Friday, November 28, 2014
Man, the inner lyric sheet has a photo of these guys looking like true fashion rockers. They all have coats on and fantastic hairstyles. They are gazing at you, super-serious; personally, I just want to laugh. Like it's serious work playing rock n' roll in a pea-coat while a stylist does your hair.
But yeah, these cuties want you to take them serious. Their hazy dream-pop sounds are very challenging and very indie-rock. This is smarter than anything else you could have on your shelf. Unless of course you've been paying attention, then you can just shelf this in favor of about millions other albums that give you the same effect.
I just get caught up on the "Buzz" that surrounded this band when "Buildings & Mountains" was being played on the radio. The local station acted like it was hard to believe a band with Kansas City roots was really doing it. Like we just don't have the chops and didn't have anything going on in the 90's or help to define the emo scene in the 2000s.
Admidtly, the swirling keyboards and slow bass lines are "dreamy". The tunes are catchy and throw in a lot of ideas that stream together well. It's far better than other alterno-rockers disguised as indie-rockers such as the Killers or We Are Scientists or any band that heard Interpol and decided they could look cuter doing it. And, it's better than all the garbage that blasted alternative radio in the wake of the Get Up Kids "Something to Write Home About" album. I'd take this over handsome boy cry-alongs as sung by Fall Out Boy any day. And, while the dream pop the Republic Tigers push isn't completely their own, its not as overplayed as the previously mentioned alternative scenes, so it makes for an occasional spin or good track on a mix tape.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Today, these guys would be considered hipsters. Lawrence, KS, in 1984 with civil war uniforms and old time attire, I imagine they blended into the weirdness just fine, but likely got noticed around the town by the squares.
The album was recorded live at Ramona Studios in Lawrence, Kansas. Apparently, not just live as in single takes on the tracks, but as in live in a studio in front of an audience you can hear between tracks. I imagine this was done as the band realized they were a "live" band. They play old-timey and bluegrass tunes. Their original tracks are in the same vein and filled with a lot of humor, but I imagine some of the appeal was their performance and stage personas. Unfortunately, despite attempts to recreate that on LP, everything falls kind of flat on the album.
The band's namesake, Alfred Packer, was a convicted cannibal and murder in the United States. Despite his grotesque crimes, history has placed him as the center of jokes. To which the Alfred Packer Memorial String Band play up on their back cover by stating they go through the story of Packer during live shows. The albums name, "Friends for Lunch", is a jab at Packer's cannibalism.
With all the jokes and character costumes, they just come off as the cooler, hipper version of some sort of Ozark old-time band. Granted, the Alfred Packer Memorial String Band is far more entertaining than their Ozark counterparts, the whole package puts them on the same level. Like they're saying, "Here's our free-state take on your hillbilly country." And, admidtly, they do understand the old-time music stems from Irish and Scottish immigrants, whereas that whole thing goes right over the head of any family band from the Ozarks (or even Springfield). Further, I'm assuming their live shows feel much more genuine than some tourist attraction. The band still performs and it appears the "shtick" is a little toned down now-a-days, but they still tell the jokes.
Also interesting, this LP is completely private. No claimed label, no catalog number, just honesty and something the band did to sell to fans at shows. To boot, they put the record on virgin vinyl, that's pretty hip.
Their Song "Alfred Packer" recorded live in 2013
You'd think a 70's gospel album with a stock photo for a cover from 1977 would be awful, but Bill Freeman has soul. The first track, "I Want to Be Ready/Everytime I Feel the Spirit" sounds like it was recorded in a basement, but man, crazy organ runs all throughout. Just intense organ riffs with moog and synths thrown in, some of it distorted, it's an experience. Based on the first track, Bill Freeman was filled with some sorta crazy God-love.
Then you flip to the back cover and Bill Freeman just looks crazy. Something about his photo makes it look as if he's wearing make-up (maybe he is), it's kind of creepy. He's also got some weird-ass fur vest, a saber-tooth necklace, and rings on his fingers. He doesn't look scary, just crazy, but, maybe we can chalk most of it up to the late-70's.
The notes indicate the album was recorded live at the First Baptist Church of Kansas City, Kansas where Bill's father was the pastor. It was released under the NMI lable out of Kansas City, which did release a handful of local releases, most of which are not religious but center around soul, funk and later disco. Personally, my favorite part of the back notes is that Bill thanks the Ebony Club. I have no idea what the Ebony Club of Kansas City was about, but it sounds awesome.
The remainder of the album (sorry, but not sorry for the pun) is a spirited affair. While the first track features no vocals and is the "warm-up", the remainder are reworked gospel tunes. The tracks are worth checking out for the moog running throughout along with some pretty great vocals. I assume Freeman sings in a soulful falsetto, but there's a chorus with talented female singers and a male baritone that takes some front end work. It's very motivated and again, the organ runs, synths and moog make it worth checking out.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
The back cover to this LP reads; "You don't need a big orchestra behind you-When you're Marilyn Maye." To extent, it's right, she does have a booming voice. This a live LP (I'm sure with tons of overdub) recorded with a quintet fronted by Sammy Tucker.
It's a cool record, her voice is way out front and seems "live" enough. It's also very 1966. Not space-age, bachelor-pad 1966. It's what you'd expect from female jazz vocal of the era. Very cocktail hour, almost lounge, but still holding onto jazz just enough to not go pop.
Also, if you're wondering, it's her second album for RCA/Victor. But, you probably figured that out from the clever title.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Should probably be mentioned again since it's been a while since I've discussed Brewer & Shipley, but neither Brewer nor Shipley are from KC or the surrounding area. However, they were managed by Good Karma Production out of Kansas City and like many of the acts managed by them, the act relocated to Kansas City. So for a time, Brewer & Shipley called Kansas City their home.
And, judging by classic rock radio-play to this day, Kansas City adored the guys while they were a big deal. Even today, you're bound to hear the hit from this album, "One Toke Over the Line" come across the airwaves at least once in a day. As it was somewhat of a surprise hit, the band has since been regulated to "one-hit wonder" status and it'd be surprising if any other classic radio station outside of KC is still blasting the song more than once a month. In fact, the band was so beloved in KC, that in 1989 a local radio station urged the two to reunite. Of course, they obliged. That was then followed by a tour and an album in 1995 that no one cared about.
As for the big hit, "One Toke Over the Line," it was actually banned by many radio stations for it's obvious reference to marijuana. As far as hits go, it's a good representation of the band. It's laid back, kinda country, kinda folkie, at times a bit later-era hippie, nothing over-bearing or loud, but it's got some soul to it. They are an enjoyable duo based in traditional roots based music, it makes sense they were able to sustain a career on a major label. They kind of sound like a lite-rock version of the Band with their roots driven approach and unexpected harmonies, but I stress the "lite", the Band's sound punches Brewer & Shipley in the balls.
Outside the hit, there are some other highlights, the rootsy "the Light", the humorous "Oh Mommy", the rollicking "Don't Want to Die in Georgia," and the title track "Tarkio Road" along with "50 States of Freedom" are pleasant enough. Also of note, the LP credits Grateful Dead front-man Jerry Garcia for some pedal guitar, making the album a part of any dead Dead Head's collections worldwide. It also features backing vocals by another Good Karma managed artist and KC transplant, Danny Cox.
Live clip of the Boys rocking nice duds and singing their hit.
Don't Want To Die In Georgia
Sunday, November 16, 2014
There's a bunch of Kenton comps that go by this title and there's even an album previously discussed, New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm. It's all because this is widely considered his signature album during his big band period.
It's an enjoyable collection of music. If someone just threw it on and listened to it today, I'm not sure they'd call it jazz. It sounds much more like a soundtrack score. The stuff Kenton was doing wasn't really for dancing, he was trying to advance the art form and usually comes off pretty pompous in liner notes.
The best moments and the ones I think people can grab onto easier now-a-days are the tracks featuring a cool-toned June Christy, "Willow Weep For Me" and "Ain't No Misery in Me."
Ain't No Misery in Me
Found this at a garage sale down the street. Boxes of easy listening and Christmas records. There may have been a few Beatles LPs before I got there, there probably was a few things like Gerry and the Pacemakers, but overall, there was nothing cool. There was this, though. Not considered a cool record to anyone, but seeing how she's local, it was my lone purchase.
Should be easy to buy a record for a dollar at a garage sale, but, no. You have to talk about why you are purchasing the record, and field the question, "Do you still have a record player?" Or, "What do you do with all these old records?" Since Marilyn Maye is from KC and proud about it, this purchase took a considerable amount of time.
First the homeowner selling the record got excited and stated, "Oh, Marilyn Maye, I know her!" That was genuinely interesting so I replied thinking there was maybe a family relation. No, instead I got, "Well, she's local, I don't know her, but..." Oh good, you don't know her, can I have my change, now? "But, my brother's girlfriend used to have a brother that dated her years ago. She's still around though, we always go see her perform at the community college." Wow, terribly interesting, but, to her benefit, she was right, Marilyn Maye does perform at the Johnson County Community College from time to time...she should kept the record and asked her to sign at the next one she went to.
The album is enjoyable. It does get over-the-top Hollywood at times, but the bulk of the first side and some of the second are based in a much more traditional vocal jazz approach. Plus, she puts a ton of pzazz in her rendition of the classic tune, "Kansas City."
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
A now legendary story surrounds this release and the first thing to point out when telling it is that this album was never actually "released."
It seems the tunes are primarily the brainchild of Prairie Village, KS native Paul Parkinson. He returned home from tour in Vietnam, put together this band and they cut an album's worth of dark, boogie-rock in Independence, Missouri's Cavern Studios circa 1970. The band didn't stay together long enough to put out any sort of private release. Further, they probably didn't hand out many demos of the group's sound.
Despite the fact that band would have only played a handful of shows and demos were probably limited to a few friends of the band, the gloom and doom of the recordings got heard. Those that did hear even snippets of the groups work were likely overwhelmed by not only all the dark, satanic references, but the band's adept psych rock arrangement. The songs were recorded in the Cavern, so there's a echo and basement feel to everything. The tunes go from the morose, war-damaged opener, "End of the Page", to basic blues-rock based psych and stoner jams. It occasionally borders on Sabbath inspired proto-metal, but the real surprise is the lyrical themes and content: 1970's suburban Kansas is not the place you'd expect to find a group tackling topics like death and drug use, but this band went one-step further titling a song "Satan." It's all very war-damaged and serves as a reminder to what these young guys like this were dealing with when coming back from Vietnam.
In 1995, 8 of the Bulbous Creation songs were issued on Rockadelic Records (same label that issued a Wizards of Kansas posthumous release of Cavern recorded tracks). It was unauthorized release and doesn't sound that great, but it represented Bulbous Creation's first release 20 years after it recorded the material.
The Rockadelic become somewhat of a collector's LP as it soon went out of print and word spread on the band. In 2001 Paul Parkinson passed away. It's reported that while going through his belongings, his brother found a complete copy of the Bulbous Creation LP, previously, the Rockadelic material was thought to be it, but 2 additional tracks were unearthed. So there you have it, 10 songs, representing a single band's short-lived existence, now released officially 44 years after it was initially recorded; that's legendary.
Check out the tunes.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
This is actually pretty good. The cover is pretty lame. Then you flip to the back you see a collection of vocal jazz covers from some Kansas City locals, that doesn't help. Then you realize it's from the 80's and it should be the third strike.
If you're brave enough to listen, you'll find it's an enjoyable take on classic-era Swing. It does have a hokey, let's remember the KC Jazz greats thing about it, but hey, Laverne Barker plays bass for the band and he's got a legitimate resume. The production isn't awash in 80's studio effect, it sounds live and classic. The highlight of the album is the rough, raspy, vocals of drummer David Base. Who, upon first listen, I wouldn't have guessed he was a skinny, white dude. His expressive voice and it's texture when combined with the sometimes theatrical arrangements of the tracks can put the album in Tom Waits type territory with out all the cryptic poetry.
The players on this LP, especially David Basse, can be found on a handful of 80's era KC Jazz. Apparently there was a short lived scene for this type of thing. It'd be interesting to know how successful they were around town and how the albums fared concerning sales.
Goodbye Porkpie Hat
Monday, November 3, 2014
Guessing by the sepia toned cover this came out in the late-70's, the sounds are about right. There's an absurd amount of similar private albums nationwide for this type of thing. Regionally successful bar bands, that were proficient players who just never found a specific style. Regardless, they'd put out a collection of original material for fans and hoping someone would take notice. The Exceptions fit this bill and hailed from Topeka, Kansas.
Virtually no one noticed. These 70's variety private albums all seem to suffer from the same thing; no focus. Sure, there are moments of cool guitar riffs, promises of some of some drum breaks, but it's mixed throughout and moves away too quickly. Between wishy-washy piano-laced ballads, the Exceptions occasionally find a sun-laced 70's vibe with some bottom to it, but it stays really pop-based and never gets dirty. There's also some out-place prog-influenced keyboards throughout, but again, it's just thrown in and doesn't ever find it's place.
The band has another release which still occasionally grabs a fair amount on eBay and such. This one, not so much. The band apparently still plays in Topeka as a variety review band, makes sense. They are proficient enough to tackle all genres, just couldn't find one of their own based on this LP.
A Much Older Version of the Exceptions