Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oct/Nov 07 issue of Perfect Sound Forever

Sorry for the cross-promo but I just wanted to tip you off about the latest issue of Perfect Sound Forever. Here's the goodies offered there now:

Krautrock interview
Luul Ulbrich "cannot answer the question of how Krautrock was born, although he was deeply involved in shaping it. 'It's always complicated with categorizations. Primarily, we saw ourselves as a rock band, as psychedelic rock. We never called it 'krautrock.' There's a nice explanation in France, 'musique planante,' which means 'music of the spheres.' Maybe it's just experimental rock music.'"

Michael Gira interview and confessions
For five fine albums, Michael Gira has led a changing cast of musical Angels through light and dark realizations of songs merging dream visions and imaginative reality abstractions. This time round he started out backed by his young protégés Akron/Family, trying to keep things simple. Then an urge to embellish took hold and more musicians laid down parts, most strikingly Eszter Balint's droning violin

His angst & his art
For its raw exploration of alienation, loss, and rage, Sly Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin' On can be seen as a companion to John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. The Afghan Whigs’ 1991 album Gentleman dared to bond with those two frazzled, gut-wrenching masterpieces to make up a trilogy, and began a creative odyssey that expanded on that raging wrestling match with appetite.

From New York Doll to solo years to Buster Poindexter to movie star to Harry Smith and back to being a Doll again, David Johansen has hopped around roles the way that most people change clothes and yet somehow kept his sanity. We interrogate him to find out how he sorts out the many lives that he's led.

Romance & disconnect
Romance may or may not exist, but if it does, it's up to the individual to define it. Relativism, while immediately practical, produces a kind of disconnect that in turn produces a potentially soul-numbing cynicism that is contrary to the very notion of romance. British pop rockers Maxïmo Park examine different tensions that signify this postmodern disconnect between individuals and romance and love. Romance and love in the postmodern world turn out to be very slippery things indeed.

The inside out of...
The term "Outsider Music" is relatively young. It was first coined by radio personality and music enthusiast Irwin Chusid in an article he wrote in 1996 for Pulse! Magazine. He described it as "a mutant strain of twisted pop that's so wrong it's right." "Outsider music can be the product of damaged DNA, psychotic seizures or alien abduction; medical malpractice, incarceration or simple drug fry," Chusid wrote. "Or chalk it up to communal upbringing, demonic possession or bad beer."

Testerone implications
There's a reason why classic rock (which back then at least, was an ostensibly a male adolescent mass entertainment), invokes gender variance. Long before Lou Reed crooned about transsexuals on the AM dial, rock's will to shock manifested itself with long hair (prompting the derisive question, "Is that a boy or a girl?"). This rebellion wasn't merely theatrical or rhetorical: in an age when Vietnam and the draft suffused American consciousness, for a male to adopt any appurtenance of femininity was a clear breach and rejection of military readiness.

His middle years
Colfax, California, 1935. Who in that NoCal hamlet would've guessed that a major influence on modern music had just been christened? Unlike religious icons, angels don't appear when artists leave the womb and commence their slog through the muck of the world, but that's where Terry Riley nonetheless saw his advent, soon trafficking along a childhood not terribly dissimilar to that of most other young males in America. He did, however, display early on a strong bent for music. Still, little reveals itself historically with very much clarity in his first decade and a half. Colfaxians did as adolescents tended to do since time immemorial: goof around, have fun, discover a little bit of the world, and try to figure out why the hell anyone was even put here in the first place.

From concrete to hip-hop
There are many opinions on sampling. Some view it as a fresh, post-modern take on music; music had taken us only so far and sampling helped to shake things up, re-evaluate the past, and use it to create exciting new music. Others view it as simple thievery, a refuge for the untalented to hide behind. What inspires both these views? Is either correct?

Pilgrimage to history- site of Buddy Holly's last concert
"On our way north, we passed through a hamlet in Iowa named Clear Lake. Seeing the city limits sign made the shiver that was in my spine, jump out of the top of my head. Being the amateur music historian that I am, I knew precisely where the sense of dread was radiating from. Its epicenter was in the middle of this quiet settlement; a small, unassuming venue named The Surf Ballroom. A voice inside me said, "You absolutely must stop here on your way back home." I was in total agreement with myself."

Segovia's Mutant Brother- Part 2
Part 1 looked at the nascent Oregon as an ironically inadvertent subversion within the Paul Winter Consort, further paradoxical in its production of the best work Winter's ensemble would ever see. Topping the paradox, the sub-group wouldn't release its first LP until many years after the attainment of firm regard in the music world (as we saw, Music of Another Present Era wasn't really Oregon's true first set of recordings). Unparalleled in its creativity, the band quickly grew in critical and consumer eyes and ears, first nailing down a quartet signature sound that later attempted to induct new members... elegantly failing every time. Oregon was ever and only best as a foursome, a chamber jazz effort embodied by Colin Walcott, Paul McCandless, Glen Moore, and Ralph Towner... most especially Towner.

The end is near
"After twenty-five years of digital playback, I finally heard a CD player that sounded as musical as any analog rig I've heard, regardless of price. The amazing part is that it wasn't an SACD player, or a DVD-A player, or any of the so-called high-resolution digital formats. It was an ordinary CD player, and it played ordinary CD's."

Classical festival
"The Irish love music of almost any kind, so it seemed logical to consider the possibility of music festivals. What happened is a variety of them, devoted to various musical categories: early music, jazz, contemporary and traditional Irish being among the first suggested. They were so successful there are now other varieties, as well. The West Cork Chamber Music Festival comes pretty close to being all things to all people. They certainly try hard."

We're always looking for good writers and/or ideas so let us know if you have anything to share.

See you online,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Silkworm documentary

From film-maker Seth Pomeroy:

"We have just finished a new trailer for our documentary about the great indie rock band, Silkworm. It features Steve Albini, Stephen Malkmus, Jason Molina, Nigel Pulsford and many others. We have still have over two dozen interviews to do, including some very notable musicians and label owners. Anyhow, we thought it would be of interest to you.
This trailer was created as a tool to help raise the finaces to finish the shooting. We are also take donations through PayPal.

Any information beyond the trailer, can be found at

Friday, September 28, 2007

Swamp Dogg and his mama

Sad to say, underground soul legend singer/songwriter Swamp Dogg doesn't get around much anymore- earlier this year, he made a rare appearance at SXSW but no other dates are scheduled for him to play out. Also, he hadn't put out new music for a while and then came a pleasant surprise with his recent Resurrection album. In lieu of witnessing the mad hilarious power of the Dogg, he's taken to posting videos on YouTube- not just of himself but also his mama singing a raunchy R&B number.

Vera Lee "Red Hot Nutz"

Swamp Dogg "King of Kings" (from a year ago)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Robert Wyatt- comedic art

In lieu of Robert Wyatt's upcoming release Comicopera, you can hear some of the tunes at his Domino Records website plus you can see an extended interview with him (Real Audio format), talking about his new music and his work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Johnny Cash- the multi-cultural ambassador

Along with his late 60's live albums he did in jails (though not as an inmate those times), part of what made Johnny Cash and country music household names in mainstream America was his '69-'71 variety show that he had, now finally collected and released in a 2 DVD box set.

Not that a country music variety show like this happened in a vacuum... That same year that Cash's show premiered, so did Glen Campbell's Goodtime Hour (which also featured performers that appeared on Cash's show, including Cash himself) and long-time staple Hee Haw (which had pretty much exclusively country music guests). Cash's show was different as it featured not just a wider range of music but also a heavier hitter hosting and showcasing his music week after week.

Impressive as the Cash series DVD is, it's not complete or ideal. First of all, it's missing other historic appearances by the likes of Mama Cass, Roy Acuff, Arlo Guthrie. Also, some of the frequent duets that Cash does with his guests are awkward (Roy Orbison) or just sloppy (Tony Joe White). And as for the non-musical material, the DVD thankfully only gives you a small taste of what you missed otherwise including June Carter's downhome poems and the Statler Brothers' attempts at comedy routines. Also, it's regrettable that Cash couldn't coral his old buddy Elvis (who was supposed discouraged by Colonel Parker), the Rolling Stones (who were in a country phase at the time) or James Brown (who did a killer version of "Your Cheatin' Heart").

But those are small quibbles compared to some of the amazing material that is featured on the DVD set. Alongside country legends like Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette and George Jones, there's great performances by Neil Young (an appropriately haunting "The Needle and the Damage Done"), Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles (who does a simmering soul version of "Ring of Fire"), Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Bad Moon Rising"), Derek and the Dominos ("It's Too Late"), Jerry Lee Lewis (a wonderfully raucous take on the already raucous "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"), Bob Dylan (a rare appearance during his retirement years and during his Nashville Skyline phase), Louis Armstrong (shortly before he died, doing a duet on "Blue Yodel" with Cash). And for a "wow, did that really happen?" moment, Cash comes on after the Derek number to speak to Eric Clapton, then bringing on Carl Perkins (who was part of Cash's band then) so that he can trade solos with Clapton on "Matchbox."

(Also marvel at the site of the almost unrecognizable Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. in their early beardless state. Jennings even has a band with a woman keyboard player (his wife, the great Jessi Colter), a guitarist playing a double-neck ax and a bassist with a peace sign on his instrument)

As wide-ranging as his musical guest list was, you notice that many of them bend to country's conventions for the show: Dylan was in country mode then, Cash brags of Clapton's country licks on the Derek song, Brother Ray's Cash song, Satchmo recreating his Jimmie Rodgers duet, etc.. Maybe it's only fare since he had such a diverse guest list that he'd get his buddies to meet him halfway. It also serves as a worthy reminder that country has seeped into many other musical styles for a while now, and vice versa.

After the show was canceled, thanks to prime time rescheduling that killed a number of other shows then, Cash still found a home on the small screen, making many subsequent appearances then in the Me Decade. Cash still found a place on TV, making guest appearances everywhere (including a memorable one on Colombo). The visual medium was his forte then, as he appeared in films and documentaries for the rest of the 70's. Artistically though, he'd have to wait until the 90's and his work with Rick Rubin when he got his mojo back. But these DVD's remind us of a great artist at one of his peaks and serve as an important piece of history- before the advent of Garth Brooks, Cash was one of country's greatest ambassadors.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bugulu- from New York to Peru

Winding its way from the Caribbean to New York and then filtering back down to South America, boogaloo music made more international stops than a bird migration. This '50's and '60's phenom culled not only the grooveful sounds and rhythms of Cuba but also the burgeoning rock and soul music making itself felt in the States at the same time. There's no international legends to hang the music around but one listen to Vampisoul's Gozalo! Bugulu Tropical Vol. 2 makes its own case for some great music.

The hero here is a producer named producer Manuel A. Silvestre who captured this captivating music on the local MAG label in the mid and late '60's. It's a stew of influences ranging from jazz swing (including a version of Lester Young's "Jumping With Symphony Sid") to acid rock (Pedro Miguel y sus Maracaibos's "Arroz Con Coco" sounds like Carlos Santana jamming with the Grateful Dead). In between, you get get sweet and smooth vocals, mambo rhythms and blaring trumpets. While much old-time international music sounds like a cute novelty to our foreign ears, this is a wonderful fusion of styles that easily transcends that type of mentality. You'll be hard pressed to find a more joyous (and sweet) collection of music this year.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stuart James- unplugged UK rap

The music biz ain't a kind and gentle place and too many times, it chews up and spits out worthwhile artists. Stuart James might be of one of them unless some stalwart label or producer steps in to help him make a record (HINT, HINT). Til then, he'll have to hope that London gigs and word of mouth from his MySpace page get him enough momentum- it's worked for other acts so hopefully, it'll work for him too.

And he's worth the fuss 'cause... well, start by listening to his tunes at the link above. His thick English accent, his deft rhymes, his whole act an an unplugged rapper armed with an acoustic guitar is all so damn appealing that you'd figure and hope that it'd be a matter of time before he'd made the grade. He sounds almost like a sweet, singer-songwriter version of the Streets but with a quick lip and a good observation eye and a big heart (though he gets a little obsessive about relationships). I liked it enough to include a song on my own MySpace page and hope that we hear more from him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cindy Lee Berryhill- separation of chuch and state

A self-described anti-folkie (hate that term), CLB hasn't been heard from for about a decade but her new album, Beloved Stranger, is enough to make you wish that she doesn't wait that long for another follow-up. Always a reliable bleeding heart who belted Reagan back in the day, she now sings of the horrors and frustration of trying to survive on a 40 cent raise and creates an inspiring anthem for the handicapped among other things.

And while long overdue, thanks mostly to the late Jerry Falwell, her song about separation of church and state is a winner and timely again in the time of Bush II. "When Did Jesus Become A Republican?" she wonders in a downhome blues and sing-a-long worth of Lucinda Williams that leaps off the album. "I thought he was a poor man's friend," she muses about, along with his legendary connections with the lepers (contrasted with Halliburton which comes off sounding worse and deserves to). Did he really want his so-called followers in the religious right to tear away the heartland from the New York or take away health insurance and homeless shelters or export jobs for cheap labor or approve of corporate tax cuts? You might want to check the New Testament again but I can't recall any chapter/verse that gives any of that the nod.

Berryhill wants you to get the message too so she's offering "Jesus" and the album's title track for free on her website.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tab Benoit- the power of the bayou

After seeing his name on a marquee at a Boston club this summer and vaguely remembering who Tab Benoit was, I took a chance and paid the cover charge. Boy was I happy that I did.

While he's got the nice gruff voice you wanna hear on a blue singer, this NOLA resident is a a great guitar player who makes his music swing. Not since I'd seen Dave Alvin at a Blasters reunion had I heard a guitarist who would pull off one amazing solo after the other with each of them sounding better than the last one. But that's how strong Benoit's playing is. I kid you not.

Modest soul that he is, he informed the crowd at the small club that "I don't have any greatest hits so there's nothing that you'll feel disappointed in missing here. You might as well shout out any request you like!"

His latest album is Power of the Pontchartrain, referring to the lake that flooded New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. The title track is a nice Robert Cray-like rocker and he also registers a soulful version of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" (that I already like better than the original).

According to his bio, he's had his songs placed on Melrose Place and even appeared on a episode of a Baywatch spin-off. But as you can guess, and as I found out, the best place to experience him is live, which shouldn't be too hard since he's on the road most of the year anyway.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

RIP Willie Tee

A New Orleans institution is gone as keyboardist/producer/songwriter Willie Tee has died. Very sad news indeed. I saw him perform this past March in Austin at South By Southwest as part of the Ponderosa Stomp. He did a set and then sat in as part of the house band. It was such a delight- he was still so vibrant and into the music.The first two Wild Magnolias albums were just reissued recently (under the title They Call Us Wild) and they serve as a great memorial to his work. We'll miss you, Mr. T.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Roy Wood- rollin' on

Arto Lindsay once said that the idea of a solo album is a misnomer 'cause it's actually made by a bunch of people. Not so for Roy Wood's first album where, baring one harmonium, he sang and played everything (even did the cover picture of himself). Just like the Move's final album (which is also one of Wood's finest records), his Boulders album is now finally being dusted off and being made available again.

Though it came out when the Move was gone, Wood actually put it together in 1969- he details the way that the record finally came out four years after that. It was well worth the wait too. He goes from sweets plaintive ballads ("Dear Elaine," "Miss Clarke and the Computer") to roaring stompers ("Rock Down Low" and the end medley), all with the wonderful weirdness and humor that made the late Move so great.

Speaking of which, wouldn't it be wonderful if Wood and Jeff Lynne were able to reconvene the Move itself? The later seems to have put ELO to bed so why not?

Boulders is available from Amazon plus you can hear some song samples at the Barnes and Noble site. You can also buy it from Roy's website, where he also offers a cool T-shirt to commemorate the reissue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pink Floyd- Syd at the gates

Ah, the anniversary of the summer of love. Conveniently, it falls upon the year of punk ten years later. Don't worry if you didn't catch it this time- we'll have "celebrations" again in another decade and by then, it'll be 50 years from 1967 and if we can get cryogenically frozen, we'll celebrate the centennial too!

Though Sgt. Pepper's usually gets touted as THE record of that year, another important English release of the time was Pink Floyd's debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (also recorded at Abbey Road at the same time at the Beatles record). Here in the States, it's mostly a cult fave and a long-way from the later edition of the group which would go on to seell billions of records without its original leader Syd Barrett while in his homeland, the recently deceased visionary is toasted more (Bowie once said that there was no Floyd without him). But even more than his solo albums, this is where that crazy diamond shines. Space travel and gnomes and psychotic loves songs are all part of the travelogue and unlike a lot of art-rock that followed, the music did actually rock- crank up "Astronomy Domine" and "Insteller Overdrive" again to hear some prime psychedelic garage rock.

Sadly, this was his first and last Floyd album, pushed out by his band mates for his unreliable behavior. While charmingly psychotic, his more low-key solo records didn't quite extend the promise of Piper. Now reissued in a mono/stereo double set, it's worth re-experiencing this slice of swinging London culture again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Godfather meets the Master of the High C's

With the passing of Luciano Pavarotti, I was anxious to find the clip of the performance he did with James Brown. From 2006, it turned out to be the last live performance for both of them. So, through magic of YouTube, here it is. You wouldn't think this combo would work and just sounds good on paper (or a screen) but they deliver a moving version of JB's "It's A Man's World." Enjoy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Plastic People (still a)live

Czech rock heroes Plastic People of the Universe are on tour again- here's an excerpt from a Polish show this year. See 'em if they're coming to your town- dates are up on their website. It ain't quite the same without Milan leading them but Jiri, Josef, Vrata and friends still kick up a storm as you can see and hear here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Avant Garde Project

In the great tradition of UBUWEB comes another website devoted to lost/forgotten/little seen and heard media: Avant Garde Project. At AGP, you can hear for free some intriguing pieces of modern classical music that are scarcely available otherwise. One drawback is that they use the FLAC format for their sound files instead of MP3's and you'll need bit torrent software to access that too (though they provide info and links about that). Your Windows media player should be able to handle FLAC files but it makes for much bigger files and download times. The plus side is that using this format means that you get exceptional audio quality (as opposed to 99% of the MP3 files that are out there). So if you have a jones for Morton Subotnick, Mauricio Kagel, John Cage, Harry Partch, Luciano Berio, Pauline Oliveros and many others, this website is the place to go.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fatback Band- ten minutes of free funk

Technically, summer ain't over but with labor day behind us and school startin' up again, it sure feels like it. Not to worry though since 70's funksters the Fatback Band are offering you a reprieve. On their website, they offer up two free songs about our favorite warm season. They're two nice, appropriately laid-back grooves that will keep you going through the fall months. Show 'em your love by leaving 'em a comment there too, OK? Enjoy.