Monday, December 30, 2013
People love this album and swear by it. However, when it came out in 2001, I could have gave a shit less. 1996, I thought Splay was one of the greatest things I had ever heard. High school age boys love angry rock music and that fit the bill. I remember being excited to get my hands on their follow-up, Lula Divinia which was released in 1997. However, the glow of Splay started to wear off quickly. The songs become incredibly long and pretentious, shoegazer moments mixed in with odd time signatures and even stranger song structures. There was nothing immediate on Lula Divinia so you couldn't get sucked into all it. By 2000 when Starless came out, I really didn't care anymore. I believe I picked up Starless cheap in a used bin and was even more turned off by it than I was by Lula.
I had completely moved on and forgot about Shiner when The Egg came out in 2001. I never even picked up. Then, several years ago I became obsessed with collecting all the locals I once listened to in the 90's on vinyl. Since then, I've been searching feverishly for a copy of Splay. I still haven't found it, but last year while searching the internet for it, I discovered that Son of Man did a limited vinyl pressing of The Egg for the band's reunion tour. At this point in my local vinyl obsession, I wasn't just trying to collect favorites, I was just obsessed with finding any local artist on vinyl, so I needed this.
Not knowing too much about The Egg, I read up on it pre-purchase. Damn, if it isn't widely considered the band's masterpiece. Anxious and worried that the hype was going to ruin this LP for me, I was pleased upon the first listen. Everything is so crisp and perfect on the album, there are moments that are immediate on it, namely the song "Top of the World," which could easily be mistaken for a Sunny Day Real Estate tune or a Radiohead tune, depending on which aspect you focus on. But, even at first listen, you sense the band's direction on the LP, there's a definite groove and feel surrounding all the songs.
For the last year or so, I've spun this more than most albums I own. Every time you put it on, you pick up something new, a nifty guitar riff buried in the background, a reprise to a previous song, a shift you didn't fully grasp the previous spin. The band had clearly figured it out on this album. Inevitably, it's still very pretentious with all it's shifts in song structure, but they found a way to make it more accessible. They focused their efforts on creating a whole LP and experimenting throughout its entirety rather than trying to cram every good idea they had into a single song. It's an amazing album, complex, and more rewarding after every listen. If more people would have been listening to it when it was released, it would have reinvented and reinvigorated the then played out angular post-hardcore scene.
Truth About Cows
Top Of the World
This 7" represents the best idea in local music of the year, if not ever. Too Much Rock is a blog run by Sid Sowder who used to put out releases under the label Urinine. His idea with this 7" series is unique. He will select a local artist to record, he allows them one side for their own tune and he/his website picks a cover tune for the band to do. He puts up the funds for the release, but doesn't recoup anything, the band gets the singles to sell. Label loses, but the website gets to pick a cover tune. Each single will be limited to only 500 and not be announced until they are being held in Sid Sowder's hands and ready for release. Neat-O.
The band Schwervon! upon first glance doesn't seem all that local. The male/female duo only recently came to KC from New York. However, Matt Roth is from the area originally and gigged in local bands prior to moving to NYC. He and his female counterpart, Nan Turner, have been self releasing under the moniker Schwervon! for some time.
The band's tune,"Landlocked", is tiny at just over two minutes. Seeing how it's just a male/female duo and they cover the Raincoats on the B-Side, I'd like to call it twee-pop, but with all the guitar riffing, you can't call it that. They chant the vocals and have a hip-hop breakdown, plus they even find time for a garage riff-tastic solo. It's solid. The Raincoats cover is, "Off Duty Trip," from the Raincoats debut album. Schwervon! do a do a fine job with it, kind of hard tune to screw up. They certainly make it less dissonant and punk than the Raincoats, this is a very pop-oriented cover (probably because Schwervon! are better musicians, it's hard to fake amateur-ness), and the "Professional" chant part in the song, Schervon! nail it.
Best apart about the release though, is the cover. Man, I love this cover. It's got this nifty little map drawing of Kansas from KC to Junction City, it shows these crude landmark drawings and now I want to visit things like the John Brown Memorial and William Allen White Memorial.
Schwervon! A Tune not on this 7"
Too Much Rock Blog and Website where you should go and buy this so they'll put out more.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
2 years away from his death in 1955, Charlie Parker was invited to play in Toronto, Canada, with 4 other giants of Bebop. Apparently, some well to do's in Canada decided they wanted an event, brainstormed and decided they'd invite the biggest innovators in bebop to come perform. By this time, bebop wasn't the radical confusing scene Parker had started. It was generally accepted as jazz (not "China Music" like Louis Armstrong once dubbed it), the innovations provided by Parker and Gillespie were now commonplace.
Surprisingly, they showed up to play. Legends say Bud Powell was drunk from the onset, Gillespie was busy leaving the stage to check on a boxing match, and Parker was playing on a cheap alto sax with plastic parts. It represents the last time Gillespie and Parker would collaborate on an album and finds Parker in good form despite being only two years away from heroin ending his life (he didn't die of an overdose, he died because he was an addict) and playing a cheap sax. This has been released many times and under different names. The first being Mingus' own Debut label entitled Jazz At Massey Hall. This Prestige edition differs in that it contains the trio of just Mingus, Powell, & Roach (supposedly from a different night and also rumored to also have Art Tatum behind the keys rather than Powell). But, those dudes aren't KC so don't have to spend much time arguing that.
The thing that this LP really showcases is the influence Parker had. Kansas City, KS born, Kansas City, MO raised, the guy reinvented jazz. There's pre-Bop and post-Bop, and Charlie Parker is Bebop. The quintet he is a part of is his and legendary; he's the ringleader. He's the one that showed them the way. Even Gillespie, who was far more advanced in theory than anyone, wouldn't have found his true calling had he never heard Parker explode on a saxophone. Throughout the album, Parker and Gillespie are stride for stride and he explodes on "Salt Peanuts" and "Wee". He also finds his moments on the ballad "All The Things You Are."
And, I worried about this LP. I mean, after all, it was two years before his death, could he be all that good at this point? Of course, it's easy to forget, Parker died at age 36, he was 34 at the time of the recording and still cutting some of his best sides.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
I don't know a whole lot about the Yard Apes other than they were a Lawrence band, playing gigs with the likes of Get Smart!, Micronotz, and the Embos. There is some connection to the Fresh Sounds label outside of their appearance on the Sounds From Middle America comps as the sleeve of this release is marked up with the Fresh Sounds logo on the inside. However, from my understanding, the group self issued this and another single on their own, Y-Tel label. Another thing I thought I heard about the group is like Get Smart!, they moved to Chicago to try their luck their, can't really confirm that, but I thought I picked that up somewhere.
They are a fairly cool group, limited catalog, but these two tracks were promising. "Weatherman" draws heavily from British post punk and new wave. Very dance-able rhythms, sharp angular guitars, and speak-sing lyrics. This side plays in 33 1/3 RPM, the flip-side, "White As a Ghost" plays in 45 RPM. "White As a Ghost" is far more new-wave friendly. Chanted chorus, stylized vocals, very slick. It's still got choppy, angular guitars, but it's pop sensibilities outshine any attempt to be ultra-hip.
It's cool stuff, I'm sure someone out there knows more about the group than me, feel free to drop a line and fill me in.
One year ago today, Marva Whitney passed away. She was Kansas City born and raised and started her career in KC. She played the Kansas City scene, leading the group Tommy & the Derby's, did the Motown revue's and opened for touring artists when they passed through. She was asked to tour with Bobby Bland and Little Richard, but turned both down opting to join the James Brown Revue as a featured vocalist as she thought it was the best move for her career.
It certainly was the best move, Brown did all he could do to make her successful as a part of his act. During the shows, Marva Whitney would provide the audience a couple of songs while Brown rested. He recorded her and provided her some of his best material. There are singles cut for Federal and King while she hung with Brown. There is also the above album, as well as live LP from the King years. The title song of this LP, "It's My Thing (Part 1)" was released as the single, "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who To Sock It To)" and as a response to the Isley Brother's "It's Your Thing". It represented her highest charting single.
While she never became a mainstream R&B artist, her time spent with James Brown kept her active and in front of large audiences. The move to go with James Brown far exceeded anything she would get by backing Bobby Bland or Little Richard. However, most say that this was among the most difficult times of her life. When she moved back to Kansas City after her time with James Brown she told friends and family just how true the name "Hardest Working Man In Show Buisness" was. Brown was known to work his artists relentlessly. She had a child from her marriage to Kansas City soul singer, Harvey Whitney. However, she was never able to spend time as a mother due to constant touring and recording. Homesick, she left the Brown stable in 1970.
She would record some unsuccessful singles for the T-Neck label afterward. Afterwards, she would marry Ellis Taylor, the owner and operator of Kansas City's Forte label and cut some sides. After little success on the regional label, her recording career largely ended aside a few sporadic singles and one-off LPS. She only briefly stopped performing and would later be a member of the J.B.'s All Stars which were a group of former Brown artists. She didn't stop performing until 2010.
This LP represents her best work. The material is top shelf and the players were the best in the business as they were Brown's backing band. It is a compilation of mostly singles released for the King label, some of which we re-recorded for the LP, others that were not. It's absurdly collectible due to it's scarcity and the fact that Whitney is one of the greatest female funk performers of all time.
The girl did not hold back, she's a screamer. The band gets most of the attention by the collectors, the cuts have been heavily sampled throughout hip-hop, especially the track "Unwind Yourself." But, Whitney gives these songs personality. She's got to be the only women that could match Brown's delivery. Further, she's got to be the only women allowed to shout out "Maceo!" when the groove needed to get deeper. You're not going to find any ballads (well, there is "If You Love Me," but she screams that one out, too) or anything that would have played well to a white Motown crowd, this is brassy, funk, floor stompers meant for the live crowds. There were plenty of noted soul diva's out there, but only a few funk divas like Whitney belting out tunes like this.
It's My Thing (Live TV Performance)
You Got To Have a Job (Duet with James Brown)
Saturday, December 21, 2013
The eccentric figure known as Moondog was born Louis Thomas Hardin in Marysville, Kansas in 1916. He was moved to Wyoming as a young child, but would later move back to Southern Missouri where he lost his sight in a farming accident.
His father seemed like a pretty cool guy, he got his son to Iowa for specialized schooling for the blind. There he began studying music. It's documented that Moondog's father previously introduced Native American music to his son and encouraged his musical ability at a much earlier age. As an adult he moved to New York and became the eccentric figure that made him famous. He designed his own clothes that were modeled after the the Norse God Odin and parked himself on the streets of Manhattan. He became known as the Viking of 6th Avenue for his appearance which was always bearded and wearing a helmet adorned with horns. He did have an actual apartment of his own that was funded by his street performing, selling of compositions, and his own records, but oddly, he choose to live on the streets. As a musician, he was respected by artists in the classical cannon and jazz scene of the day. His records were primarily released by the, Prestige which was known mostly as a jazz label.
It's a far more interesting story than my quick synopsis, but the main point is this guy was an eccentric genius and from Kansas. That's rad. For the 1950's, this was highly experimental. Today, it doesn't sound as alien, it's very percussion and rhythm heavy, it relies on street sounds and uses those sounds to create music rather than just add effect, there's also spoken word elements. It's also very minimalist and sparse, his music is centered around rhythm and accompaniment is almost exclusively percussion instruments (some of which were invented by Moondog) with the occasional piano, wind or brass instrument or a vocal track. Again, today some of these practices have become commonplace, but Moondog was avant-garde for the time. Further, he also had the ability to take his ideas and condense them it into 3 minutes songs that appeal to a casual listener so despite his radical ideas, he never freaked people out with his compositions. Those that were influenced by his music would handle that.
This is the second "Barnstorm" album from Wichita-Born Joe Walsh. When Walsh left the James Gang, he formed a band called Barnstorm. ABC put out the albums as solo LPS by Joe Walsh. For the most part, it's Joe Walsh's thing, but the tunes are credited to Barnstorm Music and the Joe Vitale and Kenny Passarelli were members of a band with Joe Walsh at this time, not just his backing band.
The first song on the LP, "Rocky Mountain Way," is a monster. It's a defining hard-rock song of the 1970's. From there though, the album gets a bit soft. Walsh explores soft rock and even Jazz inflicted tunes like the instrumental, "Midnight Moodies." Despite solid songs like "Bookends", "Dreams," and "Days Gone By," they pale in comparison to "Rocky Mountain Way."
The album does have nice melodies, lots of cool instruments, good arrangements, all that stuff. But, I could listen to Fleetwood Mac if I wanted clever soft rock, it's better. It does have Joe Walsh's guitar, though. He's good at that and probably the most famous Kansas born guitarist, ever? I don't think there are too many that did as much with the instrument and established themselves as a player as much as he did.
Richard Pryor Introduces "Rocky Mountain Way"
Friday, December 20, 2013
Shock Up and Coming Greenworld 1986 CAT #GWD90504
Oh fuck! What a craptacular turd of a metal band these guys are. Yet, there's so much the band Shock gives you talk about, where to start...
I'll start with the looks, clearly, that's what the band is concerned about. My copy has a bright pink hype sticker proclaiming, "SHOCK ROCK | Debut 9-Track Album From Kansas City's Most Outrageous Psychedelic Glam Rockers!" The hype sticker should be the first clue that this is going to suck. But, maybe the idea of psychedelic glam-metal turnsed heads in 1986, Enuff Z' Nuff played that card, they had some success, right? And, they are proclaimed to be the "Most Outrageous" in KC, I mean, c'mon, it's KC, that's got to be pretty outrageous. And if the hype isn't enough, you see the photo, tough guy posing, dressed and done up like women. No one was doing that in mid 1980's, right?
The back sleeve is pretty awesome, too. You see the band in better light, they got make-up on and are surrounded by what I assume are "groupies." Are these KC girls? Did their moms approve of this? Out of the 6 girls, I'd say only two are slutified for the photo and none of them appear all that "hot." That should speak to the quality of the music, if you can't pull in KC's slutiest and hottest groupies, you probably aren't that good. Oh, they did the nickname thing, too. Because you can't have big hair and tight pants without a quasi-porn star nickname. There's Carlos Gunn on bass, Eric Saxan on drums, Max Maddux on vocals, and Damien Shepard on guitar. I assume the nicknames benefited them later in life in that they could always lie about being a member of this band since very few would know the band's real names.
Below the names is a "Notice" that states the following, "This album contains weird psychedelic metal currently the rage in the American headbasket. Consider yourself warned." Okay, again, when was psychedelic glam-metal a thing? I'm pretty sure the band has no clue what "psychedelic" entails in relation to music. They also give a classy copyright notice that states, "Warning from Shock: Unauthorized duplication of this work is prohibited by law and subject to prosecution and nasty treatment of your younger sister." That, I'm not sure I get. Who has a younger sister? The 18 to 21 year old chick you want to bang? Because, that would make "younger sister" a felony in a likelihood. Or, did they assume dressing in spandex and using lipstick and eyeliner was going to attract full grown men to their music? Again, hair metal was cool to a lot of people, but not metal heads. Those dudes listened to Anthrax and Metallica. Hair metal was all the rage with middle school age boys and teenage girls. So, again, it's either referencing girls that are going to be far too young, or, you're picking a fight with a bearded guy in a jean jacket with Maiden and Black Sabbath patches. I don't think you want to encroach on that dude's sister, regardless of age, while you're wearing hyper-color spandex and make up.
Also, on the backside, you see an actual label invested money into this band. What the fuck? Someone funded this? Someone at a record label green lighted all this nonsense. Seriously, I've had this for about a year, I always assumed it was a private press local thing. But after some research, I discovered Greenworld Records is an actual label out of California, with a diverse catalog. They signed a simlar KC band called Vyper, they did some thrash metal, some hardcore punk and even some King Diamond stuff. Why they decided to release KC hair-metal is beyond me. No one I know in town references the glory days of the 1980's KC metal scene.
So, now the music. Yeah, again, I stress someone funded this. It sounds awful. It was recorded at Kondor Recordings in KC, which after hearing the quality, I'm pretty sure is someone's basement. In fact, that's confirmed as the recording address is the same as the Shock Fan Club address. But, to the recording, the levels are all over place, there's unattended distortion, the drums are buried. And the vocals, they are terrible. I don't think Max Maddux is a bad singer, but he could have tried a litter harder, done a few more takes, especially when your voice cracks or your metal yelp is poorly timed and not in key. It's as if they did the demo, sent it to the label and the label agreed to put it out as is.
And the self-proclaimed "psychedelic metal". Fuck. I'm pretty sure that means a ton of useless feedback effects, a single backward vocal effect, and bass lines that other metal bands weren't using (but plenty of funk bands were). Because it has nothing to do with hard English psych-rock like Wimple Wench or the Pretty Things. It has nothing to do with mid-60's American Garage. And, it obviously has nothing to do with well known psych like Piper at the Gates of Dawn or the American San Francisco scene of the late 60's. It doesn't even have anything to do with 70's stoner-rock. The dudes draw 80's pop-metal like Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister. Lots of hardcore chorus chants, guitar solos, and meaningless vocal yelps.
Admittedly, I was surprised that the band is hard-edged as they are. When I found it in a dollar bin, I thought they'd be along the lines of Poison, Bon Jovi, that ilk of shitty chick-metal. Instead, they came from the Motley Crue school of glam metal which isn't metal at all, but hard rock for morons. They only do one ballad, they like charging rhythms and they sing about stuff they dealt with when they were going through puberty. The want to touch girls' boobs, hate authority (parents included), and brag a lot about getting drunk.
The lyrics are the best part, because they are hilarious. Listed below are some of my favorite lines:
"The night is almost gone, there is no more beer, freshen up the air up, I think the cops are here." From the tune, Shock Rock.
"White leather stretches your every little curve, I like to look but you're getting on my nerves, I'm up on my toes you keep me so alert, I'm meat and potatoes but I always need desert." From the title track, Up and Coming
"You always bitched about the debts I owed, and getting drunk down on Westport Road, coming home at 5 A.M., bloodshot eyes and twenty empty cans." From the song, BFD.
"Undercover lover with your lipstick lies, I'll give you sensations you cannot deny, you said you won't sweat it, you're trembling with freight, so much misery to the sinner's delight." From the track, Out For the Kill.
Pretty stellar, right? I mean, who could pass up this much absurd bullshit for the MSRP of $6.98 in 1986. And, if you get the lyric sheet you also get some classy action shots along with a great set of liner notes. The band gives a "SHOCK Up Yours Awards" on the thank-you's, dedicate the album to all the headbanger's (wherever they live and breed) and cites Kansas City as a "totally happening metal nest."
I can't find any suck-ass Shock songs to share, but I bet this guy on Facebook knows what I'm talking about
Thursday, December 19, 2013
The more I get into this project, the more I realize just how cool KC was in the 1990's. I've always been in love with the stuff from Lawrence, KS, but the more I look at it, KC in the 90's was where it was at. Not Charlie Parker Jazz-era cool, but pretty incredible.
Season to Risk were among the leaders of that era. I always kind of brushed them off as a bit too metal, a bit to jock rock. But, after digging into them more, they're intelligent, they use odd time signatures, and the only difference between them and their more indie-friendly counterparts, Shiner, is that Season to Risk used a far more aggressive approach. In the end, the bands shared members, played shows together, and were leading the KC scene together. People talk about Lawrence and how it was supposed to be the next "Seattle" in the mid-90's. But, KC trumps the college town and had a more defined sound.
Shiner, Boys Life and Giants Chair are the indie-darlings. Their sound was a bit artsy, a bit math rock, but still, very distinct post-hardcore sounds. Season to Risk, Molly McGuire, Clutch, those three all signed to major labels in the 90's. By default, they tended to be more "commercial" than the others, but their post-hardcore leanings certainly never got them to the top ten. There were countless other bands doing the same thing, angular guitars, start-stop dynamics, it was a legitimate scene, these were all recognized touring artists.
Listening to this album, you get what attracted the majors to a band like Season to Risk. Despite the complex song structures the band makes you raise your fist. "Jack Frost," "Absolution," "Bloodugly," "Terrain Vague," and "Sleepwalker" are undeniable and had metal NOT been destroyed as a genre by grunge, some of the tunes could have been hits on that side of the spectrum. Angry, skateboarding, male teenagers, loved this band and there were a lot of those types running around in the mid 90's. It's too bad it never caught on in a major way, this type of music, this scene, could have saved everyone from the retarded angst-rock that did catch on in 1998 with the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
"Blue Skies" is the best song this band did. It played so well to the band's attributes. Singer and guitarist, Jared Scholz has such a great voice. He spent a lot of time in this band using it to scream, but when he actually sang, it came across so clear and distinct. It's sounds innocent and truthful, you believe everything Scholz said when he sung it. He intros the tune with that voice, just the faint words "Blue skies" with no accompaniment and he starts into his guitar. The band also loved to bash around and really wanted to capture the 90's post-hardcore Kansas City sound, they did it best here. Nothing too complex for their own good, just a solid drum bashing event which Jake Cardwell excelled at. All bassist Harry Anderson had to do was find his place. Of course, it didn't hurt that it was recorded by two members of Shiner, Paul Malinowski and Joel Hamilton.
Also recorded by the Shiner guys, the B-Side "On the Table" is solid as well. I remember the guys in this band used to love the band, Kararte. This is the first you hear a more subdued indie rock sound from this Reflector. It's not a clear nod to bands like Karate, but you recognize the growth in the band. It's really just in the intro, they quickly go back to start-stop dynamics, all systems go. The only reason the tune isn't equal to "Blue Skies" is Scholz's voice crackles the quieter he gets. Can't tell if he just couldn't handle the tune or if it was left in intentionally as it does create an effect making the song feel vulnerable for a brief moment until they tear off your face KC 90's style.
Yeah, so Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, KS. That's cool, but I don't think he spent much time in Kansas before moving to Ohio as a child. Further, at age 12 he'd move to New York. Regardless, he's a native Kansan. There is a good chance he has family here, maybe even frequented Kansas as a child for holidays and such.
I've had a rough go with Joe Walsh; not sure what music of his to include on this blog project and what not to include. Ultimately, I decided solo albums are fair game. I really wanted to do James Gang albums, because for the most part, the Joe Walsh edition of the band is great, but if I did that, I'd be opening myself up to the Eagles who Walsh also performed with. I fucking hate the Eagles. I had to draw the line at solo albums. Second, that also would lead to talking about stuff just because there was one dude from Kansas or Kansas City and that's too much stuff, so it was best just to stick to solo albums and groups with legitimate roots to the area.
However, with that declaration, Joe Walsh still presented further problems. Do you count the Barnstorm era Joe Walsh? You see, after Walsh left James Gang, he went onto do Barnstorm. That was the actual name of the group Joe Walsh formed and not his first solo album. However, since Walsh had become an admired guitarist as a member of the James Gang and the labels love a good brand name, they bottled the first Barnstorm album as a Walsh solo project. Due to the major label money grab, Barnstorm era is fair game as well.
Yeah, so this album is pretty boring. My parents had it when I was growing up. I found the cover interesting and humorous as a child. I don't remember hearing it played in the household or anything, probably because Walsh was a bit Eagles-damaged at this point. Several years in that band entrenched him in melodic soft rock tunes. My parents always played party rock when they actually played records, so this one collected dust. It is a better album than The Long Run by the Eagles which came out the following year. Don Henly and Glenn Fry would've been better off just recording Joe Walsh tunes by 1979. And since people fucking love the Eagles, loads of people seem to like this LP for it's a laid back and relaxed style. It also contained the absurdly long, but big time AOR hit, "Life's Been Good," which admittedly, is pretty hard not to like.
Life's Been Good
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Released 3 years after the debut album, The Beast that Devoured Itself, finds the band all grown up. Well, to the extent they aren't high school students anymore and have probably been laid a more than a couple times. This album also finds Jay Hauptil replacing vocalist Dean Lubensky. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly created two different versions of the band. Lubensky had an endearing teenage squall, his strained vocals complimented the youth of the band. Hauptil comes with a more gruff, adult, punk rock scream. It beefs the band up substantially, making them comparable to college rock punk like Husker Du. Hell like Husker Du, the band even attempts some pop tunes, the song "War" is enjoyable and it's followed by "Decide Tomorrow" which is a clear attempt to crack college rock scene in Replacements-esque fashion. Problem being, Hauptil can't sing like Westerberg and the band can't write as good pop tunes as that band. And, we won't talk about "Polyester Slave," that song really had no reason to exist.
No fault there though, not many bands could write as a pop tune as good as the Replacements. And, the Micronotz were far more consistent than the 'Mats (seriously, people gloat about the Replacements like they were fucking geniuses and wrote nothing but hits. Do they forget songs like "Gary Got a Boner" and the fact that they were a joke of an actual punk band?) . It is a shame the Micronotz couldn't figure out pop tunes on this one, otherwise it's as classic as their debut. Overall, they sound like a punk band dying to get into pop territory. And admittedly, the track "Whatcha Trying To Do" is close to finding a good balance between their punk damaged outlook and pop sensibilities. It manages to stay mid-tempo and bridge the gap between failed attempts at slowing down and crunchy guitars.
The album does excel when it sticks to the straight ahead riff-driven punk rock. More so than the band's previous albums, The Beast that Devoured Itself, just wants to break your face with huge riffs. Screw melody when you got big chunky riffs and straight ahead tunes. It's far too drenched in garage rock and punk to be an called aural assault or "sonic", but it's not far off. They would explore the sound further on the following LP, Forty Fingers, sounding more and more like Husker Du.
Run My Life
Monday, December 16, 2013
This is the debut album from Morningstar. I was hoping after the dreadful experience of their second album for Columbia, this would be better.
Good news, it's better. Bad news, it's still cheeseball, pomp-rock. You could tell, the second album was based on the commercial failure of this LP. This album appears to be a bit truer to the band. You can actually feel the energy and nothing sounds forced. The band attempts to rock and at times it sounds kind of Kiss-esque, 70's metal. Most of the time, however, it sounds similar to other studio rockers of the time. The album is also sprinkled with a bunch of synth driven mid-tempo, sappy, chick tunes. I'm sure they got laid a lot at bars and such, but they probably would have been a more successful band had they concentrated on straight ahead rock n' roll.
Worst of it, the lyrics these guys (or guy) wrote are awful. I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there that borders on bad teenage poetry, but this does it the whole way through. Half this shit doesn't even make sense. Here's the chorus from the tune, Sweet Georgia Peach, "Like a Sweet Georgia Peach, I got a line on you but my ten foot pole won't reach." Really? This is not clever. I mean, I get it, the cliche, "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole," but it doesn't make it clever to say you can't touch something with something you'd never touch it with in the first place. It's like that the whole way through, a bunch of lines that just leave you scratching your head trying to figure out if they were attempting to be clever or if they were really that stuck for things to write about.
Props, though. They mention KC numerous times throughout the LP credits. The booking company is listed in Shawnee Mission, KS. They thanked local radio stations. And, they just gave a straight shout out to Kansas City in the thank you's on the liner.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Very cool, hyper obscure LP from a Lawrence, KS, college band that headed West in the late 1960's for fame only to break up. However, before doing so, they were able to record their sole album and despite disbanding before it came out, Mercury still released it. Of course, with no band to promote the album it faded into hyper-obscurity only to be discovered years later and hailed as a lost psych classic.
The band first formed in Lawrence, KS as college students from the KC area. They were first called the New West then a Californian joined the band and they became Pig Newton which was followed by Pig Newton & the Wizards from Kansas. As Pig Newton, they gigged locally and were able to tour the East Coast landing a gig at the Fillmore East. That show put the band in front of major labels, most of which they turned down for lack of funds and control. Eventually, they agreed to sign with Mercury under the notion the they would have almost complete creative control. However, Mercury was able to convince the band to drop Pig Newton from the name.
With Mercury footing the bill, the band went to San Francisco to be at the epicenter of the American psych scene and record their debut album. The album feeds off the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, A Beautiful Day and the Grateful Dead. With the exception of Quicksilver, they album is far more country orientated than contemporaries. The Wizards excelled at using the spatial aspect of country music, the drawn out phrasing and "high lonesome sound" are used to great affect. Other bands took the twang only, the Wizards had plenty of twang, too, and they combined it almost effortlessly with the psychedelic sounds of the time.
It was a strong debut LP, promising original material with well thought out covers. There are genuine highlights like "Hey Mister" and "Misty Mountainside", which are just as classic as any gems from their psych contemporaries. There's also the hippy-dippy track, "912 1/2 Mass.", which is clearly a reference to the band's college town of Lawrence, KS. Mass. St. being being the main strip for both college kids and townies. At the address named now sits a large bank building, not sure what would have been there in the 1960's, early 1970's.
912 1/2 Mass.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Kay Dennis S/T Pearce Records 1969 CAT #H-1118
This is cute. It's Kansas City lounge from the late 60's, so it is mixed with moments of Playboy jazz, rock, and to an extent, psych. The cover is incredibly stylistic for Kansas City, the mod art is well done, the colors pop, it looks amazing. It was recorded in the Cavern Studios outside of Kansas City which was an actual underground cave. It was a large, natural, open studio so everything recorded there sounds live. The recording is top notch, the players are capable and play well together, overall, it's a surprisingly well done package.
The LP itself has developed a collector's market around it. It's been discovered in two scenes, beat junkies and people exploring the world of private press LPS. There are some pretty absurd drum breaks, a goofy outro on a 7 minute rendition of the Doors' "Light My Fire," Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" has some jazzy breaks that would make a good samples, and there is a huge dance floor scorcher on Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By". The Private Press guys are always stoked on quality and the LP does have that. Most covers on the LP are enjoyable due to the players. Kay Dennis' vocals are unique. She's got a very childish tone and recalls 1950's white, female jazz vocalists, it's very endearing. However, it should be noted that these Private Press guys might be disappointed to find out Pearce Records was a small, regional label that released other Kansas City artists.
However, despite all these attributes, it's still a lounge album and there's a reason Kay Dennis wasn't performing far outside of Kansas City. Every song is a cover and doesn't stray far from the originals. The rarity of the LP and it's good moments cloud the vision of collectors. You can read the reviews of the LP online and most will praise it's attributes, but if you get past the highlights, there's no reason for a 7 minute rendition of "Light My Fire". The hit versions of songs like "What the World Needs Now," was all anybody ever needed. And, nobody in the history of music ever needed lounge act version of the "Impossible Dream."
The third album from Topeka band, Kansas. They tried extremely hard on this LP to keep up with their British prog. contemporaries. Long, drawn out tunes; only 6 total. Heavy on synth and orchestration. They use odd time signatures and bob in out of movements within the songs. It is an ambitious album and has it's moments, but it pales in comparison to other progressive bands that surrounded them.
It's strong when the band adeptly moves from synth driven interludes to boogie rock. The 1st track, "Down the Road" is intense and to be cliche, "rocks." Other parts of the album "rock" as well, the 1st track of side 2, "Lonely Street" deserves mention as does "The Devil's Game." The final track also contains some insane drumming, that's cool. However, even in those mentioned tracks most the album meanders around and can become exhausting to listen to. Many of the bands fans will argue this is the band's crowning achievement. The sweeping arrangements and time signatures make it their most "progressive" album and it's easy to get swept up in all the studio perfection. But, if you look past all the smoke and mirrors, it's really just sub-par prog LP with nice moments.
Down the Road
The Devil's Game
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I go to thrift stores a lot. Every lunch break, I go to a thrift store and look at records. I come across an absurd amount of strange white gospel music. If I had to put a percentage on the stuff I look through at thrift stores I'd estimate 10% Christmas albums (regardless of the time of year), 40% absurdly popular vocal artists (Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, Rod McKuen, Tom Jones, etc), 25% mix of easy listening, oddball, and classical, 1% music someone actually would like to purchase, and 24% creepy white gospel.
I usually flip past the creepy white gospel, occasionally, if it looks absurd, obviously self-released, or somewhat psychedelic, I'll pick it up and look a little closer. Some of it I glance and find out its from Kansas or Kansas City, but after looking over the track listing I usually lose interest. Odd though, about 80% of the creepy white gospel music is from Nashville, TN. What's the deal? Was Nashville just pumping out religious bands and sending them to all corners of the globe to play in any church that would allow it? When was poorly produced, badly performed gospel music a thing? A scene?
Head scratcher aside, I picked up this one because it was obviously self-released and touts itself as "Bluegrass Gospel." I like Bluegrass, I like oddball self releases, I don't mind gospel so for a dollar I was game. Playing it, they sing about Jesus a lot. Not too keen on that, but whatever. Overall, it's competent, they got the right instrumentation, these old guys keep it old timey without ever straying into hillbilly territory. They never try to flash it up or try to make it sound polished and professional. It sounds as if they put an add in the Church Newsletter for players, then got together and laid down some traditional gospel tunes with Bluegrass as the backdrop. They do throw in some originals, which aren't terrible, but nothing to brag about. And, as much as I value a live production sound, they do sound a bit flat and lack energy. But, it's cute, grandma and grandpa made a gospel Bluegrass album.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Count Basie's Kansas City origins are a good story. In 1927 he was performing as a pianist for a vaudeville style act. The group broke up while touring in Kansas City and Basie was stranded. His first job in KC was playing accompaniment to silent movies in a film house, however, his talent soon landed him jobs with local R&B and jazz artists, he eventually settled as a member of Bennie Moten's Swing band. He played with Moten until his death in 1935, for a brief time, Basie played solo until forming and leading the Barons of Rhythm with many members of Moten's now defunct band.
His brand of swing is notable for it's commercial appeal. As a bandleader from the 30's to 40's he was immensely popular. His band even appearing in numerous Hollywood movies during their peak. He remained popular as a jazz musician even after the decline of big bands in the late 40's as a performer and leader of smaller troupe's.
Released in 1958, Basie Plays Hefti, marks a resurgence as the leader of a big band. Arranger Neil Hefti had brought orchestration and large bands back into vogue with Basie. Keep in mind, it's a very tame sound Hefti created and rooted in pop just as much as it is jazz, it doesn't "swing" much at all, but with Basie, it still has a soul.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Various Artists Eccentric Soul The Forte Label Numero Group 2013 Cat # 047
This is my favorite release of 2013. The archivist label, Numero Group, has collected 28 tracks from the Kansas City soul label Forte and threw them onto a two LP set. It's complete with an amazing and well researched booklet.
Kansas City has it's rich tradition for jazz and blues. We even have claim to some nice indie-rock. But as far as soul music, we never developed a famous sound. The Forte label attempted to capture some of Kansas City's talent in terms of soul music. Most the performers featured here were around town doing Motown style revues. But, when the artist got the chance to do their own thing in a local studio on a regional label, there are some amazing moments.
Now-a-days, these records are nearly impossible to locate. They likely enjoyed forms of regional success and sold decent, the label stayed active from the mid-60's into the 70's, but the 45's seem to only be available on-line for high prices. Collectors started gravitating to rare soul side in the 80's. People wanted regional and unheard sides, the label's output is now blanketed into the term "Northern Soul," which is a reference to all night dance raves taking place in England, but today just means rare soul.
The most popular of these Forte artists is Kansas City, KS' Marva Whitney. The collection features two selections from Forte output. She sustained a fairly successful career after leaving Kansas City. After Forte, she cut some sides for the famed Federal label. Then, she was featured as a member of the James Brown touring show and recorded for King. Her King singles and one studio LP are revered by funk collectors as the some of the dirtiest and raw funk recorded by a female. In the 80's she found herself recording for number of other labels never catching on in one spot. Her tracks on this collection are representative of her work, she belts out a song like no other, it's like you're being yelled at, and while the talent around her isn't anywhere near the level she had with King, her tunes here are still stunners.
The collection does showcase what could be termed a Kansas City soul style. However, lots of obscure, regional soul sounds just as raw as what's featured here. It's not as clean and crisp (and well, as white) as what Motown was doing. It's not as earthy and blues oriented as what Stax was doing. It's not as funky as James Brown, but tries awful hard to be. The main purpose is to get people out to the dance floor, so it's up-tempo, sock-to-me style soul. Shouters and screamers that would make you think of Sam & Dave or Dyke and the Blazers. During the 70's the label did allow for more experimentation, Olathe, KS' Everyday People Life reach into prog-rock realms while trying to conjure a Sly & Family Stone feel. There's also some Willie Mitchell/Al Green style slickness attempted, some of great, some of it only decent. Overall a highly recommended release filled with obscure, but amazing Kansas City musicians.
Marva Whitney Daddy Don't Know About Sugar Bears
The Fantasticks-Cry Night and Day
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
This band cracked Billboard charts as an independent recording artist from Kansas City. They toured with big timers like Weezer and Green Day. But, what I find the coolest, they did a release with Rocket From the Crypt. To me, Rocket From the Crypt represents the last great Rock N' Roll band. The last band that you could play loud and piss off your parents with. They used nicknames, had a horn section, didn't hide behind punk agendas and alternative fashions, they just played fast and loud. But, they're not from Kansas City, so it's probably best to stop there.
The song featured here, "Up on the Roof", was recorded on the road in Hollywood, CA. The band utilized their sound guy and local legend, Alex Brahl, to produce the track. It's a decent track, considering that they were splitting the time with Rocket From the Crypt, you would have thought they would opt for something a bit more up tempo. But, in 2000, it represents the first steps the Get Up Kids took in trying to get away from themselves and the Emo Pop genre they unintentionally spawned with the release of 'Something to Write Home About'. Albeit the song is bit sappy, it does feature a more organic sound that would find it's way onto the 'On A Wire' album. Dewees' keyboards are set on piano rather than synth, they dump all the pick slides and woo-hooing for a subtle groove centered around the Pope brothers. The lyrics also feel heavier and more adult than previous work. Decent track, but still, they were following Rocket From the Crypt, the pick slides and woo-hooing probably would have been fine.
Up on the Roof
I love this type of thing for the rarity, obscurity and weirdness. This is a private press release from some jazz nerds in Kansas City. I stress the words nerd not just in the jazz sense, but they sing about some pretty absurd stuff. If I had to classify this release, Jazz Fusion is a good term, Cosmic Disco/Boogie is better. The disco elements brings a lot of synth and a ton of funk inspired moments throughout the grooves and some huge drum breaks. There's also a lot of pop/rock influence, definitely on the art rock side of things, whichever player is channeling that vibe is obviously a huge Queen fan. Most tracks feature vocals and not much can be said for the singing, but that's where most the weirdness comes into play. They use abstract harmonies and have some bizarre lyrics.
The record itself has some collector's appeal based on the jazz-funk aspect. The initial on-line discovery saw the album selling for over $100 to collectors. Since then the price has tapered down drastically and you can now score a copy between $20 to $40. The folks that initially drove the value of the album up were beat jockies and sample junkies. Hip-Hop enthusiasts looking for drum breaks and un-sampled sounds. Once they get the stuff out there, the value went down. It makes sense for the album. It's inspired music with amazing ideas throughout (and again, killer drum breaks), but as far as putting together one great track, the brothers couldn't do it. Too many ideas crammed into single tracks. The LP was produced by one of the members and you get the sense a producer would've have focused the band on a single groove. Some of the tracks contain sudden and abrupt changes that could have just easily been several different songs entirely.
Unfortunately, I can't find much info on these dudes. The LP lists Kansas City as home base and notes it was recorded at Sound Recorders Studio in K.C., but for all I know, that could be the home of one of the players. Features three brothers, Dennis, Phil, and Kevin Rogers along with a host of other players. Dennis Rogers handles most the drum work and is fantastic. Kevin Rogers handles guitars and Phil does a lot of synth work. The album was engineered by Kansas Citian, Ron Ubel, who did a lot work locally and nationally as a sound engineer.