Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TERRY REID - River CD (Water)

My love of this album has some friends baffled. Reid remains one of rock's great underachievers. A rising cult star in the UK in the late '60s with two rather inconsistent albums under his belt (there's some gems amongst some pop drivel obviously pushed on him by clueless music exec's), he was basically offered to be the singer in Jimmy Page's as-yet-unnamed outfit at the time but brushed the tantalising offer away and instead recommended a young singer he'd recently witnessed playing live, Robert Plant. The rest of that story has been told before.

After touring w/ the likes of Cream and the Rolling Stones (on the '69 leg which ended at Altamont), he hung w/ Gilberto Gil in London before relocating to the west coast of the US and releasing this classic in '73 on Atlantic. Reid is/was a singer one could only define as "white soul". Not in a Hall & Oates kinda way, but in the same soaring sense as Van Morrison (when he was good) and Tim Buckley back in the day. River is split into two fairly distinct sides, the first of which contains his more "rock" material. With a loose and funky backing band (featuring percussive great, Willie Bobo, slapping some bongos) at his side, sonically this brings to mind the 'Stones during their peak Beggars Banquet/Let It Bleed phase when they still possessed a keen and exotic sense of space within their music and didn't clutter it w/ hard-rock guitar. Think of the bongo fury of "Sympathy For The Devil" and perhaps extract a good 9/10ths of the fury.

The second half of the album sees the pace slow with a laidback acoustic sound caught somewhere 'round the musical nexus of Blue Afternoon-period Buckley, Veedon Fleece-era Morrison and John Martyn ca. his Inside/Out masterwork. You might call it pastoral white-boy folky blues, though I'd be kinder in my words. There's the same stretch in this music, the same reach that the previously-mentioned artists achieved at the time, a period when the better '60s singer/songwriter survivors were working a sense of jazz improvisation into a folk form. Reid kinda disappeared after a few mid/late-'70s clunkers, though he still has River as his grand statement. Now, take heed in those references I've just thrown around like an old rag: Tim Buckley, John Martyn, Van Morrison, peak-period 'Stones. Does that sound good? I hope so. When I've played this to friends the reactions I received have referred to the musical works of Steely Dan and the Black Crowes. Huh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Been listening to this ad nauseum the past few days, something prompted quite obviously by the documentary of its making aired last Saturday night on the Great Australian Album series on SBS (that's a national government TV station, for you foreigners). I'll admit, I didn't totally get my head around the greatness of the Saints and this platter until my mid 20s. The title track was something I heard week-in/week-out on Rage as a teen, and I could certainly get my head around such an obviously likeable and immediate piece of music in my punk-addled brain, and my older brother - one w/ much less of a cultural cringe than myself - would flog the LP to the point of osmosis when I was growing up.... but, it didn't really click for many years.

That moment happened when I was 25, working in a music warehouse and found myself to be in easy access of the cheapie twofer of their first two albums and a workplace stereo. The iconoclastic nature of the Saints' brilliant first two albums hit me like a thunderbolt. The urgency, the anger, the hostile individualism all coalesced and nailed it right home like few rock bands at the time ever could. Great music aside (and that is why you should listen to them), the context of the Saints, like many terrific bands treated like dirt in they hey-day, adds beautifully to their myth: teenage misfits making a racket in Joh's Queensland in the mid '70s (one must add that such an environment was comparable to, say, Alabama ca. '63 or South Africa ca. '76) hit the big time for roughly a minute in punk-mad Blighty, hit the skids upon arrival once the Limeys take offence to the colonials' distinct lack of fashionable style; band releases 3 excellent and disparate albums and calls it quits.

Almost a mirror image of the similar tale of Radio Birdman, another band completely misunderstood during their day and who are, like the Saints were a year or two back, about to be inducted (or were? Has this happened?) into the ARIA Hall Of Fame, a trophy about as worthless and hollow as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammies (and it is basically an Australian version thereof). Radio Birdman have about 7 or 8 songs I really like, though I've heard too many people carping on about them over the last 20 years to care too much. I have friends in Canada and Europe who put them in the same exotic basket of great '70s underachievers as Simply Saucer, Pink Fairies or Rocket From The Tombs, though for an Australian I find them to be about as exotic as a Detroit native would find the Stooges. That certainly doesn't mean I dislike them, though for me they can't compare to the greatness of primo '70s Saints. Hey, some people dig the Stones more than the Beatles and vice versa; I'm a Saints guy, though come back to me in a decade and see how I feel about it then.

Monday, August 20, 2007

JOE CARDUCCI has a new book out - Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. And All That - and you can bet your sweet life I'm a-trackin' it down and getting my hands on it as soon as possible.

The man's Rock And The Pop Narcotic compendium from 1990 still stands as the rock-based critical-theory/appreciation-manual by which all others must be compared to. Dig this review of his latest tome on the great Pig State Recon blog, or check the way-cool article on the old crank known as Joe Carducci here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Huh... a coupla things. For some reason, out of nowhere, has sprung Squawkbox, revisiting me like an old friend, or perhaps a creepy stalker I'd like to get lost. You can make a comment above or below, it don't matter.
Seems like a couple of guys from Dayton, Ohio's Oxymorons have been doing a Google search on themselves and found my review for their cassette I wrote in '04. This 'net thing really is shrinking the world by the minute. Check out some info on the band here. I stand by what I said: the cassette remains a great heart-starter and something I intend to hang onto.
If you're really up for a laugh, you may want to check your newsstands for the latest issue of JMag, in which you will find an article on moi and the crazy, topsy-turvy world of music bloggers. We're a nutty bunch and we just don't care!
Back soon, for now I'm linking to some past posts you probably ignored...

Reigning Sound actually rock

21st-Century Hardcore

Shane Williams: TV star

Rudolph Grey: guitar hero

Stinky wheezebags CRASS

Kentucky rocks with the Endtables!

American Hardcore DVD

Sunday, August 12, 2007

There are two records I love and cherish, both of which also possess the finest liner notes ever written. One, by Black Flag, is a 12" EP which should have been extended to the length of a double LP: The Process Of Weeding Out. The other is a double LP I have never listened to all the way through, and for all intents and purposes, could have been a flexi disc (given the number of times I've actually played it), but whose double-LP status only elevates it further into the pantheon of flip-the-bird greatness: Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

'Flag's EP from '85 features the trio of Ginn, Bill Stevenson and Kira. Purely instrumental, it's Ginn and co.'s stab at what I could only label as "free rock". It's about 20 minutes long and 60 minutes too short. It's a goddamn blissful sound, one which rock-crit-w/-a-brain Robert Palmer quite rightly noted as being like a post-HC take on Tony Williams' Lifetime, or Ornette's Prime Time ensemble from the late '70s. The playing is free and loose, and even skinsman tightwad Bill Stevenson - a great drummer, though a stylistically conservative rock player - gets a little crazy. Whilst I dig the Crimsonoid hysterics of 'Flag's tight-as-nails instrumental prowess as displayed on the B side of Family Man, for myself TPOWO really delivers the goods.

Dig the liner notes, too:

"The revolution will probably be televised. But I don't have a TV and I'm not gonna watch. With talk of rating records and increased censorship it may be getting dificult for some to speak their minds. Black Flag already has enough problems with censorship coming from the business sector. Some record stores have refused to stock and/or display certain Black Flag records because of objectionable cover art and/or lyrical content. Now, with additional government involvement, the "crunch" is on. Hope does lie in the fact that fortunately these straight pigs show little ability in decoding intuitive data. For example, even though this record may communicate certain feelings, emotions and ideas to some, I have faith that cop-types with thier strictly liner minds and stick-to-the-rules mentality don't have the ability to decipher the intuitive contents of this record. Of course, there may be a problem in that much of the public, most of whom comply with the whole idea of hiring the pigs in the first place, seem equally unable to intuitively feel and listen to music. Still, here it is, "The Process Of Weeding Out" - Greg Ginn

Lou Reed's MMM, as you know, was released in 1975 and can be interpreted three different ways: 1) As Lou trying to get dropped by his record label by releasing the most unsellable pile of noise imaginable; 2) As Lou attempting to record and release a "serious" piece of avant-garde music only understood and appreciated by the few; or 3) As Lou having a laugh and simply being Lou (ie. an A-grade asshole). I love what it is - 60 minutes of screech from a major recording artist - though I rarely listen to it. It does however, have some awesomely incoherent, rambling and frequently grammatically-incorrect liner notes. I'm not going to quote them all; I shall simply leave you with the very last line, one that is so obnoxious I have been known to throw it around myself if such an occasion begs for a suitable insult: "My week beats your year". Can that be beat?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's just rattle on about a buncha things... As you can see, I've been absent and away from the land of blogging, so I should attempt to make up for lost time and write about a bunch of things floating my boat the past few weeks.

Firstly, there's the new CD by local experimental wunderkid, Anthony Pateras. It's entitled Chasms and is out on the Sirr.Ecords label. Anthony's a buddy of mine, which probably means I shouldn't be reviewing it, but since it's an honest-to-Pete recommendation of a very fine CD, I feel there to be no conflict of interest. Pateras is also responsible for one of my favourite Australian albums of the 21st century, 2002's Malfunction Studies, a more orchestrated affair which, if memory serves (I stupidly gave my copy to a friend in Sydney a few years back, thinking I'd always be able to buy another copy down the line... Umm, Anthony?), sounded like a cross between '70s Euro avant-prog and Penderecki. If you can locate a copy, gobble it up toot sweet. 's funny, just the day before I received this CD in the mail, I was commenting to a work colleague how "avant-garde" music featuring primarily prepared piano bores the bejesus outta me. I mean, have you ever sat all the way through a John Cage prepared-piano CD? Me neither. Well, along comes Chasms and I'm proven wrong again, or at least a touch prejudiced. Chasms comprises of three long pieces containing prepared piano and nothing but. There's no plinking, plonking or abstractions involved; the sound is dense, relentless and the effect is dizzying and mesmerising. Unlike any other recording I've heard involving piano strings and screws, Chasms brings to mind Terry Riley or Conlon Nancarrow as played by a Gamelan orchestra. Overwhelming and overwhelmingly good, this'll be in my Top Ten of '07, you can count on that.

Keith Hudson's Entering The Dragon is a disc that's certainly been played out 'round these parts the last couple of months. It was reissued as part of Trojan's ltd.-run Fan Club series last year, and I've learnt the hard way before: if you want anything in that range, get in quick. Unlike possibly every other deal ever offered by a record company, their claims of "limited" actually appear to be true. Hudson is also responsible for another bona fide dub masterpiece in my possession, Pick A Dub, though I'll take 1974's Entering The Dragon as the hit pick, if only because it contains some cool vocal work. Of course, as a friend and reggae egghead noted to me a few weeks back - that Hudson couldn't sing to save his life - it's his wonky pipes which make it work. I mean, let's face it, I think I could hold a note better than Hudson, but the sincerity is there. Lots of far-out studio wizardry and even fuzz guitar abound, and is usually the case w/ these Trojan deals, you get more bonus tracks (this time it's 17) than you could possibly care for, but the consistency herein never has me hitting the skip button. A-grade dub. mon.

I've been reading Michael Walker's Laurel Canyon, which attempts to document the Canyon and the music scene which sprung forth from its loins in the '60s/'70s, namely folks like Frank Zappa, Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, etc. There's nothing too eye-opening to behold, other than the usual cliches of youthful idealism beset by egos, coke, self-indulgence and greed, and if there is one outfit who remain the living embodiment of a group of individuals who completely ruined themselves through all of the above, it would have to be CSNY, whose Deja Vu LP I've been playing a bit as I slog my way through Walker's book. I bought it a year back, it being one of those purchases which surprises oneself. Despite my 20-year rabid fandom for Young's work, as well as my love for Crosby's songs he wrote in the Byrds, for myself the quartet known as CSNY remained a no-go zone, an outfit so coated in hippie cheese that even I wouldn't dare approach them. However, something clicked in the back of my brain when I heard this LP at a friend's place and didn't instantly feel like killing everyone in the room, and so I threw it into my possible-purchases pile. Well, it's sitting right next to me, it's playing as I write this, and despite my concrete knowledge, after having read Laurel Canyon, that Crosby, Stills and Nash (Young is spared) were indeed complete and total flaming hippie assholes who perfectly encapsulated all the hipocrisy and self-indulgence of the era in question, the complex vocal harmonies at work here, coupled w/ some extremely fine songwriting, may just please half-a-dozen people reading this. If you think that "rock" is the only music worth a pinch, you'll steer clear. CSNY couldn't rock if their lives depended on it, a point discussed in Walker's book. Coming from folk-music backgrounds, these guys (Nash included, despite being an ex-Hollies man) didn't even know what the hell rock 'n' roll was until the Brits came along and tought them the tricks of amplification, which is probably why the weakest songs on Deja Vu, such as "Almost Cut My Hair", are when they attempt to "rock". They fail w/ a resounding thud and stink up an otherwise fairly OK folk-pop disc. Your mind is already made up? OK, I'm outta here...