Thursday, May 29, 2014

Josh Berwanger Oh Bis! B/W Back of My Hand Too Much Rock 2014

Josh Berwanger Oh Bis! B/W Back of My Hand Too Much Rock 2014 CAT# 003

The transformation is complete.  Josh Berwanger has gone form Blue Valley teenage hipster, to emo heartthrob, to retro rocker, to a power pop craftsmen.  This is the third in Sid Sowder's Too Much Rock series and will be released on June 3rd, 2014.  There will be a party June 5th, 2014 at Mills Records in Westport.  You should go.  I'm probably not gonna go...don't want to be the weird, old, fat belly, looking awkward and shit.

So yeah, Berwanger's power pop stick is growing on me.  Moments on his solo LP are brilliant, but the LP wasn't completely drenched in big hooks and jangly guitars.  His original tune on this 7", "Oh Bis!", is nothing but power pop, clocking under 3 minutes of actual song before Berwanger goes into a short roller-hockey story about the song's title.  There's woo-hooing, oohhs and aahhs on the chorus, and it's about getting the girl.  It's so power pop it comes off a bit formulaic, but, all is forgiven since Cheap Trick stopped writing good songs in the 80's and the most great power pop groups disbanded prior to the end of the 1970's.

As with all releases in the series, Too Much Rock selects a song to cover on the flip side.  Berwanger gets the Jags "Back of My Hand", which is an obscure track to most Stateside, but was a hit in the band's home of England.  Berwanger's version is solid.  The Jags were a little too clean and sharp versus American bands of the same era like the Nerves or the Real Kids.  I had an issue with the singer's affliction and the band's slick production.  Berwanger's breathy vocals and hurried production do the song a favor.  Also, love the use of female backing vocals rather than dual tracking dude's vocals to perfection (kind of the auto-tune of it's time wasn't it?).  Further, big fan of the acoustic guitar break, it's a nice touch.

Oh, and I'm not going to talk about the cover...I don't get it, but whatever, I guess it's supposed to be funny?

UPDATE: Apparently there is a limited run of color variants that will be available for this release, my guess would be at Mills Records show.  109 colored 7"s in blue, green, purple and what appears to be a Coke Bottle clear.  Also, the cover I don't get...  It's done by Jay Shaw, an artist who does alternate movie posters...I get it now.

Check out the Tune, Too Much

Langston Hughes The Dream Keeper & other poems of Langston Hughes Folkways Records 1955 CAT# FC7104

Langston Hughes is one of the most important Kansans both historically and socially.  He was born in Joplin, Missouri and at a young age after the separation of his parents, he was moved to Lawrence, Kansas to be raised by his grandmother.  Most of his childhood was spent in Lawrence, until the passing of his grandmother at which point he spent the remainder of his late-teens in various homes' of relatives.

He would travel to New York and become a crewman traveling on his ship across the globe.  He'd work various jobs thereafter and obtained a degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  In 1921, his first poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" was published.  In 1926, the same poem would be published in his first book, The Weary Blues.  As an accomplished author, he took up residence in Harlem, NY.  His work would become pivotal and some of the most influential work of the Harlem Renaissance.  He would work with other artists such as Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, and Aaron Douglas, to push, explore, and promote African-American artists.

He was an interesting individual and it is often stated that he was homosexual.  Not that sexuality matters, what does matter is his devotion to African American culture.  While colleges teach the works of W.E.B. Dubois now-a-days (Hughes is taught in Academia as well), the Hughes' camp was criticizing Dubois for being to apologetic for white European culture.  He wanted to record black life in America, the working class, and he wanted to record the American Experience.  He accomplishe it in all his writing.  His simple, jazz poetry catches it best.  He was brought up by activist parents who fought for equality long before a popularized movement.  In Lawrence, he was given the pride of his culture.  Fitting that the seed was planted in Kansas-The Freestate.

This record was produced in 1955 by Folkways Records.  It features Langston Hughes reading poems from his book, The Dream Keeper.  The Dream Keeper is a great collection, but it's certainly fit for a spoken word album as it was intended for young adults as an introduction to his poetry.  It's a very interesting recording as Hughes introduces his poems at every interval.  He briefly explains either where the poem is from, how it came to be, where he wrote it, or who it is about.  His simple wording and rhythmic delivery let you understand the term jazz poetry, especially true on his "blues" poems.  Despite that I will rarely listen to this, since you get to hear one of the most famous and influential American poets read his poems, it's easily one of my favorite finds.

I, Too

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cheap Beer Compilation Replay Records 2011

Cheap Beer Compilation Replay Records 2011 CAT# RR001

Sweet compilation filled with short, noisy, punk rock from Lawrence and Kansas City bands.  It came out back in late-2011 and was limited to 500 copies.  It's still around, but don't snooze if you see one and don't have a copy already.

The packaging for this thing is incredible.  Front side you get the corner of 10th & Massachusetts and a zombiefied version of the Replay Lounge.  Backside shows you the Jackpot Saloon.  Favorite part about the release is that they used a Pabst Blue Ribbon box cut out and printed the track listing on the back.  I know, you're thinking PBR is crap and hipsters just need to stop.  Seriously, though, the Replay Lounge has been serving PBR from a tap since their existence.  Long before a hipster fashion sense, there were kids at the Replay drinking PBR from a plastic cup for a dollar.  #trendsetters

This release started up the Replay Lounge as a label, since it's release the bar has put out a handful of 7"s and a Red Kate full length (which I need to pick up, it's also limited to 500).  Their approach was to just take the best tunes the bands had to offer.  Most of these tracks are available on a full length or EP or website downloads.

However, most tracks aren't available in the vinyl format.  So, in 2011, you got the best the bands had to offer on vinyl.  Solid approach, obscure compilation tracks were great fit in the late 90's, but these locals aren't sporting huge followings, better to just get the tunes out there.  Everything is worth a listen if you're into noisy, punk rock and garage sounds.

Berwanger T.K. Webb Split 7" Creme Tangerine 2013

Berwanger T.K. Webb Split 7" Creme Tangerine 2013 CAT# CTR-003

Nifty release on hot pink vinyl.  This was put out by a small label, Creme Tangerine, in 2013.  As far as 7"s go, solid packaging, the pink vinyl is cool, the label contrasts nicely, the artwork and printing are attractive, but simple.  Also, Josh Berwanger was behind most of the artwork and design, so pretty DIY accept the actual label part.

From my understanding, it was Josh Berwanger's first output as a solo artist.  You can tell since it's drenched in a sound reminiscent of his work with the Anniversary.  Bit of a dance rock groove with synth effects all over the place.  It's got a good hook and the Anniversary-ness to is welcome in relation to the Only Ones. He's not doing this sound anymore, if you've heard Berwanger's newest stuff, dude is obsessed with power pop sounds.  He's doing an upcoming release for Sid Sowder and Too Much Rock which is due out in early June.  That release promises to be full on 1978 style.

The flip side features a home recording from T.K. Webb entitled, "Fuck the Police."  I think the song uses the phrase once and I'm not a huge fan of using a title that borrows from N.W.A., but whatever.  It's a a decent rural, folk-blues jam.  Homemade style, so it's still rough around the edges.

Nifty Label, Super-Indie, Creme Tangerine

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Blue Things Listen & See! RCA 1966

The Blue Things Listen & See! RCA 1966 LSP-3603

This is an original stereo copy of this LP I recently picked up.  I've already talked about it's greatness on a reissue copy I have.  This just kind of displays the sickness of record collecting.  The reissue is fine, it plays clean, it's quiet, but it'll never be as good as finding an original item.  While I'd prefer a copy in mono copy (more proof collecting records is a sickness and not a hobby) I leaped at the chance to purchase this.

Admittedly, the reissue copy I have is nothing to write home about it.  I have a feeling the thing was sourced from a CD rather than the original masters.  The music on this original leaps off the stereo, parts of the reissue seem a bit buried and not as alive.  So despite what may seem like an unneeded investment, I'm pretty happy about it (even with some surface noise in the dead wax and quieter passages).

Anyway, I picked up this legendary Hays, KS band from a kid in Olathe, KS.  He's a pretty young guy (maybe in his 20's), but he runs a booth at an Olathe antique mall called Green Expressions where I've spent some time digging.  Actually, on a whim I picked up the Cole Hunter 7" there and it turns out it's his brother.  My dad has gotten to know the kid and was telling me about how he went to his house once and dug through some stuff.  Awhile back, I had found some really killer stuff at his booth and the store employee told me the guy was talking about 800 records he had picked up and planned to bring in soon.  Considering I was pretty happy with the purchases I made, I called my dad and asked if he could hook up a visit to the dude's house.

My old man came through and we went over.  He showed us what he was willing to part with (there wasn't anywhere near 800 records) and showed us a crate that was "special" for a party at the antique mall and mentioned he wasn't willing to sell those records, yet.  Needless to say, I flipped through that crate.  This Blue Things LP was just staring at me so I had to ask if he'd part with it early.  He sold it to me cheap and explained his philosophy, he'll take the quick nickel instead of holding out for the right guy to show up at an Olathe antique mall to give him the slow dime.

I was stoked and thought I should shout about his spot in Olathe (which my dad would prefer a secret).  He sells some good records, nothing seems to exceed a $20 price point.  He's having a party at GREEN EXPRESSIONS out in the parking lot on May 30th with a bunch of new records to flip through.  If you like records, you should go...seriously, good prices on a lot of things.  He's got an absurd amount of Zeppelin records people should buy.

Blue Things-Girl of the North Country

Excelsior Spring Highschool Boys & Girls Concert Choir 1972-1973 Audio House

Excelsior Spring Highschool Boys & Girls Concert Choir 1972-1973 Audio House CAT# AHSPLS 17172

Another record that really never needed to exist.  This is a live recording of the 1972-73 Excelsior Springs Boys & Girls Highschool chorus.

The recording is pretty faint, when the kids solo, it's almost impossible to hear over the top of the sole piano providing backdrop.  The girls do not one, but two Carol King Melodies for some reason.  There's also the absolutely necessary rendition of "Aquarius".  There's a boy's version of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again," which if you've ever heard is pretty depressing and an odd choice.  There's also a cover of the Beatles, "Blackbird," and the Carpenters "Superstar" is pretty enjoyable, but overall, pretty lame.  To it's benefit, it doesn't have any overtly Christian songs.

However despite all the middle of road-ness, the first song on the flip side is an original tune by a girl named, Cheryl Gruey.  Her song is called "Let's Rebuild that Bridge" and the subject matter is about a break up and trying to get back together (typical immature nonsense), but her plaintive vocals and sparse electric guitar (that's it, just her voice and guitar) make up for the rambling that's going on in the lyrics.  It's a bit of a loner folk gem and proves my theory that all these strange chorus and band albums have something to offer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

TK Webb & The Visions Ancestor Kemado 2008

TK Webb & The Visions Ancestor Kemado 2008 CAT# KEM 079

Years ago, I saw a young TK Webb play a show with Proudentall...and someone else at the Bottleneck.  The performances were taped and simultaneously a CD-R was created to pass out to show goers.  Kind of a cool idea, pretty sure it was Matt Dunehoo's of Proudentall.  Wish I still had that CD somewhere so I could compare it to the more modern-day TK Webb.

Honestly, I don't remember the stuff on the CD being that great, just a bunch of blues riffs with some grumbling on vocals.  The Kansas City guitarist has done a TON of stuff since that show.  Played in the Only Ones, moved to New York, did some proper solo-releases and this project with a band dubbed the Visions.  This a bit more polished and slick.  Still blues-based riffs, but far more entertaining.

My only problem with his work is everybody that reviews it is so quick to call out all old blues legends, like Muddy Waters and Blind Willie Johnson.  Uhm, probably shouldn't being going that far back, the furthest anyone should go back is Eric Clapton, but yeah, that's dumb as well.  And, it's besides the point, because outside of blues based riffs, there's a lot of indie rock in Webb's tunes.  You could argue that the tunes found here are closer to Dinosaur Jr. than they are Muddy Waters.  Wait, there's really no argument, this has nothing to do with Muddy Waters outside of the electric guitar.

You see, when you start comparing dudes to blues legends and that guy is white, people just start thinking Jack White and the White Stripes.  While it'd be cool if all the White Stripes fans bought TK Webb albums, that it isn't going to happen.  Bigger point being, Jack White is lame hack.  Sure, he's a great guitarist and all, but c'mon, it's regurgitated songs, it's regurgitated albums...It's all getting boring and lame.  If you want to listen to an artist or band do the same album over and over, listen to AC/DC, they're better than the White Stripes.  If you want a challenge, then dig deep and discover stuff like TK Webb.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Redline & KJHK Present Fresh Sounds From Middle America #3 Fresh Sounds 1986

Redline & KJHK Present Fresh Sounds From Middle America #3 Fresh Sounds 1986 CAT #FS 213

Been on the hunt for this for a long time and glad to finally have it.  Used to dig this one out at KJHK all the time and play the Miconotz, the Todd Newman tracks, or whatever looked interesting.  The station copy is beat to crap and splattered with a review on how awesome it is.  I think the review urges the DJs to "Play it All!"

The Fresh Sounds From Middle America started on tape with the Fresh Sounds label.  This edition, #3, is a combined the effort of the label Fresh Sounds with Redline Productions who were putting on shows in the area and the famed college station, KJHK.  It's pretty obscure now-a-days, sure plenty of copies have been destroyed and most the people that retained their copies probably aren't willing to sell it as they were in the bands, friends with the bands, or part of the staff at KJHK or members of the Redline Production team.  It does an excellent job of encapsulating the fertile underground scene in Lawrence, KS  at the time.

The first side is a bit of a mix, pop and alternative.  The flip side is almost exclusively punk.  Highlights of the album are listed below, but everything on here is pretty solid considering:

Von Burlows – Summer Song – Lawrence based band.  Riot on the Plaza was into the song and wishes there was more out there from them, I’m kinda like, meh, girl singer is cool and all, but nothing amazing.
Homestead Grays – Rev. Cross – Lawrence, KS, based.  Chuck Mead doing country tinged power pop, great track, worth the price of admission on this comp.
Yardapes – Superstitious – Kansas City is listed as the address, thought they were a Lawernce band, nevertheless, I like the little I’ve heard of this band.  This song is no exception, on a new wave tip, but not the pop-spectrum, this band should’ve have been college radio hit makers.
Lions And Dogs – “Be My Sunshine” – This is Lawrence, KS’ famed Todd Newman, who flirted with the major labels but never was able to secure a deal.  He ended up cutting some great, obscure, pop music throughout the 80’s and 90’s.  This tune is a great, gut-wrenching bit of power pop.  He’s on the level with the Replacements’ best material, you could only mistake this tune for a sloppy version of a Replacements ballad.
Thumbs – Jericho – Talked about the Thumbs on the blog before, just kind of mentioning them on this comp as well…pretty, lame track.
Hundreds And Thousands – Girl in Little Rock – Another Todd Newman outlet.  Not sure if this was just kind of a throw away, silly country outing.  But, underneath all the country hodown, there’s a great song buried here.
Bum Kon – Steam Engine #9 – Listed in Denver, CO and falling somewhere between hardcore punk and thrash, interesting tune and band, just apparently not all that local.
Near Death Experience – Dolphin Torture – Lawerence, KS punk band doing a Dead Kennedys type thing without all the impossible political agendas.  Just a goofy anit-Dolphin torture song, I guess.
Micronotz – Gimme Some Skin – It’s a decent cover of the Stooges classic.  Not sure it was necessary, but for a comp, not a bad outing.  There are better examples of the band for sure, though.
Pedal Jets – Hide and Go Seek – I haven’t talked about the Pedal Jets on this blog, yet.  I really should, they’re a great band that was Zine famous back in the day and still making music today.  The song here rivals the best tracks found on the album.  Somewhere between Husker Du and English New Wave bands is the Pedal Jets.  Really great, roughed up pop song, great listen, a true nugget.

Again, it's a great comp and it still means a lot to people who were apart of the Lawrence scene in the 80s, which makes it tough to find.  However, if you come across it, don't walk away without trying to buy it.  Great time capsule to own.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Center North Music Department Century Records 1969

Center North Music Department Century Records 1969

I got too many of these types of LPs...a while back, DJ Shadow did some cool stuff with high school and college band/vocal LPs like this, so I started picking them up when I saw them thinking I'd strike gold.

For the most part, they are all typically the same.  Loads of crap that no one needs to hear with moments of brilliance here and there.  Most of them feature insanely Christian Gospell songs.  Which, I'm not saying is bad, but, it's just amusing that in the 60's and 70's it was expected to sing overtly religious songs in school.  Today, if a music teacher even attempts it, things go South fast and before you know it, Fox News is doing story on your school.

Center North is a Kansas City, Missouri High School.  The first side is vocal, religious and pretty boring.  The Association's "Windy" is pleasant, but meh.  The B-Side is far better, but still, meh.  They run through another version of "Windy", the Beatles' "Yesterday", and the "Mission Impossible Theme" is neat, so the fact that the kids were allowed to do some pop hits makes it kind of fun.  However, it isn't professional and the amateur aspect of the players doesn't make this time any more endearing, I bet the parents loved the LP, though.