Feb 17, 2008

The Costanoans - San Francisco music 80s-90s

"The Yanks have colonized our subconscious" (Wim Wenders - Kings of the Road)

Any kid listening to rock music has his/her mind haunted by America, at least by its image.

I've never been to San Francisco, yet I consider it something like a promiced land, ever since I learned about Ashbury Height and Summer of Love (Yes, I know there's nothing left today, but this doesn't change a bit of the image I have). For many years I've listened carefully to any band came from there - and still do. Every now and then I find music that assures me that my little ...err obsession is not wrong at all, on the contrary it's very rewarding (the latest find is of course Wooden Shjips).

(This was my introduction to World of Pooh's 'Land of Thirst' LP on Lost-In-Tyme, but I think it fits perfectly here)

01 Donner Party - The Ghost
02 Cat Heads - Sister Tabitha
03 Bedlam Rovers - Objectivity
04 X-Tal - Misandventure
05 Blue Movie - Mary & Riley
06 Barbara Manning & SF Seals - 8's
07 Penelope Houston - Fallback
08 Wannabe Texans - I Cut Myself
09 Camper van Beethoven - ZZ-Top Goes To Egypt
10 Yo - Charm World
11 Ophelias - I Dig Your Mind
12 Game Theory - We Love You, Carol and Alison
13 Swell - Get High

This is a tiny portion of S.F. music (including Oakland, Davis etc). , compiled with the connections between the bands in mind. David Immergluck of Ophelias was in Camber Van Beethoven, Sam Babbitt also from Ophelias was in Cat Heads, Melanie Clarin in Donner Party, Cat Heads and SF Seals (and a million other bands), Wannabe Texans and Penelope Houston were performing together in SF clubs, Alan Korn and Mark Zanandrea were in X-tal and later in Cat Heads, Greg Freeman produced everything (well, almost),and Pat Thomas recorded everything (again, almost).

1.Donner Party: Sam Coomes, Melanie Clarin, Reinhold Johnson. After Donner Party, Coomes moved to Portland where he founded Quasi and Blues Goblins among others. The Ghost is from Donner Party (Cryptovision LP)

2.Cat Heads' Sister Tabitha is from 1988's Submarine, produced by Camper Van Beethoven's David Lowery. They seem to have reformed.

3.Objectivity opens Bedlam Rovers Froathing Green from 1988, the band of Caroleen Beatty, Cindy Wigginton and about fifty more members. Released on Heayday with Pat Thomas producing it.

4.Misadventure is from Who Owns Our Dreams? CD that compiles 3 of the last releases of X-tal.

5.Mary & Riley is from the first LP of Blue Movie - you can find it here, and if you want to read something more, go here.

6.I often write about Barbara, most recently posted 'World of Pooh'. 8's is from her Nowhere (or Now Here) album.

7.Penelope needs no introduction if you have seen my family photos or the intro to this post.

8.I Cut Myself is from Devouring Our Roots, a compilation released on Subterranean, when this scene was at its absolute height. Wannabe Texans , who had two if the best tracks in this comp, released only one album, which you can find here - and say hi to J Bradley Johnson.

9. I must have listened to Camper Van Beethoven's ZZ-Top Goes To Egypt about 500 times, not because I was obsessed with it, but because it was the intro to my favourite radio show.

10.Yo were Bruce Rayburn, Sally Engelfried and Greg Baker, active around 1983-87, making some highly original music. Bruce and Sally went on and formed El Sob, also defunct now. No signs of recent activity.

11. Dig Your Mind is of course Nervous Breakdown's song from the 60's, covered by the Ophelias, who in their two releases managed to cover every music genre under the sun. David Immergluck later in Counting Crows.

12.We Love You, Carol and Alison is from Lolita Nation, maybe the best release of Game Theory. Too pity it's out of print and, as I've said in my previous post (10 covers), Scott Miller doesn't seem to flirt with the idea of a re-issue.

13.Swell are again active, as David Freel has released a lot of music recently. Get High is from their first album from 1990.

Here's the link.

Feb 14, 2008

11 + 1 deadly love songs for those who love to hate St.Valentine's Day

...because too much love could be dangerous to your health...

Divine Horsemen - Frankie Silver
Blood On The Saddle - Banks Of The Ohio
Dead Moon - Hey Joe
Cat Heads - I Would Kill For Suzy
Bedlam Rovers - Long Black Veil
Dame Darcy - Butcher Boy
Mountain Home - Omie Wise
Triffids - St James Infirmary
Cowboy Junkies - Misguided Angel
Peter Scion - Pretty Polly
Snakefarm - Tom Dooley
Destroy All Monsters - Mack The Knife

No need for more words here: great bands/artists doing some of the classic murder ballads (except Cat heads whose song is not a ballad and Cowboy Junkies who don't sing about murder). I should mention though that Divine Horsemen was Chris D.'s (Flesh Eaters) band and here is in a duet with Julie Christensen, Mountain Home is another Greg Weeks project (try Drag City if you like it), the Destroy All Monsters' track is the +1 of the title, and this fine painting I used, is made by Dame Darcy and you can buy it here.

P.S. I wouldn't recommend to listen to this with your unsuspected loved one - unless you're trying to find a way to send her/him a message!

Here is the link.

Feb 10, 2008

10 Covers I Listen To More Than The Originals

Here they are 
01 Avengers - Paint It Black
02 Game Theory - The Letter
03 Slickee Boys - Glendora
04 Sneetches - He's Frank
05 World of Pooh - Druscilla Penny
06 Feelies - Dancing Barefoot
07 Brood - You Got Me
08 Tav Falco - Oh, how she dances
09 Camper Van Beethoven - O Death
10 Meat Puppets - Good Golly Miss Molly

I avoided the tribute records (as the most tracks on them are recorded just for the project) as well as the versions of traditional songs (with the exception of O Death, but this was a cover of Kaleidoscope's version)

Avengers - Paint It Black Blasphemy you say? Listen to these teenagers (I think they were 18-19 years old) and then tell me if you've ever witnessed such power in the pure, honest voice of Penelope - so self-confident even from the start -, the nerve of a young punk band to cover this song and make you accept their version, and the absolute killer finale - a black hole that spins and spins and sucks everything, leaving only the rattle of drums at the end. I consider this song as the proof that the Avengers did actually teared the Sex Pistols to pieces in the Winterland show, in Jan 1978. No Avengers records are in print these days, but you can ask Penelope for a CDR.

Game Theory - The Letter
(from Dead Center LP) That's the perfect power pop song from the perfect power pop band. Scott Miller took this classic and treat it with enormous love. I bet he himself wouldn't know how many times he'd listened to it and this is obvious here: This is not anymore Alex Chilton's song, it's Scott Miller's. Sadly Scott considers Game Theory a story of the past and thinks there's no reason to re-release their output, so all these amazing records remain unknown to the newer audiences.

Slickee Boys - Glendora (from Uh Oh...No brakes LP) I imagine these gyus performing this old Perry Como tune in their shows, after they'd exausted their audience with a bunch of their garage-punk songs. Not that they're going far from garage-punk with this: the drums are pounding , the guitars are loud and fuzzed as ever and the vocals have nothing to do with mellow - in fact they definately had listened a lot the Downliners Sect version (which remains the best).

Sneetches - He's Frank (from He's Frank 12') This cover shows how absolutely brilliant band the Sneetches were. They've earned the right to look the Monochrome Set streight in the eyes: more melodic, not so tense as the original, but equally powerful. The arrangement is full of fine touches (organ, faint rock'n'roll pianos), the guitars are ringing with a crisp and clear sound and I must tell you that I like Sneetches electrical no-holds-barred guitar solo in the final part, better than the rather sudden ending of the original.

Brood - You Got Me (b side) This is what I've said about this in 7 X 7 is - U.S. garage singles pt.2, about this Prodigal's cover: There's much music from the Brood from Portland, Maine in this blog, but I thing that they never again captured on vinyl like on this single, especially on the non-LP b-side 'You Got Me'. In this track (the original, by the Prodigal, can be found in Boulders vol.9) the garage rhythm of guitar, bass and drums gets a psyche treat by the haunted farfisa and above all the teenage voice of Chris Horne spits out all the energy and feelings like no rich-and-famous rock star can. Just great.

Feelies - Dancing Barefoot (from Bob flexi) Yeah, I know the vocals cannot match Patti Smith's original, but the band - oh this band! When you listen to this absolutely stunning version, you'll not even thing about vocals: the rhythm section is something I wish I'd watch live (but thanks to my friend gomonkeygo I've had the chance to listen how it was) and gives the guitar the freedom to do its magic. This is history: not only for the classic original but for all the different sides of the alternative/guitar rock that the Feelies put in it. The final point is the spoken vocal part over the derrailed band playing at the end of the song.

World of Pooh - Druscilla Penny (Banafish 7') Rarely you find a cover that while remains close to the original, it cancells it at the same time.
Your family’s probably given up on you
Since you began to follow groups of long-haired rock'n rollers
I can hear your mother crying for her daughter
The Caprenters' song stands with the -let's say- parents/normal society side, while the World of Pooh cover clearly stands in Druscilla Penny's side. Not only the music here is this of "long-haired rock'n rollers" - of the psychedelic type I would say, but while Barbara Manning sings the same lyrics, without changing a single word, she manages to make you see the song through the girl's eyes. I've always believed that Barbara not just sings, but rather IS her songs, only this time she proved that can do it with other people's songs.

Tav Falco - Oh, how she dances (from The Red Devil LP) This I guess will give the necessary odd touch to this collection: it's a cover of James Luther Dickinson's song from the cult "Dixie Fried" from 1972. Surely this Tav Falco's version got more known than the original (which remains unmatched).  This song needs a story teller and Tav could easily be a great one. Behind his dangerously charming vocals (different from Dickinson's harsh voice), Panther Burns rattle and shake their instruments, in this invitation to the circus freaky world.

Camper Van Beethoven - O Death (from Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart) I find CBV's version of this traditional song as 'full' and imaginative as Kaleidoscope's version, after all we're talking about two of the best eclectic bands of all times. Of course that one was done 30 years earlier, so there must be something more in the newer version to justify its inclusion: Campers moved from the folk roots of this song even further than Kaleidoscope, they gave us a more rockin' version. They retain the violin (how could they stop Jonathan Segel?), they added horns and louder drums, yet this is flowing nicely like the stream finds its way between the rocks. I'm very happy because this record is again available -it was CVBs debut on Virgin, and one of the few exceptions to the rule that all  records of underground bands made on major labels are crap - it's easily the band's best. Btw Camper Van Beethoven are together again - details here.

Meat Puppets - Good Golly Miss Molly (from Out My Way EP) If you listen to this one twice in a row, you will feel exausted, like you've been running all day. You've never heard such a frenzyfied version of Miss Molly (which is frenzied enough in its Little Richard version). It starts by hitting you with an unbelievably energetic guitar riff, and while Curt stops for a breath, after the first verses, his guitar becomes a huge truck, rolling down from a mountain with no breaks, just honking to clear the road. You can imagine how this ride ends.

Here's the link, if you're interested.

Feb 1, 2008

The Valerie Project

Valerie Project, released last year, and although breaking no new ground, definately has it all: lysergic guitars, 60s feeling, cinematic approach (of course), tension, psychedelia and enough dark folk to satisfy even the most hungry of us.I will not tell you much about Jaromil Jires' "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" movie and Czech New Wave, because you can find a lot in the web, if you're interested. It was released in 1970 and it's a dreamy-surreal-gothic story about a girl named Valerie, who lives with her grandmother in a central European village, in 19th (?) century. There are vampires, rotten priests, teenagers in love, the battle of good and evil and very obvious references to the classic horror/gothic films. Having watched A LOT of movies from Eastern Europe countries - especially Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (those names seem so old now)- I can tell you that cinema in those countries was much more adventurous than you could imagine. I'll just drop the names of the mighty Ducan Makavejev and Istvan Szabo, and just mention that 'Closely Watched Trains' (the title of Glorious Din LP from 1985) was in fact the title of a famous czech movie by Jiri Menzel from 1967. Anyway, Valerie is a rather unusual film, because it plays with reality and dream and, essentialy, tries to show a dreamlike story. Jaroslava Schallerova, the 14-year old girl who plays the role of Valerie is just perfect, the filming is superb (talented Jires was already an experienced director) and it's a must-see movie, if you're looking for something different.
I listened to the Lubos Fiser original score for the movie "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" after the Valerie Project. It sounded strangely familiar and the reason is that it reminds me a lot of Manos Chatzidakis' score for Makaveyev's "Sweet Movie" of about the same era. It was proffessionaly written and performed by a symphonic orchestra. Fiser was not a soundtrack 
composer, although he has an impressive filmography -especially in the 60s and the 70s- his work varies from compositions for classical orchestra, concertos, operas, chamber music etc. As for this soundtrack, I must say that sounds to me more renaissance inspired, than gothic or psychedelic or anything that would ring a bell to a rock listener. It's based on a central theme with several variations, as 99% of movie scores are (excluding music films) and it's certainly tied with the image, because it was written by someone who knew what he wanted and how to create it - i.e a professional composer. In addition to these, it's not at all academic but has beautiful, fresh melodies, romantic and innocent and I think that was the combined result of the image and music that attracted the musicians involved with Valerie's Project, 26 years later.
But now it's time to ramble about Valerie Project.
Valerie Project includes Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons and Helena Espvall (of Espers), Mary Lattimore, Tara Burke (Fursaxa), Jesse Sparhawk (Timesbold), Jessica Weeks (Woodwose, Grass), Charles Cohen, Margie Wienk and Jim Ayre (Fern Knight), and, as they say in VP site, this is just the first part of the consept "of recontextualising the filmic meaning and impact of a particular work through the substitution of a newly composed soundtrack". They started performing this music at the end of 2006 and this record released in 2007 (you can listen a few songs from a 2006 performance here, although I prefer the darker sound of the record)
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