terça-feira, 27 de setembro de 2011

Blues rock & roll

One of the biggest accomplishments of this, the second full-length from Columbus, OH's Great Plains is that it proves that rock & roll can be smart and fun. While frontman Ron House would later take his nasal sing-speak and increasingly snide lyrical slant and front the noisy '90s indie punk outfit Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, here his songs have wiseguy in-jokes, but more importantly, they're strong, catchy songs. Propelled by and large musically by the warm hum of Mark Wyatt's bouncy, Mott the Hoople-by-way-of-seminary organ playing, Naked at the Buy, Sell, and Trade has the fun, bop-around-the-record-player feel of jangly '60s pop acts, but retains a clear punk rock sensibility. Vintage-sounding without coming across as being dated; lo-fi before there truly was such a thing. Most notable among Naked at the Buy, Sell, and Trade's 13 tracks are the criminally catchy clap-along "Dick Clark" and House's wry ode to the underground, "Letter to a Fanzine." Featuring lines like "Isn't my haircut really intense?/Isn't Nick Cave a genius in a sense?" and posing the age-old question "Why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls?," "Letter to a Fanzine" found a fan in wacky music aficionado Dr. Demento and gained airplay on his radio program. A markedly more somber track, "Chuck Berry's Orphan" is a carryover from House's pre-Great Plains outfit Moses Carryout. With lyrics like "The big city had nothing for us/They said we needed a pretty chorus," the song could be read as a premonition of what will ultimately be House's band-ending dissatisfaction with never rising above the status of being critical darlings (which they were, having drawn praise from the likes of Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus).

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If you've got plenty of disposable cash, there are about a dozen Scientist recordings available as pricy Aussie imports. But if you wanted one chunk of strum from Kim Salmon and his twisted pals, Weird Love is as good (and inexpensive) a place to start as any, since it's the only Scientists recording to be released in the States. Loaded with pumped-up guitars and psychedelic flourishes, it's a bash fest from the start that is relentlessly powerful and intense. Not a new release per se, Weird Love is in fact tracks collected from earlier Aussie-only recordings. Still, it's an accurate reflection of how good this band could be, and certainly will make you excited enough to want to explore more of their exciting, loud and rocking world. 

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So we had the Roxy live Album and we had the Vortex live album; now came the Live At The Hope Anchor - Front Row Festival. Does it hold up against those? The answer is yes and no, but then again it didn't have to. There's no shots of the audience or such like because it's the the venue who's the star here.
If there were stars then it would have been the Stranglers who opened the three week festival on November 17th 1977. Playing the Hope as early as 1975 they had endured the typical start of one man and his dog in attendance. Come November 1977 and they were hot property breaking attendance records at the Roundhouse, top thirty singles and albums and in the middle of a nationwide tour.
For the gig the band had rehearsed every song they'd ever done and wrote a song specially for the occasion 'Tits'. Though only 'Straighten Out' & 'Hanging Around' were selected for the album, the whole gig came out on CD some years later that revealed the band in particularly fine and fun form as songs were played on an almost request basis by the audience. Earlier obscurer tracks such as 'Mean To me' and 'Choosey Suzie' were added to a classic early set list.

The album was released on March 3rd 1978 by WEA a double album but despite a lot of publicity only managed to make it to #28 in the charts. This despite it only costing £4.49 as well.
To be honest it's a fair representation of the music scene in London in Pubs at around the end of 1977/78 - from the obvious punker new wave acts such as the Stranglers,999, Suburban studs and X Ray Spec to the more pub rock R&R of Wilko and the Pirates to the power pop of the Pleasers and the new reggae of Steel Pulse. Near enough everyone of the bands who played had outgrown the Hope and were now playing bigger venues and had record deals but for the festival they were giving something back by returning to their roots.
There's a great selection of tracks but in hindsight you can see why it wouldn't sell. Most Punk fans would want half of the album and consider it too expensive and most other fans would want the the other half and consider it too expensive.
The Saints Offer Demolition Girl and its a ferocious take on the number at breakneck speed and one of the best tracks on there. X Ray Spex give us 'Let's Submerge'. Hell even the Suburban studs sound ok on this and there's a nice version of 'I'm Bugged' by XTC. Even the more pub rocky stuff from Wilko, Tyla Gang and The Pirates are passable.
All in all a good album with some great tracks and a fine testament to the Hope and Anchor.

Eddie Kirkland has long straddled the fence between bluesy soul and soulful blues. He was at a low point when he recorded for Trix in 1973, but this session recharged him musically, if not sales-wise. Whether Kirkland is doing silly numbers, offering taut blues licks or giving examples of his philosophy, he finds creative ways to utilize the standard 12-bar scheme. ~ Ron WynnLP has been rereleased on cd and is available at Amazon.

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Prickly insights and sensitive accompaniment were the stock-in-trade of pianist and vocalist Wilbert Thirkield "Big Chief" Ellis. A self-taught player, Ellis performed at house parties and dances during the '20s, then left his native Alabama. He traveled extensively for several years, working mostly in non-musical jobs. After a three-year army stint from 1939 - 1942, Ellis settled in New York. He accompanied many blues musicians during their visits to the New York area. He started recording for Lenox in 1945, and also did sessions for Sittin' In and Capitol in the '40s and '50s, playing with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee for Capitol. Though Ellis reduced his performance schedule after moving from New York to Washington D.C., his career got a final boost in the early '70s. He recorded for Trix and appeared at several folk and blues festivals until his death in 1977. 

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