So even though Tarantino’s latest failed to put Paul Revere or his Raiders back up at the Toppermost of the Poppermost, and American Funnyman Neil Hamburger’s long-too-awaited Still Dwelling seems to have passed totally under the fryer, the Pig Player this past year was kept busy as always spinning, alphabetically as always…
From Memphis To New Orleans
“Alex Chilton created a unique body of work when he emerged from a self-imposed exile in the 1980s,” says the handy sticker on the shrinkwrap, and this stellar assortment more than ably covers each of the man’s bases, musical and otherwise. From the vengefully autobiographical “Lost My Job” to the Zappa-sharp “Guantanamerika” to, yes, the covers (a fine Brian Wilson-fashion “Let Me Get Close To You” plus a “Little GTO” that would impress Ronny and his Daytonas) there is something here for every ear …as was, more often than not, Alex’s wont in life. Personally, the real revelation to me was the anything but celibate “No Sex” guitar work, the “Dalai Lama” versus Alley Oop – hearing is believing – almost – and, most comi-tragically, how with just a twee bit of a tart-up “Thing For You” could’ve been one of Hall & Oates’ most ginormous-ever chart-toppers …sparing our hero from months of pushing brooms, washing dishes and trimming trees had only, alas, song met singers. “A solid collection for the super fan as well as the new listener,” to quote that sticker again? I’d recommend everyone steering this collection From Memphis To New Orleans to your player of choice asap.
ALAN CLAYSON AND THE ARGONAUTS
After a performance last August by the one, the still only Alan Clayson at the Half Moon in Putney (I myself caught a Neil Innes, RIP, show there a few years ago …but I digress) a gentleman claiming to own a record company expressed interest in immortalizing the man’s quite legendary “Sol Nova” upon ten inches of 21st Century vinyl. “While I was civil enough to him,” Alan reports, “I’m sufficiently battle-hardened by the business to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised if it turns out he wasn’t talking crap. And, he wasn’t! He seemed to be someone with more money than sense – and I like people like that.” Or, as the official Hookah Press Release perfectly states, “On rare occasion a bright object will appear without warning in the night sky. This might be a sol nova; a star that, via a side-action of radio activity, has mutated suddenly into a celestial behemoth, swallowing and destroying all the planets in its orbit. And their inhabitants. Alan Clayson and The Argonauts have expressed this horror via a single of space-rock persuasion. Please try not to faint.”
Between The Lines: The Complete Jordan/Wilson Songbook ’71-81
(Grown Up Wrong! Records)
Jordan/Wilson as in Cyril and Chris, that is. And while that musical team may for some inexplicable reason still not find themselves uttered in the same circles as Jagger/Richard(s) and, dare I say it, Lennon/McCartney, this above-superb compendium of shoulda-been-Big-BIG-hits from their Golden Decade sets records completely straight in a wholly, well, Groovie way. From the smartly Small Faces “Let Me Rock” clear through the too-bad-the-Ramones-never-got-a-stab-at “So Much In Love,” it’s plain this material, while planted in the past (eg: “Teenage Confidential” is the best song Gene Clark never wrote, while “Yes I Am” encapsulates the entire Aftermath LP in two and a half minutes flat) adroitly set the stage for the power popping paisleys of the Eighties and Nineties to come. Honestly, I still remember how absolutely floored I was when the magnificently Merseybeating “Yes It’s True” and especially “You Tore Me Down” first appeared upon my Pig Player 43-or-so years ago: I put my own band together within a week. P.S.: Also not to be missed in any way whatsoever is Grown Up Wrong’s I’ll Have A… Bucket of Brains collection of all the Groovies’ original, mainly Rockfield recordings from A.D. 1972. Altogether then, that’ll make four – count ’em! – versions of “Shake Some Action.”
JOHN & YOKO
Above Us Only Sky
Just when you thought there was categorically nothing left to see, let alone hear, about John Lennon comes this unexpectedly revealing study of J & Y circa 1971. Ostensibly a fly-on-the-studio-wall charting of the Imagine album sessions – quite possibly the most (over?) documented five days in recorded music history – Above Us Only Sky veers into all sorts of fascinating directions; most intriguingly into the backstories of both Yoko and John… which explains not only why the two got together, but why they stayed together. These 113 minutes also illuminate, as never before, the sly yet festering radicalism which lurks, not just lyrically, beneath much of the “sugar coating” which John later described, in perhaps attempting to excuse, the finished product’s orchestral gloss. Speaking of which, of particular note throughout is the ubiquitous, perpetually sunglassed Phil Spector: “a very heavy presence” in the understated words of Sounds photographer Kieron “Spud” Murphy. On much the other hand however is the vintage ’69 Bonus footage of John, Yoko, and Apple publicist Derek Taylor (!) busking “Oh Yoko!” in a Bahamian hotel room. Who knew Mrs. Lennon could be so skilled at harmony singing?!!
LIBRARIANS WITH HICKEYS
“Black Velvet Dress” / “Alex”
(Big Stir Records)
For anyone out there who may still, for some unfathomable reason, question the power and the glory of the three-minute four-chord p-o-p song done right, “Black Velvet Dress” will in no way fail to raise you off your settee and shove things direct towards the nearest Volume UP knob. “I heard you were giving a funeral today” may indeed be the first words voiced here, but what follows instead is a deceptively cheery deep breeze through all the brightest and the best of a circa-’78 playlist from your most trusted music geek’s audio closet. Nostalgic? No. The word would be “timeless.” N.B.: stay tuned for the coda too. Meanwhile, “Alex” sports the exceptionally ethereal sheen of, say, the Springfield or even Who at their most subtle and nuanced …and the concluding 30 seconds are just about the most gorgeous I’ve spent all year. Oh! and Hunt down then repeatedly hear these Librarians’ “And Then She’s Gone” b/w “Until There Was You” as well. And let’s all hope their long-promised full-length album isn’t much longer overdue.
KIMBERLEY REW AND LEE CAVE-BERRY
Enjoy The Rest Of Your Day
And on the subject of pop done right, connoisseurs of the jangle genre, while already well acquainted with Mr. Rew’s renowned past will be as tickled as I at the breadth, bravado, and downright panache he and Lee pack into this singularly unassuming little disc. Donning their Blue Caps straight out of the gate on “Flat Cat,” rollicking towards The Great Lost Buckingham Nicks gem “Jess,” the two can make one incredible string band (“Angel On Earth”) one moment, then with “Sad Case” ricochet with precisely the kind of Northern beat ballad last heard on your fave rave Hollies B-side. Lee’s “Backing Singer Blues” places her 20 feet from stardom, certainly, but in a less bitter, more sweet way while “All The Colours” and maybe even the T.Rex-y “Sister Cow” demonstrate a most fruitful future awaits K & L if ever they should decide to explore the wide wild world of children’s entertainment. No, really! These songs are exhilaratingly all-ages, you bet, but with a keen eye and ear towards the canny sophistication which comes with musicians and songwriters who’ve been around. All the way around. And don’t it feel good?
“THE ROLLING STONES ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS”
As the onslaught of over-boxed (not to mention all too frequently over-hyped and -priced) 50th Anniversary Christmastime Commemorative Issues roll onward and outward, how refreshing to hear – and see! – a package that more than deserves its place not only in socio-musical history, but right up there on your nearest collectors’ shelf too. This exquisitely restored and bountifully expanded edition of the Rolling Stones’ sorta-ill-fated 1968 all-star-and-then-some television spectacular is worth treasuring today if only to savor fresh commentary tracks from Mick and Keith, Marianne and Yoko, and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg …not to mention a bonus trio of additional Taj Mahal performances and even a Dirty Mac rehearsal of the latest Beatle B-side “Revolution.” Nevertheless, when all is said and sung, it remains The Who and their still-incendiary-after-all-these-years “A Quick One While He’s Away” that continues to steal the show; “for a brief moment it seemed that rock ‘n’ roll would inherit the Earth,” as no less an authority as official Circus chronicler David Dalton reminds us.
SEX CLARK FIVE
The Orange Album
(Records to Russia)
It’s getting harder each and every decade to “miss” our beloved SC5, as they inch ever so closer to genuine mainstream underground acclaim and success: Now, in a mere 40 (!) minutes, are 23 (!!) good 2019 reasons why. Including “The Orange Album Song” (clocking in at 0:44), “Feel Too Hard” (adept vocal counterpointing), “Leni Riefenstahl,” “Jeanne d’Arc” and “Merchant of Venice” (acute melodic name-dropping; the latter complete with transcription sampling), “Those Days Are Gone” (psych!), “Cosmic Brain” (power!), “Home at Last” (pop!!), “Danielle” (I love the Honeycombs too), “Girl” (beats the Beatles’), “Hold On” (beats the Hermits’!), “Another Glad Life” (should’ve ended up in that Queen movie), “Dark Age Saint” (should’ve ended up on Disc 4 of the Kinks’ new Arthur box) …and I have still left a full ten other tracks thoroughly unaccounted for! Yes, James Butler and Rick Storey have produced yet another album which, remarkably, remains unfailingly loyal to their very own style of sound; as unmistakable today as it was in, unbelievably, 1985. If you missed them then, don’t miss them now.
SQUIRES OF THE SUBTERRAIN
(Rocket Racket Records)
Our noble Squire may have taken ’018 off, but he’s back …in all of his “recorded in the basement on analog gear” splendor. And you know what? This whole project seems, and surely sounds, positively soused from start to finish. But, in the kind of way that might make even the 1972 Raymond Douglas Davies green with ARLD. Tracks titled “Fever Eyes,” “Whiskey Closet” and “Tequila And Gin” provide clues, of course; not to mention the “Last call, Harry Nilsson!” aroma ’round “Too Much Of A Good Thing.” Elsewhere though, there’s the “8th Wonder Of The World” (yep, it’s the eighth number of the program) which should immediately be sent David Lynch’s way, the severely alt. country – even Hank Hardwood might approve – “Shadow,” and the Bradley brothers’ brass-propelled clean outta Nola and into the swamp “House Of Ghosts.” Add a shot of Speedy Keen on the title track accompanied by the most, um, mischievously tuned pianos this side of Quadrophenia and the Radio Silence becomes truly deafening.
Had I been anywhere in Spain on the evening of June 14, 1984, I would have made damn sure I was right there cheering on everyone’s favorite Doll as he and veteran partner-in-grime S. Sylvain hurled themselves through this typically shambled set of classics, soon-to-be-classics, and Grade A clunkers to boot. Introduced with simulated lightning and, yes, thunder, then the dulcet tones of “Pipeline,” a JT resplendent in his finest Dr. as opposed to Sgt. Pepper matador finery kicks off with an expertly ragged one-two “Personality Crisis”/”Too Much Junkie Business” slap before settling into the slipstream of things, Madrid-style. That means a shot of “Tequila” mixed with the “Just Another Girl” guitar solo, Sylvain ravaging his portable 88’s for a Booker T. by way of Terry Adams “Green Onions” I kid you not and, ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Nolan beating beautifully during “Don’t Mess With Cupid” especially. Break the merriment with an interview segment featuring, and I quote, Composer and Painter Carlos Berlanga, Music Producer, Manager, and Starmaker Miguel Angel Arenas and three-quarters of the Zoquillos Punk Rock Band, follow with a four-song acoustic encore featuring a flamenco “Eve of Destruction” (!)… all memories you can put more than your arms around. Then, for even more fun, Don’t Forget to check in to Room 37 on your way out.