Good Music We Can Know

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stealin' Back to That Same-Ol' Used-To-Be: Dave Van Ronk- Ragtime Jug Stompers (1964)

Dave Van Ronk is one of the main True Secret Geniuses of the folk revival, a man-mountain of terrific energy and intellect and a brilliant interpreter of traditional songs. Anything but a footnote to the folk "movement," Mr. Van Ronk is damn near the foundation. I'll get more into him one day, but today I am posting Ragtime Jug Stompers, and since it's a group record and only a Dave Van Ronk album in name, I'll wax loquacious on his individual qualities at another time.

How it went, I guess, is that somebody wanted to put out a jug band record, and someone wise advised him to retain Van Ronk in the service of assembling the band for such a record. He did a good job, and this is a rollicking, enjoyable record in every way, a kazoo-blowin, boot-stompin hillbilly party record of uncommon intelligence and immaculate ramshacklery. Van Ronk fans will detect more than enough of Van Ronk's leonine pirate yowl to satisfy them, but this is far from a showcase for any one man. The group is so integrated and talented, it begins to resemble a homogeneous jugband organism. It's so fucking good, people. Heed my accolades.

There's not a bad song here, and it never drops into that dreadful tiger-trap of robo-bluegrass or caricature-ish hillbilly burlesque. It's played with ingenuity and cleverness belying a sincere sense of respect and affection.

Also: there is a fantastic version of "Mack the Knife" here, a song that, from Brecht/Weill to Bobby Darin to Nick Cave, has always sounded great. Here, Van Ronk transforms it into a laid-back but menacing river pirate shanty. Oh, my stars and garters, this is the real mccoy and a must have to say the least.

Ragtime Jug Stompers (320)

(Spencer Woodman this is for you)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kraut Fishing on the Moons of Hawaii: SF- Ordal (1985)

Over at The Growing Bin there is just a wonderful, crazy record, recently posted... I haven't even finished listening to it, to be honest, but it's so weird and beautiful that I felt inclined to crawl up on my mountaintop and declare my love for this record. Weird, weird kraut-synth with Manuel Gottsching (of Ash Ra Tempel, among other things) on "Hawaiian guitar," some oddball German vocals, and gallons of echo fluid. This is extremely unique.

Go over there and get it, or just grab it here if you are lazy. That's a fantastic blog, though, so scurry on over, you beautiful squirrels, and collect some incredibly weird nuts.


Monday, June 14, 2010

An Entirely New State of Becoming: Sun City Girls- Live Room (1994)

This represents the opposite end of the Sun City Girls spectrum from Torch of the Mystics. A harrowing and hilarious series of rants backed by off-kilter free-form fake-jazz, this finds the Girls exploring their inner Burroughs/conspiracy theorist/schizophrenic poet. Paranoid, faux-official ravings abound, delivered in the voice of fringe scientists, g-men, hermits, maniacs, street people, and Uncle Jim.
Fans of seriously fucked up poetry will appreciate this, but it's not exactly spoken poetry for the sake of literature; it's something stranger and more damaged than writing, conveyed with an urgency that undercuts the silliness of the play act and manages to completely unnerve and engross. It's like when you hear field recordings of possessed people, speaking in the voice of their demon, and it sounds really fake and ridiculous, but something about that phony unscariness makes it hair-raisingly horrifying. By the end of this record, you will wonder if these dudes really do have a line on the secret of the Sasquatch and the extraterrestrial man-farming of the planet. Maybe these dudes are right when they say the seventies never happened.

The best section is probably Alan Bishop-as-Uncle Jim's "The GHENGIS-Necro-Nama-KHAN Pt. 4." Here are some tidbits from that track:

"Sometimes a dead man can be a powerful enemy."
"Let's face it Mr. President: I'd be immortal in your world, you'd last a minute in mine."
"Socialite pals are a dime a dozen, but I'm the crime of the century, cousin."
"Who cares who killed Kennedy? Cuz your Uncle Jim's gonna pull out the scalpel and lance all your Worth, Fort!"
"You don't want the woman riding on top, she'd probably screw ya into the dirt cuz that's what the missionary's been doin' to her since Jesus wept for a little variety in his sex life with Mary Magdalene... kinda like not havin' much to rhyme with Gnostic... cuz they want ya to forget it... but that's not true of King James, now, is it?"
"And while you're waitin' for the cows to come home, and they won't be believe me... something else needs their blood more than you need their milk, can I interest you in a little game of, 'let's spot the black chopper....'"
"yer gonna count sheep in a pine box til they turn into pterodactyls..."

He's really a master of paranoid locution and nervously guttural inflection, wrangling deliciously awkward little rhymes with a murderer's delight and never stopping to complete a thought before moving on to the next bit. But the whole group excels at this kind of hallucination poetry theater, and the record takes you on a tour of many kinds of crawling insanity, both institutional and syphilitic. Uncle Jim's diatribe is merely the most accessibly poetic, whereas the rest is a visceral, verbal nightmare... a lot of folks have balked at this type of material (the similar Sun City album, Jack's Creek, is universally panned although I love it, more on that later), but I find it so affecting, stimulating, and thoroughly believed and inhabited that I must say: love it or hate it, it's undeniably Art. Vibrating on multiple planes.

This recording comes from a live radio broadcast done in 1994.
Get this album and experience another moment in the unpredictable career of these three men, America's most vital closet sorcerors. Because you are all just a bunch of Moveable Food...

Live Room

Experiment in Lushness: Henry Mancini- The Best of Mancini, Composed and Conducted by Henry Mancini (1965)

This may not look like the most exciting post I've ever done, but this is a really fantastic record. Mancini is obviously one of the main dudes of easy listening/space-age pop/vintage film and TV themes, but somehow in my travels through such territory I haven't learned much about him... one day I picked this up with a "why the hell not, it won't be bad" attitude, and what the hell, it's great. It's a best-of, so I guess it ought to be good, but the joy of these guys is so often finding the secret tracks, not the hits. Anyway, this is a winner. Maybe not front-to-back tight, but loaded with phenomenal standouts.

Herein lies, to my surprise, two perfectly archetypal Exotica tracks of impeccable quality: "Theme From Hatari", a brilliant example of safari-epic Exotica that sounds like climbing a jungle mountain, slowly, on the back of an elephant; and "Lujon" a truly immaculate treasure of dreamy, sexy, swooningly romantic, outside-on-a-warm-night sensual Exotica. This one is a winner. A perfect song, a thing that is perfect. (I believe I first heard it in the film Sexy Beast, used to wonderful effect. It's also in The Big Lebowski.)

What else? An incredible arrangement of the popular theme "Experiment in Terror," with a hauntingly gorgeous autoharp, marvelous bass, and of course, lushly sweeping strings. There's also a ripping version of "Peter Gunn," an outstanding composition in almost anyone's hands (there are dozens of versions of this song), but here, when played by the composer himself, it is no less devastating than the many raucous surf guitar renditions that have followed it. When even Mancini burns down the house on a song, you know it was written to be played hard.

There's a lot more good stuff here, from the spy jazz of "Fallout!" to the creepy melancholy chorus of "Charade" to the winningly goofy "Baby Elephant Walk." This Mancini, I guess he's alright. You should meet him.

Best of Mancini (link removed by force)

THIS REMINDS ME - I am looking for some Billy Vaughn albums that don't seem to have appeared on the Internet Plane of Unreality yet:

Forever Billy Vaughn
Blue Velvet & 1963's Greatest Hits
Shifting, Whispering Sands

If anybody out there has a good rip of these secretly awesome records, consider donating them to the void. It would be appreciated, oh yes indeed it would.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Howling in the Jungle, Hungry for Drums: Sabu and His Jungle Percussionists- Jungle Percussion (196?)

I don't know much of anything about this one. I got it over at Orgy in Rhythm (a great blog, one of the best) a while back, and even he doesn't have a lot of info on this record. But straight to hell with knowledge, when we have sounds like these to fill the void!

This is a bunch of Afro and/or Latin drum jams bursting at the seams with chants and call-and-response. I don't know about you and I don't know who you are, but I'm always in the market for a record that promises to offer nothing more than drums and pseudo-ethno-vocalizations, with no distractions. But I am a man of particular tastes.

Jungle Percussion! 320

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Esoterica of Arizonia/The Cult Prophets That Cannot Die/ "Invisible Murders Leave No Clues": The Sun City Girls- Torch of the Mystics (1990)

There could be no better introduction to the shadowy dimension of the Sun City Girls than Torch of the Mystics. Here, the mystical threesome find their obsessions with the avant-garde, twisted improvisation, ethnological forgery/worldly homage, garage/surf/soundtrack, and blisteringly primitive cosmic higher-plane seeking, culminating in a concise and devastating manifesto brilliantly realized and breathtakingly performed. This is a genius record, period.

Not present yet is the spoken-word schizophrenia that would begin to shape their later records, revealing them to be a kind of paranoid musical/literary force with the transgressive, hallucinatory power of Burroughs. I love that stage of their art just as well, but for now these three Arizona wizards are stirring up a storm of pure music, even the vocals seemingly performed in a fake conjurer's language. A big part of loving the Sun City Girls is wading through their difficult, hard-to-find, and murky, inconsistent recordings, but this is a rarity of clarity in sound and even quality of material, so enjoy it as it is.

I can't do this record justice, and neither can this allmusic review, but perhaps together we can impart a clearer picture:

Torch of the Mystics represents the pinnacle of the first phase of the Sun City Girls. A concise, pinwheeling album that captures the band's pure commitment to emotional transcendence through music, the 11 songs here fly off into the netherworld of ethnic avant-garage rock with startling clarity. The band had never fully explored the Middle Eastern tones accumulating in their brains as they did on this 1990 masterpiece, nor had they been as clearly and smartly recorded as they are here: guitarist Rick Bishop's tone slices, drummer Charlie Gocher is wider than he has ever been, and bassist Alan Bishop rumbles with an ominous ferocity. Songs like the pile-driving "Esoterica of Abyssynia" sound like your radio has leapt into a dreamy foreign astral plane of its own volition. "Space Prophet Dogon" is a dance of the seven veils as played by the freaked-out Mothers of Invention, while "Radar 1941" crash-lands in the middle of Egyptian Top 40 as imagined by "Count Five." Every track contains a shimmering melodic phrase or haunting undertone that the Girls mine like pure manna, and the occasional bursts of delirious chanting still summon goosebumps on the listener's skin. Every argument made for the greatness of the Sun City Girls has its roots in this platter, and if you have never understood what the fuss is all about or if you ever needed something to convince you of their (deservedly) sterling underground reputation, this is the original testament.- Patrick Foster


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

S'wonderful, S'marvellous: Julie London- Julie is Her Name

There's a lot to love here. It's a great record. But let's start with the cover.
Oh, the cover! I have conflicting emotions about it. Julie London is an unbelievably beautiful woman, in a very sophisticated way, and the photo does not reflect that in a way that strikes me as accurate. The plunge from neck to bosom makes her look like a sunburned, gawky oddball who should be a little embarrassed to show so much skin.

Or is that just a bunch of big-city baloney? Because this is also a perfect album cover, from the sumptuous minty green background to the glorious typeset and layout choices to the fact that, oh yeah, it's showing an acre of pretty-lady skin, and that pretty lady is the one and only Julie London. I love how you can just see the top of her dress at the crest of her breast so you won't think she's naked just off camera, but not so much of it that you can't imagine it's not there. I know a lot of older men who had very romantic times in younger days with just this record for company.

I am hinting at what old men used to do, in their bunk, back when the internet hadn't gotten porn yet.

But no one would care about that freckled bust or those blue eyes if the music weren't so pure and good and right. This is a classic record, a giant of torch singing. The instrumentation is spare and perfectly unintrusive while not excusing itself from the room entirely, its strongly supportive guitar figures imaginatively sparkling just beneath Ms. London's voice. Although she doesn't have the best voice in the world from a technical perspective, her singing is sterling in its delivery: sim, su:ightforward, andleverly, sensuallyphrasep, taking full advantage of her smoky voice and respectable but palpable sexuality. She's lusty without being crass about it, refusing to separate the sex from romance. O, brothers and ladies, this is a good good record.

Frowny update: DMCA Dong Sac Association has asked me to take this link down. Let me know if this bothers you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Be Denied: Neil Young- Time Fades Away-Alternate Version (1971-1974)

Here you go friends. The "alternate version" of Time Fades Away. Or we can call it what it really is: a well-curated compilation of live recordings of songs from the same period, mostly from the same tour the album itself was culled from. All the songs here are from Time Fades, except two: "Soldier," always a great tune when it shows up, and "Sweet Joni," a song I'm guessing is about Joni Mitchell. I don't care about Joni Mitchell and that's all I have to say about that.

The original album is a raggedy ass mess, so it makes a lot of sense to comb through these raggedy live recordings and weigh their value. The album cuts may have been picked completely at random and "ruined" by the "Compufuck", so why not study the cutting room floor?

Well, nothing here really tops the searing, wounded selections on Time Fades Away, making a case that the album is more cannily assembled than it is sometimes given credit for... it really is an anti-masterpiece, a "bad" album of a "bad" show that is 100% good in every way. But if you agree with that statement, you will have to hear these recordings, because you probably have a touch of completist to you, and you'll need to expand your understanding of this legendary album. 320 rip.

(Thank you to the commentators who engaged me to put this up. Always nice to know that someone cares what I'm doing in my smelly old corner of the internet. It is like the internet is a bathroom, and in one of the stalls I have drawn a cock, and you guys are a trucker who has written beneath the cock: "nice cock." Thank you. Thank you.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

O Venezia, Venaga, Venusia: Nino Rota- Il Casanova Di Federico Fellini (OST) (1976)

The rapture of watching a Fellini film is always augmented by the propulsive, garish, and jaunty scores brilliantly devised by the great Nino Rota-- his "most precious collaborator". Rota's work on 8 1/2 is one of my favorite soundtracks, mostly because it's such wonderful music but also because it's so richly evocative of the great film itself. A sense-memory trip into the cinematic world of 8 1/2 is always welcome.

Well, I've never seen Casanova. I've been aching to for some time, but it's unavailable on DVD, I haven't caught a film showing or even heard of one, and there's no good VHS copy that I've come across. I guess I have to break down and watch it in some impure form at some point, but I'm still waiting for a proper DVD release or something better. (How crazy is the idea that a Fellini film is unavailable, even in the US? Threaten your congressman, let's get something done.)

So I've never seen the film, but I've immersed in the soundtrack many many times, and what an absinthe sleepwalk it is. Nino Rota's scores for Fellini tend to have very similar qualities: carnival-esque and festive, quick and witty, almost tragically evasive yet essentially comedic... Casanova, on the other hand, is a midnight stroll on the way to the masquerade orgy: ethereal, dirge-like, or operatically grotesque. A mix of the Fellini circus, Rota's harpsichord-heavy work for Zefferelli's Romeo & Juliet, and opera. Despite having never seen the film, I still find myself conjuring images of a penis-headed Donald Sutherland meandering his way to the next bacchanal on a wet night by lurid light, draped in a cape, deathly-serious with antique sex addiction. This is an amazing score, a great album of music even if taken by itself without the context of its film.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fourteen Junkies Too Weak To Work: Neil Young- Time Fades Away (1973)

Remarkably, this incredible record has never been released on CD or any official digital format. It seems odd that a Neil Young record of this stature, controversial though it may be, could be unavailable to the modern world and its modern ways, but the reason is simple: Young, who has a very personal system of decision-making, doesn't want to release it. It's been said that he doesn't care for the record, but it almost seems more like it makes him uncomfortable... Yet those very qualities that likely embarrass and pain him are what make the album so remarkable.
This, like Tonight's the Night, is a sloppy, raw, and desperate artifact of pain and grief filtered through a fevered, drunken, and brilliant mind. If that sounds like a drag, then know this: it rocks pretty much completely. Here's a thing Mr. Young has said:
"Time Fades Away... It was recorded on my biggest tour ever, 65 shows in 90 days. Money hassles among everyone concerned ruined this tour and record for me but I released it anyway so you folks could see what could happen if you lose it for a while. I was becoming more interested in an audio verite approach than satisfying the public demands for a repetition of Harvest."
Audio Verite it is. This tour was a disgrace and a disaster, Young was a drunken, ornery mess with a wrecked voice, the audiences didn't particularly appreciate it, and no attempt to hide this is made for the record. His voice is a shattering heartbreak, the ragged performances are viscerally awesome, and the songwriting is beautiful, naked, and great. If you think that sounds like a peach, then we share a sensibility, friend, and I offer you the download of this here fine record. This portrait of 70s anguish, of failed celebrity, of one of the many deaths of the 60s; this, another work of an erratic genius, another piece of the puzzle. I'll take this nightmare over Harvest Moon any day, God Damn It!

Time Fades