Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Creative Collective

The Revolutionary Ensemble was a music cooperative of three individuals who sought to combine the most unlikely of elements within their musical approach. Shying away from the overused jazz instrumentation that required a saxophone, they consisted of merely a violin, stand up bass, and a percussionist. Replacing a mere beat with that of a pulse displayed a group schooled in the classical; there was a playful interaction that occurred between the violin and the bass that left plenty of wangling room for the improvisational sense of Jenkins' violin-playing.

The band was quite popular in the 1970s and considered to be an indispensible element within the free jazz continuum. Leroy Jenkins had once performed with Anthony Braxton and this past association led him to experiment with new textures of sound in instrumentation used in the jazz context. He was considered to be the father of the free jazz violin. Sirone had performed with Pharoah Sanders and Gato Barbieri. While Jerome Cooper had recently played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

They got back together again in 2004 and their first performance was still staggering to behold. For an account of the performance, click here. Unfortunately, the death of Jenkins in February 2007 prevented any further work from being recorded. The last album released was recorded in 2004. Check it out here.

Listen to the first LP.

Listen to Fresh Air's review of the Revolutionary Ensemble.

Ouf of Print= Out of Luck

However, this time you're actually IN LUCK!

When Corrosion Of Conformity hit the alternative music scene, they ended up taking the same route that DRI did by signing on with Metal Blade Records and becoming harbingers of the "crossover" mold of metal or hardcore.

Whether this was a good or a bad thing was debatable. True, their presence in both scenes helped put North Carolina on the musical map but, once again, one has to address that if a band is part of a counter-cultural movement, should they aspire to become rock stars? And, if they do, will their ethics stay intact?

Yeah, COC still plays small dives across the US and they don't really fit into the rock star mold as much as one would think. But who cares? Lots of bands do that and they're a helluva lot more interesting than these guys are now. Their last gig in Austin was the absolute worst gig when it came to generating some sense of interest in what they were doing on stage. Lots of people who were in the scene and actually saw them gig in the mid-'80s were there and were pretty disappointed. Not that they were expected to live out some silly nostalgic punk rock trip but when you watch Woody (now calling himself Woodroe) play a guitar solo like he's stroking his dick on stage, how the fuck can you take it seriously? Actually, watching him stroke his dick on stage would have been preferable to watching him pretend to be some glam-rock dipshit.

Yeah, they're metal and everybody in the audience was banging their heads and flashing that silly Hawaiian hand gesture that so many kids do these days. But the show made one long for the days when they couldn't play their fucking guitars and recorded tracks in the garage, hell, the toilet, even...

Here's a bootleg recording of their first record. The original printing of this was kick ass because it came with a lyric sheet and three stickers. Needless to say, this bootleg has none of the perks that the original pressing of the record had at all. Still, the recording is quite difficult to come by and the last time it was for sale on COC's website, it was going for $85 and it was the CD with the Mike Singing EP added to it. Now there are no copies of the CD left, either. Maybe they're embarrassed of their earlier efforts...

Monday, June 25, 2007


You'll hear an edge to this recording that will be reminiscent of the Big Boys and that would be because the legendary Spot put together this rough mix as the Kamikaze Refrigerators were one of his favorite bands.

Dixon (of Austin fanzine Idle Time) also thought they were the greatest and described their music as "Real 'shake your booty or I'll bite it off' sort of stuff."

Album cover artwork by Frank Kozik. For the uninitiated, here's his website.

Included are the LP and the liner notes. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You Can't Hide from the Psychedelic Sounds of...

This was the first single that Roky Erickson's second band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators released under International Artists, a Houston-based psychedelic record label. There was an earlier attempt recorded by his first band (The Spades) but the second session shot the band into the psychedelic scene's lime light. The single made it to #2 on the local music charts in Austin and #55 on the national charts after being featured on the first Nuggets compilation. This particular copy of this single was found in a record store along with several other IA releases that had been discovered untouched as back catalog in a warehouse somewhere in Houston; i.e., virgin vinyl.

The name of the band came from the superstition that led many buildings to be devoid of a 13th floor.

Part of the unusual sound was generated by the use of the electric jug-playing of Tommy Hall. The auditory fingerprint it leaves is unlike that of traditional jug-playing you might hear in an old blues or string band from the earlier part of the 20th century. This unique sound became the band's trademark. The most interesting review read thus far about this band's aural presence is Piero Scaruffi's comparison of their rhythmic style in this song to that of the rhythms felt when one listens to music with a Tex-Mex bent.

Give it a listen and see if you hear what he's talking about.

Check out the trailer for the documentary about Roky Erickson here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm Lookin' Fer...

Rolling Stone ranked The Crickets' That'll Be The Day as the #39 best song of all time. The song itself was written in 1956; named after an oft-quoted phrase by John Wayne in the movie The Searchers.

The original recording of this song occurred in Decca Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, however, it is considered to be of inferior quality to the rock and roll version of the song that was released later under Brunswick Records, a Decca subsidiary. The default release under this smaller label occurred as a result of Roulette liking the songs better than the band who played them. The label wanted the exclusive rights to have Roulette musicians, Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen, record the songs instead. Buddy Holly wouldn't budge on his position to record the songs himself with his own band. Since Decca had the original, would-be country version of this title, Bob Thiele (head of Brunswick Records) decided to issue the songs under the band name The Crickets.

A month later, the song became one of the best selling records in both the rock and roll and rhythm and blues markets.

Listen to the 45.

Watch a television screening of The Crickets performing the song.

Just a Little Bit

This 7-inch was released as a part of the Big "D" Jamboree series issued by Dragon Records. The tracks on this EP were recordings that had been shelved due to publishing rights not being obtained in a timely fashion. This occurred despite the fact that Sherry Davis toured with Elvis and recorded with The Crickets.

The Big "D" Jamboree was a weekly three hour radio show broadcast from Dallas' Sportatorium and showcased the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. People all over Texas tuned into the broadcast that aired between the years of 1946 and sometime in the mid-1960s. The first year of broadcast, it was being billed as the Lone Star Barn Dance. For .65 cents, you could see musicians of this sort play live at the Sportatorium between 8 PM and midnight.

The song Broken Promises (which appears on this record) is backed by Buddy Holly and The Crickets and was recorded just two months after the single That'll Be The Day was recorded in the very same studio. Holly was crashing in a little apartment in the back of the owner's studio and was approached purely off-the-cuff to back Davis on the recording of one track. You can tell in the backing vocals immediately. Davis had no idea that this was Buddy Holly that was recording with her until after the fact. It took two years to find a publisher for the work but by that time, there was no longer any interest in the song so it just sat in publisher's limbo until very recently.

Davis decided to retire from show business in 1971 after having a daughter. She had been told for the previous four years that she would never be able to have children, so parenthood ended up taking precedence. Sherry Davis lives in Dallas again and is very active in her church. Although, she's not a big fan of rock and roll, she was thrilled to discover that people were interested in her music after all these many years.

Now you can enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wackos from Waco

The Waco Brothers, from Chicago, are included in the barrage of bands that have pervaded what has been dubbed as the "alt-country scene." Although, the vocal style of the singer doesn't quite strike one as a stereotypical country singer, the band's musical selection on this 45 RPM record is more than enough to compensate. The covers of Bad Times Coming 'Round Again and The Harder They Come are rife with all the bitterness and dark humor that anyone who listens to hardcore or punk can appreciate.

Chicago's #1 Wasted Swing Band

Monday, June 18, 2007

Yee Haw!

Apparently, Carl Story was a musician who had regional popularity that never quite caught on outside of North Carolina. He was heard very often on local radio and the recordings that make up this 7-inch EP were captured from original acetates recorded by friends and fans of the band outside of a recording studio.

As of 2002, he had actually released an album of his particular brand of "bluegrass gospel." The album is called The Last Project- Salvation Train. If you like your gospel music with a hillybilly flare then you should check out the new album here. Although, the review of the most recent album claims that Carl Story "has spent his life spreading the news of Jesus Christ" through his music, there's no hint of proselytizing here on this recording.

Carl Story was known for his high-pitched singing style and his banjo player was the well-known Johnnie (or Johnny) Whisnant. Whisnant was greatly influenced by the banjo playing styles of Charlie Poole and Dock Walsh. He recounts a tale of his fascination with the sound that Poole was able to achieve with his instrument: "I’d put it [the record] in my wagon and pull it off in the woods and play that Charlie Poole record, and get my ear right in that speaker on that little old crank phonograph. It wasn't the type of playin' he was doing, which was a three-finger roll, and all. This wasn't what drove me out of my mind. It was the sound that came off that banjo. It was that one particular tone that come out of there that stuck with me all through the years."

It's true that Poole achieved a unique sound with his individual style of picking, but Carl Story's Mountaineers can also boast truly remarkable sounds for those with a bent for early hillbilly.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Pearly Gates of Music

This out-of-print box set is quite possibly the best collection of American roots music that has ever been issued. Part of Columbia/Legacy's Roots N' Blues series, it compiles roots music of many genres (boogie-woogie, white and black string bands, cajun bands, white and black blues artists, spiritual and gospel music, jug-bands, country music, and rhythm and blues) in chronological order of release dating from 1925-1950.

For the music scholar, it's an interesting development to behold, observing how the change in social structure between the two World Wars had an effect on the music that was being performed. As time passed, the small pockets of communities that formed as a result of racial or monetary divisions began to become less and less distinct once the burgeoning technology of the radio and the phonograph was more prevalent. This cultural change was reflected in the music that was performed in various parts of the nation and the musical contrasts began to fade somewhat as they became more influenced by one another.

If you're a fan of old-time music, you HAVE to listen to this collection. If you're not a fan of old-time music, you WILL BE once you listen to this box set. This collection is a MUST-HAVE for any lover of music anywhere!

Roots N' Blues- The Retrospective (1925-1950)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Napoleon Complex with a Comb-Over

At the time of this release, the Philadelphia Composer's Forum had been performing together for fifteen years. In 1963, they changed their name to Orchestra of Our Time (OOT) and settled in the South Bronx forming a consortium with the South Bronx Community Action Theater and Bronx Museum of the Arts.

They have performed in alternative spaces such as elementary schools, prisons, and street corners, as well as in Carnegie Hall, the IBM Auditorium, and the Guggenheim Museum. They worked with visual artists and artists of various genres; their most famous modern dance collaborations were with the Erik Hawkins Dance Company playing the music of Lucia Dlugoszewski. They even collaborated with Frank Zappa on his recording Zappa's Universe for which they won a Grammy.

Here on this recording, you will bear witness to their renditions of works by Pierre Boulez, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Henri Pousseur.

Pierre Boulez: In the 1940s and 1950s, Boulez studied under Messiaen publicly and Andrée Vaurabourg and René Leibowitz privately. His main concern was initially with rhythm and non-developing forms but also inherited a deep appreciation and longing toward works such as Schoenberg's. There have been critical writings that seem to point towards compositional links between the early works of Boulez and works by Berg- plagiarisms of a sort without the feeling or emotional back bone of the electrical pulses that were being copied. He created IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), a resource for composers and music-makers that would enable them to gain access to the best performers of any genre and to utilize the most up-to-date electronic technology and computer scientists at their disposal. He was also instrumental (no pun intended) in pioneering a musical style that couldn't be easily co-opted by nationalist fervor. For a counter to Boulez and his work, refer to the Pierre Boulez Project. For more info about Boulez and IRCAM, read Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, And The Institutionalization Of The Musical Avant-Garde by Georgina Born.

Luigi Dallapiccola: Dallapiccola didn't have much of a musical childhood as his family moved around from town to town in Austria due to the fact that he was born of Italian parents. At one point, his whole family was in internment for being suspected subversives. He didn't have access to a piano at this time but he was able to attend the local opera house and upon hearing Wagner's music decided that this was his calling. However, upon hearing Debussy for the first time, he temporarily halted all study so as to allow this new musical style to sink in. In the 1930s, he was particularly influenced by Berg and Webern. He was the first Italian to compose a work based on serialist techniques, however he still stayed in touch with harmony, which is perceived to be lost in most compositions of this sort. During the Second World War, he toured throughout countries not inhabited by German Nazis and performed pieces that clearly decried them. At one point he had to go into hiding as he found himself publicly opposing them. In his diary, he'd written: "In a totalitarian regime the individual is powerless. Only by means of music would I be able to express my anger." For some reason, his work composed in the 1920s has been withdrawn and is not allowed to be studied except under strict and controlled supervision.

Henri Pousseur: A member of the Darmstadt school, like Boulez, Pousseur had a penchant for dabbling in crossing styles like that of Schubert with Webern, a seemingly impossible mixture. His particular brand of composition was referred to as "tabula rasa" or "refusing the refusal" of historical experience. His electronic works using tape-music medium were meant to be re-arranged in order before playback and aided in bringing a new outlook on composition and the many results it can bring into fruition.


An incredible collection of electronic pieces composed and recorded between the years of 1948-1980 beginning with Clara Rockmore and ending with Brian Eno. The original version of this album no longer exists as the more current, updated version has more material, including a DVD that comes with the multi-CD box set. Regardless of the release date, the first pressing of this box is still an important collection of work.

In Brian Eno's foreword written for the booklet that accompanies the box, he likens the discovery of new ways to turn sound into "a plastic material- manipulable in space and time" similar to Debussy's introduction to the three-pedal Steinway, which would allow you to sustain one note while playing unsustained notes on top of that. Debussy composed many pieces specifically geared toward the use of the Steinway three-pedal piano. The same creative process occurred once it became possible to continuously expand pitch, duration, timbre, and loudness.

Not only are electronic compositions included but the written works of INA-GRM (Institut National Audiovisuel, Groupe de Recherches Musicales), WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and Sonic Arts Union.

It's interesting to note how all of these experimentations in sound and recording have been assimilated into musical culture in such a way that their presence is almost imperceptible until taken out of their musical context and exposed in their raw form. You will most likely experience the majority of these recordings to be just that- sound manipulations in their rawest form. Taken into context with the time period in which they were manipulated, however, these works were serious psychological and philosophical probings into society's purported understanding of music and its role in the culture of that particular day and age.

Ohm: The Early Gurus Of Electronic Music: 1948-1980

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Japan is Not for Sale!

Another fine sampler of bands who played Japan Nite during SXSW in 1998. These CDs were never released for sale but given away at SXSW events as promotionals for the bands who played at Japan Nite. Eventually, Japan Nite became so popular that a second event titled Japan Not For Sale had to be started as a result of the deluge of Japanese bands who wanted to perform during that week of insanity in Austin, Texas.

Tengoku Jack: They are drastic rock band from Japan! The literal translation of the band name is "Highjacking of Heaven." Two of the members of this band went on to form Noh-Suspend. They played a gig in Seattle about two years ago. More posts from these guys later as they provided some free music as gifts back in the late '90s. Their stuff can still be found in used bins in Texas despite the internet's complete erasure of their presence from the face of the earth.

The Kokessies: This band ended up breaking up in 2003 it seems. They had toured quite a bit from 1999 until the demise of the band. At this point, they splintered into two different groups: Pigeons and MAGO. Very cute gals playing very cute music. They actually rapped on stage.

O*N*T*J: Avant lounge music put together by Japan's best dressed transvestite keyboardist/band leader.

Balbora: Named after the famed film character Rocky Balboa, this band has actually played gigs at CBGB's. Crazy mixture of swing, punk, funk, blues, grunge, doom, and God knows what else. These guys kick ass and they don't quit!

Cocco: Cocco actually played the Japan Nite gig the year this sampler came out. Her performance is so emotional that the rawness of the sensation that she generates on stage reaches right out and touches you. The emotional honesty of her presence in the band is unlike anything that you will ever experience. She actually had to have her own bouncers to protect her from the hordes of would-be suitors and fanatical teenage Japanese-American girls. She doesn't really do any recording on her own anymore but she has been involved in side projects alongside other Japanese musicians.

Zoobombs: Here's a fucking crazy blender-full of genres wrapped up into one crumpled package- swaddled in funk, the blues, rock, and rap music. Who cares if they had to speak in English from a cue card? These guys and gal really knew how to work the crowd into a frenzy!

Smile Like Dog: This band had one album release on Benten Records and appeared on quite a few compilations. Since there aren't any photographs of them anywhere, they are shrouded in mystery. Their music is in the same vein as O*N*T*J and has been described as ""Pizzicato Five meets Violent Onsen Geisha." They combine a manic techno beat with Polysics-like synthesizer effects and banjo and then in the next song will throw in a few profanities accompanied by ukeleles and Hawaiian steel guitar. You've gotta hear it to believe it! Unfortunately, they have completely disappeared without a follow up band to track them down.

Riyu Konaka: Riyu Konaka spent her childhood in Chicago and New York and became heavily involved in music after returning to Japan in her junior high school years. This engendered within her an appreciation for the cultural diversity in her American classes and the need for this type of social diversity always rang in her mind as she grew older. She is not only a singer but poet/comedienne as well and enjoys writing lyrics and poetry in different languages.

Petty Booka: Listen to their famous rendition of Madonna's Material Girl right here on this compilation. You haven't heard American pop until you've heard it performed by a Japanese duet playing it on ukuleles.

Editing note: Did you know that the word ukulele has two spellings? Look it up!

Finally.... here's the CD!

What?... Me, Worried?

Asie Payton lived his entire life in the rural town of Holly Ridge, Mississippi. The only recording sessions that occurred in his lifetime were a performance in Junior Kimbrough's Juke Joint and a performance at Jimmy's Auto shop.

Asie spent his Saturday evenings playing at one of the two local convenience stores in town; apparently, it was a family tradition, as his father had spent his weekends doing the exact same thing.

Asie had a fascination with tilling the land on his tractor and on days when it was dry enough to work on the farm, he could rarely be pried out of his seat to do much of anything else. Despite his poverty level- living as a farmer in an old shotgun shack with no phone or air conditioning- he couldn't be lured away to do much recording by the Fat Possum record label. There are only two albums of recordings in existence, even though Asie lived to the ripe age of 60. Here's one of them.

He died of a heart attack on 19 May 1997 while tending to the fields on his beloved tractor.

Dents That Produce a Melodic Sound

In 1884, there was a British ban on African drumming (which is very reminiscent of the US ban on Native American chants and dances mentioned in an earlier post). Trinidad's response to this clampdown was to incorporate tamboo bamboo bands into their carnival processions. "The tamboo bamboo ensemble consists of varying lengths and widths of bamboo, which are stamped on the ground in an interlocking fashion similar to West African drumming (Blake 2000)."

Once the 1930s rolled around, the steel drum (or steel pan) became the primary instrument used in these processions (Walbourn 1999). Originally, buckets and pails were used for this purpose but around the time of the Second World War, these instruments were crafted out of 50-gallon oil barrels that had been abandoned by the US Naval Base in Trinidad. The instruments were used primarily for their percussive effects (in similar fashion to the tamboo bamboo) but were later used in an attempt to emphasize melody.

There is an annual competition in Trinidad every year where bands from all over the Caribbean pit their skills against one another in an attempt to win the prize of being declared the best performers of this musical style. The history of steel pan recordings stems from this annual event. It's very likely that Mighty Turbines were a band competing in this contest and were touting this record in an attempt to market themselves at the live stadium performance.

Capture a sample of their wares here.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The New Nicaragua

After the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) took power in 1979, it seemed like the heralding of a new age in Nicaraguan history. Little did the populace know how the US Government was going to respond to their newly found liberation from the wealth hording of Somoza.

At the time this record was released (1983), Nicaragua had taken a case to the International Court of Justice against the US for its participation in military and paramilitary actions in and against the Republic of Nicaragua. In 1986, the Court had found that the US government had "encouraged the commission of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law," although the Court stopped short of actually impugning the US government in actively participating in any wrong doing. The US was ordered to pay a fine for its involvement; the US refused to pay the fine.

In 1987, it became public news that key members of the Reagan administration were actively involved in illegally providing arms to members of the Contras, who were actively trying to disrupt the Sandanista government in hopes of re-installing a military junta that would be more favorable in the eyes of US interests. This led to a TV bonanza of court cases that were trumpeted every day for months in the media but, as one can clearly see today, the US government hasn't fallen shy of its ability to help induce a public amnesia in the minds of the general American populace when it comes to its more nefarious activities.

Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy and other members of his family are very well-known Nicaraguan musicians. This particular album was recorded with his second band Grupo Mantocal. After the Sandinista Revolution proved to be successful, he was appointed as a member of the Department of Music within the Ministry of Culture. His lyrics took on a more socially-conscious tone in light of the events he and his fellow Nicaraguans found themselves faced with during that trying time and he began to travel extensively around the world.

Check out his website.

Listen to the record.

Check out the extensive liner notes.

Interesting note: His brother is Carlos Mejia Godoy- another famous Nicaraguan musician- whose son, Camilo Mejia, was the subject of much consternation in US news back in 2004. Camilo is a US immigrant who served in the US military and wanted to file as a conscientious objector after being deployed to Iraq for some time. The US Army denied his request.

You Done Put Your Banana In It Now

Armenter Chatmon (later known as Bo Carter) and his brothers (Sam and Lonnie) learned to play music from their father and mother. Henderson and Eliza Chatmon both played music before marriage. Henderson was an ex-slave fiddler and Eliza could sing and play guitar.

The three brothers eventually began playing in public and even recorded a few 78s under the band name Mississippi Sheiks. Since Bo drank less than his other two brothers, he was placed in charge of finances and the management of the group. As time dragged on, he began performing solo and recorded a lot of material.

Unfortunately, music historians have pegged him into the "risque music" category due to the double entendre of his song titles and the content of a great deal of his lyrics. Song titles such as Banana In Your Fruit Basket, Pin In Your Cushion, Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me, and My Pencil Won't Write No More all helped to reinforce this attitude towards his music. As detailed in the album liner notes provided by Yazoo Records, his chord progression and continual change in tuning throughout the entirety of his musical catalog should create enough interest for any musician- young or old- to take a closer look at the body of his work.

Blues archivist and researcher, Paul Oliver, stumbled into Carter one day in Memphis in 1960 (less than five years before Carter's death). A transcription of the interview that ensued can be found in Oliver's tome Conversation With The Blues.

Here's the LP.