Friday, November 04, 2011

Originally released on the Prestige label in 1960, Eric Dolphy's Outward Bound was also the very first "jazz" record I bought. I purchased a secondhand vinyl edition of this back in the heady days of the early '90s - 1993, to be exact - when I was dead set on exploring the four-letter music form which until then had evaded me. Dolphy seemed a good place to start - his work w/ Coltrane, Mingus and Ornette Coleman alone put him up there in the pantheon - and the single-digit price tag didn't scare me at the time, either. It didn't blow my head off upon first listen - I guess I was looking for something more musically ferocious, given my penchant for "noise" back in the day; I encountered that soon thereafter w/ a self-titled Albert Ayler bootleg purchased in the ensuing months, one which set my on track for becoming a lifelong jazz dork thereafter - but it's stayed w/ me ever since, a sentimental fave and one I'll clutch 'til I'm under the ground, if possible. Dolphy left this mortal coil in '64, due to diabetes complications, an incalculable loss to the music world, as he had only in his last few years started to really hit a stride which would, had he lived, likely seen him as one of the great innovators of the '60s. His last few discs, notably Out To Lunch (Blue Note/1964), Conversations (1963), Last Date (1964) and Iron Man (ditto) see him branching out into a wilder, more expansive sound, and that's not counting the dozens of bootlegs from this period (most of them documenting European tours of the time) which demonstrate his progressively expressive and outward-bound (fnar!) forays on his instruments of choice: alto sax, bass clarinet and the flute. Check out the clip below for an excellent example of just how phenomenal a player he could be. On Outward Bound, Dolphy is accompanied by the great Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, a guy who cut a stack of killer hard-bop/free discs in the '60s, either as a sideman or headliner, before blowing his wad w/ some lightweight/mersh atrocities in the following decade (something which seemed to ruin his legacy for many observers), Roy Haynes on drums, Mingus sidekick Jaki Byard on piano and Blue Note mainstay George Tucker on bass. Dolphy cuts loose on a few extended solos on tracks such as "G.W." and "Les" and you can see where his music is heading, though it mainly sticks to a sound rooted in '50s hard bop. The revolution hadn't happened yet, though that doesn't mean you won't have a real good time listening to it. As my current jazz obsessions have recently veered towards the Yusef Lateef/Jackie McLean/Andrew Hill school of avant-bop sounds - giving the more hard-line screeching a break for a while - Outward Bound sounds better to me than it did back in 1993. The album itself is still readily available on both LP and CD in various editions on various labels (it's now public domain in the EU, so the onslaught of reissues by anyone and everyone begins), and since any and every disc w/ Dolphy's name on it is worth its price, you know what you should do.



Seymour Stein, owner/founder of Sire Records (prior to it being bought by Warner Brothers), is often seen as a caricature of the music biz, a cigar-chomping fast-talker who possibly embodies all the negative aspects of the industry he works in, but I'll give him credit for at least giving brief exposure to a few artists who would've been lucky to've released anything in their lifetime other than maybe a Bomp 7" (which DMZ did in 1977) when he opened his wallet during the punk/new wave explosion in '77. Sure, he dropped most of 'em like a hot potato when he realised they weren't gonna make him a mint soon thereafter (he was a businessman, not a true believer), but the documents remain. One of the documents is this disc, a release which has escaped my ears until now. It's recently been reissued on vinyl c/o the good folks at 4 Men With Beards, and one glance at the cover above may render me an excuse for my tardiness: THAT COVER SUCKS. I recall seeing it several times over the years at shops such as Au-go-go, when that establishment was still open and would put high-priced rarities on its wall, and despite its rep as a lost punker classic from the '70s, I always found it hard to get beyond that cover. At its best, it might've been a Cheap Trick/Cars blend of new wave/pop nonsense; at its worst, it looks like it belongs in the Boston/Toto/Journey school of '70s atrocities. It is, of course, neither. DMZ existed for a few years in the mid/late '70s and hailed from Boston; early member Dave Robinson had spent time in the Modern Lovers and later did play in The Cars, but for many they're remembered for basically morphing into the long-running Beantown garage outfit, The Lyres, the group singer Jeff Conolly formed after their dissolution (bassist Mike Lewis joined 'em, too, later on). What's so special about this release - one many punk rock releases from '77/'78 unfortunately can not claim an equal boast to (especially for a full-lengther) - is the quality of the songwriting and its ability to really rock. The sound is sharp, punchy, relentlessly upbeat and sympathetic to their aims: rockin'. Perhaps most strangely of all, you can thank none other than Flo & Eddie - the Turtles/Mothers Of Invention dudes - for the production job: the rhythm section of Paul Murphy and Rick Corraccio is hot, the guitar cranked high in the mix and Conolly's yelps the crowning glory atop all of this. DMZ's sound was caught somewhere in the mix between '60s Nuggets rock (there's a cover of "Out Of Our Tree"), early '70s proto-punk (New York Dolls and Raw Power are all over this) and the fast-paced no-frills shenanigans of the Ramones. A pretty good combo - a tried a true combo which possibly now amounts to a musical cliche flogged into the ground these past 35 years - but DMZ were there at the beginning and, judging by this sole studio long-player, did it better than most others. Long obscured to all but a few diehard collector nerds, it's now out and about and available in the few worthy record stores left on this planet. It's 11 tracks of high-octane rock & roll malarky - something I'm prone to dismissing, but something I also get down on my knees and worship when it's done w/ aplomb - and in this case I'll give DMZ's LP a shamefully belated two thumbs up, Fonzie style.

4 comments:

mdm said...

That cover does NOT suck.

mdm said...

And, jeez, Cheap Trick is "pop nonsense"? Nice work, tin ears.

Dave said...

Opinions are like assholes...

mdm said...

Good point.