriously Deep

Dusty Grooves has issued a nice edition of David Axelrod's 1975 fusion effort Seriously Deep.

"One of the rarest albums ever from funky maestro David Axelrod - and quite different than his earlier work for Reprise and Capitol Records. This time around, Axe is working in a jazz funk mode - in a setting that's heavy on the keyboards from Joe Sample, and also features reeds and vibes, plus a nice undercurrent of strings. There's a subtle dose of fusion in the mix, but one that's never too jamming - and Axelrod always maintains his trademark sense of space and timing - turning the simplest musical measure into the kind of groove that holds up well into the 21st Century!" [from the liner notes].

I found the album much more approachable than his somewhat ponderous antebellum concept album The Auction [1972] which was the last one I bought. Seriously Deep lacks the grand concepts of his earlier LPs, but in many ways is stronger for it as the listener can just focus on the music alone. And the focus is rewarded with the surprises that I expect from Axelrod such as the cello solo on "1000 Rads". Cool.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Today is Only Yesterday's Tomorrow

I stopped by Sonic Boom a few weeks ago. What a great record store. How great? They had two (not one, but two) cds I was looking for in the racks. It's not everyday that one can find releases by The Poppy Family and Lothar & the Hand People in a retail setting. Go check.

I've written about both bands in the past, so I won't repeat myself. But I will tell you something about the cds. First up The Poppy Family's A Good Thing Lost 1968-1973 [What Are Records? 60017-2]. It's a good place to start as it covers most of the bands high points: "Free From the City", "Which Way You Goin', Billy?", "There's No Blood in Bone" and "Where Evil Grows" with track by track notes by Terry Jacks. But it is Susan Jacks voice that makes the countryesque- lite-psych tunes so effective.

Everything that Lothar & the Hand People released is available as Space Hymn: The Complete Capitol Recordings [Acadia ACAD 8058]. Nice that I could finally upgrade my battered vinyl copy of their second LP Space Hymn. What I like about the theremin named Lothar and his pals was how eclectic the group truly was: catchy folk pop, electronic experimentation, and that particular 60's whimsy. I would like to say that "Machines" was steampunk before anyone knew what that was. What can I say, Lothar & the Hand People are engaging, likable and weird. It's what you want in a pop group.

While I'm here I'd like to say that I'm looking forward to the nationwide release of Mono In VCF's debut. They cover The Poppy Family's "There's No Blood in Bone" and Terry Jacks' guests. How cool is that?

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Kaleidoscopes and Tall Dwarfisms

Despite the snowstorm on Friday, yesterday was sunny with only a minimum amount of slush on the sidewalk and that meant going for a walk. And since all walks should have a destination, I stopped by BMV books and headed straight to the cd bins.

The first find was a budget Sony Special Products edition of Kaleidoscope's 1969 album Incredible! If you know their first two LPs, Side-Trips and A Beacon from Mars, you may know what to expect: Middle Eastern Cajun Psychedelic fusion. And it's even better than my description might suggest. I'd go so far as to suggest that the eleven minute "Seven-Ate Sweet" alone is worth the price of admission. Stop by the excellent Pulsating Dreams fansite for a bit of history.

The second disc was Chris Knox's Songs of You & Me, which features the complete Hanging Out for Time to Cure Birth and A Stranger's Iron Shore albums. My experience has been that his and his band the Tall Dwarfs' material does not often appear in local shops so I had better buy them when I see them. His songs are witty, catchy, and many other good things. Find out more at the Flying Nun site here. Also on-line is his interview with Forced Exposure, readable here, sadly without the hilarious footnotes that appeared in the print edition.

Here's a video of Knox's first band, The Enemy. Enjoy

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cambodian Psych-Out

I found a copy of Cambodian Psych-Out in a local shop last week. I knew the lp had been out for a while but never got my act together to order one through the mail. Now that an actual copy was in my more excuses. Not that I was looking for any, as I have loved Cambodian rock music since I bought a copy of the Parallel World release Cambodian Rocks back in the mid-90s. Cambodian Psych-Out [Defective/El Supremo Records] features the King (Sinn Sisamouth) & Queen (Ros Sereysothea) of Phnom Penh pop before the nightmare of the Khmer Rouge. It breaks my heart to read of their fates.

Late 60's/early 70's Khmer pop is, without a doubt, absolutely phenomenal music you should hear. Kick ass garage rock with farfisa organs and fuzz guitars. Sereysothea's cover of Shocking Blue's "Venus" is worth the price of the LP, the proceeds of which go to land mine removal in Cambodia.

What else? I snagged a rare grooves collection compiled by Gareth 'Cherrystones' Goddard. Cherrystones Hidden Charms [Family Recordings 9817656] is a nicely eclectic collection of psych, 60's beat, and funk which includes Shocking Blue's sitar groover "Hot Sand" (SB is everywhere it seems), Ennio Morricone's "Svolta Definitiva", Cher's cover of Dr John's "I Walk on Gilded Splinters", and Montrealers Mashmakhan's "Afraid of Losing You". Not a dud to be found on the disc.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Basket of Sounds

Picked up another couple of discs over the holidays. First up is The Dragons' BFI [Ninja Tune ZENCD135] which sounded interesting, judging by the reviews. It was originally recorded in 1969/1970 and remained unreleased apart from a track included on a mid-70's surf soundtrack. Long story short, Strictly Kev of Ninja Tune discovered the soundtrack and contacted Dennis Dragon who informed him that there was an entire lp's worth of material that Dennis recorded with his brothers Doug and Daryl. Trivia note: Daryl Dragon gained fame as "The Captain" of The Captain & Tennille).

First things first, despite what every other review states, this is not a psychedelic record. Nope. It's a progressive rock album with a touch of soul and a very good one at that. The band's arrangements call to mind the British prog band Second Hand and in a strange way, Steely Dan (probably due to the jazziness of the arrangements).

Decided after many years to investigate the legendary jazz/folk band The Pentangle. After asking for suggested titles on the Up-Tight music list, I settled on 1969's Basket of Light. I was immediately taken with Jacqui McShee's vocals: clear as a bell with an ability to soar. The instrumental backing is of course first-rate, but that is to be expected when Bert Jansch (Guitar), John Renbourn (Guitar & Sitar), Danny Thompson (Double Bass) and Terry Cox (drums) are on board. Musically quite eclectic and adventurous.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

45 rpm

There's something special about the seven inch 45 rpm record. Back in the late seventies it was my format of choice when buying music, and I've found myself buying singles again. Sure, wading through thousands of discs is a bit daunting, but when I have the time and patience I'm rewarded.

One of my favourite recent purchases is a single by The Bob Crewe Generation: Miniskirts in Moscow b/w Theme for a Lazy Girl [Dynovoice Records]. What a great single it is with that special bachelor pad/now sound 60's optimism. Who among us could pass up a song entitled Miniskirts in Moscow? Well, no one I would want to talk to, that's a certainty.

I've written about Syrinx before , so when I happened across a copy of their moog-pop instrumental hit single Tillicum (Theme from "Here Come The Seventies) b/w Melina's Torch [True North Records] I snapped it up. My search continues for a copy of the picture sleeve. You may be interested to know that there is a MySpace page for the band where you can hear both songs on the single plus Field Hymn. So what are you waiting for, go here.

I've had a bit of an obsession with Canadian Pop/Folk/Lite Psych outfit The Poppy Family for a while now. Not a band as such, but more the project of then-husband and wife team of Susan & Terry Jacks. On the surface many of their songs are straightforward pop songs, but at the same time they have a very dark undercurrent. Track down a copy of There's No Blood in Bone and you'll see what I mean. In the meantime, you may want to read Kim Cooper's history The Partridge Family + The Manson Family = The Poppy Family for a bit of background.

I had the opportunity to add two singles to my collection. The first is Which Way You Goin' Billy? b/w Endless Sleep [London Records]. Which Way... was a big hit for them and is a fine song featuring Susan's ethereal voice. The real treat is the B side which features a great garage band guitar line and lyrics about a lost love drowned at sea. Next up is Where Evil Grows b/w Concrete Sea [Underground Records]. The A side deals with an unwise romantic choice: "Evil grows in the dark/Where the sun, it never shines/Evil grows in cracks and holes/And live in peoples' minds". Did I say dark undercurrents? I meant dark overcurrents. The flip is one of my favourite tunes by the Jacks, catchy with a nice sparse production.

One thing I've noticed about Poppy Family singles is that they are repackaged for different labels with different combinations of songs. I already had a copy of Where Evil Grows as a B side for I Was Wondering on the London Label. Last week I picked up two singles for a friend in the UK: one was Which Way You Goin' Billy b/w That's Where I Went Wrong [Underground Records] and the second was Terry Jacks' big hit Seasons in the Sun b/w The Love Game [Goldfish Records]. I was surprised to discover that The Love Game is in fact Concrete Sea (the same recording as The Poppy Family track as far as I can tell) and was even more surprised to discover that I now enjoy listening to his version of the Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen song. Admittedly, it requires a certain ironic distance.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Unfortunate Brakemen, the Memphis Flu & Titanic Blues

Over the last couple of months, I've been reading rave reviews of People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938 [Tompkins Square Records TSQ1875], so as a present to myself ('tis the season after all), I plunked down the cash for a copy.

On a purely visual level, the set is first rate. Packaged as a book, there are detailed notes about each track in addition to period photos, not to mention some of the lyrics in the event that you'd like to sing along with the Trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann or the Ohio Prison Fire, although the latter's melodramatic interlude between the distraught Mother and the Warden is not reproduced.

On to the music, the cds are broken up thematically by producers/compilers Christopher C. King and Henry Sapoznik: the first disc's theme is Man Vs Machine, the second's is Man Vs Nature, and the third's is Man Vs Man (and Women too!). Some disasters loom large in the imagination of the hillbilly and blues performers: the Titanic, plagues of Boll Weevils , mining disasters, train wrecks, jealous rages, and tales of ruin.

Terrific stuff.

If this collection interests you at all, pick up a copy soon as only 5000 were made.

You can find interviews with King here and here.

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