Posts Tagged ‘Glam’

The Quick: Mondo Deco

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Long-lost ‘70s power-pop gem liberated from the vault

Music impresario Kim Fowley’s outsize personality and professional longevity both exaggerated and overshadowed the commercial and artistic success of his artists. As half of the fictional Hollywood Argyles he topped the charts with “Alley Oop,” had his hand in a string of 1960s novelties that included the instrumental “Nut Rocker,” the doo-wop “Papa Oom Mow Mow” and the treacly “Popsicles and Icicles,” threaded his way into the British rock scene, and became an icon on the Sunset Strip. The mid-70s were a particularly fertile period for Fowley on the L.A. pop-rock-glam scene as he produced three albums for the Runaways, and releases for Venus and the Razorblades, Dyan Diamond, and The Quick.

The Quick formed, played their first gig, were discovered by Fowley, signed to Mercury (the home of Fowley’s other proteges, the Runaways), and recorded and released this debut album all within 1976. Though the Ramones released their debut the same year, and the band played on bills with many of Los Angeles’ punk rock luminaries, the Quick’s early influences leaned heavily to glam, glitter and the lyrically cutting works of the British Invasion. As engineer and co-producer, Sparks founding guitarist Earl Mankey brought a generous helping of quirky pop sound to the table, and the high, sweet voice of Danny Wilde (made even higher by a change in tape speed) added a campy, devilish edge. Guitarist Steven Hufsteter was a prolific writer whose songs overflowed this debut into demos, fan club singles and covers by Los Angeles notables such as the Dickies.

Hufsteter’s songs were literate and cynical in the manner of Ray Davies, with scathing Elvis Costello-like sarcasm effectively delivered with a smile instead of a sneer. The album’s sugary melodies and power chords undersell the sardonic humor in songs of feral teenagers, dominatrixes, and the brilliantly essayed San Fernando Valley malaise of “My Purgatory Years.” The band showed off their instrumental sophistication with the ringing drums and hard guitars of “Anybody,” and drew the Beatles and Four Seasons into their musical orbit with covers of “It Won’t Be Long” and “Rag Doll.” All of the group members went on to other glories (Wilde with the Rembrandts, Hufsteter with the Cruzados, Danny Benair with the Three O’Clock, bassist Ian Ainsworth with Great Building, and keyboardist Billy Bizeau as a songwriter for the Runaways), but never again realized a sound this unique.

The band was a favorite of KROQ’s Rodney Bingenheimer, and got spins on college radio, but gained no commercial traction and broke up in 1978. The album was reissued as a needle-drop LP in 2009, but now comes to CD from the original master tapes with ten demos and a session outtake. Several of the demos are close to the album in attitude and arrangement, but others, including “Hi Lo,” add new twists. The band had a surprisingly firm handle on their musical ethos, given the speed with which they formed and headed into the studio. Mankey added clarity and sheen to the recordings, but didn’t fundamentally reshape the songs. The demos include a few tunes (“Teacher’s Pet” and “Heaven on Earth”) that didn’t make the album, along with a snippet of “Born Free” that showed how far the band could reach. This is a long overdue reissue that revives a memorable, transitional moment in the L.A. music scene. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Adam Ant: The Blueblack Hussar

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

DVD_TheBlueblackBussarThe renewal of a rock ‘n’ roll survivor

1980s music fans will remember Adam Ant’s string of hits and a series of dandyish videos that dominated the early years of MTV. His New Romantic imagery was the studied creation of an artist, born from a love of history and a formal art school education, and a perfect fit for the New Wave era. His music combined the free spirit of punk rock with the poses of glam and the tribal wallop of twin drummers, and proved itself a surprisingly sturdy platform. Ant’s music career slowed down in the mid-80s, but his charisma and innate theatricality led to television, film and theater gigs that lasted out the ‘90s. But in 2002, troubling behavior that first cropped up in college returned with a vengeance, and in 2003, Ant was involuntarily “sectioned” for in-patient psychiatric care.

Ant discussed his bi-polar diagnosis in the documentary The Madness of Prince Charming, and again in his 2006 autobiography Stand & Deliver, but it wasn’t until four years later that he was sufficiently recovered to piece together a full artistic return. Legendary director Jack Bond documents that return in this 2013 cinema verite film, chronicling Ant assembling and rehearsing a new band, touring for the first time in fifteen years, and recording the album Adam Ant is The BlueBlack Hussar Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter. Along the way, the film reveals its subject as creative, intelligent, funny, hard-working and introspective. Viewers weaned on the MTV videos will come away with a much deeper appreciation of the thought and craft that went into Ant’s early work, and a feel for his continuing passion as an artist.

Along the road to re-emergence, Ant meets up with actress Charlotte Rampling, whose appearance in The Night Porter was a seminal early influence. He charms Rampling as they work together in the studio, just as he does artist Allen Jones, who has a connection to Ant (or more accurately, the pre-Ant, Stuart Goddard) of which he wasn’t even aware. Bond’s camera followed Ant for more than a year, capturing the frenetic energy of his return. The film doesn’t impose any context on the raw footage – no story setup for Ant’s return, no title slides identifying the guests; but there is an arc as Ant rehearses the band, publicizes his return, gigs his way up through smaller clubs, and emerges at the film’s end into the sunshine of Hyde Park and the welcome of an enormous festival audience.

Some fans have complained that the album capping this comeback was raw and underproduced, but the documentary makes evident that Ant is meticulous about everything he produces. If the album is raw, it’s because it was meant to be. Some of Ant’s new lyrics are coarse, and his music reaches back to the punk rock of his earliest work, but there isn’t even a hint of nostalgia to be heard. In his mid-50s Ant remains as magnetic and captivating as he was in his 20s, perhaps more so with the removal of MTV’s intermediation. The artistic drive that kept him upright as the original Ants were spirited away to form Bow Wow Wow continues to sustain him today; and in turn his energy sustains his fans, who turned out in droves for both his UK and US tours.

MVD’s 2015 DVD release augments the original documentary with bonus live performances of “Whip in My Valise,” “Young Parisians” (a duet with Boy George) and “Deutsche Girls”, along with a Q&A with the film’s director, Jack Bond. Longtime fans (who probably saw this film upon its theatrical release) will enjoy having this in their collection, but it’s the casual MTV fans who will really learn something new. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Adam Ant’s Home Page

The Jeanies: The Jeanies

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Jeanies_JeaniesGarage-bred power pop time-warped from 1978

This is music that could only have arrived through a tear in the space-time continuum. The Jeanies have somehow managed to create mid-70s DIY power pop forty years after the fact. The mid-fi production and endless hooks are so genuine as to rise above mere homage. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear this is a reissue of a long-lost Bomp release. Actually, and even more impressively, it sounds like an anthology of indie singles whose B’s were as heartfelt as the top-sides. Each track has you humming along almost immediately and invites you to listen again – if only to keep you from arriving too quickly at the end of your new favorite record.

If you collected singles by the Nerves, Neighborhoods, Zippers, Stars in the Sky and Shoes, you’ll remember how uplifting it felt to find music this good. You had to hunt for it; you had to make friends with record store clerks in small independent shops and hope they’d stash a copy for you behind the counter. And when you found albums by the Beat, Real Kids, Dwight Twilley, Flamin’ Groovies and Raspberries, you couldn’t believe your good fortune in finding something to expand your love of the Beatles, Beach Boys and Byrds. That’s how you’ll feel when you unwrap this one. And as good as it sounds in digital form, it’s going to sound even better when you play the limited edition cassette in your Chevy Vega. It’s a shame they didn’t issue this as five singles.

Songwriter and lead vocalist Joey Farber evinces just the right sense of angsty, adolescent longing as he recounts the breathless anticipation and unrequited moments of first sightings, second thoughts and postmortems. The guitars (courtesy of Farber and Jon Mann) strike a balance between sweet and tough, with succinct, melodic leads that verge winningly into garage-psych for “I’ll Warm You” and “Her Flesh.” There’s bubblegum-glam in “The Girl’s Gonna Go,” and the Who gets a nod with “The Kids Are No Good.” Fans of the Heats, Plimsouls, Posies (another band that debuted on cassette!) and Flying Color will dig this album from the downbeat. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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Brian Olive: Two of Everything

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

A bewitching album of rock, soul, glam, psych and more

Brian Olive’s second album continues to showcase the multi-instrumentalist’s musical breadth. Singing, writing and playing piano, guitar, and woodwinds, his music is based in rock and soul, but stretches out with superb touches of psych, glam, jazz, blues, R&B, exotica and even a hint of the musical stage. As on his debut release, Olive interweaves his influences, evoking an Eastern feel with a guitar and tone generator solo on the funky “Left Side Rocking,” layering brooding woodwinds on the thick drum backing of “Traveling,” threading his flute into the deep bass soul of “Go on Easy,” and evoking Detroit-era Motown with the title track’s melody. The instrumental reprise of “Two of Everything” sounds like something from Edgar Winter’s glam period, and the tone generator on “Strange Attractor” hangs niftily between the backwards riff of the Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and a bagpipe. The lyrics are poetic and image-heavy, but rather than trying to decipher the sentences, listeners will groove on the ease with which the words express the melodies; more extemporaneous thought than composed character and story. Recorded in Cincinnati and Nashville, and co-produced by the Black Key’s Dan Auerbach, this is an album you don’t just listen to, you feel it. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Brian Olive’s Home Page

Richard Barone: Glow

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Eclectic collection of sounds from throughout Richard Barone’s career

Richard Barone was introduced to listeners as the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of the legendary Bongos. Their recording career spanned a handful of singles, two EPs and two albums, but their impact on the Hoboken music scene – and on Hoboken itself – was much larger. Upon the band’s dissolution, Barone developed a solo career that garnered critical notice and fan support, but flew below the radar of the mainstream record buying public. He released an album every few years for a decade, bookended by the live recordings Cool Blue Halo in 1987 and Between Heaven and Cello in 1997, and continued on to produce other artists and collaborate on theater projects. Though he oversaw reissues and compilations of earlier material, this is his first collection of all new solo material since 1993’s Clouds Over Eden.

What makes this album particularly special is Barone’s collaborations with producer Tony Visconti. Barone’s a well-known Bolan-ista, having covered “Mambo Sun” with the Bongos and “The Visit” on his first solo album (and “Girl” here). Tony Visconti was the producer of those seminal T. Rex sides, and had Barone had his way, Visconti would have produced the Bongos 1983 RCA debut. But the label declined, and the pair had to wait another twenty-seven years to collaborate. Surprisingly, for all of Barone’s glam-rock influences and Visconti’s glam-rock bona fides, the cache of vintage instruments they tapped (including E-bow, stylophone, mellotron, moog bass, chamberlain) and sonic references they make (such as the opening of “Candied Babies” borrowed from the Bongos’ “Zebra Club”), the results sound neither nostalgic nor out of time. Instead, the productions combine elements Barone’s explored throughout his career, including slithering glam rock, power-pop chime, cello-lined chamber pop, and punchy dance floor beats.

The lyrics sway from weighty contemplation of middle age to the title track’s celebratory call for shucking off emotional limitations and living freely in the moment. Barone is neither morose in his backward glancing assessments nor blindly exuberant in his forward looking proscriptions, but seems to be discovering original emotional territory in new experience; even the fatalism of “Yet Another Midnight” is expectant rather than downcast. The notions of return and unspoken feelings are threaded through several songs, including a visit to old stomping grounds in “Radio Silence” and the uncertain romantic resurrection of a co-write with Paul Williams, “Silence is Our Song.” The latter production is shorn of Visconti’s ornamentation, pared to guitar, piano and cello for a live performance on Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight. A second co-write, with Jill Sobule, yields the terrific “Odd Girl Out” and its story of a pre-Stonewall lesbian.

Visconti’s rock productions are ornate and imaginative, though on “Sanctified” the volume interrupts the inviting, quiet groove established with the introduction’s combination of voice, strummed acoustic guitar and mellotron. The album closes with a lush instrumental version of the title track, finishing with a lovely coda of violin and cello. Barone was obviously quite excited to finally work with Visconti, and he sounds energized and vital throughout. His new songs retain the hooks and melodic innovations of his earlier work, and his lyrics have grown concrete in character and concept while remaining poetic in their words. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Glow
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Cabinessence: Naked Friends

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Bouncy combination of 70s Britpop, country-rock and sunshine psych

Named after one Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ songs from the mystique-laden Smile project, this Oregon quintet’s harmonies certainly nod to the brothers Wilson. And despite the Pet Sounds-styled bridge “Instrumental No. 2.,” the group artfully melds too many flavors, including  pop, glam, psych, blue-eyed funk, West Coast country-rock, and even swingy jazz, to call out the Beach Boys as a singular influence. The mix is more upbeat and retro than 2005’s Comes Back to You, motoring along with the summery smile of “Thought/Start” and drifting into space with the South-of-the-Border horn instrumental “Ruby’s Moon Elevator.” The song list artfully mates the hooks of AM singles with the finely crafted segues of FM albums. The band’s mix of British pop (T Rex, Thunderclap Newman, Badfinger, post-Beatles Paul McCartney), country-rock (Byrds, Burrito Brothers, CS&N, Creedence Clearwater Revival) and sunshine psych (Beach Boys, Millennium, Sagittarius) is sure to perk up a cloudy day, whether or not you’re from Portland. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Listen to Naked Friends
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The Runaways: The Mercury Albums Anthology

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Terrific collection of The Runaways four Mercury albums

With the Runaways biopic getting a major market push, it was a no-brainer for their oft-ignored catalog to get a fresh reissue. Contained in this set are the three studio albums the group recorded for Mercury (The Runaways, Queens of Noise and Waitin’ For the Night), and a live album originally released as an import (Live in Japan). This represents the heart and soul of the Runaways’ catalog, and though a post-Mercury album (And Now… The Runaways), an odds ‘n’ sods collection (Flaming Schoolgirls) and prehistoric demos (Born to Be Bad) can be found, they’re the province of completists. For those new to the group’s repertoire this four-LPs-on-two-CDs set will tell you everything you need to know – if not a bit more – about the group’s recorded legacy.

The Runaways’ self-titled 1976 debut tells most of the story: five girls who are both a legitimate rock group and puppets of their Svengali producer, Kim Fowley. The dynamic of teenage hormones, rock ‘n’ roll dreams and jailbait marketing gave the album both muscle and sexual sizzle. Joan Jett proved herself a songwriter with an uncommon touch for evoking mid-70s Los Angeles teendom, and she and Cherie Currie sang with a conviction that couldn’t be faked. The band’s playing could be plodding and clumsy in spots, but it was still surprisingly powerful. The group’s 1977 follow-up, Queens of Noise, followed the same template, but within it you could hear the group was a year wiser to the perils of rock ‘n’ roll. Abused by their managers and worn down by the road, they were staring at the madness that would cause the band to implode.

The group’s live album, recorded before an enthusiastic audience in Japan, shows how well the act translated to the stage. As on their debut, the playing isn’t particularly refined, but Currie shows herself to be a commanding front-woman, and Sandy West holds down the beat with power and authority. The Runaways’ final studio release for Mercury, Waitin’ For the Night, saw the band reconfigured: Cherie Currie and Jackie Fox were gone, and with them went some of the band’s overt sex appeal. The former’s vocal spotlight fell to Joan Jett, the latter’s bass playing to Vicki Blue, and the focus to the band’s music. Jett seized the opportunity to assert herself as group leader, rising to the challenge of writing most and singing all of the album’s tracks. In the album’s wake Jett proved, at least to listeners, if not to the record industry, that she was a star in the making. Lita Ford’s two metal-tinged originals also pointed to post-Runaways commercial success.

If you’re new to the group and not ready to invest in the anthology, the self-titled debut album is the place to start. If you want to get a feel for their career arc, the short collection 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Runaways or the out of print The Best of the Runaways effectively sample their catalog. But if you’re hooked and want to hear it all, there are winners to be found on all three of their studio albums, and the live release fleshes out the picture of rock ‘n’ roll life on the road circa 1977. The Runaways weren’t the greatest rock band of their era, but they were trailblazers whose albums captured a time and a place from a young, female perspective that was, and remains to this day, theirs alone. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

The Runaways’ Home Page

Brian Olive: Brian Olive

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

BrianOlive_BrianOliveTuneful mix of rock, glam, psych, soul, jazz and exotica

Brian Olive (as Oliver Henry) explored British Invasion and American garage rock as a member of the Cincinnati-based Greenhornes and Detroit-based Soledad Brothers, playing sax, flute, guitar, piano and organ, as well as singing and writing songs. On his solo debut he expands beyond the gritty hard-rock and reworked blues of Blind Faith and mid-period Stones to include healthy doses of psych, glam, and most surprisingly, soul and exotica. Influences of the New York Dolls, T. Rex and Meddle-era Pink Floyd are easy to spot, but they’re mixed with touches of Stax-style punch, South American rhythms, breezy jet-set vocals and jazz saxophones. It’s intoxicating to hear droning saxophones transform from big band to glammy psychedelia on “High Low,” and the acoustic guitar and drowsy vocals of “Echoing Light” bring to mind the continental air of Pink Floyd’s “St. Tropez.”

This is a rock album steeped in the heavy sounds of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, mixed with the sort of experimental pairings Bill Graham pioneered on bills at the Fillmore. But rather than segueing the jazz, blues, soul and international influences across an evening, Olive invents ways to weave them together within a song, repurposing non-rock sounds in support of guitar, bass and drums. Olive’s voice stretches over his words, ranging from introspective and spent to emotionally propulsive, but the lyrics are difficult to understand, so it’s anyone’s guess what he’s actually singing about. Still, even without a simple storyline or easy sing-a-long, this is musically rich. Perhaps a lyric sheet could accompany the next album? [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | There is Love
Brian Olive’s MySpace Page

The Runaways: Live in Japan

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

runaways_liveinjapanLive album shows just how this 1970s all-girl band could rock

After two albums for Mercury that produced mixed artistic results and few commercial gains, this Los Angeles quintet took their act to Japan and found itself welcomed as stars. Though the tour was reported to be very rough on all five members (and bassist Jackie Fox quit the band before the tour’s final show), this live recording shows just what they were capable of. Freed from the daily abuse of Kim Fowley’s svengali-like machinations and pumped up by adoring Japanese fans, the quintet unleashed their full rock ‘n’ roll spirit. Signature originals, “Queens of Noise,” “California Paradise,” “Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” and “American Nights” finally became the teen anthems they were written to be, and covers of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” and Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” rock harder than their studio counterparts. Originally released in Japan, and subsequently in Canada, this was a collector’s item for nearly thirty years before seeing CD reissue.

As on their studio albums, Sandy West proved herself the motor of the band’s muscular rock. In contrast to their studio recordings, the bass and rhythm guitars push the band with plenty of bottom end, and Lita Ford’s lead guitar is more powerful for its restraint. Cherie Currie and Joan Jett are both in fine voice throughout, with Currie really acquitting herself as a true rock singer – albeit still a theatrical one. Those who saw the original Runaways quintet live know just how they were shortchanged by Fowley’s jailbait marketing and the anemic, sludgy sound of their studio albums. Playing live, even as Currie strutted the stage in her corset and fishnets the group never failed to rock. There are a few bum notes and miscues here and there, but this live album is proof that the Runaways were a lot more rock band than Kim Fowley initially envisioned or ever really wanted to admit. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

The Runaways’ Home Page

The Runaways: Queens of Noise

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

runaways_queensofnoiseRockin’ sophomore release from legendary all-girl ‘70s group

The Runaways second album is a more solid rock album than their self-titled debut, but it also has a more rushed and thrown-together feeling. The Runaways’ erstwhile lead singer, Cherie Currie, was already sharing microphone time with the group’s musical leader, Joan Jett. The album’s title track went to Jett, and with her songwriting adding muscle to the song list, her fingerprints were all over the album. Currie was a compelling vocalist, able to sing both ballads and up-tempo numbers, but she was more theater than rock, and placing tunes like “I Like Playin’ With Fire” and “California Paradise” back-to-back made the band sound schizophrenic. Currie would exit the band after a tour of Japan, and the seeds of her solo career can be heard in the highly produced vocal pop of “Midnight Music.” It’s a good track, but at odds with its segue from Joan Jett’s “Take It or Leave It.”

Earle Mankey’s produced the album at Brothers’ Studio, but any delicacy the Beach Boys achieved within those walls was quickly discarded. The CD transfer retains the original album’s muddiness, which is how it sounded on vinyl in 1978. This is a sledgehammer recording, with Jett and Ford’s guitars growling alongside the meaty, propulsive drumming of Sandy West. Though Jett later proved herself best suited for pop stardom, West’s time-keeping (which lead guitarist Lita Ford occasionally seemed unable to keep pace with) has always been overlooked as the band’s rock-steady core. The title track continued to capture the milieu of the mid-70s Los Angeles, but “Hollywood” seems forced and only a year into the band’s tenure, their teenage spark was clearly being doused by the poor treatment from the band’s minders.

The album’s only real misstep is the 7-minute blues guitar showcase, “Johnny Guitar,” which was filler then, and remains filler today. Cherry Red’s CD reissue rounds up the original ten tracks without bonuses. The insert unfolds into a poster that includes a fan essay, liner notes by Michael Heatley, a note from label founder Iain McNay, photos and song lyrics. It took Cherry Red many years to gain license to reissue these albums, and they’re just the sort of thing to drop from print without notice, only to turn up on eBay for $50. So if you think you want them, get them while you can! [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]