Sunday, June 24, 2007


I was introduced to the music of Moondog (Louis T. Hardin May 26, 1916 - September 8, 1999) in the early 90s by a friend and fellow unusual music fan, Pierre M. "You have to hear this music!" he said, "You're going to love it". The two lps he loaned me were the Columbia releases: Moondog and Moondog 2 . It took the time to get halfway through one side before I decided I needed to find my own copies. The sounds were a surprising mix of jazz, large scale orchestral works on the first album and medieval madrigals on the latter, with Moondog's invented percussion instruments providing unity.

The next LP I heard was an earlier (1956) self-titled album on the Prestige label [Prestige OJC-1741]. This one has proved to be my favourite with smaller-scale works of great charm.

From the liner notes by Robert S Altshuler:

"A vast amount of the world's music is part of Moondog's working vocabulary. This reservoir of material serves his eclectic approach to composition. Moondog chooses deftly amongst all of music to elicit his surprising couplings. A pair of violins bowing Bach influenced counterpoint might be heard over a rhythmic pattern of Cuban drumming. The ability to find unexpectedly complementary areas of music is an essential ingredient in these miniature portraits of life's many parts".

Which brings me to a terrific double CD entitled Rare Material [Roof Music]. If you are new to Moondog's music, this may be the best place to start as it covers the scope of his vision: swinging jazz, pipe organ compositions, formal orchestral pieces, and the very impressive "Invocation" which Urban Sax ought to perform and if they haven't already I don't know what the hell is wrong with them. On top of that, a couple of tracks from the aforementioned Prestige release are included: "Frog Bog" and "Surf Session".

I'd also like to take this opportunity to plug a forthcoming biography by Robert Scotto entitled Moondog: The Viking of Sixth Avenue The Authorized Biography.
This one is on my to-buy list, that's a certainty.

To round out the post, here's Mr Scruff's video for "Get a Move On", a track from his Keep it Unreal release. The basis for the tune is an extensive and uncredited sample of Moondog's Lament 1 (Bird's Lament). It's a fun tune all the same. Enjoy!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Silver discs which have brought me happiness

Regular visitors to this blog have probably figured out that its purpose is for me to tell you about my record collection. Well why not? My taste in music is superior to almost everyone else and I'm quite willing to act as cultural gatekeeper. Just so you know.

Recent purchases that have pleased me no end are as follows:

Kinky Friedman's Last of the Jewish Cowboys - The Best of Kinky Friedman [Shout Factory] has been spinning almost constantly at home and the workplace. He's funny as hell in a very un-P.C. way, so much so that I wish I was a Texan so I could have voted for him as Governor. The CD contains a few of his most famous tunes, "The Ballad of Charles Whitman", "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the Bed" as well as live versions of "Asshole from El Paso" and "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore". My favourite song is probably the set's most sentimental: "People Who Read People Magazine" which is a sincere appreciation of 'regular folk'. I would also like to point out that his novels are entertaining and he is kind to animals in case you need further reasons to buy the cd for yourself.

I read a review of Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay [Numero Group] and set out to locate a copy for myself. One of my main interests is to hear music I haven't heard before, and this collection of funk and soul records from the Bahamas seemed to fit the bill. It's a nice compilation of tunes from the GBI studio and label recorded from the early to mid-seventies. Not that every track is a classic unknown gem, but there are more hits than misses. It starts off strong with Cyril Ferguson's "Gonna Build a Nation", Ozzie Hall's unusual arrangement of "Take Five" and the twelve-minute plus version of "Mustang Sally" by Jay Mitchell. Extra points for the well-designed packaging and liner notes.

It's been a while since I bought any krautrock so the new edition of Cluster's Sowiesoso [Water Records] was a welcome addition. Over the years I have accumulated several Kluster/Cluster albums as well as Moebius andRoedelius side projects and Sowiesoso continues the style I expect by quite happily humming, whistling and bubbling away in the player. I should point out that it is not passive new age noodling as some may tell you, but rather a kind of Philip K Dick-esque exoticism.

Last up, Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Blacknuss [Collectables] which is filled with funky goodness from the opening track, "Ain't No Sunshine" through the Marvin Gaye medley, "What's Going On/Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" ending with the Kirk-penned title track. There is so much to admire about Kirk's career, not the least of which is that towards the end when he was partially paralyzed by a stroke, he would still get on stage to perform. That's dedication.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Love Song for the Dead Ché [Oscillations Part Two]

Of course, the Silver Apples were not the only rock band experimenting with electronic music in the 1960's. I suppose it's difficult to find a band that doesn't these days, but at one time the idea of introducing moogs and ring modulators and other miscellaneous electronic gadgets to a pop setting was incredibly wild and weird.

The best of these bands were The United States of America whose sole lp stands up remarkably well and would be of interest to fans of psychedelia or even trip hop (Portishead fans take note). At it's best the album features driving rock numbers such as "Hard Coming Love" and "Coming Down" and ethereal numbers like "Cloud Song" and "Love Song for the Dead Ché". It's on these numbers where all the elements blend perfectly; Dorothy Moskowitz's clear voice, Gordon Marron's electric violin and Joseph Byrd's electronics.

There are the low points of course. It was the 60s and there are the obligatory denunciations of the emptiness of middle-class existence: "Where is Yesterday" and "I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife for You, Sugar", the lyrics of which are more than a little tiresome. Then again, Dear Leader Roger Waters has made a career out of that sort of thing (The Wall, Animals and so forth.) Tell me I'm wrong.

A couple of years ago, Sundazed produced a reissue with ten bonus tracks. Buy that one.

OK. You've now bought the Silver Apples and the United States of America, what else is there? There are still some fine, fine bands to be heard like the very strange Fifty Foot Hose whose story can be told here and here. Their Limelight album Cauldron is truly great with spacey psychedelia and short abstract tone poems and a wonderful cover of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child".

Last, but certainly not least, is Lothar and the Hand People who were in many ways the oddest yet most approachable of all these groups. Much of their material is a kind of upbeat country/folk/pop with theremin and moog flourishes, yet they can out-weird anyone when they put their mind to it: just spin "Ha (Ho)" and the Devo-like "Machines".

Why not check it out for yourself?

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