He’s looking like a sailor / Who hasn’t a ship / Same salty song / And curled up lips / In the land of the brave / And running out of vain / Waiting for a guy, silver-eyed / Like a bullet train…
Out of the desert and into the oven. After a day of rain the heat turned up in the canyon. Driving on Mulholland, I saw the temperature hit 100 twice yesterday. With all the “glare,” it’s a struggle to keep my eyes on the prize. At the end of the day, life and what’s really important is… “lovely” still.
Sunday, October 23 is a special day. My talented, magical, “bewitching beauty” Zoe turns 22. So this weekend it’s time to turn up the music and celebrate.
The Beau Brummels are mostly remembered for the exemplary folk-rock of “Laugh Laugh” and “Just a Little,” both Top Twenty hits in 1965. But they also crafted one of the earliest and best examples of country-rock, the masterful 1968 LP Bradley’s Barn.
I find it hard to not be somewhat conflicted about The Beau Brummels. Not in terms of quality, for they were one of the USA’s finest (and earliest) acts to emerge in the wake of the British Invasion, but simply in defining their historical legacy. For starters, they were signed to disc-jockey Tom Donahue’s small Autumn label during their early period of widespread popularity, a circumstance that limited the distribution of their two biggest hits (“Laugh Laugh” stalling at #15 and “Just a Little” at #8 respectively). And yet they were considered legitimate teen idols of the time, appearing not only in two motion pictures but also on TV’s The Flintstones (as the uh, Beau Brummelstones). It’s enough to make a mind contemplate what might have transpired had the band been in the hands of a more capable label, for their first two LPs Introducing The Beau Brummels and Volume 2 stand amongst the best records issued by American acts in the immediate post-Beatles aftermath.
But when the group made the switch to Warner Brothers, they were initially mishandled. Beau Brummels ’66 was an ill-advised (if not at all bad) covers-only LP conceived because the label didn’t initially control the band’s publishing. Their first “real” record for Warners, ‘67’s outstanding slice of baroque-psyche Triangle, remains one of the better psychedelic excursions of the period, an effort that unfortunately got buried in the year of Sgt. Pepper’s.Bradley’s Barn followed in ’68, and after it floundered commercially (Triangle only managed to briefly squeak onto the Billboard Album Chart at #197) singer Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott (the band having been reduced to a duo after bassist’s Ron Meagher’s induction into the Army Reserve during the recording of Triangle), called it a day.
I am happy to report there is one town in this God-obsessed land that remains under the sway of the Devil. I am talking, of course, about N’Orleans, that spirit-haunted hotbed of hedonism and home to the legendary likes of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, the prostitute Lulu White, and the never-captured Axeman of New Orleans. God has sent flood upon flood to destroy America’s most depraved and flat-out weird city—where else are you going to find public ordinances banning gargling in public and tying an alligator to a fire hydrant?—but in vain. Either God’s floods ain’t what they used to be, or sin has rendered the birthplace of Jazz, where Lucifer owns a winter home, indestructible.
The Big Easy is renowned for two things: music and voodoo. And no human being has ever combined the two with such funky finesse as Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John Creaux the Night Tripper. Like most people, the only tune I knew by the good doctor was 1973’s funky “Right Place Wrong Time.” Then Kid Congo Powers—who honed his own voodoo chops with the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club—suggested I check out the Night Tripper’s 1968 debut LP Gris Gris, and I promptly fell under its spooky Creole spell.
Its trance-inducing, doom-heavy grooves instantaneously transported me to a shadowy Louisiana swamp swarming with snakes and alligators, voodoo drums sounding in the distance, the Axeman of New Orleans hard on my heels. Then to an incense-choked, unpainted wooden shack on stilts situated deep in the bayou’s perpetual gloom, where I found myself shuffling and shaking to the sound of congas and the Night Tripper’s Muzippi-muddy growl. Suffice it to say Gris Gris is one the most haunting slices of hoodoo you’ll ever hear, and one of the most addictive.
The organizers have moved the annual event up on the calendar in order to take advantage of better weather. They have also continued the tradition of hiring stellar musicians who are connected to the Maple Leaf Bar. Here are some of the highlights.
Since food is really the main driver of people to the Po-Boy Fest, the music starts earlier than most other festivals. Darcy Malone and the Tangle kick off the festivities at 10:15 AM inside the Maple Leaf Bar. I suspect this is the earliest a band has ever graced the historic stage. The Leaf will take a break from music to show the Saints game on the big screen beginning at noon.
Pint Alley, the smaller stage located at Leonidas and Willow streets, gets going at 10:30 AM with the 101 Runners Mardi Gras Indian band. This group features an all-star band led by percussionist Chris Jones and fronted by Big Chief Juan Pardo.
PHOTO: CHRIS COTE | Almanac Mountain explores universal minutia on new Cryptoseismology LP.
Fans of experimental bedroom pop will find plenty to love in Chris Cote’s new album and intellectuals who label themselves “secular humanists” will revel in his cryptic studies of the natural world.
Everything seems to take on a double meaning in the songs of Almanac Mountain. “Contingency Procedures” seems to be about the 2003 Shuttle Columbia disaster but Cote explains that a surface evaluation of his material will only cut skin deep and that the song is “really about the death of the hopes and ambitions of the 1980s.”
Luckily the heady nature of his music is tempered by an almost saccharine sense of pop which he uses to great effect on such stunning tracks as “Harborside,” a noirish flavored ballad with a string arrangement that appears to be plucked straight out of an old Hollywood movie and stretched onto an indie rock canvas.
It’s no surprise Cryptoseismology was tracked over the most brutal winter in recent New England history as its warm tones and otherworldly digressions feel like some kind of creative escapism. Lucky for us, the mind of Chris Cote is a strange and wonderful thing to behold.
Ah, The Crystals—their best songs are every bit as wonderful as their career was checkered by the evil machinations of studio Wunderkind Phil Spector, who made them the first act to record a single on his nascent Phillie Records label. Spector first saddled them with a song so offensive—Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s anthem to masochistic female approval of the physical abuse of women, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss”)—that it almost sidetracked their career at its get-go.
He then proceeded to utilize a group of replacement singers (Darlene Love and the Blossoms) to record such immortal “Crystals” tunes as “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Finally, he added insult to injury by shifting his attention to a new girl group, the Ronettes, and went so far as to include four songs actually recorded by the Ronettes on the Crystals’ 1963 “best of” LP, The Crystals Sing the Greatest Hits, Volume 1.
Yet despite these dictatorial and confusing antics by Spector, the Crystals remain one of the most beloved girl groups of the years just prior to the British Invasion. Why? Because songs like “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” are both brilliant and timeless; why just the other day I did a crazy dance in the supermarket, attracting the attention of numerous shoppers, when “Then He Kissed Me” came on over the store’s loudspeakers.
But returning to the theme of exactly who recorded what songs attributed to the Crystals, anyone interested soon finds oneself tangled in a byzantine world of confusion. Take 2001’s Da Doo Ron Ron, a compilation of the band’s greatest hits. At first its ten songs seem to comprise an admirable distillation of only the Crystals’ finest work; you won’t find the “The Frankenstein Twist” or any of the Ronettes’ novelty songs credited to the Crystals (e.g., “Hot Pastrami,” “The Wah Watusi”) on it.
Top 10 vinyl only releases from Brooklyn’s Halcyon Record Shop: When an avid record collector gets their hands on a coveted vinyl only release it feels like striking gold. For a DJ, it is the important to unlocking a brilliant and unsuspecting mix. As the vinyl boom continues to sweep the music business, the culture surrounding it is as powerful as ever with vinyl-only labels serving up practically nothing but high quality, distinctive releases. Fueled by a passion for wax, labels like Perlon, Beste Modus, White Material, Mood Hut, Waxtefacts, Deconstruct and a host of other people are showcasing dedication to the craft and propelling the medium into the future.
Best of San Diego: Vinyl Junkies Record Swap vs. San Diego Metal Swap Meet: The resurgence in vinyl over recent years, partially a result of nostalgia and partially a reaction to the increasing intangibility and non-ownership of digital media, has been both blessing and curse for those who prefer their music in analog form. Demand leads to a rise in prices, shady semi-legal bootleg operations are releasing bad CD rips pressed onto vinyl and sometimes what you’re looking for simply sells out faster.
New music store dedicated to cassettes opens in Toronto: In an age where many Canadians listen to music digitally through their phones and devices, a newly-opened Toronto store is trying to capitalize on the nostalgic love of cassettes and records.“I think it all comes down to the tactile, tangible experience of taking the record out of the sleeve and putting it on to the turntable and dropping the needle, or taking the cassette out of the packaging and pulling out the artwork,” Malin Johnson, manager of the Dupe Shop, told Global News.
J Dilla Turntable, New 7” Vinyl With Nas and Madlib Announced, The Dilla Turntable is portable and offers the ability to record music right into a computer: Rappcats has announced a new J Dilla-themed portable turntable called, appropriately, the Dilla Turntable. An official product of the Estate of James Yancey, the Dilla Turntable comes with an exclusive 7” vinyl single of “The Sickness”–a J Dilla and Nas collaboration, produced by Madlib, that originally appeared as a bonus track on 2016’s The Diary. Below, see images of the Dilla Turntable, as well as the 7”. The Dilla Turntable’s artwork was made by Mason London. It functions as a standalone record player, and includes built-in speakers, three operating speeds (33 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM), and more.
The story of the Ghetto Brothers is an inspiring one, though it’s also an account possessing the deep reality checks of disappointment and strife. It’s a tale of struggle, of growth, of the positive tendencies of human behavior, and naturally some fine music. The reissue of Power Fuerza by the Truth & Soul label makes the essence of a legendary group easily available for anyone desirous of hearing it, and in the process it transcends their legend to become one of the best of all possible things; a record that can be spun and enjoyed many times.
The rediscovery and easy availability of long sought-after musical documents reliably comes with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance. It’s a ceremony partly directed to serious collectors, those individuals that have dedicated countless hours and energy in the pursuit of unearthing that rare and enticing artifact of delectably persuasive cultural marginalia, but it’s additionally aimed at listeners possessing a sincere interest in the contents of those recordings if little of the often rabid intensity (and substantial moolah) that’s required to actually procure original copies of these frustratingly elusive objects.
Occasionally these records are so rare they are essentially considered “lost,” indeed so obscure that even the most hardcore of collectors can’t get their hands on a copy, and in these instances the accompanying promotional verbosity can rise to the level of full-blown lather. The reason why almost always boils down to extreme (and at times overblown) passions on the part of those doing the reissuing, or less attractively the understanding from the participants that the music is, well, ultimately not all that great, the ensuing hyperbole aimed at increasing record sales, with honesty getting cast aside amongst the hoopla.
PHOTOS: REEVES PEELER | In its tenth and final year on Treasure Island, the Treasure Island Music Festival redefined my understanding of “agoraphobia.” Weather, location, communication and transportation were all stacked against Treasure Island, and I wasn’t the only Sunday festival-goer looking for a marginally convincing reason to stay in my pajamas. Yet somehow, on Sunday night I boarded a packed tour bus—cold, wet and dirty—with a big smile that reflected confidence in my decision to have made the trek.
This year, the festival had to move from one end of the island to the other, eliminating the insane city view that so many festival-goers hope to Instagram (a new location that festival organizers spun as offering “picturesque views of Oakland”). Rain and high winds set the tone for the entire weekend, forcing major festival draws like How to Dress Well and Ice Cube to play much-abbreviated sets, and bands on both days, including Flight Facilities and James Blake, to cancel their sets altogether.
Weekend ticket holders took to social media in droves demanding refunds after Saturday’s weather-induced fiasco (which apparently included a vending machine injury). But Sunday was a slight redemption for Treasure Island, as the crowd adjusted its expectations, adapted to the environment, and hunkered down on a mission to enjoy day two.
Car Seat Headrest was the start to my Sunday on Treasure Island. Admittedly not an objective review, this was my fourth Car Seat show since they played The Independent in January 2016. Each time I’ve seen Will Toledo and his band play, I catch something new that keeps me coming back for the next show. It’s the type of set that forces you to focus on one band member at a time, exposing something real about each musician in the context of a stunningly cohesive set.
David Lee Roth was Thee Consummate Showman of the Hair Metal era. With Roth you got the whole shmeer; a natural-born ham and song and dance man, he would gladly have set himself alight and turned flaming cartwheels over the squat Michael Anthony if that’s what it took to keep Diamond Dave in the limelight. Not for nothing did the one-man parade once say, “The world’s a stage, and I want the brightest spot.”
Diamond Dave’s fashion sense may have been deplorable (I’m looking at a photo of him wearing leopard-print spandex leotards and a chest-pelt-revealing v-neck t-shirt complete with—yes, the t-shirt—suspenders), but he more than made up for it by being rock’s preeminent komiker, or comedian. Forever “on,” and with a touch of the old-school vaudevillian in him, you got the sense Roth would have been just as comfortable playing the Borscht Belt as he was playing rock’n’roll. This made him a refreshing anomaly in a genre that depleted the world’s stockpile of hair spray yet still took itself very, very seriously. Thanks to David “I don’t feel tardy” Roth, Van Halen wasn’t just the premier hair metal band—or metal band, period, for that matter—of its time; it was the funniest one (“Have you seen Junior’s grades?”) as well.
And I suppose still is, since Roth rejoined Van Halen in 2006—21 years after departing in 1985, unhappy with the band’s pop turn, adoption of keyboards and synthesizers, and increasingly “morose” (his term) sound. During the interim the Dean Martin of Rock (what else are you going to call a guy who once quipped, “I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out my glass”?) released a series of increasingly less successful—grunge killed the vaudeville star—solo albums; put together a Las Vegas lounge act complete with a star-studded brass band and exotic dancers (whom Roth described as “so sweet, I bet they shit sugar”); hosted a radio show; and even worked a stint as an NYC EMT. I don’t think this was a poverty move; he probably just wanted to know how to resuscitate himself in the event of a coke-induced heart attack.