Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Regrets New Directions Results Beat Boasts 1997

The Regrets New Directions Results Beat Boasts Crank! A Record Company 1997 CAT #80206

The Regrets were 3/4 of Vitreous Humor and put out this one album.  Which is a shame, because I think Danny Pound was onto something when he came up with this Talking Heads meets organic boogie rock hybrid.

Vitreous Humor was a teenage reaction to indie-rock.  It was a group of kids discovering a genre for the first time, in their case the 90's scene from North Carolina and some Fugazi thrown in for good measure.  The Regrets were an adult reaction to the discovery of groups like R.E.M. and the Talking Heads.  It's also a nod to things not having to be loud and angry to be good.  Further, soul and dance music can work for everybody.

New Directions is post-modern.  It's a collection of influences stirred into the pot with Danny Pound free-forming lyrics over a loose beat.  His rants go from juvenile ("Play with yourself until you thought you might faint") to absurd streams of conscious.

It was recorded by Bob Weston and you get the sense that he just the guys bang out tunes.  It very easily could have sounded slick and polished, like the band Cake.  Instead, its loose and jittery.  Everything left in the mix.  Great album.

Reunion Gig
Inflated Passions

Beacon of Hope Chapel Singers Kansas State Penitentiary Lansing, KS Over The Walls Cavern Sound Corp 1971

Beacon of Hope Chapel Singers, Kansas State Penitentiary Lansing, Kansas Over The Wall Cavern Sound Corp.No Cat # Year Not Listed, possibly 1971

This put out by Cavern Sound Corp. out of Independence, MO and apparently recorded at their facility.  There's no catalog number listed on the jacket or record.  The year, 1971, is from and seems about right, but it is also not listed anywhere on the LP.

It's fantastic.  The back cover indicates the inmates wanted a Chapel in Kansas State Penitentiary but it was not allowed by the State.  So, to raise money the State Legislature allowed a group of inmates to perform across Kansas to whomever would allow.  The funds raised at those shows went to build the prison a chapel.  The liner then states, everywhere the prisoners went, there was requests for a LP.  This is the result.

A second taped on note I have on my copy indicates that the album was donated to the M2-W2 program.  A program developed to train civilians to assist with men and women while confined.  By signing up or donating to the program, you got this LP.

No matter how people got the album back in the day, they got a solid LP.  As expected, it's Gospel.  It's got hints of soul vocally, but it is deeply rooted in old time gospel.  It sounds nothing like the 60's or 70's.  The music is stripped down to the basics.  It's electric, but you can tell this was recorded in a large open room, the musical accompaniment playing alongside the men's choir, so it gives the guitar and bass a rootsy feel.  There isn't any tricks.  It's just some dudes, prisoners to be exact, singing.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dave English Softly Speaking Infinity, Inc

Dave English Softly Speaking Infinity, Inc [Year Unknown] CAT # NR5642

I photoed the back cover to emphasize a few things.  1) It's a heavy set kid in overalls and 2) It's all covers.  Which begs the question, if this kid can't pen his own tunes, why is there an LP?  Surely, he must make these songs his own.  This must be some lost, great Kansas musician that no one gave a shot based on looks.  It must be incredible.

Sadly, no.  It's awful.  The big guy sings in a romantic baritone.  The surrounding musical accompaniment is classically arranged and boring.  It's not challenging, it's not even good for what it is.  It's just bad.

It is a private pressing form Topeka, Kansas, though.  There's no year listed, but I'm going to guess mid to late 70's.  It may be early 80's, but the sepia toned back cover just screams 70's.

The best part about the LP was the conversation a friend and I had about it after sending him the photos.  His immediate response was, "That looks awful."  To which I replied, "It's from Topeka, everyone I know from Topeka is rad," since my friend is a Topeka native.  I then went on to make the bold statement that all artists that wear overalls kick ass.  Woody Guthrie, Boyz to Men, Dexy's Midnight Runners, TLC (Left Eye), and Kris Kross are all awesome.  He quickly sent me a photo of Justin Beiber in overalls and said, "Unless you can find a photo of John Coltrane in overalls, this is over."  I sent him a photo of Miles Davis wearing overalls and mentioned, Coltrane was born and raised in North Carolina, chances are, he wore overalls before he flashed kick ass black suits with no ties.  Ultimately though, Dave English proved to be an exception like Beiber.  Not all artists who perform in overalls are amazing, some are just boring and not worthwhile.

*Afterthought - The kid does have a nice voice that would do well on shows like America's Got Talent and American Idol.  And, the cover of "Everything I Own" is pleasant and has some baroque styling.

Bangtails Hypnotic Downpour Revolver 1987

Bangtails Hypnotic Downpour Revolver Records 1987 CAT #001

A trusted friend turned me onto this when I asked him for the skinny on some solid 80s local stuff that I wouldn't know about.  He, being a one time employee at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence, KS and a late 80s early 90s local musician himself, pointed me towards this.

He also put me under the impression, this was a self released EP by a group from Wichita, KS.  The self released part is pretty obvious.  The Wichita part, I haven't been able to confirm, but more on that later.

This is solid jangle pop.  The obvious comparison is REM Chronic Town era.  It certainly has that jangle and energy, but it's a bit more on the power pop/new wave edge.  I took it in a few times and the songs feel as if they could have been in a John Hughes film soundtrack.  There's something really familiar about the tunes and not just in the REM jangle-sense.  It's got a slight English tint to it, no synths, but in the atmosphere of the songs.

The killer part about the EP is the strained vocals of Mike Winston.  He goes into this gargling, pubescent, teen thing.  Fuck, it just kills me.  I mean, what more could you ask for with songs about (or sound like they are about) girls.  It literally sounds like Mike Winston's world is crumbling down upon him as the songs continue.  It's a shame this was the only released output by these guys, because it's a very promising set of songs.

The big news here is that this band is well footnoted as a stepping stone in the career of Archer Prewitt who was the bass player for the Bangtails.  So, my initial understanding that the band was from Wichita is a bit up in the air.  Prewitt, born and raised in Kentucky, attended the Kansas City Art Institute where this band must have formed.  Prewitt, of course, would go on to help form the Coctails in Kansas City before relocating to Chicago.  In Chicago, Prewitt would connect with another Kansas City Art Institute alum and Chicago legend, Sam Prekop, as a member of the Sea & Cake.  So there you go, you're welcome Chicago, you should probably thank us sometime for your kick-ass indie rock scene.

Bangtails - Patron of the Arts

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Val Stöecklein Grey Life Dot 1968

Val Stöecklein Grey Life Dot 1968 Cat#DLP 25904

I haven't talked about the Blue Things, yet.  And, I probably should prior to talking about this release.  But, I just picked it up today in a trade and wanted to get it out there.

Val Stöecklein cut this record after leaving the Blue Things.  It was supposed to be a smash, a sure thing.  If you've heard the Blue Things, you'd understand why, Byrds-esque folk rock with that country tinge you can only find in Kansas and here's the guy from that band, the songwriter.  Despite a booked tour and money behind this LP, Val refused to promote it.  Needless to say, it flopped.  Now, it is a record of debate; compared either to Skip Spence's cult favorite album, Oar or just another MOR folk album from the 60s.

Truthfully, I tend to fall towards the MOR folk.  It's pleasant at times, but it's not drug riddled and strange like a Syd Barrett or the Skip Spence album.  The second side does contain some haunting tracks that stand apart from the rest.  It just doesn't hold together well and falls apart as an album.  It seems as if Val was being pushed to move in directions he didn't want to go.  Thus the reason he never wished to promote it--probably never felt like his.

Say It's Not Over

Monday, July 15, 2013

Brewer & Shipley Shake Off the Demon Karma Sutra 1971

Brewer & Shipley Shake Off the Demon Karma Sutra 1971 CAT# KSBS 2039

A friend of mine and I were talking and he brought up "Yacht Rock", which is basically a term to describe music similar to Loggins & Messina.  Smooth rock, pop oriented, and usually crappy.  So, that got me thinking, does Kansas or Kansas City have any Yacht Rockers?  The best I could come up with is Brewer and Shipley.  Famous for the song, "One Toke Over the Line."

These handsome devils aren't really from Kansas or Kansas City.  One is from Ohio the other is an Okie.  However, after their debut LP, they located to Kansas City, Missouri.  In doing so, they are HUGE, in this area.  Classic rock stations play "One Toke Over the Line" in heavy rotation.  Furthermore, they truly did call KC their home, so props to them, it's a nice town and central.

As for this LP and the band in general, it's a little too folk oriented to be true yacht rock, but it's the closest I could come.  The music definitely has a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young feel (it's not nearly as good), doesn't ever try to rock too hard and doesn't ever try to be too country, just kind of walks in the middle with folk leanings.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Embarrassment Death Travels West Fresh Sound, Inc 1981

The Embarrassment Death Travels West Fresh Sounds, Inc 1981 CAT # FS 204

For every decade, Kansas seems to have the "best band you've never heard" and for the 80's it's the The Embarrassment or the Embos as fans affectionately refer to them.

From Wichita, Kansas, the band dubbed itself "Blister Pop" and are contemporaries to the likes of other American indies like the Feelies, R.E.M., Pylon, etc.  In the underground circles they're usually regarded as better.  I mean, they had the nerdy Feelies look, they had the R.E.M. jangle and wit, it's astounding this band never made past left of the dial.

This particular LP or EP (depending on your point of view) is a seven song set with a loose concept tied to Manifest Destiny or how things inevitably get worse the further west you go.  If you haven't heard the band, this is as good place to start as any.  Although, everything the band did is phenomenal.

Drive Me to the Park
Hip And Well Read

University of Kansas Band I'm A Jayhawk Audio House 1969

University of Kansas Band "I'm A Jayhawk" Audio House 1969 (?) CAT# AHS5470

Pretty much exactly what it says, KU Band doing some songs with the addition of the KU choir.  People around here try and get at least $20 out of this (or the Mizzou or K-State counterparts), but you can find it relatively cheap.  I'm sure if you found it out of state, the right person might give it to you free.

It's fun and all, but it's band music.  The KU Band does the fight song, some other stuff, throws in Home on the Range for state pride, but I wouldn't recommend it for the tunes.

It is cool for the label.  The Audio House label was a local label out of Lawrence, KS.  Founded in 1963, they used to exclusively release stuff like this.  You can find a bunch of high school choir albums around town.  Coincidentally, they also recorded the Count Basie KC Jazz LP I last talked about.  Now-a-days, they provide lightening and stuff for events.  I think the recording days to the extent they used to do this are long gone, but they'll still put you on CD if you are so inclined.

Audio House