Sunday, June 20, 2004

MORE RANDOM REVIEWS…

JOHN FAHEY – Days Gone By Vol. 6 LP
TYRANNOSAURUS REX - A Beard of Stars/Unicorn 2LP
MAGMA – Kohntarkosz LP

I’m reviewing these three together for no other reason than the fact that I happened to buy them all on the same day some time in early 1995. Why do I know this? An incredible capability to retain utterly pathetic and trivial facts related to music. Sue me. These three LPs were bought at Quality Records in Malvern (sorry, but this will probably mean nothing to anyone outside of Melbourne) when it first opened up and a friend and I took a trip there to check it out. After scoring gold upon first visit it became a regular trek to check out its wares. Being in a bit of a daggy part of town, I can only assume the hipsters hadn’t scoured its bin thoroughly yet as over the ensuing 18 months I managed to accumulate a nice bounty of cheap LPs by various krautrockers, avant-progsters, primitive folkies, free jazzers and a plethora of cool discs by better known artistes: Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eno, Richard Thompson, Beatles, etc. Then the rot set in. I’m not dissing the shop – it’s still pretty OK – though I can only figure that its initial goldmine of records I’d actually want to listen to (as opposed to the Boz Scaggs and Poco albums that clog second-hand bins worldwide) dried up a long time ago, since I rarely ever visit the store anymore, much less buy records from them. Ahem, we’re off the track…

Another point to make with these three discs: all three were the first albums I bought by each respective artist, and a good thing, too, as all three albums also remain my faves by each of them.

JOHN FAHEY I bought on a whim after hearing incessant name-drops from Cul de Sac, a band I dug muchly at the time (Days Gone… features “The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, CA.”, a song the ‘Sac covered on their incredible debut, ECIM). The cover looked pretty cool and old-timey, the date on the back said 1967: I took the gamble. For me it’s still his best mix of Fahey’s eccentric stylings: hoedowns, blues-ragas, musique concret, etc. The artwork, music, song titles, everything seemed perfectly weird and perfect, and therefore sent me on to the wallet-emptying pursuit of further Fahey vinyl. I continue such a quest!

TYRANNOSAURUS REX I bought for two reasons: I already liked T-Rex via purchases of Electric Warrior and Slider, and mainly because of Jello Biafra’s mentioning of Tyrannosaurus Rex in RE/Search’s Incredibly Strange Music. Yeah, OK, you don’t necessarily have to dig his music, but Jello’s on the ball when it comes to record-collecting. Well, I suppose he is, as that very article is what originally piqued my interest into various goodies in the last decade – Magma, Skip Spence, Yma Sumac, Cro Magnon, Joe Meek – and for that I thank him, I guess. OK, the ‘Rex double set I bought contains their final two (of four) albums as the faery-lovin’ psych/folk/hippie guitar-and-bongo duo they were reputed as, after which Bolan, in search of pop success, shortened the name to T-Rex and headed off for stardom. Both – actually, all four – ‘Rex LPs are stupendous, though for myself their highlight was the Unicorn LP, a scorching set of beautiful, melancholy ballads and a few rabid screamers thrown in for good measure. Bolan’s gift as a vocalist and songwriter are still way undervalued by people whom I thought knew better.

MAGMA, you may or may not know, are/were the French “prog” band most active (and popular) in the ‘70s, and Kohntarkosz is far and away the best thing they ever put to tape. Grab any of their first half-dozen or so albums and you’re in a win/win situation, but none of them quite have the uber-creepy vibe of Kohntarkosz. Epic, galloping horror-rock with the patented speed-jazz drumming and a wall of baritone vocalists chanting from above, this is one crazy, nasty record I love flipping people out with on a dark, rainy night. Featuring two very long songs (over 20 minutes each) and two short tracks ending each side, it works perfectly in building the tension to a point of combustion then suddenly finishing before the ending coda creeps up on you. Great band, you need it.

TWINK – Think Pink CD
Since we’re on a theme here, I guess I’ll review this one, since it’s related on a couple of levels. Firstly, yep, I admit it, I also bought this after Mr. Biafra described it as one of his Top 10 Albums of All Time (gosh!) in the RE/Search book previously mentioned. Secondly, I bought it in 1999 (I think) due to John “Twink” Alder’s involvement with other bands and artists I was a-diggin’ at the time: Pretty Things, Pink Fairies, Paul Rudolph, Steve Peregrin-Took (from Tyrannosaurus Rex), Mick Farren, etc. OK, but more importantly, Think Pink is as good as the hype: a record that, aside from any hipster/collector points it may have earned over the years, stands perfectly well on its own as an excellent set of songs, regardless of any context. Got me? Originally released in 1971 on Polydor, I can only assume that it sunk without at a trace upon release, but over time has rightly garnered a rep as a psych-rock heavy-hitter. For once, the collectors are right! With an all-star cast of various UK underground types – the Deviants’ Mick Farren, Paul Rudolph (of Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Eno’s band, etc.), Steve Peregrin-Took and some bass player simply known as “Honk”, Think Pink is a masterpiece. Rudolph’s spaced-out guitar leads on the moaning (literally) “Fluid” are electric; the alien moonstomp of “Tiptoe on the Highest Hill” is as good as any Amon Duul song; every damn song is a sure fire hit! I’ve said this before: I’ve been burned way too many times to get excited about these kinds of “finds” these days. You know what I mean: if I haven’t heard of it by now, then it’s probably for good reason. Think Pink is no such thing, it is not Record Collector Music. It’s much better than that. This has been bootlegged - and possibly legitimately reissued - a thousand times, though you want the Akarma version and accept no substitutes!

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