Sunday, September 30, 2007


When one thinks of electronically altering the human voice, one usually thinks of the Vocoder, which came to prominence in late '70s/early '80s disco, funk, and New Wave records, Zapp's "More Bounce To The Ounce" and Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" being two classic examples. Incredibly, a precurser to the Vocoder was invented back in the mid-Thirties. The Sonovox used small speakers attached to the singer's throat that were patched through music instruments - horns, guitars, etc. The singer mouthed the words of a song, and by changing the shape of the mouth and position of the tongue, changed the sound of the instrument. It created a pretty weird robot-voice-like effect.

Musicians in the '30s and '40s didn't really know what to do with it, so it was usually used on children's records or, as on The Who's "Sell Out" album, radio ads. But, amazingly, one Big Band leader used it to mind-boggling effect:

Kay Kyser & his Orchestra: from "You'll Find Out"

This performance is from a 1940 film called "You'll Find Out" featuring the dream cast of Boris, Bela, and Peter Lorre. But the Sonovox was practically the star of the film, providing music, wind and ghost sound effects.
has posted several vintage children's records that used the sonovox - look for
Chug Chug in Lollypop Town, Little People's Band in Forestland, and Whizzer the Talking Airplane. Although you may not want to play them for your kids. As Ford from KiddieRecords says, "The creepy sonovox vocal effects may be a bit much for small fry, so proceed with caution."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

EL LOCO NINOS DE meterRruidos

One common complaint about "modern art" is: "My kids could do that!" And what's wrong with that? Children have the purest motives - they don't even think of themselves as artists, they just do.

All kids are naturally, compulsively artistic - drawing, acting out dramatic scenarios (with dolls, army men, etc), and playing music. If child's play is rehearsing the survival skills we'll need as adults (as it is with everyone else in the animal kingdom), then obviously imagination is one of the most important traits we can develop. Most of us lose this as we get older, then have to relearn the "proper" way to make art. Picasso said that it took him years to learn to draw like a child again.

From our amigos at the lirios blog and podcast, chroniclers of all things cool and groovy en espanol: "We have just finished a noise workshop for kids (between 4 and 11) entitled meterRruidos. As part of the workshop the kids made a record..." You might be saying, kids need help making noise?! But this isn't the usual running around, screaming, banging on pots and pans kid noise, but a strangely discipled, almost formal sounding undertaking, performed on unidentifiable "instruments." It's certainly unlike any other children's music I've heard - avant-garde abstractions that could be played by adults. Although the final track is a bit of a giveaway. They really cut loose on this one:

meterRruidos: Group 2-2

Thursday, September 20, 2007


My latest contribution to the 365 Project (daily obscure out-of-print mp3 treats for the year) is up now:

Bach For Percussion

Listening to this fascinating '50s gem makes one realize how formulaic most music is...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Marimbas marimbas I love marimbas! Which are like giant xylophones! Masanga are a 7-piece group, who except for a drummer, play all sorts of marimbas - enormous bass ones, baritone, and various smaller ones, creating a veritable marimba orchestra. Are there really people who think this is "weird" and only want to hear guitars and pianos? This stuff is rock'n'roll - three-chord tunes pounded out with mad energy, making me want to jump and dance like a silly person.

Masanga are lead by a music prof from my alma mater Cal State Northridge (go Matadors!) and the band is composed of his students. Don't worry, this isn't bland "World Music" - said band leader Ric Alviso studied in Zimbabwe and brings an authentic African energy and excitement to the music. "Skokiana" is a version of an old Zimbabwean tune that, as "Skokkian," was a big American hit in the '50s.


Strangely enough, only days before I discovered this group in live performance and bought their album, I had heard a remix of Louis Armstrong's version of "Skokkian" by DJ Dale B. It's a great bit of Ursula 1000-ish lounge-tronica, which you can listen to or download here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


You never know where you might find interesting, unusual music. I certainly wasn't expecting to find anything other then dog food and trash bags when I was shopping at Target recently, but standing at the checkout line, whilst looking at the tabloid headlines, I spied a collection of wild, weird wonders of classic Afro-Cuban sounds from the '60s and '70s released through the "Fania Signature" series. Fania, of course, was the Latin music powerhouse that literally filled stadiums with it's all-star roster: Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, etc., and the new "Fania Signature" reissue CDs spotlight different styles like "Salsa," "Latin Jazz," and the oddity I found with the innocuous name "Latin Soul."

A more accurate title would be "The Rock/Soul/Funk-Influenced Psychedelic Oddball Novelty Tracks That Don't Fit On Our Other Collections," but I guess "Latin Soul" was more commercial (and shorter). There's plenty of boogaloo, and that's awesome, considering how little boogaloo has made it to CD. Latin music snobs look down their noses at this stuff - it was raw, wild, 3-chord party music, often sung in English to make it even more "un-authentic." Like '60 garage rock, punk, and Miami Bass, everyone hated it except for the people.

The utterly insane La Lupe demolishes Peggy Lee's "Fever," el maestro Tito Puente sings the praises of his "Fat Mama," the band Harlem River Drive drops by to add some funky flavor to the salsa, and there's a Moog-enhanced instrumental that could be (but wasn't) the theme to a Latino version of a blaxploitation film (but who would have been the star? Freddie Prinz? Ricardo Montalban would have been too old...Cheech Marin? Hmmm...)

The then-raging psychedelic pscene inspired two of the album's most head-scratching (if foot-tapping) highlights: The Lat-Teens "Now You Know," a shing-a-ling sing-along that promotes pot smoking, and drops in a story about a Vietnam soldier who lost his legs that may or may not be relevant; and "Banana Freak Out" by George Guzman. As for "Banana Freak Out"'s called "Banana Freak Out." What more do you need to know? I'll just say that it lives up to it's title.

The Lat-Teens "Now You Know"
George Guzman "Banana Freak Out"

So there ya go - Target. Anything going on at Wal-Mart I should know about?

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Been getting requests for more Bugs Bunny and friends singing Beatles classics since I first wrote about 'em, so here's a song featuring Daffy Duck. An introspective, chin-stroking Daffy, perhaps sitting at a bar trying to spill his guts to the bartender. However, wacky events and their attendant funny sound effects keep interrupting the Sinatra vibe. It's not easy being a cartoon character.

Daffy Duck: Yesterday

Still don't have the Bugs and Friends do Elvis album but it's on my list. In the Forties and Fifties, Spike Jones used to regularly demolish pop music. Listening to this wonderfulness makes me wish we had more of this kind of creative irreverance. Yes, there's the Weird Al song parodists, but Spike & Co. had a sonic assault - they didn't parody lyrics so much as they rearranged the music for maximum anarchic effect. What song can't be improved upon by dropping in silly sound effects? Bugs and Friends Sing Celine Dion? I'd listen.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Now that I have the space, let's post the entire contents of Rhonda's "Fairy Tale Lost" EP. The song "Rage" was mighty popular around these parts, and in case you're wondering if the whole collection can compete with it, believe me, every song is truly mind-boggling.

She's still at it since we first wrote about her back in '05, and her website still makes me want to jab icepicks into my eyes. She's apparently added videos, but sorry, I didn't have the nerve to look.

UPDATE 4/6/10: Individual files no longer work, but here's a zip file of the entire ep:

Rhonda: "Little Girl Lost" ep

Rhonda: Rowdy Girl
Rhonda: Equally Manic
Rhonda: Rage
Rhonda: My Dress Code
Rhonda: Intercepted Kiss
Rhonda: Get Married
Rhonda: Fairy Tale Lost

Speaking of our favorite divas, does anyone have Sondra Prill's videos? Most of them were tragically taken down off of the YouTubes.

Thanks again to Alexis!