Monday, March 25, 2013
Let's see what's worth of perusal of late. Up first on the rack is Durutti Column's debut LP from 1980, The Return Of The Durutti Column, originally released on the Factory label, although the reissue I spin is the 12" vinyl LP on the 4 Men With Beards label. T'was originally released in an edition of a few thousand with a stuck-on sandpaper sleeve (allegedly pasted on by members of Joy Division and A Certain Ratio). Since the outfit known as Durutti Column are a band whom some speak of yet few people have ever purchased their records (I'm hypothesising here, though I'm assuming my guess is somewhat accurate), I'm not sure of an original's dollar value, and frankly couldn't care anyway. Let's briefly talk of the music of Durutti Column (DC). DC is largely the work of one man, Vini Reilly, although drummer Bruce Mitchell has been by his side for many years. The very early incarnation of the band, when it was a band, featured various types who'd later go on to form the whitebread soul outfit, Simply Red. Yes, that is a fact. But bear with me here. I can't speak for DC's later work - Reilly still writes and records under the name - although the first two LPs (you can also throw in 1981's LC, also reissued on 4MWB) bear some scrutiny by all and sundry. Reilly had previously been in the Mancunian dumb-punk band, Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds, and was one who hung w/ all the right people in his home town. This debut was, according to Reilly, simply a collection of songs he'd played in the studio whilst legendary drunk Martin Hannett hit the record button and popped pills. The results don't bare resemblance to much else happening at the time in post-punk Ol' Blighty. The songs play like sketches, instrumental pieces w/ delicate guitar work, skeletal arrangments w/ slightly propulsive percussion which don't so much move the songs along to a beat as they do provide another layer to the songs. The guitar sound is brittle and jazzy, fluid lines sometimes erupting but mostly everything is controlled. It's a purely studio creation, and sounds like it was performed w/ a labcoat on. I'm guessing the folks from Pell Mell and Slovenly listened to some DC in their time, the lyricism of both bands' guitar work sounding indebted to Reilly, although to me the comparisons I'll use - and I'm hoping I'm not drawing too long a bow here - would be the chamber jazz of Bill Evans and especially Jimmy Giuffre. The music is so enclosed, trapped within its own bounds and beautifully flowing like the best '50s/'60s work of both artists than I can only use the laughable phrase, "chamber rock". I'm not saying you're going to be playing the first two Durutti Column platters in your next foray into the slam pit, but they're a worthy distraction and quite addictive in their subtlety. Listen to a track here.
I'm still on a '60s Blue Note kick, and Tony Williams' debut as leader from 1964, Life Time, recorded and released when he was a mere 18 years old in 1964, is one you should get ahold of. Williams played w/ many noteworthys in his day, hitting the skins for classic avant discs by the likes of Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill and Grachan Moncur III (and every Blue Note LPs by those artists you should grab), and this one is along a similar path. Featuring Blue Note regulars like Sam Rivers on sax, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock, Richard Davis, Gary Peacock and Ron Carter, it sound isn't too dissimilar too many of said artists' best discs from the golden age of Blue Note's avant-hard-bop phase (I'm making that 1961-'65, if you care), which means it doesn't rewrite the history of jazz in the most explosive manner which Albert Ayler did during the same period, but its balancing between the worlds of post-Parker hard bop and the evolutionary necessity of free jazz means that it combines the best of spurts of fiery energy and listenability. Sam Rivers and his brass outbursts remain the highlights of the album; his playing on the first three tracks, "Two Pieces Of One: Red", "Two Pieces Of One: Green" and "Tomorrow Afternoon" set the music alight, creating a sense of momentum among the lengthy tracks' quiet, extended passages. Williams went onto famously play in Miles Davis' quintet recordings in the latter half of the '60s before forming Life Time as his own band. Life Time's first two LPs, Emergency! and Turn It Over (reviewed in this blog before) are two of the great "out" records of their era, although he pretty much hit the snooze button for the bulk of the 1970s as he rode the wave of the jazz-fusion bandwagon. Curiously, he played drums on some tracks on Public Image's album record in 1986. In the '90s he returned to his avant roots w/ the power trio, Arcana, featuring Bill Laswell and iconic UK string-picker, Derek Bailey, who recorded a few albums for the Japanese label DIW which are worth a spin. I recall reading that Suicide's Martin Rev used to jam w/ Williams in the local neighbourhood in their teens, jamming out free jazz in their garages. I can't claim that to be the gospel truth, but it makes for a nice bit of myth-making.
That's correct, it's the soundtrack to the TV series, Twin Peaks. Angelo Badalamanti's score remains one of my favourite LPs of that decade (that'd be the 1990s). Of course, it went on to sell a zillion copies and has remained in print ever since, it being one of the most successful TV soundtracks of all time, and whilst I could fault the series it scores, I can't fault the music. In 1990, and remember that this is back in the pre-internet days when one would and had to eagerly await the release of something like a movie, album or TV series which seemed way beyond one's reach before it was actually released, I rented the "movie" of Twin Peaks. The movie I speak of was actually the very first episode (the pilot, to use the parlance)of the TV series w/ the murder of Laura Palmer quickly and clumsily solved in the last 5 minutes, as if it was tacked on as an afterthought (this version is still available, and for me remains the only Twin Peaks you ever really need to see). It blew my socks off (and I'll admit that, as an 18-year-old, as such 18-year-olds are prone to be, I was obsessed with David Lynch and a committed devotee to his three best films, Eraserhead, Elephant Man and Blue Velvet: three films I'll stand by. This is all so very undergraduate...), and I scoured the record stores for the movie's striking, haunting soundtrack. By the time the series was to air here in January of 1991 (we were way behind the rest of the world), the hype surrounding the show had reached fever pitch and the results couldn't possibly equal the anticipation. Well, they didn't, and I remember not bothering w/ the series after the first half-dozen episodes, thinking that the storyline was dragging and the show was becoming way too cute for its own good. I revisited that series for the first time in over 20 years recently, and my opinion hasn't changed. It's not that Twin Peaks the series was bad - it was a bold attempt to do something different w/ the television medium caught in an '80s hangover/pre-Nevermind state of mind for mainstream Amerika - but I still struggle to maintain any interest in the lives of the characters beyond those first half-dozen episodes. But the soundtrack LP, which I purchased in late 1990, remains tucked away in the private collection and still gets a spin on a tri-annual basis. It may be seen as the soundtrack for clueless dunderheads to pad out a collection - filed right next to Pulp Fiction and Buena Vista Social Club (both made up of mostly fine music in their own right, no matter what bogus cultural attache may be associated w/ them) - but the syrupy, noirish tones and drones that Badalamenti creates, equal parts '40s/'50s B-movie score and Days Of Our Lives schmaltz, remain an effective listen when the lights are low. And Julee Cruise? She sang the vocals on the soundtrack's "hit", "Falling" and for better or worse disappeared into the aether. She toured here in the early '90s, riding high on the soundtrack's success and tanked, playing to half-empty venues around the country. Damn. I hope she's still getting those royalty cheques. You can enjoy the entire LP right here, and don't beat yourself up over it.