Friday, March 13, 2015

The Week In Review: Goodbye Gene Gene The Dancing Machine

Passings: Jimmie Greenspoon, keyboardist for Three Dog Night.  Really his piano and organ work made songs like Try A Little Tenderness, Eli's Coming, Let Me Serenade You were classic rock gold.  Certainly the vocal talents of Cory Wells, Danny Hutton and Chuck Negron made them special but without Jimmie Greenspoon's musical work, they'd be nothing. Jimmie died from cancer at age 67.

Daevid Allen, the leader of prog band Gong also succumbed to cancer at age 77.  Never got into their music but I did listen to a couple of Gong's albums, best one was You.  I may have to take another listen just for old time's sake.  Best way to describe their music was something like Hawkwind with more chords and more hippie dippy.

Eugene Patton aka Gene Gene The Dancing Machine, a part of the Gong Show is dancing beyond the stars. He was 82 and lost his legs and dancing ability to diabetes. The Gong Show had bad singers and actors, and would be responsible for copy cat shows like American Idol and The Voice in later years.  Patton was always the highlight of the Gong Show.

Update of the death of Wayne Static, was from a overdose of Oxycondon, Xanax and alcohol poisoning. Although Static gave up illicit drugs in 2009 he did use Oxycondon and Xanax from relief of his panic attacks. Perhaps the use of some kind of alcohol gave a adverse reaction and Static passed away in his sleep.

It's that time again when independent bands head to Austin for the annual mess we call SXSW festival.  Sponsored by Budweiser, Four Loco and many other booze companies, after all it's not music without booze.  And more booze in the conferences about music.  Good luck finding a motel room down there.

The continuing lack of good music coming out this year has prompted me to say that this year's new releases will be the least in history.  Only 3 new albums reviewed and Best Buy can't get the new James McMurtry in. While thinking of things to look for in the next Mad City trip I come up with a blank and might just say the hell with it and stick to the thrift stores and dollar sections at the record stores.  The Record Store Day listings aren't much better and by the time I do get up there, the good stuff get picked up and listed on EBAY for black market prices.  There are some things of note, Trip Shakespeare early albums before A&M picked them up are now reissued but I never thought much of either of the early albums, eccentric and good but I didn't quite get them. Bill Kopp did score an interview with John Munson about those albums. 

While RSD was a good idea back in 2008 or 2009 when originally started, it has since then become more of a rip off of overpriced albums.  However, I have seen more of people hanging into record stores and buying records the past year and that is a good thing.  It even has brought back the cassette, what's next the 8 track? Might happen.  The downside of the vinyl revival is that there's more crate diggers going to Goodwill and Salvation Army and getting lucky as well. But a good bargain hunter like myself can always find the more obscure and be happier with it, then the ones who hoard Pink Floyd or Beatles albums. I'm not that hardcore to spend ridiculous prices on hot wax vintage vinyl the folks at Better Records put out, I tend to favor the lesser known.  Regardless Pink Floyd will always be around in some music way but we're still trying to get Universal to reissue The Brains albums.  And somebody needs to remind the world about Chuck Murphy and his music too.

I haven't given much thought to the latest Bob Lefsetz recycled blogs, the endless repeating of how much he hates vinyl, Spotify is the bomb and if you're not into Luke Bryan you just don't get it.  Sometimes  when you have nothing left to say it's better to take time off and get away from it all. Yes once upon a time, music mattered and it was ran by record label presidents that were into music and not into the bean counting business fud duds we are stuck today.  Or the cookie cutter top forty and country stuff that makes the 1910 Fruitgum Company sound like The Beatles and Ohio Express Led Zeppelin.  Oh it would be nice to get back to the garden as Joni Mitchell wrote about Woodstock and have meaningful songs once again.  But the garden can't be found, it got bulldozed down and a Wal Mart lies on top of it. 

I haven't been in a very good mood lately.  Perhaps it's a need to go somewhere, or take time off from work but I can't complain about the weather.  It's been above normal and sunny, the rains have stayed to the south of here and most of the snow has melted.  Perhaps it's also watching the poor excuse of a basketball team called the Iowa Hawkeyes both men and women made a one and done in the Big Ten Tournaments.  At least the women played both quarters, the Men played a lousy first half and then called it a day as Penn State came from 12 behind to beat them 67-58 in the first round.  One and done once again.  Lousy 7-32 shooting in the second half didn't help nor did Coach Fran McCaffery blowing his wad and getting a technical.   Perhaps Iowa doesn't do very well in Chicago, Northwestern beat them in, but then Iowa ran off six straight victories and bullshitted us into thinking that they were for real.  Let's look at the bright side, perhaps they can win six straight in the NCAA's (Fat chance since Kentucky is picked to win it all).  Win all you can but one loss and it's wait till November.  And I rather not, I want to enjoy springtime and baseball, not worry about our subpar Football team, which Jake Rudock is thinking of leaving for another team and basketball which loses Aaron White and Gabe Oslanti and Josh Oglesby, who lost his three point shooting touch this season.  Getting back to basketball, if it wasn't for Aaron White and Jarret Ultoff, Penn State would have blown them out of the United Center.  Afterwards, the Big ten announcers got in line to kiss the Penn State's coach's ass of a great victory, which isn't saying much when they only shot 18 percent in the first half and Iowa a lousy 28 percent.  However Iowa decided to stay in the 27 percent shooting range whereas Penn State managed to start scoring a bit more often.  Penn State is better than their record indicated, 8 losses were by seven points or less.  Or maybe Iowa wasn't as good as I thought they would be.  Still the Hawkeyes are a NCAA shoo in, although I'm betting their seeding will be no higher than 10th or 11th due to their poor showing Thursday.   They better hope they don't get lumped in where Wisconsin or Kentucky or Villanova is at.  Then they'll be one and done and good luck Aaron White in your future job.

I haven't been too pleased at the outdoor cat Callie either.  The little bitch was being your typical cat, playful one minute, biting and scratching the next and I'm not putting up with it.  I don't do biting and scratching cats very well, it's noted that I'm not a cat fan, they tend to be more prickly and unpredictable than this crabby record collector.  While trying to clean up the yard, and taking five on the chair, Miss Cat Attitude jumped on my lap for a bit of attention, don't mind that, but for some reason she got to be a bit more riled up.  She likes getting her belly rubbed and ears, but next thing I know she's nipping me in my arm and that is cause for off the lap.    Then she growled at me and started to bite again.  By then, she woke the inner hulk inside of me, and I hissed right back and grab her by the neck and made a point of who is boss here. Callie was not harmed by the way.  And I told the ungrateful pussycat that she don't have a choice in this matter; that further outbursts will get her dropped off to the local animal shelter without a second thought.   In China and third world countries, Cats are delicacies on the menu so consider yourself lucky Callie Marie Rustbucket Pussycat that you don't live there.  So she sulked away for about a half hour before going back to her makeshift home in the back of my brother's junk pickup truck and me going to work.  She didn't do herself any favors when I came home and seeing her gray butt on the gray car.  I made it known, she's on thin ice but she did get fed before bed.  And left it at that.

In every man, there's a killer inside, that if the wrong nerve gets stepped on or something snaps , the killer notion does take over. I've been on the warpath since my dental provider sent me a collection notice over a lost check in the mail, and they're next on the list to go fuck themselves and get a new dentist.  They know the phone number, they call it when they remind me two months in advance,  but when bills are due and the payment is lost, they draw up a sarcastically intoned  collection notice.  That don't set well with me.  We deal with frustration and stress every day, no wonder my BP is over 180 most days; I have a outdated computer that freezes up everytime somebody farts on the net, you're dealing with red lights and assholes on the highway to work and the corporation you work for is readying up for more layoffs, despite too much work and not enough folks to get it finished right.  It's easy to see why people snap, the wife or girlfriend gets mad over a slight thing you did or something you forgot, if you have babies, they're crying or pooping and need attention or you have kids who listen to rap and won't pull their pants up or strung out on drugs or fighting you over rules.  A no win situation, not all kids are bad, but sometimes they'll get into trouble, or worse if you came home and having your 16 year old daughter announcing she's knocked up after a one nighter.  Or the one you love is seeing another on the side.  Most of the time, I root for crappy teams that don't do shit which adds more stress and it's much ado about nothing.  The world doesn't end if the Hawkeyes don't win the Championship or the Cubs but I get sick of the same lame results.

Life is life, the good and the bad and the horrid, and sadly things go wrong.  Sometimes there's a breaking point that if the offender cross that, there's no turning back.  Kinda like the Ferguson Missouri fiasco where the black population don't trust the Police, or Israel building new settlements on the West Bank and having the idiot Netanyahu address congress about the same Iran speech he gave 25 fucking years ago.  And then having 47 Republican with some radical rightie named Tom Cotton writing a note to Iran and talking war.  That don't sit well with me.  Congress and politics for that matter have split the country up more so now than ever, and of course in the end, we ended up with this Iowa C word Joni Ernst trying to say what we want when in no fucking way this bitch is speaking for me.  I disown anything she says or do and the other idiot Charles Grassley is a career politician whose been bought out by Big Pharma, Big Oil and anything associated with Koch Industries.   Just like Joni baby.   But I shouldn't worry about her, she much ado about nothing.

I don't do well with stress and adversity very well, nor split personality stray cats.  And it takes great restraint not to choke 8 lives out of the gray hairball or do other inhumane things to it.  It's their natural instinct to act that way...but I don't agree with it and she's still about a step ahead of the Linn County Animal Shelter as of this writing.  To those who want a free cat, that has its shots and is fixed and is friendly about 47 percent of the time can contact me and pick Callie up at your convenience.  But the window of opportunity is a small one, she may not be here much longer, especially when she escapes indoors and starts walking on the stereo and the 45s on the shelf.  They were here longer before she came around , and will be long after she's gone. 
Just how soon remains up to the owner of the house.

But deep inside I don't like the killer that does inside this body, and somehow remains subdued by the good that's inside of me.  I do have angels working overtime to shield me away from the killer that would do more harm than good.   And so it goes. 

And Jonathan Richman makes his way back to Gabes in Iowa City on Sunday the 15th for a show. Tickets are fairly cheap, 15 dollars and Richman always puts on a good show. 


Miles Davis-Sketches Of Spain (Columbia 1960)

Miles can be a genius but sometimes he can be overrated as they come.  I can take small doses of Davis on certain albums, the John Coltrane/Miles Davis Canadian best of that I found for 40 cents in Arizona made a perfect drive into deep old Route 66 music.  I don't think he could ever top Kind Of Blue or for fusion rock The Jack Johnson album.  While critics raved about Sketches Of Spain, I find it somewhat of a chore to listen through, especially on the side long Concierto De Aranjuez which is more Gil Evans than Davis, who pretty much makes fart noises on the trumpet.  The liner notes suggested Davis was very difficult to work with and the performances show it. Actually the alternative version (added as bonus tracks) is better, at least Davis shows some interest in that ill fated November 15, 1959 sessions. A March 10, 1960 session includes the other side and the rest of the songs and I do hear bits on John Phillip Sousa on Saeta, anything with a drum roll does work wonders (thanks Jimmy Cobb on drums and Elvin Jones on percussion).  The best song from this is Solea to which Miles adds his trademark trumpet solos throughout the song.  I hear elements of avant garde and some of it reminds me of The Mothers Of Invention Uncle Meat album years later although if Frank Zappa listened to Miles Davis I wouldn't know.  Sketches Of Spain can be a difficult listen, it's not something I'd play on a regular basis.  But I do commend Gil Evans for this classical approach to Spanish Themes for this is record is much as his as it is Miles, maybe even more.  But if you're not hardcore Miles, you're better off with Kind Of Blue...or A Tribute To Jack Johnson.
Grade B+

1910 Fruitgum Company-Indian Giver (Buddah 1969)

Really the Ohio Express was a much better band.  The 1910 Fruitgum Company made the annoying Simon Says and 123 Red Light and probably are more brainless than Chewy Chewy or Yummy Yummy Yummy.  This very brief album (only 25 minutes long, side 2 barely makes it over 10 minutes) sounds more like Tommy James I Think We're Alone Now era.  In fact the best songs here (Indian Giver and Special Delivery) are co produced by Bo Gentry and Richie Cordell who did produce Tommy James; the other producer was Bobby Bloom I'm thinking of Montego Bay Fame.    The rest is basically Kasenetz/Katz bubblegum filler, not much thought or effort was made, certainly not on the selections on side 2. Vocals in one speaker, backing music on the other.  No different than the throwaway Tommy James tracks from I Think We're Alone Now or Getting Together.  But for some reason some of the lyrics remind me of early KISS.  You can draw your own conclusion over that.
Grade C+

Super Soul Blues Volume 1 (Paula 1991)

From the archives of the great Stan Lewis' Louisiana labels of soul blues Jewel/Paula/Ronn come 15 tracks of varying degree. John Lee Hooker starts out with a boogie Roll and Tumble and Tina Turner does Shake A Hand which sounds a bit like the Staple Singers.   Some local favorites like Frank Frost's My Back Scratcher which gives visions of Slim Harpo, Little Johnnie Taylor's disco funky Goin To Get It On, and Bobby Rush' Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man which the best of the bunch.   Later Phil Walden reached an agreement with Stan Lewis is issued three decent and better compilations the Paula/Jewel Story which gives deeper insight to this forgotten label as well as The Fire/Enjoy Label and the one for your collection of the Cobra Records Story, to which Lewis managed to score those masters as Eli Torasco was having a fire sale at that time.  But Stan Lewis for a time in the 1990s put out a lot of this stuff on his own and on his own label and most is worth getting.  Super Soul Blues Volume 1 is a nice sampler.  And Stan Lewis is still going strong to this day at age 87.  That accounts for something.
Grade B

Combonation (Warner Brothers 1984)

For some reason I continue to get this band's name mixed up with Combination which is not the same thing at all.  And for another reason we can't get Universal to reissue Tom Gray's former band The Brains on CD but we can get a minor band's unheard album issued via Wounded Bird.  Too bad The Brains didn't record for Warners, maybe then we would have their albums reissued.  Long time ago I did buy the Combo Nation album on LP for a dollar and it was quite chewed up, so when the CD was selling for three bucks new I thought a upgrade would be in the works.  Combonation is a new wave band, with elements of The Cars, some XTC, Bob Marley and power pop and  Girls Like You got some airplay on MTV although I never saw the 45 but It's All Over Sue I did have as a Promo 45. It does sound a bit like them sounding like the UK Records of Hearts In Her Eyes fame but again the XTC sound comes into play with Hazardous Conditions and No More Information, and give them credit they managed to pull the white boy reggae of the silly lyrical We's Gwyne Hollywood.  Adventures In Modern Living is very Cars sounding, Girls Like You somewhat in The Knack territory.  Not a lot is known about them, Mark Hart is considered the main songwriter (although Steve Dudas, Rick Moors and Billy Thomas helped)  Randy Foote was the main vocalist who played latin drums as heard on Babble On, Ted Templeman, Warner Brother's ace staff producer produced this, the guess is that Donn Landee recorded it but due to the shoddy Wounded Bird layout, we don't know.  For a one and done album, it's an 80s album all the way and early 80s too, a product of the times and really not bad; I enjoy No More Information and It's All Over Sue the most. Lost in the shuffle of the majors the band broke up after Warner's dropped them after poor sales of this record.  Mark Hart went on to play in Supertramp and Crowded House.
Grade B+

Eric Andersen-Sweet Surprise (Arista 1976)

Granted I wasn't impressed with the folk singer songwriter explosion of the 70s and most of the time didn't care until in later years and bad new music I decided to revisit whoever I came across in the cutouts or what the crate diggers overlooked at the thrift store.  Dan Fogelberg never gets any love, nor does Livingston Taylor.  Eric Andersen had a cult hit with Blue River for Columbia back in the 70s and never followed a proper album and came on board to the fledgling Arista Records roster with a bunch of folkie castoffs (Batdorf And Rodney, London Wainwright the third, Don McLean).    Blue River remains his best studio although I enjoy The Best Songs, a nice overview of Andersen's work which doesn't have anything off Sweet Surprise, his underachieving 1976 effort and basically Tom Sellers didn't do Eric any favors with a bland recording (also Mark Harman who recorded this gets the blame equally).  It's not all bad, How It Goes shows Andersen taking a page or two out of Bob Dylan's book in longform songwriting and he covers a Tom Waits song (San Diego Serenade).  But side 2 songs don't stand out, they actually sound unfinished except for the title track.  Had Andersen gotten a producer who knew what the hell he was doing (Norbert Putman would have been the answer)  Sweet Surprise would have been a 'sweet surprise'.  Instead, he got Sellers.
Grade B-

45's found in Iowa City

Two-Bit Manchild/Broad Old Woman  Neil Diamond (Uni 55075)

The laughable pricing of 45s at the Iowa City Goodwill Store continues, with some of them being 1.88 or 2.88 (don't understand the logic of Alan O'Day's Skinny Girls being 1.88 and I could have gotten it for 88 cents due to an indifferent and bored lady clerk) but I managed to find a decent copy of Manchild B/W the infamous Broad Old Woman (6 AM Insanity) which seems to be a work in progress song.  Tad mentioned this a few times in his blog and in some conversations and I always wanted to hear it on 45 format, the only way to get it since it has only been on the Complete UNI Sessions that has now gone out of print.  For a B side, it does capture the weirdness that Neil Diamond was doing after leaving Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich  and Bang Records for the upstart UNI Records and freaky Tom Catalano co producing.  The guess is that Artie Butler is involved.  While Two Bit Manchild would have sounded at home on Bang Records, the song only reached number 66 on the charts a lackluster showing but hearing it today it remains a very good song.  It's more of the more rocking numbers on Velvet Gloves And Spit, Neil's first UNI album, but the record is all over the place weird. He should have considered putting Broad Old Woman on this as perhaps a bonus track?

The Flight Of Chicken Rabbit  by  The Two Man Symphony (Big Tree BT 15003)  1974

A novelty number, kinda of a selection mix  of country/classical and ELO to boot.  Jim Cretecos and Ted Cooper were the guys who wrote and produced this.  Further research doesn't come up much on Cooper, but Cretecos was the better known, he wrote hits for the Partridge Family and Robin McNamara (Lay A Little Lovin On Me) and was instrumental in taking on a newcomer to produce his first album (or co produce) namely Bruce Springsteen's Greetings From Asbury Park and the followup The Wild/Willing/E Street Shuffle.  He certainly got farther with Bruce then he did on Chicken Rabbit, now a curio promo 45 that so unknown, that you tube doesn't have a clip for said song.  And so it goes.


TAD said...

Daevid Allen DIED? Ah well. My favorite Gong album is SHAMAL, and Allen ain't even on it. YOU's best stuff is at the end of Side One -- "Master Builder" and "A Sprinkling of Clouds." Nice pleasant jams -- good morning-wake-up music. Rastro would disagree with me -- he'd go for the two long jams on Side 2, which aren't as tuneful. Nice instrumental interplay though, as they say. And if it weren't for Gong's stupid hippy-dippy BS, I'd probably be a MUCH bigger fan. SHAMAL ditches most of that stuff, and that's why I prefer it.
I know what you mean about the bad moods, etc. Hang in, Spring is coming....

R S Crabb said...

2015 is shaping up to be a morbid year for musicians dying. Daevid Allen was in poor health by all accounts. Shamal is much different thanks to Steve Hillage taking over when Allen departed. Hillage was also part of the Radio Ghome trilogy to which the two albums I only heard was Angel's Egg and You. I have to say I didn't care much for Angel's Egg and You was marginally better. Gong rivaled Hawkwind for band membership turnover it seems but unlike Hawkwind, their music just didn't appeal to me.

I'd like to hear Ratso's take on Gong since they seemed to be more up his alley If I do happen to find Shamal I'll make the effort to listen to that. But the logical guess was that when Hillage was part of Gong that was their classic era. And we'll leave it at that.

Weather has been quite nice here, plenty of sun no rain (the rainy season in another couple weeks) and warm enough temps to open up a window. Good enough for me ;)