Friday, August 29, 2014

Gene Clark Two Sides To Every Story RSO 1977

Gene Clark Two Sides To Every Story RSO 1977 CAT# RS-1-3011

Gene Clark was born in Tipton, Missouri which is about two hours East of Kansas City and near Jefferson City, Missouri.  At a young age, Gene Clark's family moved to Kansas City and by the time he was finishing high school, his family was found itself on the Kansas side.  Clark would graduate from what had to be extremely rural, Bonner Springs High School (the town, outside of a Wal-Mart and a concert venue is still fairly rural to this day, suburban, yes, but still pretty sparse).

Prior to becoming a Byrd and changing the face of American music, Clark gigged around with some high school bands, one of the groups was named Joe Meyers and the Sharks another named the Rum Runners.  He would establish a residency in Kansas City with a group called the Surf Riders at a venue named the Castaway Lounge (years later, it would become a gay bar that Melissa Ethridge frequented).  As a member of the Surf Riders, Clark was discovered by Leavonworth, Kansas native, Randy Sparks, as he was passing through with his folk band, the New Christy Minstrels.  Clark was hired by the band and he would embark on tours with the Minstrels.

The Minstrels got Clark to California and across the rest of the USA.  It is rumored that he quit the band after hearing the Beatles.  After leaving the folk scene, Clark soon met Roger McGuinn at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.  The rest obviously is history as the two would piece together the Byrds.  From 1964 to 1966, Clark would pen some of the best known Byrds original tunes.  In the early days, Clark was the dominant force behind the band as many members had yet to develop their own songwriting skills.  However, writing hits like "Eight Miles High" and "Set You Free This Time" earned Clark extra royalties which brought resentment.  Further, Clark wasn't really a fan of touring and had a long time fear of flying, by 1966 he left the group.

After leaving the Byrds, Clark returned to Kansas City for a brief time prior to going back to LA to start a solo career.  His early solo-work is thought of as highly influential in the development of country rock or alternative country sound.  Unfortunately for Clark, his replacement in the Byrds, Gram Parsons, would obtain higher praise for the same genre-bend of country and rock, especially consider Parsons is thought of as the driving force behind the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo.  For some time, Parsons and Clark almost mirrored each other, both pressing the blend of country with rock music, Parsons with the Byrds and later solo, Clark as a solo artists and a number of collaborations.

Ultimately, Clark could never reach the success he had with the Byrds.  Further, his sort-of Byrds replacement would be crowned the father of country-rock and outshine Clark critically and in popularity.  Much of this was likely owed to Clark's disdain of touring and fear of flying, however, Clark's material also became highly experimental when set next to that of his contemporaries.  While others may have had consistency, you can't say Clark wasn't trying to push boundaries.

Regardless, his solo work is filled with highlights, so much so, that even as late 1977 the guy was still putting out quality albums like this when everybody else had attempted a Rod Stewart type sell-out if they were still playing at all.  The album sounds nothing like 1977, it's a fairly low-key, country affair.  The song quality is still there with his songs, "Kansas City Southern," "Mary Lou" and the beautiful ballad, "Hear the Wind."  His cover of the traditional "In The Pines" showcased his talent as an interpreter and vocalist, further, after listening, it's pretty clear Kurt Cobain's interpretation owed a lot to Clark's on the same tune.  While it's not the top of his catalog, it's an essential for Clark fans and is certainly deserving of reassessment after years in the shadow of Clark's prior solo-work.

In the Pines
Hear the Wind

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Leopards Magic Still Exists Voxx Records 1987

The Leopards Magic Still Exists Voxx Records 1987 CAT# VOXX 200.048

Would have bought this regardless of local connections, I mean look at it?  It looks amazing, like the best the 80's garage and psych revival scene had to offer.

The Leopards were formed in Kansas City, Kansas in the late-70's.  They released an obscure album and a handfull of 45s for their own label, Moon records.  In the 1980's, the band tried their luck and moved to Los Angeles, based on the strength of the debut, Kansas City Slickers, along with a demo tape, Voxx, an imprint of the legendary Bomp Records, agreed to fund an album.

Overall pretty hip, getting out to LA, getting an album on a garage focused indie label.  The music, though, nothing to do with psych or garage as the cover would have you believe.  Straight power pop and heavily focused on the Kinks.  The album has been called the best Kink's album of the 80's, which is fairly accurate.

There are some true gems on the album, the highly Kinks-ified "Pyschedelic Boy," which not only pokes fun at LA's Paisley Underground scene, but was featured as an opener Rodney Bingenheimer's rave up on KROQ.  The opener, "Block Party," definitely has a KC nod with mentions of spicy BBQ and Midwest living.  There are numerous others, especially considering the album contains 14 songs.  Which is kind of the downfall to the album.  Short, 2 1/2 minute pop tracks are great, but, after awhile, things get lost.  Definitely some filler to found here.

Due to the popularity of the Bomp! label, this album has seen reprints.  You can still find a colored copy on the interweb.  If you're into power pop and don't already have this, definitely worth a few spins and a few bucks.

Psychedelic Boy (SO Kinks-y)
A well-masked Kinks lift, Dusty Treasures
Block Party

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Be/Non S/T 7" Turnbuckle 1997

Be/Non S/T 7" Turnbuckle 1997 TB-006

If I'm not mistaken I think this was BE/NON's first legitimate release.  Think they did something small locally, but this was the first backed release.  New York's put out this 7" along with two CD's from Lawrence's BE/NON all before the new millennium.

This early presentation of the band certainly presents a group in tune with Kansas City and Lawrence scene that surrounded them.  There's plenty to compare to the likes of Boy's Life and Shiner.  However, that's likely just to being around town.  The band's real focus was the noise rock coming from the likes of Sonic Youth and Jesus Lizard.  This is a loud and noisy 7".  There's also a clear nod to prog-rock sounds of the 70's, but the only the deep cuts, this is evidenced by the band's absurd song titles.  The 7" features 3 tracks, the impressive "Microsurgical Vasectomy Reversal," the 20 second or so, "Stripping Gears," and the attempt to be spacey and epic within their noisy confines, "Cllaw Use in the Autumn Years of the Twentieth Century."

Either way, solid local 7".  The early CDs aren't half bad if you're into digital.

Tuffy Williams Tuffy Tuff Stuff Records 1982

Tuffy Williams Tuffy Tuff Stuff Records 1982 TS-1982-6

Some pretty boring private press country going on here.  Looking at the cover, I was hoping for cheeseball. lounge stuff at best.  And, while this does have a plethora of long winded, piano based ballads that could easily grace a lounge album, it's all pretty boring.

Had it been a bunch of covers, I would have passed.  But, Tuffy of Independence, MO, pens most his tracks, of the ten featured tracks, all but two are his own.  With private press stuff, that's what I look for; originals.  You never know what you might come across.  If you got the means and desire to put out a record on your own, there's usually at least one good track.

With this, maybe there is a standout track, but I'm not hearing it.  There is a song about fishing and stuff; it's got a guitar solo, or, there's some good piano runs on the cover of "Bad Moon Rising," maybe those are the money shots, I don't know.  The country is MOR, the ballads you can skip.  To it's benefit, it is far more routed in traditional country that what Nashville was doing in the 1980's.  Tuffy's piano gives slight western swing feel, so it's not a total train wreck.

Honestly, though, the best part about this record is the presentation.  For one, Tuffy named his label, Tuff Stuff Records...How you gonna mess with that?  Second, the home of Tuff Stuff Records is liste at 10917 Winner Road, in Independence.  C'mon, Winner Road?  That's legit.,+Independence,+MO+64052/@39.087675,-94.44869,3a,90y,183h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sC3Dsjk0BKrwXx3Biz18TOQ!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x87c0fcdcd1e502cf:0x83b0163449d12591!6m1!1e1

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Central Missouri State University 1977 Summer Music Camp Modern Choirs and Stage Bands Audio House 1977

Central Missouri State University 1977 Summer Music Camp Modern Choirs and Stage Bands Audio House 1977 CAT# AHTI 136F77 AH 137F77

Owning these things will become a problem...these custom press high school and college albums are everywhere.  This one is from the Mules of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.  In actuality, that's a little outside of the range of my "local" scope, but the double LP has been hanging in my collection for years, so why not.

There's really only one reason to own it.  It's college performances so it is not the amateurishness that's found on the high school albums (still there, though).  This album's reason to own is the CMS funk workout entitled, "Funkley 19 #2".  I'm not sure on the title, little strange, might be a typo.  Either way, composed by someone named Izzard and from what I can tell, he was a member of the band and a student.  It's some raw shit.

Lilah Gillett and Harvery Prinz Play the Hammered Dulcimer Duets Happy Hammerin' Audio House 1979

Lilah Gillett and Harvery Prinz Play the Hammered Dulcimer Duets Happy Hammerin' Audio House 1979 CAT# AHKB105F79

Oh man, why not, right?  How bad could it be, right?  Well honestly, it's not that bad at all.  Lilah Gillett and Harvey Prinz throw down on their dulcimers; hardcore.  They do some traditional, some waltzes, and even throw in a few rags, one of which was penned by Kansas Citian, Charles Johnson.  I mean, keep in mind you have to like the sound the hammered dulcimer, then you have to be prepared for two hammered dulcimers going at it with each other (no dueling, though, just harmonizing).  Once you get over the fact that there is no other musical accompaniment, the arrangements are enjoyable and it's surprising how much room two of these instruments can fill.

Both these players are seasoned vets, so that's good.  Further, at the time of it's release, both were Overland Park residents.  A little research will lead you to YouTube videos with Lilah Gillett at the Dulcimer Players Convention which indicates she was a founding member in 1963 (I'd post them, but there's like 4 videos and each one is 20 minutes).  Further, the back cover lets you know she was once a teacher of the instrument.

Harvey Prinz was such a fan of the instrument, he ran a small Overland Park business making them himself.  His maker skills were even commissioned by the Walnut Valley Association of Winfield, Kansas, for use in their festivals.  Research shows though, that Harvey's true passion however was the Lutheran Church as he was an acting Reverend.  Nevertheless, his love of the instrument allowed him to record this album (there's apparently two others, both of which also feature Lilah Gillett).

Anyway, I'm not saying it's the best hammered dulcimer album I've ever heard, but I am saying it's the only album to focus solely on the hammered dulcimer I've ever heard.  Strange record, though.  I can't really put my finger on it's purpose.  Audio House didn't fund it as they were a custom label, they recorded and put your music on vinyl for a set fee.  So these two footed the bill in a custom press apparently to advertise Prinz's handcrafted dulcimers and lessons taught by Gillett.  No doubt, I'm sure there were some family and friends that scooped up the album as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers Bethlehem 1954

Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers Bethlehem 1954 CAT# BCP 1002

Love everything about this Bethlehem release from Kansas City's Chris Connor.  The cover shot, the title, the now rarely used 10" format, the misspelling on the title, the album is aesthetically pleasing to me.

There's no complaints about the music.  It's a lo-key affair, but still swings.  Connor's voice was in top form and like all her work, she kept things cool.  You also get an almost restaurant/mood music feel from the use of both an accordion and clarinet throughout the album, but it works here, doesn't fall into the hooky category at all.

She was joined by the Vinnie Burke Quartet on the album, hardly a household name anymore, but a capable band nonetheless.  Oddly, the album doesn't credit production.  Apparently in the 50's all that mattered was the singer and the band.

Kinda digging this guy's vinyl rip to You Tube of the album

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Danny Cox Sunny Pioneer 1968

Danny Cox Sunny Pioneer 1968 CAT# W4RM-4559

Danny Cox was originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but moved to Kansas City a year before recording this album for local coffee shop owner and manager, Stanley Plesser.  Years before, Cox released an album entitled At the Seven Cities.  That collection of tunes and shows what interested Plesser and ultimately got Cox to move to Kansas City.

Plesser is best known in Kansas City for managing the career of Brewer & Shipley.  Like Brewer & Shipely, he convinced Cox to make KC his home, to which he still remains.  Plesser is an interesting KC figure as he ran a coffee shop called, the Vanguard Coffee House, and was able to successfully manage touring acts from here in the heartland.  He was obviously very focused on the folk sound happening in the late 60s and early 70s, it's what you find on this LP.  He even gets credited as the albums producer and the album is on his label.

It's a promising album and begs the question why Cox couldn't find huge success with his soulful renditions of folk songs and originals.  He's got this amazing baritone with huge range and again, it's folk orientated, but with a ton a soul.  The song selection is fantastic to boot, Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" is pretty spectacular.  There's a an "everybody's doing it" Beatles cover, I guess by default.  But, Cox also takes on Dylan and Joni Mitchell.  Shel Silverstein's, "Hey Nellie Nellie," seems a bit odd, but it's obvious Cox and Plesser were hip dudes at the time and Silverstein is only weird if the only reference you have is children's poetry.

The production lacks a little focus, probably not Plesser's forte, but again, it's strange this version of Cox didn't catch on.  Years later, he found moderate success going full-on soul.  Instead of folk with soul tendencies, his major label albums were soul with folk tendencies (but, in their own regard, also worth seeking out).

Danny Cox Recent Live Performance

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Missouri Welcome Two Missouri Polydor 1979

Missouri Welcome Two Missouri Polydor 1979 CAT# PD-1-6206

Meh, nothing but a bunch of meh-ness from this Kansas City band on their major label debut.  And, it's kind of hard to figure out all the MOR numbers on this album.  Was it the labels fault?  The band?  What was the reason for virtually no excitement on this record.

The first album was decent bar-band stuff.  This however, it's still bar-band stuff, but it's a bit more polished and lost some of the appeal in the process.  Some of the numbers have flashes of something that would at least got people off their ass, but the band keeps it at a medium pace; they aren't about to rock you despite that their tunes could have.  I'm just confused, did they walk into the studio and say, "Hey, we got some rockin' tracks for Polydor."  To which Polydor replied, "That's great, sure they rock, but do the tracks sound like the Eagles?"

To me, the album sounds like a dirty bar band trying to sound like the Eagles.  There's a smoothness to this entire record that would have been better served without.  Either way, this album marked the end of the band, Missouri.  The album features a re-recorded version of the band's surprise hit, "Movin' On," it's not any better and it's really not worse, although, people seem to cite the first version as superior.  It's just meh, the entire album is bland. devoid of color, and boring (however, second to last song, "Love on the Run", cool drum intro and synths begging to be sampled, but still, meh).

A collection of tunes

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mike & Mitch O'Roark and the Freeborn Men Live Program Audio 1978

Mike & Mitch O'Roark and the Freeborn Men Live Program Audio 1978 CAT# 07278

Sometimes this regional private press stuff is such a mess.  The same problem is prevalent, the titles and cover are just a jumble of nonsense.  This is not a Kansas City thing, it's an everywhere thing.  This album for one lists the band as "Mike and Mitch O'Roark and the Freeborn Men", no problem, until you see the back and you realize the "Freeborn Men" consists of a single banjo player by the name of Jody Wisecup.  Further, the back lists the artist as The O'Roark Brotheres, the spine offers nothing, but the record label uses the cover moniker.  The title, also confusing, it's either Live Live Recorded at the Ozark Mountain Bluegrass Festival Eminence Missouri or it's just Live.  The record label lists it as the latter.  It's not that big of deal, and all told, but the private press charm, but you'd think someone would proof read things for consistency and not just run a quick spell check.

Moving on, I was excited I found this record after listening to a  Freeborn Men album on Kansas City's K Records.  I thought the regional bluegrass album showed promise, enough that I was scoping out other albums by the Freeborn Men or the O'Roark Brothers.  They are available, but when people online get a hold of private stuff, due the rarity they try to charge absurd amounts.  Given that most this regional country and bluegrass is usually goes the way of Nashville Pop after an album or two, I wasn't about to make that kind of investment.

Again, I was stoked (but not surprised, this can be found in and around KC with patience) when I picked this up for a dollar or two.  I can't say it should be worth a lot more than that, it's not ground breaking.  The live recording aspect of it doesn't add anything despite being done well.  But, it is a good listen.  The O'Roark brothers weren't sucked into Nashville garbage (well, they do a Kenny Rogers tune, but it's "Rueben James", which is pretty hardcore for Rogers).  The covers they choose (which is the whole album) are well selected, from traditional bluegrass tunes to outlaw country, to something like "July, You're a Woman" by John Stewart.  The O'Roark brothers are legit, enjoyable regional country/bluegrass, at least until I find another album.

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie Orchestra It Might As Well Be Swing Reprise 1964

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie Orchestra It Might As Well Be Swing Reprise 1964

Admittedly, by this point, Count Basie was a long way from Kansas City.  He was big time, putting his name in with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra.  He had gone straight Hollywood by this point, but nevertheless, brought his Kansas City swing everywhere he went.

Outside of the obvious, Basie was teamed with a young Quincy Jones on the ablum.  The arrangements were all put together by Jones.  Jones was able to take then recently wrote pop songs and arrange them as if they were originally swing tunes.  The arrangements were then handed to Sinatra and Basie to perform.

The results are pretty spectacular, albeit very showbiz and very over-the-top.  Is is Sinatra,.though, so that's expected.  I wouldn't mind saying outside the previous album, Sinatra-Basie, it's the "coolest" Sinatra had sounded in years.  All told, it's a pop album, but with some jazz flourishes that Jones threw in to keep it interesting.  Basie just does what he does and held down the band.

Fly Me to the Moon

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Giant's Chair Purity And Control Caulfield 1995

Giant's Chair Purity And Control Caulfield 1996 CAT# CR022

Had to hustle for this one, man.  This cost more than I'd like to admit, but it's so worth it.  A year after Red And Clear was released the band put together this album.  You can find abundant praise for their debut, but for whatever reason, Purity And Control, likely due to it's scarcity, doesn't get the same amount of mentions.  However, the obscure post-hardcore and emo blogs that do mention the album are high on it.

Despite the lack of info surrounding the release, those that do cite it are right to highly regard it.  Purity And Control is much more focused and dynamic than it's predecessor.  Moments on Red And Clear can sound a bit scrambled and overly excited.  This album as it's namesake suggests, is controlled.  The band doesn't run off on tangents and keeps it's focus.  The main reason the band is cited as emo pioneers is due to what you hear on this recording.  It's still jagged and edgy, but, Hobart's does throw down some emotive vocals.  Further, the band builds into the dynamics rather than employing start/stop dynamics (mostly, they don't abandon it completely).  To point out more emo cred, long before it was vogue and when Conor Oberst was 15 years old and just brimming on genius, Giant's Chair recorded tracks at Whoopass Studios with AJ and Mike Moogis

The album was primarily recorded in KC.  Hammer Press did the jackets, vinyl just shows the braille pattern, if I'm not mistaken the CD liner has actual braille type you can feel across.  The song "Ballad of Jody Hamilton" brings light to this artwork as it is a spoken word piece about a blind writer, it's pretty Velvet Underground-esq and has nothing to do with the word emo.  All told, it's a phenomenal album and highly recommended if you can track down a copy.  Even the CD is non-existent so below is a link to the full album, I don't think the band will mind at this point.

Full Album

Charlie Parker The Genius of Charlie Parker #7 Jazz Perennial Verve 1982

Charlie Parker The Genius of Charlie Parker #7 Jazz Perennial Verve 1982 CAT#UMV 2617

Yet another Charlie Parker comp I couldn't resist for the price...Maybe $1.99?  Can't be for certain, but it didn't put me back much.

This one, I'm not as embarrassed about.  This was part of a Verve reissue series that began in the 80's.  Verve founder, Norman Granz, supervised the series, pressed a number of classic Clef releases (before Verve it was Clef) in Japan and made sure the mastering was done in mono to be as true to the original as possible.  I have a few and while I'd be better versed talking about varied pressing of rock records, I'm pretty happy about the sound quality on these.

Mainly due to the mono sound.  Once stereo became vogue, Verve (and countless other labels) cranked out awful remastered stereo versions of classic albums that were still in demand and needed repressing.  When the original selections found on this compilation were first mastered, they were done so in mono, because that's what everybody had: a speaker and a turntable.

Even after two speakers and a turntable became standard, mono still sounded great.  Despite that, labels had to adjust levels and create effects.  Great if a band like Led Zeppelin was behind it and using it to their advantage.  Terrible for anything originally mixed in mono, it wasn't the artists or engineers intent to have some guy adjusting volume knobs to give the perceived effect of "surround" or "large", the mono mix hits you in the face all at once, it can be great and in many ways; better.

This comp particular has some moments that punch you in the gut along with standard fare, vocal tracks and Parker with strings.  It's a solid representation of the many styles Parker covered and brought his innovation, too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Radkey Feed My Brain Little Man Records 2014

Radkey Feed My Brain Little Man Records 2014 CAT# LMR04

Radkey continues to develop and you can hear it on this super cheap 7".  I got it from the Love Garden for the basement price of $3.  That price is pretty punk rock, the music though, that's going the way of metal.

The closest the two songs featured here, "Feed My Brain" and "Digging the Grave", come to punk is a comparison to the Danzig fronted Misfits.  "Feed My Brain", is dark and bombastic, it employs all sorts of sonic metal tricks, a driving rhythm, screamed chorus, and just a killer guitar riff that drives the song.  The B-Side, "Digging the Grave" is admittedly punk rock.  It's got sweet moves and is reminiscent of the late-70's scene, when punk band had talent, but were labeled as such because they couldn't be classified elsewhere.

Kids are smart, too.  This is a well put togther 7" is on their own Little Man Records.  For one, there's no point in getting an actual label, they can keep the price down on this by doing it themselves and likely recover more.  Further the presentation is clever.  "Feed My Brain" centers around an education theme and on the inside of the sleeve is chalkboard repetition of the title.  But, favorite part is use of the old standardized testing multiple choice fill-in sheets as the label on the 7".  Nice touch.

Feed My Brain in Glasgow

Saturday, August 2, 2014

James Brown Hot Pants Parts 1, 2, & 3 People 1971

James Brown Hot Pants Parts 1, 2, & 3 People 1971 CAT#42-2501

James Brown lived in Kansas City for 30 minutes, or so he said once in some obscure interview...Is it true?  I don't know, but I keep picking up the 45s because they're awesome.  If James Brown brief KC residency is true, I'm 100% positive it isn't going to show up in the upcoming movie about his life.

Anyway, have you heard the song "Hot Pants"?  It's phenomenal.  It's available on a kajillion different Brown releases.  It's funky, sweaty, soul music.  He grunts, yelps and says "Hot Pants" over and over, there's some other words thrown in, but they aren't necessary.