Friday, April 27, 2012


Here's a true slice of Americana. 

Imagine: you visit a cafeteria-style restaurant in some place like Lawton, Oklahoma or Plainview, Texas. You get in line with your tray, get some meatloaf and some jello, and sit down amongst the old folks who are here to take advantage of the $6.30 all-you-can-eat deal.  (They're on a fixed income, you know.) Amazingly, a live music show starts, right there in the dining room. A couple about as old as the average patron of the restaurant cheerfully start singing old country/western  hits with live guitar, and karaoke-type backing tapes. The man sings lead, and on some songs, like "Tennessee Waltz,"  he's  okay if he keeps his voice down and stays within his narrow singing range.  On the occasional rock'n'roll number, like Chuck Berry's "Memphis," he sounds like your dad singing in the shower. As the show proceeds, his vocal stylings gets worse and worse, as he creaks his way thru songs like "Rocky Top," and a disastrous version of Marty Robbin's "El Paso." You're cringing, but looking around, no-one seems to be complaining. Actually, they appreciate a little entertainment.

Bobby Joe Ryman and his wife Jackie Gershwin are pushing 70, but, at least as of a few years ago when this album was recorded, they toured American Mid- and South-western small towns playing daytime/early evening shows at various Furr's Family Dining restaurants. This kinda thing is fascinating to me - life on the bottom of the show-biz ladder. Whether you find this album depressing, hilarious, pathetic, wonderful or a bit of all-of-the-above, you must admit that Bobby & Jackie appear to be having a more rewarding life than most of their retiree peers: "Being on the road like this, I just fall in love with everybody here. It thrills me to death, to be able to work out here." Sure beats shuffleboard.

Bobby Joe Ryman with Jackie Gershwin "Tennessee To Texas"

[Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can't use mediafire now. After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs. We apologize for the inconvenience.]

(Thanks once again to windy!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Clint East Woody Allen Alda

Last month, I posted two albums from the '90s, "Shaken and Stirred," and "Sub Urban," by Toronto lounge parodist Jamyz Bee.  A swell Maniac out there was good enough to send me yet another album, this one a winner from 1997 by Mr. Bee and his large crew of talented Canadian jazz cats.  No parodies here, tho - except for a cover of the Now-Sound classic "Music to Watch Girls By," these are all originals. The singing's adequate, but the performances are top-notch, and a light-hearted humorous tone prevails. Highlights include the cartoonish "You Put the Babe in Baby," with it's Perrey/Kingsley-ish sound effects and frantic Les Paul-like guitar, the name-game of the title track, the gogo-beat "Groovie Movie," and the cruel-but-funny "A Dog Like You."

Jaymz Bee: "Clint East Woody Allen Alda"

(Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can't use mediafire now. After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs. We apologize for the inconvenience.)

Thanks to Anonymous!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Music For An Avant-Garde Cruise Ship

Here's a collection of new (or new-ish) pieces of sonic loveliness excerpted from albums now out for you to spend money on, most of it fairly low-key abstract ambient/hypno/drone instrumentals by composers of...what? "Avant garde"? That implies that they are at the forefront and everyone will follow them. Maybe that will happen. Or maybe they're off in their own little universe, too singular and odd to ever influence anyone. "New Music"? Well, that one's just plain silly. Is it still 'new' in a year, or ten, or fifty? Then what do you call it? "Alternative classical"? I like this one, since most of these folks came out of the musical academy. But when you're composing for a cymbal, or electronics, or microtonal guitars, or junk percussion (as all the folks featured today do) it hardly sounds very 'classical.'  We'll probably never settle this one, so let's just listen to some beautiful music, shall we?

Music For An Avant-Garde Cruise Ship

(Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can't use mediafire now.  After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs.  We apologize for the inconvenience.)

1-2. Eleanor Hovda: "Centerflow/Trail II," and "Coastal Traces Tidepools 2." This 4-disk set (sold for the price of a 2-disker) is a revelation. The late Ms. Hovda wrote music that puzzled me at first - it's sometimes glacially paced, with long silences. The music doesn't seem "composed' as much as something that just naturally drifts along. I kept expecting ambient, drone, minimalism or chamber music - it is all and none of those. The first piece is for bowed cymbals, the second finds Hovda playing "piano innards." Not included here because it's 30 minutes long is an improvised piece played inside an enormous empty underground town water tank. My most listened-to album of the year so far, even at 4 disks.
3. Philip Blackburn: "Ghostly Psalms: Scratch I Ching" - Blackburn is the man behind Innova Records, from whence many of these tracks come. Like Hovda, he's an American Midwesterner (yah, hey dere!), which he salutes on "Duluth Harbor Serenade," scored for actual Minnesota harbor boats, and landlubbers, recorded in the field. Or rather, on the shore of the harbor. That's a pretty neat trick, but the centerpiece of the album is "Ghostly Psalms," inspired by old ruined monasteries, and scored for all manner of unusual soundmakers, including, on this track, something called the 'human rhythmicon."
4. Oscar Bettison: "Junk" - Wake up!  Amidst all these haunted atmospherics, here's a rocker.  I just saw this guy at Disney Hall, for the premier of a new piece of his that uses junk "found" percussion instruments, performed by the LA Philharmonic New Music group. Hasn't been recorded yet, but here's one from a few years ago by this Brit (now in the US) that also skillfully combines things like coffee cups, metal bars and wrenches with traditional instruments. Kinda long, so you may wanna skip to last third or so if you're pressed for time - it builds up to a fairly explosive finale.
5. Andy Akiho: "Karakurenai (Crimson)" - This debut by a Japanese-American writing for Caribbean steel drum touches on jazz, classical, and avant-garde - everything but calypso.  Effortlessly enjoyable. I guess it's just not possible to make "difficult music" on happy, sunny steel drums. If any experimental music could get play on cruise ships, this would be it. Album: "No One to Know One"

6. Christopher Campbell: "Sleepless Nights" - Like Eleanor Hovda's music, this album unpredictably wanders around with no particular direction.  Unlike Hovda, Campbell's debut doesn't feature long drones and silences, but a kaleidescope of colorful sounds, including, on one of the 'Interludes,' a minute-and-a-half field recording of birds.  This is the most 'song-y' track, a thoroughly eccentric mix of fake old-timey gospel, accordion waltzes, and abstract sounds. Album: "Sound the All-Clear"
7. Neil Haverstick: "The Spider" - Sometimes I think the old 7 tone "do re mi" Western scale is exhausted and music really needs to get into microtonal scales. However, when I  listen to contemporary microtonal music, I realize that the composers are not doing much to make it very accessible, hence keeping it in the tiny experimental music ghetto. (Sure, I like it, but I would, wouldn't I?)  But some of guitarist Haverstick's stuff is so cool I don't see how anyone could find it too objectionable - I mean, this piece is inspired by old sci-fi movies, and who can't get behind that?

8. Id Loom: "Sublation" - Mysterious ambient project apparently years in the making and only now coming to light. This track starts off with dense, rolling clouds of sound that part to reveal almost Gregorian-like singers. Strange and wonderul.  From the free download album "To: Atlantis."

9. David Lang / Sentieri Selvaggi: "Sweet Air (excerpt)"-  Lang's from acclaimed New York radicals Bang On A Can; Sentieri Selvaggi are the Italian group performing this lovely bit of minimalism for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello.  Sweet, indeed. Album: "Child."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Soft, Safe & Sanitized

This 1994 Rhino Records collection of narcotized versions of rock classics, like yesterday's "White Men Can't Wrap," was presented by Spy Magazine. Not sure what connection the now-defunct periodical had to do with old music, but it was a humor magazine, and this is some hilarious stuff: laid-back singers, sleepy-time string orchestras, and white-bread vocal choirs all scrub every ounce of sex, sweat and blackness from the once-revolutionary works of Little Richard, Dylan, The Beatles, Cream, Stevie Wonder, and The Doors, among others. As with "White Men," WFMU's Irwin Chusid was one of the compilers, as was Gene Sculatti, who I fondly recall from his KCRW show, "The Cool & The Crazy."

I have some of the albums from whence these tracks come - the shaky audio on Der Bingle's take on "Hey Jude" is there on the crappily-recorded original album (on which he also covers "Little Green Apples") and the Manahattan Strings' Monkees album is pretty cool, with a nice breakbeat on "Mary Mary" waiting to be discovered by some lucky hip-hop DJ. And "Right Now!," the Mel Torme album from whence comes this groovy take on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman," is a total blast. Hopefully, I can post the whole thing one day.

Spy Magazine Presents, Vol. 3: Soft, Safe &Sanitized

1. Louie, Louie - Julie London
2. Long Tall Sally - Pat Boone
3. Like a Rolling Stone - Living Voices
4. Revolution - The Brothers Four
5. Touch Me - The Lettermen
6. White Room - Joel Grey
7. Sunshine Superman - Mel Tormé
8. Ballad of John and Yoko, The - Percy Faith
9. (Theme From) The Monkees - Manhattan Strings
10. You Are the Sunshine of My Life - Jim Nabors
11. Hey Jude - Bing Crosby
12. Give Peace a Chance - Mitch Miller

Thursday, April 12, 2012

White Men Can't Wrap

"Yo! - ladies and gentlemen - check this out!

White rap is a centuries-old tradition; the original white rappers were square-dance callers improvising rhymes for Saturday-night barn parties in America's rural bckwaters. Like today's rappers, they were seen as debauchers, imperiling the morals of the young. The fiddle was "the instrument of the devil"; church leaders banned it. The callers' freestyle rhymes teased with erotic innuendoes ("Duck for the oyster/Dig for the clam/Knock a hole in the old tin can").
The stuff they taught you in the grade-school gymnasium, that cornball mountain music with the do-si-dos - it was all about sex and forbidden behaviour! It was the roots of today's white rap culture. Herewith, a tribute."
Heh heh. The above is from Irwin Chusid's liner notes to this 1994 various-artists Rhino Records comp purporting to be the history of white rap. The presentation may be tongue-in-cheek, but the music is for real: an entertaining assortment of talking-blues, celebrity recitations-with-music, and oddball novelties from the 1950's to the '80s, many of which were actual hit singles. Fun stuff, from a grim Jack "Sgt. Friday" Webb attempting to be romantic, to all the country/western songs that were clearly laying the groundwork for such contemporary 'hick-hop' stars as Cowboy Troy and Colt Ford. And listening to "They're Coming to Take Me Away" again reminded me of what a truly deranged record that really was.

1. They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!-Napoleon XIV
2. Ringo-Lorne Greene ("The original white gangsta rap track")
3. Try A Little Tenderness-Jack Webb (from the 1958 album "You're My Girl: Romantic Reflections by Jack Webb")
4. Hot Rod Lincoln-Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen
5. Psychopathia Sexualis-Lenny Bruce (the famed 'sick' comic does a Beat jazz/poetry kinda thing about beastiality)
6. Big Bad John-Jimmy Dean
7. Full Metal Jacket-Abigail Mead & Nigel Goulding (Featuring the drill inspector from Kubrick's 1987 film)
8. Convoy-C.W. McCall
9. It Ain't Me Babe-Sebastian Cabot (from an entire album of the portly actor's Dylan interpretations)
10. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)-Phil Harris
11. The Rain In Spain-Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Robert Coote
12. Deck Of Cards-Tex Ritter

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

OUTSIDE POLAND Pt 2: Mr Witek from Atlantis

Following up on last week's post (or whenever it was - I'm in buying-a-house/packing/moving hell right now) on outsider music from Poland, our man in Poland Piotrek tells us about Pan Witek z Atlantydy aka "Mr Witek from Atlantis": "... he is most famous outsider in Poland, he was invited many times to polish TV, he was a "star" of underground and punk festival in 80's Jarocin, and he wanted to be president of Poland, seriously:) His songs are f.ex. about Speedy Gonzales, masturbation, cosmos and many more."

Mr Witek is an older guy who vigrously strums an acoustic guitar and really hams it up as he runs thru Polish language versions of songs like Pat Boone's "Speedy Gonzalez," "Let's Twist Again," "Guantanamera," and that "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end" song, and plenty of other tunes that I'm not familiar with. Even not understanding a word of Polish cannot hide the man's good humor and uninhibited personality.

Here's his cassette release from 2000, Side A and Side B split into two files, courtesy of the panmietic blog:

Pan Witek - Gość z Atlantydy

Strona A:1. Spidi Gonzales - tłist egien 2. Kuantadamera 3. Koń na biegunach4. To były piękne dni 5. Nie pijcie przed weselem 6. Noc poślubna 7. Mój koń nie mieści mi się w dłoń 8. Ela (a niech cię jasna cholera).Strona B:1. Ruiny Edenu2. Ty odeszłaś tamtej nocy z tamtym panem 3. Mówili ludzie: nie wierz dziewczynie4. Kiedyś zrozumiesz 5. Chcę ci dać 6. Idąc przez życie 7. Jestem kosmitą

Thanks again to Piotrek!