Sunday, January 28, 2007

A rare groove boxing day

I stopped by a couple of local shops on Boxing Day and found a number of bargains. One was a compilation called Heading in the Right Direction: Soul/Jazz from Australia 1973-1997 [Luv N'Haight Records]. This is a nice one without a dud track. The disc starts with a smooth vocal number by the Renee Geyer Band (Hard Head) immediately followed by a superb jazz/funk track Pyramid Piece by the Jazz Co-op and onwards with cuts by Joyce Hurley, the Bruce Clark Quintet, the Col Nolan Soul Syndicate, Arena, Chris Williams, and The David Martin Group. The one that really stands out for me is the Alan Lee Jazz Quintet's Flying Saucer which features odd lyrics about seeing a UFO over a swinging jazz setting!

One of the other purchases was Galt MacDermot's Up from the Basement: Unreleased Tracks Volume 1 & 2 [Kilmarnock Records]. The name nagged at me until I remembered he was one of the authors of the musical "Hair". That caused a moment's hesitation, but I decided the cd was too cool to pass up. The disc features previously unreleased demos (some drawn from acetates)recorded between 1967 to 1973. It's a mix of funky vocal and instrumental tracks. Some have an unfinished quality to them, but overall it's a satisfying listen especially the soundtrack pieces Rhinoceros, Lost Dreams and a fun version of Let the Sunshine In.

If you have further suggestions regarding other albums by any of these acts, please leave a comment.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

As Mercenárias - The Beginning of the End of the World

The Beginning of the End of the World [O Começo do Fim do Mundo] collects tracks from this all-female post-punk-funk band's two lps: Cadê As Armas and Trashland. The subtitle Brasilian Post-Punk 1982-88 caught my eye as this is exactly the sort of release I'm interested in: pop and rock music created outside of the US/UK orbit, where local bands mutate the musical template to create something new and unusual. Do they succeed in this? Sorta.

As Mercenárias perform post-punk in the (cliché alert) angular and skeletal manner of ESG, Gang of Four and the Au Pairs. They are easily as good as the better known outfits, very tight sounding with good songs. Worth buying? Yes, definitely, but not the revelation that some reviews might suggest. That being said, the cd will sit nicely along side other historical explorations of the São Paulo underground: Não Wave and The Sexual Life of the Savages.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kalacakra - Crawling to Lhasa

This time around it is an old favorite: Kalacakra's completely cracked krautrock cacophony...what can I say, it's the sort of album that inspires alliteration. 'Lhasa was one of the last major German obscurities I was on the hunt for. Attempts at obtaining various pirate reissues came to naught. Just as well, as the album received the deluxe reissue treatment from the Garden of Delights label.

Kalacakra was a duo of Claus Rauschenbach and Heinz Martin who recorded their sole lp in Duisburg in 1972. Playing over a dozen instruments, the resulting album was a classic blend of eastern flourishes and proto-world music filtered through a mystic haze. Sort of like an Incredible String Band without the scientology.

Crawling to Lhasa is seriously odd and great from beginning to end: from the opening track Naerby Shiras' trance inducing whirl of instruments and sinister whispers to the stunning instrumental Raga No. 11 Native American inspired Arapaho's Circle Dance. Mind you, it's not all strange, September Full Moon is pastorally mellow.

A final word on the two bonus tracks which are dismissed by most reviewers: Vamos and Deja Vu were recorded by Heinz Martin in '93. Well, 1993 is not 1972 and the years brought forth some changes. The two instrumentals are not bad at all and sound mostly like soundtracks for nature documentaries about sea anemones or quasars or some such thing.

Like Wyrd folk? Amon Düül, Third Ear Band or Joanna Newsom? Trust me, you'll enjoy this one.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Music from Meeksville

After going on a Joe Meek kick in the 90's, I decided to once again jump into the world of Meek compilations. So off I went to Vintage Sounds to see what I could find.

I initially read about Joe Meek Freakbeat: You're Holding Me Down: 30 Freakbeat, Mod and R & B Nuggets [Castle CMQCD1415] and thought it sounded interesting, but like many, I was dismissive of Meek's forays with the beat groups. It seemed to me that his later productions lacked the stylistic quirks of his earlier and better known hits. Try as I might, every spin of RGM Rarities Vol 2: The Beat Group era went in one ear and out the other. Freakbeat, however, made a good case for reassessment as it is better organized with a stronger selection of tracks than the earlier RGM collection. Standouts include The Buzz's You're Holding Me Down, The Syndicats (featuring a young Steve Howe) have a couple of stompers, and an outstanding track from Tornadoes '66: No More You and Me. Thirty tracks in total with liner notes and photos. It's good place to start if you are interested in rock, but not Meek's teen idol and pop productions.

My second purchase was the budget double set Telstar: The Hits of Joe Meek [Castle Pulse PDSCD 651]. It has a couple of obvious hits by The Tornados, John Leyton, Heinz and The Riot Squad, all of which have appeared on other sets, but it does include a couple of new cuts not previously familiar, at least to me: The Athenians' Bouzoukis and a number of doubleplusgood instros from The Tornados: Robot, Globetrotter and of course the obligatory Telstar. But there are some duds, the unintentionally hilarious and overwrought Garden of Eden by Gary Miller, and the Vegas-lite of Betty Miller's The Next Train Out of Town. Not the best inroduction to Meek, but at $10.99 the price is right.

Still the best place for a Meek introduction/overview is the out of print It's Hard to Believe It: The Amazing World of Joe Meek [Razor and Tie], but The Alchemist of Pop: Home Made Hits and Rarities 1959-1966 [Castle Music]would do in a pinch.
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