Posts Tagged ‘Psych’

Queen of Jeans: Rollerdyke

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

This Philadelphia quartet’s first single sounded like something you’d have heard on Girls in the Garage or perhaps from the Pussywillows, or the Bangs before they became the Bangles. The group’s second single moves from the garage to the ballroom with a flowing neo-psych sound and a driving beat. Their debut EP is slated for January 22!

Queen of Jeans’ Facebook Page

In Memoriam: 2015

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Ben E. King, 1938-2015

Listen to a selection of artists on Mixcloud or Spotify

January
Little Jimmy Dickens, country vocalist and guitarist
Andrae Crouch, pastor and gospel vocalist
Curtis Lee, vocalist (“Pretty Little Angel Eyes”)
Ray McFall, nightclub owner (The Cavern Club)
Popsy Dixon, vocalist and drummer (The Holmes Brothers)
Tim Drummond, bassist (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, CSN&Y)
Bill Thompson, manager (Jefferson Airplane)
Trevor Leonard Ward-Davies (aka “Dozy”), bassist (Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch)
Ervin Drake, songwriter (“It Was a Very Good Year”)
Kim Fowley, producer, manager, songwriter and vocalist
Ian Allen, culture jammer (Negativland)
Dallas Taylor, rock drummer (CSN&Y)
Ward Swingle, vocalist (The Swingle Singers)
Edgar Froese, keyboardist (Tangerine Dream)
Rose Marie McCoy, songwriter (“I Beg of You” “Trying to Get to You”)
Joe Franklin, radio and television host
Neil Levang, guitarist (The Lawrence Welk Show)
Stephen R. Johnson, music video director (“Sledgehammer”)
Danny McCulloch, rock bassist (The Animals)
Rod McKuen, poet, songwriter and vocalist
Don Covay, vocalist and songwriter (“Chain of Fools”)

February
Joe B. Mauldin, rock ‘n’ roll bassist (The Crickets)
Thom Wilson, engineer and producer (Offspring, Dead Kennedys)
Sam Andrew, rock guitarist (Big Brother and the Holding Company)
Mosie Lister, gospel vocalist and songwriter (The Statesmen Quartet)
Gary Owens, disc jockey (KEWB, KFWB, KMPC) and television announcer
Steve Strange, new wave vocalist (Visage)
Leslie Gore, pop vocalist and songwriter
Clark Terry, jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist
Bobby Emmons, keyboardist and songwriter (“Luckenbach, Texas”)
Tod Dockstader, electronic music composer
Leonard Nimoy, actor, poet and vocalist

March
Orrin Keepnews, record executive and producer
Brian Carman, surf guitarist (Chantays) and songwriter (“Pipeline”)
Albert Maysles, documentarian (“Gimme Shelter”)
Lew Soloff, trumpeter and flugelhornist (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
Jerry Brightman, pedal steel guitarist (Buckaroos)
Eugene Patton, stagehand (“Gene Gene the Dancing Machine”)
Wayne Kemp, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter (“One Piece at a Time”)
Jimmy Greenspoon, rock keyboardist (Three Dog Night)
Daevid Allen, guitarist and vocalist (Soft Machine, Gong)
Bob Parlocha, jazz radio broadcaster (KJAZ)
Don Robertson, songwriter (“Please Help Me I’m Falling” “Ringo”)
Andy Fraser, rock bassist and songwriter (Free)
Samuel Charters, music historian
Michael Brown, songwriter and keyboardist (The Left Banke)
A.J. Pero, rock drummer (Twister Sister)
Miriam Bienstock, record company executive and theatrical producer
Al Bunetta, manager (Steve Goodman, John Prine)
John Renbourn, guitarist and songwriter (Pentangle)
Preston Ritter, rock drummer (The Electric Prunes)

April
Cynthia Lennon, author, first wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian
Dave Ball, rock guitarist (Procol Harum, Bedlam)
Doug Sax, audio mastering engineer (Doors, Rolling Stones, Who)
Robert Lewis “Bob” Burns Jr., drummer (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Ray Charles, vocalist, songwriter and arranger (The Ray Charles Singers)
Milton DeLugg, musician, arranger, conductor and composer
Stan Freberg, comedian, parodist, broadcaster, advertising executive
Keith McCormack, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter (“Sugar Shack”)
Bill Arhos, television broadcaster and founder of Austin City Limits
Percy Sledge, vocalist
Billy Ray Hearn, record company executive (Myrrh)
Wally Lester, doo-wop vocalist (The Skyliners)
Sid Tepper, songwriter (“Red Roses for a Blue Lady” “G.I. Blues”)
Suzanne Crowe, actress and percussionist (The Partridge Family)
Jack Ely, rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and vocalist (The Kingsmen)
Steven Goldmann, music video director (Faith Hill’s “This Kiss”)
Ben E. King, vocalist and songwriter

May
Guy Carawan, folk musician and musicologist
Errol Brown, vocalist and songwriter (Hot Chocolate)
Rutger Gunnarsson, bassist (ABBA)
Johnny Gimble, western swing and country fiddler
Stan Cornyn, music industry executive (Warner Brothers, Reprise)
B.B. King, blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter
Bruce Lundvall, record company executive (Blue Note, Angel, Manhattan)
Twinkle (Lynn Annette Ripley), pop vocalist and songwrite
Louis Johnson, bassist (The Brothers Johnson)
Johnny Keating, songwriter and arranger
Jim Bailey, vocalist, actor and impressionist (Judy Garland, Peggy Lee)
Julie Harris, costume designer (A Hard Day’s Night, Help)

June
Jean Ritchie, folk vocalist, songwriter and dulcimer player
Dennis Ferrante, recording engineer (John Lennon, Harry Nilsson)
Ronnie Gilbert, folk vocalist and songwriter (The Weavers)
Paul Bacon, album cover designer (Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker)
Randy Howard, country vocalist and songwriter
James Last, composer and bandleader
Johnny Keating, composer and arranger (“Theme for Z Cars”)
Jim Ed Brown, country vocalist and songwriter (The Browns)
Ornette Coleman, jazz saxophonist and visionary
Monica Lewis, jazz and commercial vocalist (Chiquita Banana)
Stephen Blauner, agent, manager and producer
Phil Austin, actor, comedian, writer, musician and radio broadcaster (The Firesign Theater)
Harold Battiste, saxophonist, arranger and composer
Wendell Holmes, guitarist and songwriter (The Holmes Brothers)
James Horner, film score composer, conductor and arranger (Titanic)
Chris Squire, bassist and songwriter (Yes)
Bruce Rowland, drummer (Grease Band, Fairport Convention)

July
Red Lane, country vocalist and songwriter
Roy C. Bennett, songwriter (“Red Roses for a Blue Lady” “G.I. Blues”)
Jerry Weintraub, film producer, manager, promoter and vocalist
Ernie Maresca, vocalist, songwriter (“Runaround Sue”) and record company executive
Michael Masser, songwriter (“Touch Me in the Morning”)
Tom Skinner, red dirt vocalist and songwriter
David Somerville, vocalist (The Diamonds)
Doug Layton, radio personality and Beatles boycotter
Buddy Buie, songwriter (“Spooky” “So Into You”) and producer
Van Alexander, composer, arranger and bandleader
Wayne Carson, songwriter (“The Letter” “Always on My Mind”)
Dieter Moebius, electronic music pioneer (Kluster, Brian Eno)
Theodore Bikel, actor, vocalist, activist and composer
Don Joyce, writer, producer, actor and radio broadcaster (Negativland, Over the Edge)
Vic Firth, percussionist and percussion stick maker
Buddy Emmons, pedal steel guitarist
Lynn Anderson, country vocalist

August
Cilla Black, vocalist, actress and media personality
Ken Barnes, author and producer
Billy Sherrill, producer, songwriter and arranger
Don Kent, blues historian and record label owner
Gary Keys, documentarian and concert producer
Bob Johnston, producer (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel) and songwriter
Danny Sembello, producer and songwriter (“Neutron Dance”)
Joy Beverley, vocalist (Beverley Sisters)

September
Owen “Boomer” Castleman, vocalist and guitarist (Lewis & Clarke Expedition), inventor (Palm Pedal)
Rico Rodriguez, ska and reggae trombonist (Specials)
Hal Willis, country vocalist (“The Lumberjack”)
Frederick “Dennis” Greene, vocalist (Sha Na Na)
Augusta Lee Collins, blues drummer, vocalist and guitarist
Smokey WIlson, blues guitarist
Gary Richrath, rock guitarist and songwriter (REO Speedwagon)
Peggy “Lady Bo” Jones, rock ‘n’ roll guitarist
Ben Cauley, trumpeter (Bar-Kays)
Wilton Felder, saxophonist and bassist (Jazz Crusaders)
Frankie Ford, vocalist (“Sea Cruise”)
Phil Woods, jazz saxophonist (“Just the Way You Are”)

October
Big Tom Parker, disc jockey (KFRC, KYUU, K101, KOIN, KMGI, KXL)
Dave Pike, jazz vibraphonist
Smokey Johnson, drummer (Fats Domino) and songwriter
Billy Joe Royal, pop vocalist (“Down in the Boondocks” “Cherry Hill Park”)
Gail Zappa, widow of Frank Zappa and trustee of the Zappa Family Estate
Larry Rosen, producer and label founder (GRP)
Steve Mackay, saxophonist (The Stooges)
Hal Hackady, lyricist and and screenwriter (“Let’s Go Mets!”)
Steve Gebhardt, filmmaker (“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones”)
John Jennings, musician and producer (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
Cory Wells, rock vocalist (Three Dog Night)
Arnold Klein, dermatologist (Michael Jackson)
Leon Bibb, folk and theater vocalist
Nat Peck, jazz trombonist
David Rodriguez, vocalist, songwriter and father of Carrie Rodriguez
Herbie Goins, R&B vocalist

November
Tommy Overstreet, country vocalist
Chuck Pyle, country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Eddie Hoh, session drummer (Donovan, Monkees, Mamas & Papas)
Charlie Dick, widower of Patsy Cline and record promoter
Andy White, drummer (The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”)
Martin Beard, rock bassist (Sopwith Camel)
Allen Toussaint, musician, songwriter and producer
Phil Taylor, drummer (Motörhead)
P.F. Sloan, vocalist, songwriter and producer
Al Aarons, jazz trumpeter (Count Basie Orchestra)
Ramona Jones, fiddler (Hee Haw)
Mack McCormick, musicologist and folklorist
Norman Pickering, engineer and inventor (Pickering phonographic stylus)
Arthur Brooks, vocalist (The Impressions)
Cynthia Robinson, trumpeter (Sly and the Family Stone)
Ronnie Bright, doo-wop vocalist (Valentines, Coasters, “Mr. Bassman”)
Wayne Bickerton, songwriter, producer, label executive and bassist
Buddy Moreno, big band vocalist, bandleader and radio host

December
Alex Cooley, promoter (Atlanta International Pop Festival, Mar Y Sol)
Scott Weiland, vocalist and songwriter (Stone Temple Pilots)
John Garner, drummer and vocalist (Sir Lord Baltimore)
Marque Lynch, vocalist (Lion King, American Idol, Mickey Mouse Club)
Franz “Franzl” Lang, German yodel king, accordionist and guitarist
Bonnie Lou, country vocalist and television performer
Gary Marker, bassist and engineer (Rising Sons, Captain Beefheart)
Rusty Jones, jazz drummer
Luigi Creatore, songwriter and producer (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”)
Adam Roth, guitarist (Jim Carroll, Del Fuegos)
Snuff Garrett, producer (Gary Lewis & The Playboys)
William Guest, R&B vocalist (Gladys Knight & The Pips)
Takeharu Kunimoto, shamisen player and bluegrass musician
Stevie Wright, pop vocalist (The Easybeats)
John Bradbury, drummer (The Specials)
Lemmy Kilmister, rock vocalist, bassist and songwriter (Motörhead)
Joe Houston, R&B saxophonist
Natalie Cole, vocalist and daughter of Nat “King” Cole

Hypercast #6: In Memoriam 2015

Friday, December 25th, 2015

A collection of music from some of the artists who passed away in 2015.

Billy Joe Royal Down in the Boondocks
B.B. King Early in the Morning
Bonnie Lou Friction Heat
Ben E. King (The Drifters) Save the Last Dance for Me
Don Covay Come See About Me
Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) Emma
Don Joyce Crystal’s Snowdrift Disco Bar & Thrill
Jack Ely (The Kingsmen) Louie, Louie
Leonard Nimoy Highly Illogical
Kim Fowley The Trip
Buddy Emmons Witches Brew
Cory Wells (Three Dog Night) Mama Told Me Not to Come
Jean Richie Dulcimer Pieces
Johnny Gimble Lone Star Rag
Little Jimmy Dickens Me and My Big Loud Mouth
Lynn Anderson Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Curtis Lee Pretty Little Angel Eyes
David Somerville (The Diamonds) Little Darlin’
Ronnie Bright (Johnny Cymbal) Mr. Bass Man
Frankie Ford Sea Cruise
Allen Toussaint Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky
Lew Soloff (Blood, Sweat & Tears) Spinning Wheel
Ramona Jones Whiskey Before Breakfast
Chuck Pyle Rio Rey
Cilla Black Conversations
Michael Brown (The Left Banke) Pretty Ballerina
Rod McKuen Jean
Percy Sledge Warm and Tender Love
Lesley Gore I Don’t Want To Be a Loser
Johnny Keating Theme From Z-Cars
Ward Swingle (The Swingle Singers) The Little Fugue
Jim Ed Brown Pop-A-Top
Owen Castleman Judy Mae
Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) Creep
P.F. Sloan Halloween Mary
Dave Pike Jet Set

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

DreamSyndicate_TheDaysOfWineAndRoses2015 reissue adds previously unreleased vault discoveries

The Dream Syndicate’s full-length debut represents a spectacularly quick climb to prominence. The band’s first EP (on Wynn’s own Down There label) certainly hinted at what was to come (not least of which for its inclusion of early versions of “That’s What You Always Say” and “When You Smile”), but the album, recorded only seven months after the band’s first public show, was something else again. In retrospect, the EP was the warmup, and the album was the full-on performance. When released in the Fall of 1982, the album was part of a banner year for L.A. bands, including discs from the Salvation Army, Three O’Clock, Bangles and Rain Parade. Though lumped together under the Paisley Underground banner, each band drew from overlapping but ultimately unique sets of influences.

Dream Syndicate’s roots in Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Crazy Horse and Television provided the obvious surface, but the band aimed for influence and homage, rather than slavish stylistic nostalgia, and grounded their sound in the new decade. The feedback laden guitar solos of this debut, particularly on the extended length title track, had the confrontational theatricality of punk rock, but the record’s expansiveness didn’t adhere to the two-minute ethos. Comparing the album to the contemporaneous live set The Day Before Wine and Roses, it’s clear that the group’s chemistry was that of a band that played together and fed off one another. Dennis Duck and Kendra Smith locked together as a rhythm section, providing a hypnotic backing for the penetrating, strangulated tone of Karl Precoda’s guitar.

Standing in front, pushed by the rhythm section and speared by the guitar, vocalist Steve Wynn sounded desperately engaged. His monotone was seasoned by the spittle of punk rock, and supplemented by slight, but highly effective melodic diversions that occupy their own seat in the house of Lou Reed. Early ‘80s college radio listeners are apt to remember “Tell Me When It’s Over,” “When You Smile” and “The Days of Wine and Roses,” but the rest of the album connects the dots with music that’s filled with dark, savage energy. “Definitely Clean” and “Then She Remembers” charge from the gate and never relent on their driving tempos, and the title track’s extended instrumental middle adds a harrowing new entry to the pantheon of guitar duets.

Omnivore’s reissue reconfigures Rhino’s 2001 reissue, dropping the pre-LP EP, early rehearsal tracks and a pre-Dream Syndicate single by 10 Seconds, in lieu of newly discovered vault entries. Heard here for the first time are the lengthy instrumental “Outside the Dream Syndicate” and forgotten title “Like Mary” from early 1982, the short jam “Is it Rolling, Bob?” and the complete song “A Reason,” from December 1982, and early rehearsals of Medicine Show’s “Still Holding On to You” and “Armed With an Empty Gun,” with Kendra Smith on bass. The latter two, recorded only a few months after the album, suggest what Medicine Show might have sounded like had the band not spent months recording in San Francisco for a major label with producer Sandy Pearlman.

The newly excavated tracks provide bookends to the album, showing off both the band’s primordial roots and a glimpse at an alternate future they might have lived out. Fans who have collected all of the official releases and reissues will appreciate this newly discovered ground, particularly the Medicine Show titles. As rehearsals, the production quality doesn’t match that of the album, but the unguarded nature of these performances provides a fascinating glimpse into the band’s development. Those new to the Dream Syndicate will also want to also track down a copy of Rhino’s earlier release for the EP and pre-Dream Syndicate tracks. Omnivore’s 80-minute CD is accompanied by a 12-page booklet that includes testimonials from Bucketfull of Brains’ Nigel Cross, the Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci, the Long Ryders’ Tom Stevens, Green on Red’s Dan Stuart, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Rhino Records’ Gary Stewart and several friends of the band. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Otis Taylor: Hey Joe Opus / Red Meat

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

OtisTaylor_HeyJoeOpusRedMeatBlues in a heavy trance

Colorado guitarist Otis Taylor can play the blues, but he’s never content to just repeat the same old 16 bars. His latest opens with a cover of  “Hey Joe” that quickly displays the album’s reach, as violinist Anne Harris answers his vocals, cornetist Ron Miles adds a melancholy solo, and Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes wails on guitar. The song’s middle section finds the players interweaving in a hypnotic instrumental whose crescendo gives way to a shell-shocked vocal that’s equal parts grief and defiance.. The song coasts to a stop as it segues into the instrumental “Sunday Morning,” and it’s here that the album’s psychedelic flavors take hold. The driving rhythm at the song’s center is embroidered by echoed guitar and insistent cornet lines, driving the song into prog rock and fusion territory.

“Hey Joe” appears again in a second arrangement that features a vocal from Langhorne Slim. The song’s story of decisions and consequence provides the album’s theme; as Taylor writes “sometimes you take the love, sometimes the love takes you.” There’s inevitability in the gender transition of “Peggy Lee,” and the escape of “Hey Joe” is seen from the other side in “Cold at Midnight.” The album’s most straightforward blues, “The Heart is a Muscle (Used for the Blues),” features a throbbing bassline that boldly underlines the lyrics’ eroticism. Taylor’s music is so personally idiosyncratic that it’s difficult to compare with anyone else. But he has kindred souls, such as Taj Mahal, with whom he shares a taste for adventure and the artistic dexterity to capitalize on deep musical knowledge. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Otis Taylor’s Home Page

The Living Kills: Odd Fellows Hall

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

LivingKills_OddFellowsHallDark psychedelic rock from the garages of Brooklyn

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Merrill Sherman returns with an expanded five-piece line-up of the Living Kills for this new EP. As with their album Faceless Angels, the whining tone of Jennifer Bassett’s organ pinpoints the band’s inspiration in the garages of the 1960s. The rhythm riff of the opening “Anywhere” suggests the Moving Sidewalks’ “99th Floor,” but Bassett expands the epoch with some space-age Moog. Sherman’s songs explore B-movie and horror-related themes previously championed by the Cramps, and the arrangements buzz with the energy of the 13th Floor Elevators, Doors and UK Freakbeat. Newly added drummer Brian Del Guercio keeps a punchy backbeat, and bassist Ross Fisher adds a rumbling bottom end that will catch anyone walking by the garage. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Living Kills’ Home Page

X-Ray Harpoons: Get Attuned to Our Tyme

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

XRayHarpoons_GetAttunedToOurTymeTerrific throw-back garage fuzz psych

Though they’ve been kicking around in one lineup or another for eight years, this Bonn-based quintet has only now recorded and released their debut LP. That’s given them plenty of time to hone their fuzz guitar, whining organ and solid garage rock beats. The band cites vintage touchstones in the Music Machine, Brogues and We the People, as well as the sounds of 80s revivalists like the Fuzztones and Gravedigger V. The strong organ presence also brings to mind Country Joe & The Fish, the Doors, Lyres, Rain Parade and Chesterfield Kings. The band’s eleven originals mix easily with two finely crafted covers (the Daybreakers’ “Psychedelic Siren” and Sonny Flaherty and Mark V’s manic “Hey Conductor“), as the band plays Eastern-tinged psychedelia, buzzing garage punk and organ and drum-driven rave-ups. The vocals are swaggering, snotty and with the Mellotron effect of “City of Light,” trippy. The album is well stocked with catchy melodies, sharp hooks, fuzz-powered riffs and inventive production touches that will really please garage and psych aficionados. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The X-Ray Harpoons’ Bandcamp Page

OST: Toomorrow

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

OST_ToomorrowOlivia Newton-John on the doorstep of stardom in 1970

This 1970 soundtrack to a blink-and-you-missed-it Don Kirshner-produced film would likely have remained a quick blip on the pop landscape, had the like-named group, film and soundtrack not featured a young Olivia Newton-John. At the time of the film’s release, John was still a year away from breaking through internationally with the Dylan-penned “If Not for You,” but she already had plenty of experience under her belt. She’d recorded a terrific cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine” and was gaining notice from club performances when Kirshner (who’d found success assembling the Archies and Cuff Links after being booted as the Monkees’ producer) brought her into the group.

The film was part of a deal Kirshner struck with James Bond producer Harry Saltzman, and after funding troubles sank the picture’s prospects, it was shelved shortly after release. The soundtrack album was released concurrently on RCA, but given the film’s vanishing act, the vinyl quickly followed suit. The group released a follow-up single and B-side on Decca, but Newton-John was soon off to the beginning of her superstar solo career. Real Gone’s first-ever reissue of the soundtrack, struck from the original master tape, includes the album’s original dozen tracks.

The film stars Toomorrow as the only band with the “curative vibrations” that can save an alien race dying from a lack of emotion. The screenplay is filled with late ’60s tropes, faux hipster dialog and science fiction cliches, which, of course, makes it worth screening. But the project seems to have really been a launching pad for the group, as had been the Monkees television show and the Archies’ animated series; unfortunately, there was no commercial lift-off. The soundtrack, written and produced by veteran pop songsmiths Mark Barkan (“She’s a Fool,” “Pretty Flamingo,” “The Tra La La Song”) and Ritchie Adams (“Tossin’ and Turnin'”), is an amalgam of bubblegum sounds that include pop, soul and lite psych, hints of folk and country, and is threaded lightly with primitive synth.

Olivia Newton-John is featured on the Motown-inflected “Walkin’ on Air” and the closing “Goin’ Back.” She’s also sings harmonies and takes a verse on the title theme. Guitarist Ben Cooper provides lead vocal for the space-age garage-rocker “Taking Our Own Sweet Time,” the pop-blues “Let’s Move On,” and the hippie themed “HappinessValley.” A trio of instrumentals includes Hugo Montenegro’s bachelor pad-styled “Spaceport,” and orchestral arrangements of “Toomorrow” and “Walkin’ on Air” that sound as if they’re drawn from a commercial production music library. This doesn’t measure up to ONJ’s later hits, but as a quirky start to her career, it’s great find for fans. Real Music’s reissue includes a six-panel booklet with extensive liner notes and full-panel front- and back-cover reproductions. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Dream Syndicate: The Day Before Wine and Roses

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

DreamSyndicate_TheDayBeforeWineAndRosesThe Dream Syndicate live in their early prime

Performed a week before laying down The Days of Wine and Roses, this September 1982 live set provides a career bookend to the Dream Syndicate’s 1989 set Live at Raji’s (and later expanded as The Complete Live at Raji’s). Recorded at Los Angeles radio station KPFK’s Studio Zzzz, the 2am start gave the paisley underground’s leading lights (including Green on Red, the Rain Parade and Bangles) an opportunity to attend, and all were treated to a band whose nine-month public career had quickly brought them to both artistic and critical prominence. The set list included all four titles from their debut EP, the title song of The Days of Wine and Roses, an early sketch of 1984’s “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” (under the title “Open Hour”), and covers of Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan and Donovan.

The band eases into the set with a sedate version of “Some Kinda Itch,” transforming the original’s frenetic energy into a relaxed Doors/Velvets-styled late-night jam. The set adds low-stringed weight with the band’s take on “Mr. Soul,” and really starts to gain momentum with “Sure Thing.” What listeners will quickly realize – and what the in-studio audience must have felt – is that this isn’t a simple recitation of the band’s catalog, but a carefully crafted live set. The playlist builds tension by allowing the tempo, volume and instrumental ferocity to surge and ebb, skillfully winding its way to the climactic debut of “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Throughout the evening (well, morning) Steve Wynn charms the audience with humor and an easy manner that belies his relatively few years in front of audiences.

The band gets stronger as the set progresses, and they rip into Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home-era “Outlaw Blues” with Karl Precoda stressing his guitar in ways the folks at Newport could scarcely have imagined. That turns out to be only a warm-up, as “Open Hour” (in one of its first run-throughs) is stretched into an instrumental jam that showcases Precoda’s feedback-laced guitar work. “When You Smile” turns its melody into an atmospheric howl that underlines the song’s quiet introduction and portends the aural storm on the horizon. The set wraps with a primal eight-minute cover of “Season of the Witch,” and closes at 3am with Precoda’s guitar in full pyrotechnic glory for “The Days of Wine and Roses.”

More than thirty years later, the performances retain their power, and with added distance, the band sounds more apiece with their influences than derivative of them. Three of these tracks (“Some Kinda Itch,” “Sure Thing” and “Mr. Soul”) were previously released in 1983 as the B-side of a Rough Trade 12″, and the full show in 1995. But with both discs out of print, Omnivore’s reissue will be welcomed by long-time fans (including, it turns out, Steven Wynn himself), and a revelation to the uninitiated. Pat Thomas’ liners from the 1995 release are augmented by Steve Wynn’s memories of the songs, performances and people, fleshing out the story of how the Dream Syndicate’s passion was showcased live. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Dream Syndicate’s Home Page

Going Underground

Monday, October 7th, 2013

DVD_GoingUndergroundIlluminting Paul McCartney’s avant-garde credentials

John Lennon may have ended up with the larger avant-garde cred, but this fascinating 153-minute documentary suggests it was Paul McCartney who first dug into the underground. Combining period footage (including clips of the Beatles, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Pink Floyd and Soft Machine) and contemporary interviews with a number of ’60s scene-makers, the film demonstrates McCartney’s early interest and sponsorship of counterculture art and social activities, and the role he served in bridging the avant-garde into the mainstream. Beatles fans will recognize key moments in the group’s career, but may not know the roots of the invention and synthesis that brought “Tomorrow Never Knows” and other icons to fruition. Even lesser known is the role McCartney played in supporting key counterculture activities, such as Indica Books and Gallery, the Long Hair Times (and its successor the International Times), and the legendary Million Volt Light and Sound Rave.

The story begins with the late-50s emergence of youth culture in the UK, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the expressive freedom and bohemian romance of the Beats, the cutting edge jazz of the 1960s, and the growing influence of art school on music. The program gets to the Beatles at the thirty-minute mark, when John Lennon and George Harrison dip their toe in the underground at a birthday party for Allen Ginsburg. Lennon was then living in the suburbs with his first wife and child, and didn’t find an immediate resonance with the underground. McCartney, on the other hand, was a bachelor, living in London and being introduced to the works of John Cage by the family of Jane Asher, to Karlheinz Stockhausen and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by George Martin, and to avant-garde books and art through his association with Indica.

McCartney’s intellectual pursuits, and his experiments in a home studio (something that would continue into his post-Beatles solo career) were absorbed by the Beatles, but reiterated to the market in pop song format. The reframing of avant-garde ideas, coupled with the Beatles unprecedented renown, made it seem as if these concepts were drawn from thin air. But as this film documents, there are many antecedents from which McCartney and the Beatles drew, brilliantly recontextualized and then released into the commercial mainstream. This might seem opportunistic, had the Beatles not completed the loop by feeding back into the underground. By the end of 1966 the Beatles had abandoned touring, Lennon had met Yoko Ono (at a private showing of her work at Indica), and McCartney provided the impetus for both TNK and the “Carnival of Light” sound collage.

The Beatles continued to slip avant-garde elements into their music, but 1967 turned out to be a year of changes. McCartney’s media appearances gave a more explicit view of his involvement with the underground, but by year’s end, with the death of Brian Epstein, he’d given himself over to running the group’s business. Lennon, on the other hand, had become much more deeply enmeshed with the avant-garde, and expanded its role on Beatles records with Revolution 9. Post-Beatles, Lennon strengthened his ties to political elements of the underground, but the avant-garde influences faded from his solo music. McCartney doubled-down on the mainstream with Wings, but continued to experiment in his solo outings.

McCartney’s role as a bridge between the underground and the commercial mainstream provides the central thesis, but the film’s subtitle is a bit misleading, as McCartney himself does not occupy the majority of the program’s screen time (there are, for example, major segments on Pink Floyd and Soft Machine).  The bulk of the continuity is provided by a mix of the era’s scene makers and contemporary musicologists, providing background information that is essential to understanding the avant-garde milieu in which the Beatles developed. No doubt many Beatles fans have already absorbed some or all of this material, but to those who only know the group through their records and publicity, the context for their musical experimentation will be eye opening. [©2013 Hyperbolium]