Thursday, February 16, 2006
VARIOUS Artists - Creative Outlaws: US Underground 1962-'70 CD (Trikont)
One of the finest labels on earth: Trikont. I shouldn't be saying things like that in this kind of forum (I'll be honest: I work for their Australian distributor), but if you're from around these parts, or even overseas, don't take that remark as an advertisement, take it as a recommendation. Since I've heard just about everything on the label, I know my stuff when it comes to the world of Trikont. Whaddya looking for? Greek rembetika? Michael Hurley? Black cajun tunes from the '30s? African hip-hop? '70s Black Power anthems? You name it, Trikont does it: punk rock (England's Dreaming: compiled by the great Jon Savage), Vietnamese street music, funeral/death songs, decadent German oompah of pre-Nazi era, Texan polka, primitive blues, scorching '60s Southern soul, early female country singers of the 78 era. The only apparent qualification for the stamp of Trikont is a sense of cultural disenfranchisement on behalf of the artist. Punk rock or what?! Try selling that concept to the lily-livers at Epitaph some time.
So, that brings us to Creative Outlaws, the latest installment in compilations from the label in question. I must admit, when I first read the line-up featured, it seemed way to broad to make any kind of musical statement whatsoever. It looked more like a hodge-podge of barely-related artists whose sole reason for being on the comp' was Trikont's ability to license their song. But I was wrong. Can you imagine Tiny Tim, Nina Simone, Blue Cheer, The Fugs and the Stooges being on one disc? At first it seemed a mess, but I stand corrected. A dozen listens have set in my mind one simple fact: this is one of the best compilations I (and perhaps you) will hear all year. Of rare tracks there are few; you and I have heard much of this time and time again ("Summertime Blues", "1969", "Kick Out The Jams", "Dachau Blues"), but not in this kind of context. Whack 'em next to some blowouts by the likes of Exuma; Moondog (now there is a can of worms I've had on hold for a good decade or more now; hearing the track in question here, an awesome bongos 'n' horns workout w/ street sounds intact, I really need to delve into his world); West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (whose albums I would rate as "fine" and "quirky" but generally unexceptional); Lothar and the Handpeople (a one-joke gimmick outfit from the late '60s whose Silver Apples-ish electro vibe here is a whole lot better than a mere joke); Canned Heat (a band whose output I've tried and discarded as worthless, but where the hell did "Sic 'Em Pigs" come from?! Anti-cop punk-blues almost like it was the straight from the mouth of Gary Floyd!); Grace Slick and the Great Society (no, really... you must hear the raging live version of "Somebody To Love") and, of course a whole lot more. You'll know the names when you see them.
If there's one track I would have omitted, I'd vouch for Tiny Tim's live medley of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"/"Highway to Hell", which was recorded in 1995 and doesn't work for that reason. AC/DC? I don't remember them playing at the Democrats Convention in '68 on the back of a flatbed truck. Still, what at first appears to be a mess starts to make beautiful sense after a couple of listens: angry America in all its shades and stripes in the '60s. This ain't no Big Chill, kiddo, it's been put together like a guidebook of sound from an era, and by a couple of Marxist Germans at that!
Where are the Mothers of Invention, Red Krayola, Love, Sun Ra, Impressions, Monks, Velvets, James Brown, Michael Hurley, 13th Floor Elevators or Tim Buckley? Hopefully in a second volume some time. Sit back, enjoy, have a laugh at the awkwardly translated and heavily stilted liner notes and let the freak flag fly.