Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Trelese/Namelessnumberheadman Split 7" Rumblefish/Urinine/Pabst Brewing Co. 2003

The Trelese/Namelessnumberheadman Split 7" Rumblefish/Urinine/Pabst Brewing Co. 2003 NO CAT#

So, this is a really amazing piece of KC indie rock history that was created a few years after I parted ways with a very active local music scene to focus on the very indie-rock college music scene. But, before I go into what this is, I'd like to discuss how I came upon it as it explains part of the sickness I have for records.

I was visiting my brand new niece a few days after she was born at my sister's house. Babies are great, but my sister and bother-in-law have records (the coolest of which I gave them). After the whole, "Did you see the baby?" bit, I gravitated towards the records and was quickly told many of them weren't really theirs. A friend, who apparently moved, was storing them at my sister's house and they weren't really sure if he was ever coming back for them.

Now, I'm not the kind of jerk who was just going to start looking through some other dude's records thinking I can take them. But, I was going to look at them, very closely and intently, with a purpose of picking out what my sister needed to play/keep for herself. I started sorting through the records with laser focus, the kind not even a newborn could distract. On top of a small pile of 7"s, I saw this PBR cover. Looking closer, it's a hand-made outer-sleeve from a 12 pack. I've never seen it before let alone in my sister's small 7" collection (most of which, I gave her) what the hell was this? I flip to the back and see in large font, 'Pabst Blue Ribbon Kansas City.' Whoa. Look further and see the band Trelese and that the songs are written by no other than my old pal Jared Scholz of Reflector. The other band, Namelessnumberheadman is a KC transplant from Oklahoma. Finally, I see that Sid of Too Much Rock was a part of the release under his past label, Urinine Records. I'm literally starting to sweat, what the hell is this and why is it here?

My new niece, because baby's are way cuter than records
Seeing all this, I pulled out all stops, I was taking this record home. First, in my mind I started justifying it. My sister and brother-in-law don't even know what or who this is, they don't need it. And the dude who dropped his records off, he isn't coming back, right? He won't even notice this is gone if he does. Then I started vocalizing things to my brother-in-law, explaining that I needed the record because I used to know Jared Scholz and things like this are important to me. I wouldn't ask to take to it home if it wasn't. Eventually, they just said, "Yeah, whatever, take it, we know where it is."

So, I kind of feel good at that point. The record will be safe with me, where it belongs. I'll document it, I'll cherish it, and I'll archive it. I'm the right person for this record. Then when leaving with my wife, things went South... She's was all, "What is wrong with you?!" "Why did you take that record?!" "It isn't yours?!" Of course, my wife doesn't realize that if I didn't take this home, I may never see another copy. And, every single time I visted my sister in the future, seeing this record would slowly kill me. It would progressively get worse and worse every time I had to look at it until one day I just stole it. Running to my car with a 7" record shoved down my pants feeling guilty and setting a buffer in which I'd visit my sister again. My wife doesn't get that part, but, she was probably right. Total dickmove on my part. And no matter how cool this record is, it's not as cool and great as my new niece.

As for the actual record, I'm mad at my myself for being so unaware in 2003. To justify my theft of the record to my brother-in-law I actually said I wasn't cool in 2003 as if saying so would make him realize that if I was cool in 2003, I'd own this, so somehow, by that logic, he shouldn't feel bad about letting me have it. However, I was actually 'too cool' in 2003 for records like this. At that time I was busy being a mover and shaker at KJHK, probably deeply into ambient Eno music or minimalist 80's synth, not local KC obscurities.

I never was around the scene in 2003 to know Jared tried something new after Reflector broke up. Per the 7", there was a planned full length entitled "Working Toward 2203," which reviewing the interwebs, apparently never saw an actual release. The Trelese, at least based on these two songs, were a toned down Reflector. Less start-stop dynamics and angular paths and more melody in it's place. It's promising and makes me want to go seek out Jared at the Church he preaches at to ask if the rest of the album exists.

Namelessnumberheadman was active up until 2011, maybe they still are, but not to the same extent. The members were native Okie's who moved to KC. They took keyboards and other bits of electronica and combined them with acoustic guitars to generate a significant buzz during their existence. The songs are representative of the band, albeit a very early version. They became well reviewed by Pitchfork and were featured on NPR Music. It sounds very Death Cab for Cutie-esque, but the band was smarter than that, very intelligent with unexpected electronic sounds and acoustic guitars.

Namelessnumberheadman on NPR

Various Artists Eccentric Soul: Smart's Palace Numero Group 2009

Various Artists Eccentric Soul: Smart's Palace Numero Group 2009 CAT# 27

This is a Numero compilation highlighting Wichita Kansas' Smart Brothers along with the artists that played with them at their Wichita, KS club.

The story is pretty surprising and not very well known. Wichita, Kansas soul scene is so obscure the 7"s that are connected to Smart's Palace aren't out of reach for collectors. If found, they bring in around $20, with maybe a few of the dance floor burners edging the $50 range.

The music here is raw. This isn't uptown soul, this isn't even roots driven Southern soul, soul sides. It's working class with tracks that range from the 60's into the 70's. The music changes with the decade and time they were recorded in, however, even the obvious 70s track never get smooth, the music stays raw. Each decade is well worth time on the comp, but if there is a winner, the basement sounds of the 60's sides are impossible to ignore.

As usual, the Numero Group compilation is complete with amazing liner notes telling the story and fantastic packaging. Highly recommended.

Smart's Palace

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Various Artists The Best of Twin Lakes '72 Vermillion Enterprises 1972

Various Artists The Best of Twin Lakes '72 Vermillion Enterprises 1972 CAT #VES-4004A

There's an intro to this record, a female voice over that advises how cool the Twin Lakes Night Club as it features artists such as Anybody's Guess, Sidra and the Performers, the Chadons, and the Music Tree, it leads you to believe that the Twin Lakes Night Club in Wichita, Kansas had more to offer, but, judging by this album, that was it. Those are the only four performers on the compilation.

Lounge records from the 70's can be pretty entertaining, but this ins't offering anything that really jumps out. Occasionally the lounge bands cover a psych track that goes crazy or is just amazing in it's amateurishness. Or, you get a huge drum break that kids like to sample. This LP doesn't have either of those things.

It's still "groovy" to hit on the feel of 1972, like swinging bachelor type stuff. A vibe probably better suited for 1969, but things take a while to get to Wichita, KS. Sidra and the Performers are mildly psychedelic. The band Anybody's Guess does things rather lo-fi and is fairly groovy on their tracks, putting their version of Mel Tillis' "Ruby" on a mixtape or CD wouldn't be out of the question. The rest is mostly miss, nothing unbearable mind you, but no real standouts...The Chadons actually border on awful.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wichita Lineman Live From the Cowboy Lineman Records Unknown Year

Wichita Lineman Live From the Cowboy Lineman Records Unknown Year CAT# NR12516

This band's records are all over and typically, I walk right past. Always curious, but more of a, "I wonder how bad that is?" The group was obviously local to Wichita and based on this LP, did their two-stepping at a bar in Wichita called the The Cowboy, which may or may not still exist in some form or not.

The band just reeks of some sort of tourist trap. Like the Flying W Ranch Cowboy records from Colorado Springs, CO. I figured the way people ended up with one of these LPs is if you were stuck in Wichita, KS on business or inter-state tourism and go to some hokey cowboy place (because, it's the "wild west") and the Wichita Lineman would play you sappy country ballads and Countrypolitan hits of the day in matching suits with rhinestones. You'd be impressed, because you're the type that doesn't like good music or get out much and you'd feel the purchase of a Wichita Lineman LP was a sound investment only to let it sit on the shelf and never be touched again

Listening to the album, there's some of all of that to be found. However, it's a bit more rowdy than what I thought it'd be. The first track, a cover of "Cotton Eyed Joe", chants the word "Bullshit!" over and over. So, maybe The Cowboy was pretty rough. The Lineman don't write their own tracks, at least on this LP, but while all covers, they're not half bad. Even "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" is pretty tasteful. They also cover, "Don't it Make Ya Wanna Dance," which was made famous by Bonnie Raitt and "Louisiana Man", by Doug Kershaw, two popular country artists, but not the typical cover fodder found on a private press country LPs.

All in all, the Lineman are more honky-tonk than they are Nashville Country. They do get corny, they do wear matching suits, but they swear and don't take their tracks lightly. It's more Western than the Country Southern I expected.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Gaslite Gang Paul Gray's Jazz Place Presents Audio House Unknown Year

The Gaslite Gang Paul Gray's Jazz Place Presents Audio House Unknown Year CAT #AHS177F75

This isn't much different than the 1980 release by the same group, in fact the titles are virtually the same, except they spell Gaslite Gang consistently on this LP (additional release). One difference is that Paul Gray opted to release under the Audio House label rather than his own private imprint. By that, its assumed this predates the 1980 release, but it's hard to know for sure as this release isn't dated.

The Gaslite Gang adhere to New Orleans/ragtime styles here, with the exceptions of  a few ballads. The vocal numbers are fun and give you the sense these were just young, fresh out of college guys being hipsters.

It's fairly enjoyable in that it's fun. It won't hurt you to play it a few times. The cover, albeit just an advertisement for Paul Gray's Jazz Place is great in it's simplicity and style. Later, the Jazz Place would be renamed the Jazzhaus and was (last I knew) still situated upstairs in an old downtown building.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mark Meckel Volga German Pageant & Volga German Music M.D.M Productions 1976

Mark Meckel Volga German Pageant Exodus to Freedom 1763-1976 M.D.M Productions 1976 CAT #USR9624

Mark Meckel Volga German Music M.D.M. Productions 1976 CAT #USR 9150

It's taken me probably 3 months to sit through both of these albums...the first one I put on, Volga German Pageant Exodus to Freedom 1763-1976 is pretty boring, at least it seems that way. It's church music. And German. From Hays, KS. But, giving it a little more time, it is a pageant, meant to give an outline of Volga-German music, it's primarly choral, but outside of religious music, does have passed down folk music.

The other LP, Volga German Music is less boring, traditional German music with some gypsy aspects thrown in. It features a violin, organ, accordion and guitar. Not sure those were the instruments of choice back in the old Country, but you know, it works. The waltzes are nice enough.

I picked it up hoping there might be a connection to someone from the band, the Blue Things, seeing how they were also from Hays, KS. I figured I'd connect the dots with a band member, maybe even Val Stoecklien. If there is a connection to be found, I'm not enough of a sleuth to piece it together, another reason I sat on these forever.

What is most interesting about the albums is the apparent rich Volga-German history that can be found in Hays, KS. The records are even copyrighted to the Volga German Centennial Association, so must have been legit. A Volga-German heritage came from Catherine the Great encouraging German immigration into Russia in 1763. The Germans moved, cultivated the land and history says kept their German identity while in Russia. In fact, they were allowed by Russia up into even the Communist era to keep their religions, language and identity. However, once Germany attacked Russia in World War II, the bargain was off. As cultural Germans, they were persecuted as an enemy.

However, that isn't how Volga-Germans ended up in parts of Kansas. Russian Czar, Alexander the II revoked the military exemption from the community in 1871. Groups left to America and arrived in Topeka, KS as early as 1875, primarily to help build railroads. Later, as farmers, they helped develop Kansas as the breadbasket introducing farming techniques used in Russia to yield high amounts of wheat and introduced a seed that could withstand the harsher climates. More amazing is that the community in Hays, KS, as late as 1976, still identified themselves as Volga-German.

***Also of note, Mark Meckel is not the musician in charge here, he appears to be more of the curator of the albums and as such is credited for the title.

Germans from Russia in Kansas

Merritt Owens Advertising Agency "Whistle and Boom" Sound Effect Damon Unknown Year

Merritt Owens Advertising Agency "Whistle and Boom" Sound Effect Damon Acetate Unknown Year No CAT #

This is odd. It's literally just a sound effect. Sounds like the whistle and boom of a firework going off and it repeats 3 times on one side of the record while the other side is blank.

Typically, if you find Damon records, they are custom press gospel records. Some of which are one-of-kind acetates, others that the label provided multiple copies for whoever took advantage of the companies service. This is just an acetate disc of a single sound, obviously used for the advertising firm that purchased it, but the strange thing is why did they need a record of it?

To get the sound to record, it had to be taped, right? So why wasn't the Merritt Owens Advertising Agency just able to use the tape? Odd. Either way, it does appear the Merritt Owens Agency was based in K.C. The Damon label most certainly was.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Boy's Life/Giants Chair Worn Thin B/W Ever Present Split EP HitIt! Recordings 1995

Boy's Life/Giants Chair Worn Thin B/W Ever Present Split EP HitIt! Recordings 1995 CAT#HIT-09

This 7" is so Kansas City...well, except Giants Chair had Wisconsin roots before attending KCAI and HitIt! Recordings was based out of Chicago...but, other than that, you can't get more Kansas City than this.

The bands were both torch carriers for the early, post-hardcore emo sound coming out of Kansas City in the 1990s. Boy's Life took their out of tune guitars and Dischord-esque style a bit more national because ultimately, they were on a better label than Giants Chair. The song "Worn Thin," is a perfect example of the band, strained vocals over the top of so much guitar.

Giants Chair stayed a bit more hidden than Boy's Life nationally, but their sound was equally as influential. The track "Ever Present," displays the band's attacking style. Everything up front, all at once before they take a step back and dismantle the song before bringing it all back together again. It's high energy and stands well on it's own in the context of this single.

Equally as Kansas City about this 7" is the sleeves were done at Hammer Press. The simple, elegant design make it worth every bit of $3 you probably had to pay when it was first released and the $20 you'd have to pay today.

Split 7"

The Sensational Wonders Moving Up Shur Fine Gospel 1986

The Sensational Wonders Moving Up Shur Fine Gospel 1986 CAT# SFG-55031

The back cover of this LP indicates the Sensational Wonders are from the "twin cities of Kansas City (Missouri and Kansas)." Which means that we have singers from both sides of the border and the groups record label never bothered to visit Kansas City. If they had, especially in 1986, they would have realized that Kansas City, Kansas has nothing but the KU Med Center and is at best, Kansas City, Missouri's evil twin.

That aside, these guys provided their own instrumentation and soaring vocals. The production is weighted in 80's slickness, but it's not a terrible album. The Sensational Wonders go from soulful, to a country gospel on this LP. Some solid call and response moments, great vocals, and the group gets pretty fevered on a number of occasions.

Also of note, this LP was released from a Shur Fine Records in Georgia. Indicating the band's gospel reach went a good distance outside the metro area, they were part of a national gospel scene. Not dealing with a privately released church album here.

A much later and younger version of the Sensational Wonders

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cowboy Indian Bear Live Old, Die Young The Record Machine 2013

Cowboy Indian Bear Live Old, Die Young The Record Machine 2013 CAT# TRM 045

The Lawrence based Cowboy Indian Bear recently disbanded in 2014, which is a shame. The band could do a lot with a small budget and a lot of talent, listening to them is like listening to a lo-fi Coldplay, but cooler, with much better songs.

The band certainly doesn't "rock", which is fine, because they find enough soul to keep you interested. Putting on this LP, you're greeted with the atmospheric "Waiting," which is loaded with sounds, and makes you feel like you just got home. It's an inventing opener and a perfect introduction to the albums well thought out soundscapes and experiments in post-modernism.

You look at the cover of 'Live Old, Die Young' and see four Lawrence, KS hipsters and you're going to make obvious assumptions, some of which may be right, but there's so much more going on here. The obvious assumption is the current Eno/Radiohead/post-rock fascinations hip with all the kids. But, what's unexpected is this slick, well-produced 80's modern-soul vibe you can get from the record. Partially due to the soulful vocals, but there's a dance element hidden among all the noodling on guitars, electronic experimentation, and layered harmonies. It keeps it more interesting than other bands of the same ilk.

And again, the album feels like home. It's effortless and comfortable.

Let it Down 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chris Connor Witchcraft Atlantic 1959

Chris Connor Witchcraft Atlantic 1959 CAT# SD-8032

Kansas City born jazz singer Chris Connor had a pretty impressive career that's largely forgotten. There's still a click of female jazz vocalist enthusiasts (all of whom would be familiar with Connor), but names like June Christy and Julie London tend to be the only ones you still see in print.

This album placed Connor with arranger Richard Wess who surrounded her with a big band and some string arrangements. It's a decent pairing that allowed her to retain her smokey torch style while embracing pop elements that aren't as obvious in her prior work.

Also, let's be honest, the cover is incredible. The font, the early Atlnatic logo and the colors throughout the picture of the eye. It's top-notch and yet another reason things like old LPs are infinitely cooler than CDs.

When Sunny Gets Blue

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bloodstone Natural High London 1972

Bloodstone Natural High London 1972 CAT# XPS 620

Per everyone else, this is Bloodstone's finest moment, the title track, "Natural High," put the band on the map. Unfortunately, the hit tune didn't open the floodgates for future chart toppers, everyone just kept playing the same song.

However, the Kansas City band's entire 70's output is on par with other soul acts. Polished sounds, sweet vocals and harmonies, and taking moments to get a little more funky than some of their contemporaries. This album is no different, definite highlights outside the hit song and some material that could have been more inspired.

The hit though, "Natural High," it is about as close to perfect you can get to in the 70's soul ballad arena. Beautiful harmonies and vocals, seductive backdrop, just an amazing love song.

Natural High

Monday, October 12, 2015

Secret Handshakes The Record Machine/Golden Sound Records 2012

Secret Handshakes The Record Machine/Golden Sound Records 2012 CAT#GSRM001

This was a local Record Store Day release met with little to no fanfare upon it's release in 2012, because let's be honest, independent labels can't do things on Record Store Day, it's for the major labels.

Nevertheless, The Record Machine teamed up with Golden Sound Records to put out this limited and colored vinyl compilation of groups from the labels' rosters. It's got a screened cover and is clever in it's simplicity. It looks and feels limited. Yet, despite the labels attempt to get on the RSD thing in 2012, you can still grab a copy with ease in 2015.

The Record Machine side is filled with the label's breezy indie-pop sounds. The La Guerre track, "23," is stellar and a huge stand out. Another definite highlight is the Akkiles track, "She's Alright," which is sparse, haunting and has addictive phrasing you can't get out of your head, The whole side is worth checking out, just to experience this tiny KC label's cohesive sound and identity.

The Golden Sound Records side isn't as cohesive, but filled with great tunes all the same. The fist track, "Hot Bright Night" by Everyday/Everynight is filled with a lot of directions, but it's grandiose and worth repeated listens. The Caves track, "Liars," has a pretty great groove and power-pop moves. It also features the Baby Teardrops, which is a Matt Dunehoo (of Proudentall) fronted band formed in New York, I mention it because that guy is dedicated and it's good to see him get a song out there now and again.

Overall, great listen and worth owning. I'm sure since it's now 2015, either label would take $10 and send you one if you asked nicely (currently selling for $12 at TRM).

Soundcloud TRM Side

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Marilyn Maye The Lamp Is Low RCA Victor 1966

Marilyn Maye The Lamp Is Low RCA Victor 1966 CAT# LSP-3626

This was the second LP released by Kansas City vocalist Marilyn Maye in 1966. It attempted to drench her in ballads and to that extent, it doesn't work too well. Her voice is a too big for torch songs and ballads. Maye was better suited for uptempo tunes and theater.

What I love about the copy I found is the fact that it shows how proud people were of the Kansas Citian. I picked it up at a thrift store and whoever had it before kept it like a trophy; it's minty. And not because the prior owner couldn't get down with the tunes, but because Marilyn Maye signed the LP. Maye's autograph is personalized on the backside and reads the following:

"Love to you, Marion. Enjoyed spending the afternoon with you. Thank you for all your help and bless you for enjoying my kinda music. Happiness and all that's marvelous - Marilyn Maye."

I don't know who Marion was, but he or she certainly cherished this LP and whatever relationship they had with Maye. Marion even cut out a magazine review for the LP and taped it to the inner sleeve. What's sad is as much as Marion cherised the LP, years later, it was sadly discarded at a thrift store...I'm just happy I found it.

The Lamp is Low

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils It'll Shine When It Shines A&M 1974

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils It'll Shine When It Shines A&M 1974 CAT# SP-36

This album contains the Daredevils standout, yacht-rock hit, "Jackie Blue." It still sounds strange in the context of the band's music. They try so hard to be down-home and roots driven rock n' roll. They step heavily into country and bluegrass and keep a live sound. Then, out of nowhere, "Jackie Blue" with its smoothness and cocaine perfection. You'd guess the band was from Los Angeles and not in between Springfield, Missouri and Kansas City.

From there, the Daredevils do what they do. Play around with rock n' roll and traditional roots music. There's a  track entitled, "Kansas You Fooler," which seems to recall the bitter Kansas-Missouri rivalry, However, this appears to be a coming to terms with Kansas after leaving Colorado, seeing all the flatness of Western, Kansas is kind of peaceful. Another highlight is the track, "E.E. Lawson," which is this driving bass rhythm with truck stop vocals telling the story, it's a bit novelty, but clever. Overall, the LP is a strong effort worth repeated listens.

Jackie Blue

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shiner Starless Private 2000/2015

Shiner Starless Private 2000/2015 NO CAT#

This album was originally released as a CD on Owned & Operated Recordings in 2000. It was the third album in the Shiner catalog and I remember having it and being bored by it. I had loved Splay, tolerated Lula Divinia, but didn't have the patience for this album.

Looking back, I was in college when it was released and trying to understand complex subjects in class, I didn't want any complication in my music. I was feeling the lo-fi scene featuring Pavement, power-pop of the late-70's, and punk rock. I didn't have to think about that music, that stuff was plug and play. And, if I did have to concentrate on tunes, it was at KJHK and by the year 2000, post-hardcore had run it's course in the college radio scene. I just thought I had to have some sort of persona. I used to like Shiner, but couldn't anymore. They were like Rush at this point, way too old-man rock.

Looking back, I'm a bit embarrassed by that version of me. I had lot more of my own pretensions than this album has. Sure, it's math-y and each song is like an equation that only makes sense upon it's conclusion, but, its got a lot of depth and emotion to go along with it. Listening to it now, I get why they were big in Chicago and signed to a label owned and operated by post-hardcore darling, Jawbox frontman, J. Robbins. It's cause they were pretty great.

This new reissue was put out by the band themselves, vinyl only on blue/white splattered vinyl. The colored effect does go well with the original artwork which is greatly enhanced by the size of the cover. The pale guy in the suit and crown standing over a skyline looks much more grand staring at a LP jacket versus squinting at the old CD liner. Got to think Shiner may be able to get the rights to give the same treatment to Lula Divinia and Splay at some point. The doors are closed at DeSoto with Dischord only paying attention to the Jawbox catalog. I'd hope J. Robbins is a cool enough guy that he'd just let Shiner do what they want if asked.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Mates of State Mountaintops Barsuk Records 2011

Mates of State Mountaintops Barsuk Records 2011 CAT# BARK119LP

The first track, "Palomino", is quite the statement piece from Mates of State. It's huge piece of refined pop. It's cinematic and you've probably heard it in commercials or on the radio, it's that kind of thing. Then, right after that, the husband and wife duo hit you again with the track, "Maracas", which is just as perfect. Just a bouncy rhythm, catchy lyrics, and it'll give you an immediate sugar rush.

And, if you only had the album for those two songs, it wouldn't be a bad thing. However, the whole LP is filled with hits. Gone are the chaotic back and forth of their duo's first albums, this features a full band and a much more focused sound. The kids, they hate it, they still want the bashed out sounds and shouted vocals. But, there's nothing wrong with enjoying this album, it's like finally admitting you like Fleetwood Mac. Sure, some of your cool points are lost, but at least you're being honest with yourself.

Palamino Video

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Beginning Self-Titled Sound Research Production 1972

The Beginning Self-Titled Sound Research Production 1972 CAT#NR2049

This is incredible. From what can be gathered from the back liner notes, the players featured are members of the Garden City, KS High School Music program and the album was cut at some time around 1972.

While most albums of this ilk spend time covering church music, fight songs and an occasional Beatles song, this goes WAY beyond. Of course, they do a Beatles cover and other pop hits of the era (in fact, the Beginning takes their name from the Chicago track which they cover to open the album). But, there's an original here, with fuzzed out guitar solos and high school amateur charm. Despite that the teen garage scene was a memory by 1972, these kids from Garden City apparently didn't get the message.

The liners indicate also the selections found on the two LP set were arranged by some ringers. A music major from Drake University, Max Lyon. A music major at Wichita State, Cort McClaren. As well as a member of the Colorado Air Force band, John T. Lawson, Jr. However, everything is played by the students at the Garden City High School and was recorded in Liberal, Kansas at likely the only nearby studio.

The album should be worth $100's for the efforts of Bryan Larson, who the liners indicate was a Garden City High School Junior at the time of the record. His guitar cuts across all the fluff. Second, he arranged a portion of the album, which starts on Side 2 with Jimi Hendrix's "You've Got Me Floatin'," which for 1972 anywhere Kansas just had to be 'what the fuck.' He then leads the band through a garage-driven version of the James Gang's "Funk #49." And as cool as those two selections are, the orinigal tune credited to Larson is the highlight of the album. A 15 minute and 55 second track entitled "Rats Running through the Garbage" that takes up most Side 3 is amazing. First, simply because the band instructor allowed it. Second, it's 15 minutes of a kid just freaking out on his guitar. At times the track sounds straight evil. It does get lost a number of times, but it's forgiven just for the inspiration the kids are playing with on it.

As for the cover selections, they aren't all mind blowing, but there are some pretty incredible covers. The cover of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain," is drug riddled, with interesting vocal harmonies and a trippy attempt at making a guitar sound like a sitar. Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" sounds tiny compared to the original, but the amateur quality is enduring and there's a big chunky bass line and nifty guitar lines.  Not all the cover selections hit, but it makes up for it with unexpected drum breaks and fuzz guitar solos you'd expect from 1967 teens, not 1970's teens from Western Kansas.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Dillards Tribute to the American Duck Poppy 1973

The Dillards Tribute to the American Duck Poppy 1973 CAT# PP-LA175-F

Looking at the back of this LP, the first thing you'll notice is that there is really only one Dilllard in the Dillards on this LP. However, Independence, Missouri native, Dean Webb was still going strong with the band.

It's not a very strong LP, but, it's not terrible. The band was continuing to try come up with a nice mixture of pop/rock and bluegrass, like a more homespun version of the country-rock genre. They win some, they lose some, but their harmonies remained great.

In addition to the band minus a Dillard, there are quite a few guest spots throughout the album, most noticeably, John Hartford on fiddle. Outside of some decent players, the band goes down some odd paths here in there, the experimentation can be interesting.

Music is Music (ignore the incorrect album cover)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Giants Chair Hot Boy Caulfied Records 1993

Giants Chair Hot Boy Caulfied Records 1993 NO CAT#

This, in the history of obscure KC related 45s, is up there at the top of the list. At the time of it's release in 1993, Giants Chair was still holding fort in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They hadn't come down to the Kansas City Art Institute and weren't well, art-damaged yet. This 7" is just some kids trying to make a record.

The songs featured here, "Commoncold" and "Weed Roses" aren't as filled with left turns and all the indie-rock tendencies bands draw themselves into. It's not better or worse for it, it's just a little more simple than what they'd go onto to do later. It's still aggressive, still has start-stop dynamics, but it's a clearer where they were taking you on the tunes. Also, on a side note, Giant's Chair was never an "emo" band, they came before it, but man, this sounds super-emo, especially "Weed Roses."

Hot Boy 7"

Season To Risk Mine Eyes B/W Why See Straight Columbia/Red Decibel 1993

Season To Risk Mine Eyes B/W Why See Straight Columbia/Red Decibel 1993 CAT# CS7 74888

Somewhere in the late-70's 45s became terribly boring and featured songs that were available on a full-length LP. Both tracks featured here were on Season To Risk's self-titled debut. While a 45 is cool for the completest, this isn't that necessary.

Both songs sound angry and dated today. There's that Jesus Lizard megaphone singing, which in 93' was still kind of cool, now it just sounds cliche. Letting "Why See Straight" stand by itself is kind of fun, though. There's some cool moments and ideas, the band gets a little lighter on the chorus harmony, showing they weren't always so metal about everything. "Mine Eyes" was an attempt at a single, it played around here. Sure it got love in other spots, but again, sounds dated now-a-days.

Mine Eyes

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Soft Reeds W/ Minden Split 7” Magic B/W Get Clean The Record Machine 2011

Soft Reeds W/ Minden Split 7” Magic B/W Get Clean The Record Machine 2011 CAT# TRM 038

I can’t get into the Soft Reeds…the song, “Magic,” is no different. It’s catchy and all, it’s just got too much flashy tricks, it sounds way too Republic Tigers, which to me, isn’t that Kansas City. But yeah, I'd spin it at a bar or something.

Minden is on the flip side and also a Kansas City band. They do, at least on this 7”, take a more lo-fi approach than the Soft Reeds, but it’s in the same vein of the atmospheric indie-rock.

Either way, it’s a nice 7” by the Record Machine, apparently limited and like anything limited, on colored vinyl.

Rodney Lay Coffeyville at 100 B/W The Ballad of Dalton Raid Layork Publishing 1969

Rodney Lay Coffeyville at 100 B/W The Ballad of the Dalton Raid Layork Publishing 1969 CAT# CS 196

This is an odd 7” celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Coffeyville, KS. Which, despite Coffeyville’s near nowhere status, has a fairly substantial history…whether a souvenir 7” was needed is up for debate, but there are some interesting stories to tell.

Rodney Lay, a Coffeyville native, attempts to tell a few of those stories. Lay was Coffeyville native who became a regional hit as a DJ. That led him to a tour with the famed Wanda Jackson in the 60’s. He also landed a small role in the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid which starred Kris Kristofferson. From there, he began working as the band director for country artist, Roy Clark, and fronting his own band. He did help to pen a few country tunes scattered throughout the Nashville scene and score some minor hits of his own throughout the 80s.

His tribute to Coffeyville is a bit amateur, though. “Coffeyville at 100,” could have talked about the town’s rich history, but rather, it’s just Lay rattling off what happened at the centennial celebration week. The flip side, “The Ballad of the Dalton Raid”, is cowboy-style, story song singing the history of how the Dalton’s were stopped in Coffeyville by the authorities. The same story is discussed in an Eagles song, “Doolin’ Dalton.” No matter what song you select, great story with legend advising it wasn't just the authorities that stopped the Daltons, but the settlers of Coffeyville took the matter into their own hands, laying 4 of the Dalton’s down, but miraculously, with  23 gunshot wounds, Emmett Dalton survived and was charged for his crimes.

The Mitchells to God, the Glory (In Honor of Our Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary) Unknown Year

The Mitchells to God, the Glory (In Honor of Our Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary) Unknown Year Cat# AHSPLS 17272

This is pretty much the definition of a custom press. I was done to honor a 50th Wedding anniversary for Mrs. & Mr. Mitchell. Pressed by Lawrence’s Audio House custom label.

Couldn't have been an insane amount pressed, possibly only 50, possibly up to 100 to be shared with the family. Which questions why this copy was found in an Arkansas thrift store, you’d think you’d hold onto such a nifty family heirloom. It does feature a nice photo of the couple in front of their old-timey car on the cover. Also, just for fun, it was pressed on blue vinyl.

As far as what’s on the album, well, pretty boring Christian stuff. However, apparently the Mitchells did have some pull/clout. The album is introduced by former Senator Arden Booth who along with serving as senator founded Lawrence radio station KLWN/KLZR and served as a radio personality. His story draws the Mitchells into the Lawrence, KS where they made their home. But, he gives a substantial history of the extended family.

Other than that, it’s just Christian church music. Not even creepy white gospel music…just vocal hymns.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kathlyn Conroy Jessica and Nathan Reusch Wedding Flexi-disc May 24th, 2014

Kathlyn Conroy Jessica and Nathan Reusch Wedding Flexi-disc May 24th, 2014 NO CAT#

While I should probably discuss Cowboy, Indian, Bear before I jump into this, it's great and I due to the hassle of playing a flexidisc, I'm jumping in on this.

Kathlyn Conroy is a member of Cowboy, Indian, Bear and fronts her solo-project, La Guerra. Both of which are great, however, La Guerra isn't on vinyl, just CD. Nathan Reusch is an old friend and founder of The Record Machine . His label threw out a 5 LP bundle at a site called, Sound Supply and I wanted in on it, but had a couple of the featured records. I asked Nathan if rather than sending me dupes he could throw a few 45s I didn't have, and he threw this at me.

It was done as a party favor for his wedding. Kathlyn Conroy does an amazing rendition of the Christian hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing". It was penned in 1757 and typically centered around a folk backdrop. Conroy throws atmospheric keyboard sounds and her echoed distant voice on top, it's beautiful. The second track, Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End" has been covered many times. Most of the covers help to showcase what a remarkable songwriter Johnston is, Conroy's is no different. She drops a single guitar line, more atmospheric synth sounds and her distant voice, it's very clever.

Count Basie and the Kansas City 7 MCA/Impulse! 1986/1962

Count Basie and the Kansas City 7 MCA/Impulse! 1986/1962 (repress) CAT# MCA-5656

Pretty clever album with Count Basie and smaller ensemble...7 as the title implies. It was originally released on the legendary Impulse! label in 1962 and is typically referred to as one of Basie's best outings from the 60s.

This is a MCA Impulse! reissue from the 80's, I guess when Blue Note, Impulse!, and Jazz saw a brief form of coolness in again in the mid-80's. It's a nice pressing, remastered, but it's easy to pick up clean and sounds just fine, although, any snob would tell you an original is the only way to go.

As for the Kansas City 7, it's mostly a namesake and a nod to where Count Basie got his cool from. However, flutist Frank Wess was a native Kansas Citian. Further, most the players did spend time with Basie at his peak in the 50's and throughout the time Basie called KC his home.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Appleseed Cast Mare Vitalis Graveface/Deep Elm 2015

Appleseed Cast Mare Vitalis Graveface/Deep Elm 2015 CAT# GRAVE032

Been on the hunt for this for a long time. There’s an original, then a reissue, both put out in limited pressing and both of which typically cost near the $100 mark. They’re available, I just don’t want to front that kind of change.

Initially, I was pretty stoked to hear about this Graveface 20 year anniversary repress, then it turns out they only put out 150 on black vinyl and an additional 150 on some goofy splatter vinyl. Second, it was like the thing was never on sale. I tried going to the Graveface website on the supposed release date and it was nowhere to be found. I believe it was sold out through pre-order and Graveface subscriptions. Next thing I knew, it’s on the internets for $75. Luckily, I was able to grab one without being to ripped-off, I was willing to spend the $50 someone asked for the copy I know have.
Fortunately, I got straight black vinyl, because splatter, colored or picture discs don’t really excite me like they do some people. In fact, they kind of piss me off. There’s people that spend upwards of $100 on a single album to own all variants? Why? What good does it do anyone to have 5 copies of the same album regardless of what it looks like?

Anyway, I’m glad to have a single copy of this LP. The second track, “Fishing the Sky” is the best thing the band ever did. I’d pay $50 for just that song. However, the whole album is 10 steps ahead of their debut, The End of Ring Wars.

For one, the band added Kansas Native, Josh Baruth, a.k.a. “Cobra”, on drums. His work took the band to another level. He’s a surgeon back on the set. He practically own the album. I’d give him all the credit for the LP, but the band’s songs were also improved.
The tracks put together are still heavy on the emo-side, paying homage to Sunny Day Real Estate and the band’s personal favorite, Mineral. However, there’s experimentation going on, noodling, and feedback throughout. The band was nearing their sound. But, they almost perfected the emo-version of themselves here. No one would have been upset if they decided to stay.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kerry Livgren Seeds of Change Kirshner 1980

Kerry Livgren Seeds of Change Kirshner 1980 CAT# NJZ 36567

Kerry Livgren was a founder of Topeka's finest, Kansas. He was a fundamental part of the band and behind their biggest successes. So, apparently, that meant make a solo-album, in 1980, when people stopped caring about Kansas. Coincidentally, in 1980, Livgren was still an active member of the band, this LP even features the likes of Steve Walsh and Phil Ehart just to prove things were still on the up and up.

It's ambitious, but that doesn't make it good. There's all sorts of synth and prog-rock moves, but honestly, the best parts of Kansas weren't about the prog-rock. It's also got some 80's pomp-rock metal moves, but who has time for that.

It features a pretty impressive cast of fill-ins as well, Ronnie James Dio sings a couple tracks (they sound super metal, bro), there's a member of Jethro Tull, and some dudes from Ambrosia as well. So not your A-Team by any means, but for Topeka, that's pretty solid.

Apparently, there's also a book Livgren wrote surrounding the concepts found within the album. If it's about the cover, which shows a fetus being extracted from a diamond with a razor blade... it's probably the best book in the history of the world, who doesn't want to read about that, right?

Kerry Livgren with Ronnie James Dio

Sunday, July 26, 2015

James Brown Live At the Garden King 1967

James Brown Live At the Garden King 1967 CAT# 1018

Have not wrote in this thing for ages...been busy and shit. So I figured the best artist to blog about is a guy who lived at or near KC for like 30 minutes per an obscure interview that was cited by the label, Numero Group.

This LP is pretty great, it's the soulful James Brown before he went straight funk. Odd thing about James Brown records, they are almost always beat to death. You find them, get excited, look at it and the vinyl is tore up and barely playable.

They were party records. You put on James Brown when you wanted to get down with friends. Which also meant you were probably tipping a few back with friends. Which means, especially when records weren't thought of as fetish items, people just took them right off the platter and probably laid them on stack of other played through records, no sleeve or inner. Just out there, getting torn up.

Here's the thing though, that all makes sense; party records. But, next time you're out digging, look at a popular Joni Mitchell album. It's also tore up. Odd, because unlike James Brown, Joni isn't for partying. I have this romantic notion that it is because some girl in the 70's got her heart broken and for comfort, just played the crap out of Joni Mitchell...but, Joni is not from KC, not even for 30 minutes like Brown, so I'm not going into how great she is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Truth of Truths Oak Records 1971

Truth of Truths Oak Records 1971 CAT# OR1001

This is a pretty extravagant and ambitious rock-opera, double LP put out in 1971 by Oak Records. It seems the main force behind the album is a Texan, Ray Ruff, who founded a couple of labels and had a few 45 releases way back when. What brings it to this blog though is the inclusion of some of Val Stoecklien's last released work. While he wouldn't take his own life until 1993 and was known to be cutting demos up until that time, none of those demos have seen the light of day. The six tracks featured here pretty much conclude his catalog along with his contributions to Ecology's Environment/Evolution as a songwriter (pulled along by Ruff).

The reason for Val's inclusion on this LP is Ruff along with arranger, Dick Hieronymus. Both Ruff and Hieronymus worked on Stoecklein's solo effort, The Grey Life. Apparently, they believed in him enough to take him along on any release he was willing to work on.

As a whole, the rock opera is surprisingly good. Again, the primary forces were the same that worked on The Grey Life, so you had pros working on a release for a small label, perhaps past their prime and a bit too willing go in any direction, it's a varied release that hops from psychedelic soul, to gospel, to some straight psych freak outs and back to commonplace pop sounds of 1971, but it works and has it's highlights. It is of course over the top religious. The album predictably separates it's story into the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament". Like most things Christian, it takes what it wants from the Torah and the Holy Bible and only sounds focused when going into the Gospels. It also features a deep voice over when G-d speaks on the album which is trite and stupid.
Album comes with a pretty nifty insert lyric sheet.

Stoecklein's tracks are interesting. His arrangement on "Joseph, Beloved Son of Israel" is jangly and very Blue Things-esque. His adaptation and arrangement of "The Ten Commandments" is bizarre and more of a filler on the LP. However, the following track, "Song of the Children of Israel (Exodus)" is stunning and beautiful, despite that the song should be a party-track (freed from Egypt, here, man) there's a definite sadness that touches on his work as a solo-artist. The following track, "David to Bathsheba" is centered around a pretty odd Biblical story and it's odd to find it somewhere like this album. The tune dripping in sappiness and works in the sense that a Eric Carmen song is kind of enjoyable, but you sense it was a track Val had put away for another purpose but  transformed into something he found in the Bible, making it a feel awkward. His track, "The Last Supper," is sparse and continues with the melancholy feel of most his tracks found here, it's also surprisingly true to the Gospels, so good job on the source materiel, Val. His final track featured on the LP is entitled "Resurrection," so you know it's near the end of the album. It's a pretty uplifting jam, arranged by someone and only written by Stoecklein, it features a bunch of horns, bells and strings along with a female lead vocalists, so it's not easy to identify it as something Stoecklien would have done, but it's solid.

Joseph, Beloved Son of Israel

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blue Riddim Band Restless Spirit Flying Fish 1981

Blue Riddim Band Restless Spirit Flying Fish 1981 CAT# FF255

Blue Riddim Band is the long-lost reggae band from Kansas City...which doesn't make them legendary, amazing or even all that great. Being the best reggae band form Kansas City is basically the equivalent of being the best figure skater from Jamaica, there's not a lot of competition for the title.

I was first made aware of the Blue Riddim Band while selling an old AR turntable on Craigslist. The gentlemen buying it offered $50, so I took a nibble and asked for a record he wasn't attached too. He asked what I was into, I explained I was on the hunt for odd local stuff, he advised the only thing he had that was local was really odd and showed me the live Blue Riddim Band LP. He explained it was a bunch of guys from Kansas City doing reggae. I was pretty intrigued by the idea of a reggae band from KC but when I asked if he'd let it go, he couldn't (I grabbed a nice copy of a Fleetwood Mac LP instead).

So, Blue Riddim was on the list from that point. The next time I heard someone talk about the group was in thrift store after sparking up a conversation with some old guy holding the self-titled Missouri LP. The topic of local music started and this guy went off about how great the Blue Riddim Band was. How he'd seen them live and how amazing they were. How Blue Riddim should've been bigger than UB40. And, on and on. Dude loved the Blue Riddim Band.

After finding a copy and giving it a listen, though, I think the novelty is what people love most. The music is acceptable, it's well performed, the players are fine. However, for reggae, it's pretty MOR. The UB40 comparison isn't bad, although, UB40 took a pop-music approach to reggae whereas the Blue Riddim Band wanted to make sure they hit on everything under the reggae umbrella, like a rocksteady song, a ska song, a roots song, etc. Despite that, Blue Riddim sounds just as white as UB40. However, if I spun this blind would never guess they were from Kansas City and 1800 miles from an Ocean, so on that account, good job Blue Riddim.

Rock It Sister

Monday, June 8, 2015

Randle Chowning Band Hearts On Fire A&M Records 1978

Randle Chowning Band Hearts On Fire A&M Records 1978 CAT #SP-4715

Upon the first break up of the mighty Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Randle Chowning, the band's singer and likely leader branched out on his own to record this LP. Chowning stayed with his management team (or maybe his management team stayed with him), Good Karma Productions and actually appears to have relocated to Kansas City for this part of his career. The band lists their contact address as 4218 Main Street, KCMO.

He's joined by some other dudes, who I can't find much on. Assume they were friends from the Springfield area, maybe KC guys, but for all we know, could have just been L.A. session guys. He put them all together to make under-the-radar yacht rock LP. Under the radar because no one cared about it, yacht rock because to this day, no one cares about it.

It's not awful, it has moves and has pleasant moments. Unfortunately, it's not very good, either. Middle of the road pomp from 1978, it's what'd you expect from an obscure major label release no one knows exists.

Within A Dream

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Gaslight Gaslite Gang 1980 Private 1980

Some pretty hip outfits and sweet facial hair.
The Gaslight Gaslite Gang 1980 Private 1980 NO CAT#

Paul Gray was a KU undergrad from 1965 to 1969. He started this group and opened his own Jazz House in 1972, later which was renamed the Jazzhaus. Paul Gray fronted his own house band and led a small Lawrence Jazz scene during the time. The band actually did get some pub, appearing on an early reality TV show titled 'Your All-American College Show' plus were featured on an Andy Griffith TV Special, but, never made any major label recordings.

The group is pretty standard, swing and bop, nothing groundbreaking. Sometimes they get a bit New Orleans and Dixie, but I find the band more rooted in the KC Swing sound. What's funny about the release is the multiple errors that adorn the jacket and label. For one, according to the cover, the LP is by the Gaslight Gang and titled, Paul Gray's Jazz Place Proudly Present the Gaslight Gang. The backside, shows an over-the-top bio and would have you believe the title of the album is Gassing With Gray. Yet, the title I'm going to use here is the the record label, which simply states Gaslite Gang 1980 (notice, the change in the spelling of Gaslight).
 It's a pleasant, easy to listen to live recording.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Langston Hughes Rhythms of the World Folkways Records 1955

Langston Hughes Rhythms of the World Folkways Records 1955 CAT# FC 7340

The fact that Folkways Records saw enough importance in Langston Hughes' poetry to record it is a pretty fantastic thing. The Lawrence, KS raised poet's voice is now with us, reading in his soft, but confident voice, some of the very poems that made him famous. This album is based and contains parts of his bock, "The First Book of Rhythms", by Hughes.

As the title implies, it's rhythmic poetry and the recording contains numerous sound effects to provide examples of rhythm. From a Kentucky folk song, to washboard, to just nature sounds, it's all used here to empathize the music in poetry.

The album was designed for children. In fact, this copy was once housed in the Somerset School Library of Overland Park, KS. The school no longer exists, but I imagine the record left the library long before it closed its doors. The idea of school children sitting in a circle around a tiny little record player, listening to Langston Hughes, that's a pretty great thought.

Rhythms of the World

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Marcy Tinger Marcy Sings Nursery Rhymes Word 1967

Marcy Tigner Marcy Sings Nursery Rhymes Word 1967 CAT# K-702

There is a full post on the artist behind the ventriloquist doll, Little Marcy or by this LP, simply Marcy. The voice was Marcy Tigner who prior to going to the great Northwest for music fame was a Wichita, Kansas native. Prior to putting out a kajillion weirdo children's religious albums, she actually did a few albums of her own as a trombone player.

All her Little Marcy albums (and there's an insane amount) are equally as creepy and in today are awful confusing. Why was the idea of a ventriloquist doll on record a good thing? Isn't the entertainment value in watching the actual ventriloquist hide their vocals?

Anyway, as far as Little Marcy's deep catalog is concerned, this is the album that gets the hype. Pretty sure it was once featured on David Letterman's Dave's Record Collection bit and it's also the topic of numerous blog posts. It doesn't have the creepy stage banter between the actual Marcy Tigner and her doll as the album is just the doll doing well-known nursery rhymes with basic back musical drops (oddly all of which are copyrighted despite being open to everyone even in 1967). What it does have though is the a rendition of "I Love Little Pussy." Because, as a traditional nursery rhyme, "I Love Little Pussy" already ranks up there with the best dick and fart jokes, but a creepy doll singing it, that's next level stuff.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Butterglory Wait For Me Merge 1995

Butterglory Wait For Me Merge 1995 CAT# mrg084

This is both early Merge Records and early Butterglory. It's almost hard to believe that given Merge's current roster with the likes of Arcade Fire, that Butterglory would be on the label if they came out today. The release itself is number 84 on Merge's catalog. It's so simple and a far way away from the label's current glossy looks. The sleeve is just a folded over piece of paper that's screen pressed. The two 7"s included though, they were pressed on virgin vinyl, which in 1995, might have been the only option considering record plants were becoming fewer and fewer, but, let's just call it the early-era of Merge quality.

This release lists Visalia, California as home to Butterglory, so it pre-dates their dominance on the Lawrence Lo-Fi scene (which, never really existed, but you know). The formula was still the same back then for the band. Matt Suggs and Debbie Vander Wall cutting out some clever lo-fi pop tunes with some help from whoever was willing. They sound a lot like Pavement without the unexpected blasts of guitar and feedback. There are other elements, Debbie's plaintive vocals give the tunes a Moe Tucker Velvets feel. And Suggs is a witty songwriter, just at this time, pretty enamored by the lo-fi scene. All four songs are worth owning, even if you're not a completest, the EP is worth picking up if you happen upon it.

And, maybe Merge would still take a chance on Matt and Debbie's lazy brand of pop music. The label has certainly supported Matt Suggs throughout his career. They've also championed their back catalog recently so maybe a Butterglory retrospective is in order soon. (Would also be sweet to have that White Whale LP and Suggs' solo efforts on vinyl).


Shyboys Life is Peachy B/W Follow the Leader High Dive Records 2014

Shyboys 45 EP High/Dive Records 2014 CAT# HDR005

If I had the energy to continually get up and flip sides, I would wear this 45 out. More lo-fi, Beach Boys influenced pop from Kansas City's Shyboys.

"Life is Peachy" on side A is perfect. It may be lifted or have some borrowed chord progressions, but soaked in all this honesty and lo-fidelity, it doesn't really matter. Things are fast, the drums sound trashy, and the guitars twang. But, those sun-drenched whispered vocals and harmonies, that's the sweet spot. Just makes you want to play it again and again.

The B-Side, "Follow the Leader", isn't on the same level as "Life is Peachy," but it's a solid tune. Slow and drenched in the same type of thing that makes the A-Side great. It's just a bit too long for it's own good, but the length gives it a super-lazy Sunday vibe which is kinda nice.

Life Is Peachy

Dogs? Self-Titled Dogs? Records 1985

Dogs? Self-Titled Dogs? Records  1985 CAT# SRK 15117

This is pretty lame. 5 dudes with fancy hair and glamour shots doing some pomp-rock. Giving it a nod towards new-wave or power-pop would be generous. It's produced well and the sound quality is fantastic for a private LP, the songs are just boring and swamped in 80's trends. The fact that it's only 5 songs is the best part as you don't have to suffer through much.

As a band, they all seem pretty capable. Most of the members did other things around town. Stan Hartman the drummer is notable for being in Parlor Frogs who appeared on a Fresh Sounds Live in Lawrence comp. The link below indicates the singer, Jerry Sumner, was in the marginally cool band Clocks. But, what this appears to be is a bunch of fairly talented locals putting together a cash-in attempt. Super slick production, the handsome photos on the backside, the roller rink panty-dropper tunes... I imagine they put this together with hopes of signing onto a major, doesn't look like it worked, but good on the Dogs? for trying.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Casket Lottery Real Fear No Sleep Records 2012

The Casket Lottery Real Fear No Sleep Records 2012 CAT# NSR063

This was released almost decade after the previous Casket Lottery LP, so in that regard, it can be called a comeback album. Listening to it, it can certainly feel that way. It's not as angry and aggressive as the prior albums. It takes in a much wider array of influences. It's more sophisticated than the prior work. Skill sets have changed and the band explores it.

This all sounds great, but to the kids stuck in early 2000s emo-bubbles, it's just okay. Even though the fans of the band have likely grown-up, that's not what they want out of their high school heroes. At this point, the Casket Lottery are in their 30's, long gone are the teenage problems they screamed about over the course of several albums. They probably have kids now and wives (or divorces) and relationships centered around adult problems, not teenage drama. It's an age where just out of fucking nowhere, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco make all the sense in the world. Punk rock politics seem trivial and you start to realize Fugazi (despite being incredible at any age) isn't the only band that matters.

It all shows on this LP. It's great, just like everything Casket Lottery did, the quality is here. Further, it's improved. The songs are spaced out, the groove is considered and the band attempts to crossover their punk influences into new tricks and influences works to a great extent. But, unfortunately, their fans wanted Moving Mountains Mach 2. So despite never losing their sound, only maturing, this album is doomed to be lesser Casket Lottery by the band's fans. Which is fine, I just hope when they get into Wilco, they give this another chance.

In the Branches

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils Self-Titled A&M 1973

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils Self-Titled A&M 1973 CAT# 0598

There's like a kajillion guys in this band, enough to keep them going long after this debut in some form or another. Pretty sure you can still see them play around town every month.

The group was formed in Springfield, MO, thus the band name, Ozark Mountain Dare Devil. Their Kansas City connection lies in their management, Good Karma Productions, the same that managed Brewer & Shipley, Danny Cox, and a few other locals. Further, they were discovered by Brewer & Shipely while playing the Cowtown Ballroom in KC. So there KC roots are legit.

The music is pretty Springfield, though. It's not bluegrass or hillbilly, but it uses the mountain influences. You'd probably be better off buying a Dillards LP if you want the real stuff. But, the Daredevils blended some old-time sounds into a modern pop format. Their sound played to everyone, they could open for anyone with their brand of stoner-country. Also, worth pointing out, this LP did have the minor-hit, "If You Wanna Get to Heaven," which is a pretty solid good-ol' boy tune.

Black Sky
Daredevils-LIVE. Look at these fuckin' hipsters

Lander Ballard Hightime Free Wind Records 1977

Lander Ballard Hightime Free Wind Records 1977 CAT# LB7701

As far as I can tell, Lander Ballard is still making music, much more in the new country "Merica" tradition down in his home town of Wichita, KS. You can YouTube it and see all the macho country he's doing currently.

This LP is far better than what you can find online. He put out this LP in 1977 and a second a decade later on his own Free Wind Records label. While I haven't heard the 1987 LP, this is worth searching out and is relatively cheap. It's pretty low-key singer/songwriter stuff that takes moves from Billy Joel and other popular songwriters of the 70's as well as all that slick yacht rock that was going on. It's not as smooth or as polished as the yacht rock hits of the late-70's, it's just got the overriding influences.

If it it has to be categorized, it's hippie-folk. Ballard was into some new-age mysticism (and probably marijuana) and it shows throughout the album. The song "Ch'i (Natural Energy)" kind of speaks for itself. That song actually kind of sucks, but there are some definite highlights. The Joel influenced "Song for an Aging Minstrel" is pretty fun as is "Rock and Roll Man." The rest is uptempo, gentle melodies, that Ballard sings over the top of with a soft set of pipes. For a private LP out of Wichita, production is surprisingly good. Packaging is also top-notch, cover art is kinda cool and there's a nice little lyric book included.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marilyn Maye Marilyn...the Most Holly Record Co. 1961

Marilyn Maye Marilyn...the Most Holly Record Co. 1961 CAT# H04

This LP appears to be a demo album for both Marilyn Maye and songwirter, Carl Bolte Jr. It would appear Maye was using Bolte's talent to showcase her own and move onto a major label, while Bolte was using Maye's skills as a performer to help him get into the bigs as a songwriter and a producer.

Of course, that's an assumption. For Maye, if that was the goal, it worked. She went onto a very successful career as a singer, recording a number of albums, appearing in movies and in theater, and making a record number of appearances on Johnny Carson.

Mr. Bolte, not as much, but he remained a succesful musician local to Kansas City. Holly Record Co. featured a number of other releases featuring his originals, running form rock n' roll, to children's music, to jazz. He wrote a Kansas City Royals fight song in 1968, one year prior to the Royals inaugural season. He also, as an alumnus, wrote a Mizzou fight song. So, to that extent, Carl Bolte Jr. was able to carve out an impressive musical career within Kansas City and the surrounding areas.

And, maybe he was just looking to make a buck on his own Holly Record Co. Or perhaps, he saw a super-talented young Kansas City singer in Marilyn Maye and just wanted to move her along to the next stage of her career. However, if that were the case, you'd think there'd be some jazz standards thrown into the mix, not a complete album of originals because NO ONE was doing that in 1961. Whether it was his goal to move to Hollywood on the success of this album or not, it's extremely impressive he was able to craft 10 original pieces for Maye and find backing to release it on his own label.

It's a cool album, Bolte's songs are sharp and center around his keyboards and lyrics he penned. They can seem a bit hokey with a lot of call and response between the vocals and the music, but overall, they swing and the campy attitude of the tunes fit Marilyn Maye perfectly. At this point, it's a bit a collector's item. There's a surprisingly large female jazz-vocal collectors scene, primarily in Japan, that will pay a premium for hyper-obscure albums that are quality. A regional debut album from a fairly well-known singer like Marilyn Maye is a no-brainer for those types.

Marilyn...the Most More of the LP

Bob Brookmeyer And Friends Columbia 1965

Bob Brookmeyer And Friends Columbia 1965 CAT #CL 2237

Pretty outstanding list of players for KC trombonist, Bob Brookmeyer. This album was a reunion for Stan Getz and Bob Brookmeyer who had worked together at length for years prior to 1965. It features standards and some Brookmeyer originals.

In 1965, Getz and Brookmeyer were aging and through being cool. What saves the album from standard, boring, white-guy jazz is the young players they brought aboard to fill out the sessions. Namely, a young Herbie Hancock filling out the tunes with some interesting keyboard runs. It also, as the cover indicates, includes Gary Burton, who had done plenty up to this point, but was still young at the time of this release. Hancock and Burton's imagination was allowed to carry the album. Without them, the album would still be top notch, just not as memorable.

Brookmeyer's Jive Hoot

Monday, May 18, 2015

Get Smart! Swimming With Sharks Restless/Fever Records 1986

Get Smart! Swimming With Sharks Restless/Fever Records 1986 CAT# 72111-1

Great band that came out of the Lawrence, KS scene of the 1980's. This album represents their second full length on the Fever Records imprint of independent label, Restless Records. It's also representative of the band after their relocation to Chicago, IL. Still, listening to it, it's straight Lawrence 80's scene.

Get Smart! pal'd around with the likes of the Embarrassment, the Micronotz, and other like college bands in Lawrence. Clever, choppy, dance-rock, not too far off from what groups like Pylon were doing in another college scene in Georgia and like Pylon, Get Smart! featured female vocals as well.

This album is basically stripped down new-wave. No synth, more guitar, but dance-able. It's punk at it's heart, but Get Smart! is a bit past the hardcore kids that were rolling through towns in the 80s. They served the college scene well.

Gold to Rust

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kansas City Jazz Spectrum Kaycee Jazz 1978

Kansas City Jazz Spectrum Kaycee Jazz 1978 CAT #KC-7801

The players here kind of flooded the scene with a number of Kansas City Jazz releases. The big draw featured here is Pat Metheny's brother, Mike Metheny on flugelhorn. Other than that, it's just another from a batch of LPs that are scattered throughout KC featuring these artists.

Overall, this isn't as cheesy or soaked in lounge as it looks. The players attempt to recreate a KC Jazz scene that had died decades prior and was only a matter of pride and history by 1978. The first track is "Perdido" which was made famous by Duke Ellington, but the Kansas City Jazz Spectrum is doing it as a nod to Charlie Parker. The track does showcase each player as competent and isn't drenched in late 70's lounge sound, it could be mistaken for period by a casual listener.

The remainder of the LP features a more covers, some of which are restaurant friendly, others are a bit cooler such as "Stella By Starlight" which was a popular track performed by Miles Davis. There are originals, a vocal track written and performed by Carol Cox Comer which is clever. Mike Ning (who I believe was a transplant to KC) attempts a bit of Cool Jazz on "Grable's Able (Milt Abel)". And the saxophonist, Bill Perkins, contributed a tune called "Lost Moments," which attempts to get almost Kenton-like in sophistication, but mind you, can't reach that level.

Other points are awarded to the cover collage, which does seem a bit hokey, but has great references to KC. And the label name, Kaycee Jazz, is kind of fun.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Smoke Risin' J. Bridge Records 1976

Smoke Risin' J. Bridge Records 1976 CAT# 7544

This will likely be my top find of the year as I've been searching for this at a reasonable price for the past two years. Finding it for $1 at a Goodwill in Olathe, KS, that's perfect for my budget. I was searching through a pretty solid collection of beat up soul albums at the Goodwill flipping past some Earth, Wind & Fire I didn't need, some O'Jays had it been in better condition I wouldn't have minded owning, and some Donald Byrd LPs I did need despite a few scuffs. Then, this shows up, still in shrink and looking super-clean. There was a lady looking at the opposite side of the record bin and she looked up at me when I said out loud, "Oh man, I can't believe this is here!" I then had to explain myself somewhat embarrassed the rarity behind the record and that I've been trying to track this down for a couple years now. She didn't care much. She had a few Disney LPs and a Carperntars album in her stack, so naturally I said, "There's some really great Earth, Wind & Fire LPs in here if you need some."

This album is a throwback and when you put up to all things 1976, it's not surprising that the group didn't bust out of Kansas City. The LP is very rooted in the popular 60's and early 70's sound of Motown. It four male vocalists surrounded by lush strings, brass, and some modestly funky guitar, bass and drums. The primary songwriter was Elmer Overton (he also produced the record along with Les Mathews) and it's pretty clear Overton was heavily influenced by the likes of the Impressions and the Temptations. It's not disco enough for 1976 dance floors and wasn't funky enough to catch on to the live scenes.

However, despite the album being a few years too late, it sounds fucking great now. Overton's tunes recall the greatest bits of the Motown catalog and some of these tracks could burn down a Northern Soul dance floor and probably have. That kind of sentimental, uptempo, dance number that the likes of Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson perfected for Motown, Overton gets close. Even the over-the-top, drenched in string ballads work for this guy, mostly because of the falsetto and the rest of the vocals in Smoke have the talent to carry it out and make it interesting.

Also, the amount of energy that went into this release is impressive. There's a complete string, horn and reed section along with your standard band backing. So 4 male vocalists and an impressive 16 member studio cast. Not to mention, a full production team. This was put out on J. Bridge Records, which only put out one other release, a single from the same band. So it's a basically a private press and the money that was put into this release is probably what killed any chance of the label continuing. But man, what a way to go out...dare I say in a blaze (get it, Smoke?).

I'm So Glad You Came Along