Thursday, June 25, 2009

[sky] sunlight [saxon] -- lovers cosmic voyage (usa : golden flash, 1976)

strangely beautiful album, from a strangely beautiful man, sky "sunlight" saxon. [more info here.]

rest in peace, mister richard marsh. you'll be missed. be sure & say hi to father yod for me.

no tracklisting, basically; just side one & side two [cf. aforementioned link].

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bluethings Story Volume 2 (Collectables, 1993)

Although not as consistently magnificent as the first CD in this series, The Bluethings Story Volume Two still contains many vintage folk rock treasures. Several of the tracks, in fact, predate the band and are recordings by group leader Val Stecklein's first outfit, the Hi-Plains Singers, as well as songs by the proto-Bluethings, the Blueboys. These songs are fascinating to compare with their later, more mature work. Be forewarned that since many of these tracks are mastered from original acetates (especially the demos), the surface noise at times can be as bad as scratchy old blues 78s. For some people, this might actually add to their appeal.


Things start off with a two-song acetate from Val Stecklein and the Hi-Plains Singers that was recorded in 1963. The gentle, self-penned "Desert Wind" and the traditional folk song "Nancy Whiskey" (a much different arrangement than the better-known version by Ian and Sylvia) show early promise. As with many other folkies who had ditched their acoustic instruments in favor of electric ones during the early days of the British Invasion, Stecklein formed a new rock & roll group with lead guitarist Mike Chapman, bassist Richard Scott, and drummer Richard "Laz" Lazalere (who would later be replaced by Bobby Day after changing their name to The Bluethings) called the Blueboys. Several demos were recorded in 1964 at Damon Studios in Kansas City and found the band sounding much like the Beatles with an added extra-strength dose of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. "P's and Q's" suffers only because of its brevity, while the splendid "La Do Da Da" actually outshines the Dale Hawkins original. "Just Two Days Ago" and "Silver and Gold" are cut from the same cloth. The latter would be re-recorded a year later (although also unreleased) after the band had changed their name to the Bluethings.


After signing with the Ruff label from Texas, the band saw the release of their first single, "Mary Lou/Your Turn to Cry," recorded in early 1965 and released later that year. A cover and Stecklein composition respectively, these two fine sides established the style of music the band would work with until its later, more experimental psychedelic period. In 1966, prior to the sessions for their RCA album, Stecklein and Chapman recorded a demo that featured "Hollow" and "Waiting for Changes," two sublime ballads that unfortunately were not further developed. This compilation also includes several tracks from the Bluethings' eponymous LP: "It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe," "High Life," "Now's the Time," "I Must be Doing Something Wrong," "I Can't Have Yesterday," and "Honor the Hearse." That album is best listened to in its entirety and can be found on other music blogs, though it will probably be listed as by "the Blue Things" instead of "the Bluethings" in case you're using a search engine. "Something Wrong" especially is an underappreciated folk rock gem, even if it does sound like one of the backing singers is a bit off key in the chorus. "Doll House" is a more baroque alternate version of a song that appeared on the RCA album that concludes with a brief harpsichord piece. "Pennies" is an updated version of a folk song originally recorded as an unreleased single for the Ruff label that suffered the same fate. The exquisite "Weep No More My Lady" also inexplicably remained in the can as did the remake of "Desert Wind," which the corporate suits at RCA saw fit to replace with "Look Homeward Angel." (As with the demo recordings on this comp, these last four songs have been taken from acetates and have some surface noise issues.) The concluding tracks, "Baby" and the melancholy-infused "The Sounds of Yesterday," are demos done by Stecklein for his Grey Life solo album. The former never made it beyond being recorded as an acetate, although the latter in its finished form was one of that LP's highlights.


Although music researcher Michael Greisman doesn't write the most elegant of booklet notes, he does provide some interesting information such as a complete Bluethings discography as well as some samples of correspondence he had with Val Stecklein before the singer's tragic suicide in 1993. By reading his letters, one can see that the musician initially dismissed the importance of his group's legacy, but over time became more enthusiastic about the history of the Bluethings. We are fortunate that Stecklein realized the band's greatness before his inner demons got the best of him. Rest in peace, Val.

1. Desert Wind - The Hi-Plains Singers
2. Nancy Whiskey - The Hi-Plains Singers
3. P's and Q's - The Blueboys
4. La Do Da Da - The Blueboys
5. Just Two Days Ago - The Blueboys
6. Silver and Gold - The Blueboys
7. Your Turn to Cry
8. Mary Lou
9. It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe (album version)
10. High Life (album version)
11. Now's the Time (album version)
12. Waiting for Changes (demo)
13. Hollow (demo)
14. Doll House (alternate take)
15. Pennies (alternate take)
16. Weep No More My Lady
17. Desert Wind
18. I Must be Doing Something Wrong
19. I Can't Have Yesterday
20. Honor the Hearse
21. Baby (demo) - Val Stecklein
22. The Sounds of Yesterday (demo) - Val Stecklein

Friday, June 5, 2009

Calypsos from Trinidad - Politics, Intrigue & Violence in the 1930s (Arhoolie/Folklyric, 1991)

This fantastic compilation of calypso sides from 1935-1940 may very well be the best one out there and was my introduction to the music of Trinidad from that era. Split between recordings made in New York City and Port of Spain, the material on this CD features the island's most famous prewar singers backed by earthy yet elegant orchestras with guitars, pianos, horns, and string sections. As with much calypso music from the 1930s, the songs tend to be very topical in nature and provide a great deal of social and political commentary relevant to the denizens of Trinidad.

The opening and closing tracks by Atilla the Hun, "Iere Now and Long Ago" (a duet that also features Lord Beginner) and "The Five Year Plan," are filled with optimism and pride in detailing the island's accomplishments and hopes for the future. Other performances are far more critical in nature. There are pieces that deal with the difficulties of the human condition as only calypsonians can do such as "Money Is King," "Down the Road," and "Try to Get a Screw Through" by the Tiger, "Send Your Children to the Orphan Home" by the Lion, "Paramaribo" and "Ah, Gertie" by the Caresser, and "I Don't Know How the Young Men Living" by the Executor. The Tiger's "Gold in Africa" addresses Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and refers to Mussolini as "a beast," while "The Rats" employs clever metaphors to describe prostitution in the island's capital, Port of Spain. "Bargee Pelauri" by the Lion and "Too Botheration" by the Growler are both somewhat xenophobic performances with lyrics that relate to immigrants from Indian and Grenada respectively trying to integrate with Trinidadian society. Calypso musicians were especially noted for their ability to provide scathing commentary on unscrupulous politicians and unpopular legislation as demonstrated by Atilla the Hun's "Treasury Scandal" and "Governor's Resignation," "Shop Closing Ordinance" by The Executor, and "Sedition Law" by King Radio. The last-mentioned piece was very relevant to calypsonians since the law mentioned in the title made it possible for any controversial lyrics to be considered seditious by the colonial government. As a result, many records were subject to censorship, and a number of singers had to find clever and less direct ways to air their grievances much in the same way that blues musicians used double entendre lyrics to describe sexual references. Calypso musicians, however, were just as quick to heap praise on politicians sympathetic to the plight of the working man as demonstrated by Lord Executor's "We Mourn the Loss of Sir Murchison Fletcher" and Attila's "Mr. Nankivell's Speech" (sic). There was also an entire group of calypsos about labor leader Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler and the oil workers' strike of 1937: "The Strike" and "Where Was Butler?" by Atilla as well as "Miss Marie's Advice" by the Tiger. "The Commission's Report," also by Attila, details the findings of the Forster Commission which was appointed by the British government to investigate laborers' low living standards and other causes of the aforementioned strike and subsequent riots.

If you're not a native of Trinidad, these songs in combination with the exhaustively detailed booklet by the esteemed musicologist Richard Spottswood will teach you more about the island's history during the 1930s than any historical text ever could.

1. Iere Now and Long Ago - Atilla the Hun and Lord Beginner
2. Money Is King - The Tiger
3. The Gold in Africa - The Tiger
4. Bargee Pelauri - The Lion
5. Send Your Children to the Orphan Home - The Lion
6. Paramaribo - The Caresser
7. Ah, Gertie - The Caresser
8. Treasury Scandal - Atilla the Hun
9. I Don't Know How the Young Men Living - The Executor
10. Shop Closing Ordinance - The Executor
11. Too Botheration - The Growler
12. The Rats - The Tiger
13. Down the Road - The Tiger
14. Try to Get a Screw Through - The Tiger
15. The Strike - Atilla the Hun
16. Miss Marie's Advice - The Tiger
17. Where Was Butler? - Atilla the Hun
18. The Governor's Resignation - Atilla the Hun
19. We Mourn the Loss of Sir Murchison Fletcher - Lord Executor
20. Mr. Nankivell's Speech - Atilla the Hun
21. Commission's Report - Atilla the Hun
22. Sedition Law - King Radio
23. The Five Year Plan - Atilla the Hun

Monday, June 1, 2009

sonny hopson -- original 1969 philadelphia AM radio broadcast (philly archives, 2000)

title of this release says it all, and in this humble scribe's opinion, it's just about as awesome as you think it is. (if anyone else knows of officially-released disc-jockey-centered radio broadcasts, please feel free to let me know in the comments; i love old radio broadcasts, particularly AM. [to say so makes me feel like chris parnell's character, an AM radio DJ, in the fantastic, supremely-dumb andy samberg comedy "hot rod". bone-dry absurdity doesn't get much better than the speech about his AM-radio inspired stomach-tattoo. and, yes, you are in fact reading a blog post about an album by a '60s radio deejay that also references andy samberg.])



01 original 1969 AM radio broadcast

country joe mcdonald -- quiet days in clichy OST (usa, 1972)

from country joe's undervalued solo career, here's a slightly-crude, odd little soundtrack album to a slightly-crude, odd little grindhouse/art-house anomaly.

although credited to country joe, as you can see below, the album includes songs from other artists featured in the film, most notably excellent danish blues-psych outfit young flowers.



01 country joe -- quiet days in clichy I
02 country joe -- nys' love
03 country joe -- hungry miller and the hungry world
04 andy sundstom -- clichy
05 young flowers -- behind the golden sun
06 papa bue's viking jazz band -- luxembourg stomp
07 country joe -- quiet days in clichy II
08 ben webster -- blue miller
09 andy sundstom -- les champs elysées
10 young flowers -- menilmontant
11 young flowers -- party beat
12 country joe -- mara