Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great Music And For An Unbeatable Price Friends (MGM 1973 Aussie/US) and Caboose (1971 Memphis) People And Things To Seek Or To Avoid Like The Plague

The last big record deal was the last big nightmare with the ungrateful, malicious, and maniacally deformed madman whose name I shall not mention and whose business should be avoided like the plague. It was probably the worst experience I've had with a record dealer in recent memory.
   I had some thinking to do. I came to the conclusion that I was a big part of the problem. For the last year and a half there were too many multi thousand buck "suicide deals" where I went completely crazy and blew everything towards too many big high priced and not worthwhile records and too many binge not thinking records. I'm not the easiest person to deal with and Fucking Hell I'll admit I change my mind a million times and it can take weeks before a settlement is reached in a deal, but nobody deserves to be treated like a worthless piece of dirt when they are forking over thousands, hundreds, or even if you were to only spend say $80 and have trouble coming to a decision.
    Enough raving now, though, I've got to apologize to my good old friend S.B for blaming him for one of the most painful suicide deals and the amount of physical pain I was in at the time which was caused not by my pal, but by a serious medical problem that can be life threatening and even kill you because of lack of sodium. He's a great guy and we are doing something really good together again now. So, my apologies to him, and I also have come to know something else- some records that don't go for insane money at all are some of the best masterpieces ever made.
          -The Early 70s A Time Of Musical Overload And Record Company Rashness-
       The two bands I am discussing here and with a mention to a third one, Mailer MacKenzie Band who hard to believe with a name like that are a 1970 Dutch hard rock/rough rural psych band who somehow came out here, are from the period when for sheer volume more bands were signed and more records put out than any other time in history. This was the early 70s. As if the 60s weren't enough of a music driven time the post 60s bands that were both trying to move ahead and clutch avidly onto the dreams of a decade before met with instant record company interest that would often only result in one album, not more. This unfortunate circumstance came about because with record company greed to sign came the inevitable trouble of the fact that with the ongoing search for "The New Beatles, CSNY, Or The Band" came the inevitable falling out if the band or artist didn't take off in two seconds. In America it was a time of change and upheaval. The same is true pretty much all over the music producing world, but in America some of the most cutthroat deals were made to send bands who had been playing to huge audiences regionally to an undeserved end nationally when the label signed them and ditched them within a year, sometimes within months.
    -Friends Will Soon Be Your Friend Too In A Big Way With Their Power Pop Dynamite-
     There were too many labels. The big ones took chances, but with big ones came a growth in smaller ones and some of these labels recruited primarily from wherever they were based in the U.S with an occasional nod to overseas. Friends contained two Australian expatriates who had much success in their previous bands Steve Kipner (who had previously been with the UK based Aussie wonderful duo Tin Tin) and Daryl Cotton (from The Zoot- best known for their hard rock period with a young and morbid Rick Springfield later on of 80s international stardom). Joining them was American singer/musician/producer of amazing abilities Michael Lloyd who went way back to the mid 60s as did the other two. Michael Lloyd was already working with the large label MGM and together with Cotton and Kipner signed their new project to the rapidly splintering MGM. The label had never been good at promotional techniques and had created quite a mess with the catastrophic "Boss Town Sound" Boston bottom of them all bands hype in the 60s. Friends weren't given that kind of promotion. They should have stormed the charts and had a number one hit with their album, but they were gone as soon as they came. This record cost me only $6 + postage and blows the lid off most high priced American big ones of the time that aren't big at all.
     Friends had quite an impressive past, but even more impressive is what they created together. With most of the 11 tracks written jointly by Kipner, Cotton, and Lloyd their later pop psych/power pop is the perfect cross between Tin Tin, The Beatles, Pilot, and The Raspberries. Songs like the raw rocking Easybeats cover "Gonna Have A Good Time," "Glamour Girl," and "She Knows" are perfect post Mod Power Pop right up there with quite a few bands that Friends predate (I'm thinking of Pilot a lot when I play this album). Beautiful and lush ballads such as "Would You Laugh,"  the more upbeat "Won't You Reach Out," and "Moonshine" sound exactly like a dream come true for me- Tin Tin if they continued on after their two essential brilliant albums meets the massively great Honeybus or Scotland's Blue. Steve Kipner's vocals are instantly recognizable from his Tin Tin days and he would later score massive success as an AOR super-writer whose hits include the worldwide smash for also Aussie Olivia Newton-John "Physical." Kipner stayed active for the whole of the 70s and 80s, but in the 80s just as in the 70s his own bands just didn't get the respect they deserved to have.
    Friends is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable and perfect records I have ever come across and with MGM's lack of promotion it is quite rare too. Why this album hasn't flown up in value and gained a reissue is incomprehensible to me, but then so is the fact that it took bloody eons for Tin Tin to get any kind of respect from listeners. You can't say Friends had timing problems- they couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time for their music and the lack of success can probably rest firmly in the hands of MGM which hadn't a clue what they had. I've heard stories over the years about Michael Lloyd that suggest he is very hard to work with, but I don't judge till I know the man himself. I say the same for Mike Brown of the Left Banke fame. Brown (real last name Lookofsky) does not have a great reputation and I actually feel more sympathetic to him the more I hear stories about the poor guy. Until both Michael Lloyd and Michael Brown and I meet I'm not making any comments. Both certainly gave a lot to music. Friends could be your new favourite if you wish Honeybus had continued or if you are looking out for a perfect hybrid of Tin Tin, the best of The Hollles, The Raspberries (especially songs like "Go All The Way" and "Overnight Sensation"), and Pilot. "Would You Laugh" is the perfect love song, a song that absolutely sparkles with beauty and the sentiments young lovers feel. I've asked the same question. If you love somebody and want to win them over hold him or her in your arms, open the chocolate box, and put this and "Do I Love You" by German/Scottish power pop/AOR/Pomp masters Lake on your turntable and take it from there.
    Daryl Cotton was always in the shadow of Rick Springfield's depressed writing and guitar pyrotechnics in The Zoot and I really prefer the band before Springfield's hold became so much that he destroyed them with rubbish like "The Freak" and "Evil Child" which ended the band on a very sour note. The morbidity as I have mentioned of Rick's writing spilled over into his early solo albums and just what made the guy so angry I don't think I even want to know about. Sure, he's a great guitar player, but wait till "Jessie's Girl," "Affair Of The Heart" and his other AOR classics where he not only found himself as a writer, but turned out to have a great voice. Daryl Cotton, however, was the unsung talent in The Zoot who fronted the band and sang great, but the material was pretty sporadic. I think that band will always be exclusively remembered for their exhilarating version of "Eleanor Rigby" where they absolutely rock out with real power and energy. The rocker in Friends, Daryl Cotton gets to sing with power and melodic prowess both and he also turns out to be a great writer. This record doesn't have one unworthy track on it. Every song shines like a pop psych/power pop masterwork and the cover is a nice band logo and stylized picture of the trio. I put this up there with Tin Tin, with Honeybus, and with Pilot who are 3 of my most loved bands. I'd also include The Hollies in there. That's how great Friends are. This is a hard album to track down, but find it and if you love the above mentioned groups you're in for a classic.
       -Caboose Come A Rolling Down The Track With Speed, Power, And Soul-
   Caboose is a soul influenced psychedelic/progressive/pop rock/hard rock crossover band whose roots go back to their native Memphis in the 60s when they were known under the ludicrous monicker Butterscotch Caboose (no! I'm not joking!). They made singles under this stupid name that supposedly are really good and either right before or right after the name change they scored a regional smash with the anti-racist anti Southern Rock bullshit "Black Hands White Cotton," a fantastic song with over the top scathing vocals from Gary Johns and a really energetic exciting sound (this classic song is included on the Caboose album). Like all other Southern bands in the early 70s who weren't the shitheaded gobbledegook of Lynard Skynard, Bloodrock, Black Oak Arkansaw, and their ilk Caboose met with national apathy. A seriously talented hard rockin' yet very melodic and soulful band from Memphis typically got signed to a local Memphis label- Enterprise. Enterprise put a lot of rare records out and most of their acts didn't do too well in nationwide terms. Unfortunately, Caboose were no exception to the rule.
       If you are a fan of melodic early 70s heavy nightclub psych with 60s pop leanings like I am then this album is meant just for you to grab it. A powerful band they comprised amazing lead vocalist Gary Johns, primary writer Walter Ramsey Jr who plays keyboards, bass player/backing singer Tommy Cathey, guitarist Jackie Cook, percussionist Joe Williams, and female singer Pat Karr who helps out in the harmonies. Housed in a great psychedelic cover this album is a real killer song wise from start to finish. The band open with a hard rocking total derailment of "Great Balls Of Fire" and alternate dreamy tracks such as "You Are Still My Only Lover" and "A Winter Song" with the hard hitting material that takes up most of the album. With scathing guitar leads, fuzzed out riffs, and blasting keyboards this is a really enjoyable album and Gary Johns can really sing the rocking stuff with so much soul that you may, like me, be fooled into thinking he's black on first listening. Caboose were commercial enough to make it really big, but something much more than what stood in the way of Friends made their long playing career a brief one- times were changing and they didn't take heed. Most of the songs on this album sound a year or so earlier (most were in fact written a year or two or 3 earlier) and while I applaud them for ignoring Southern Rock they also weren't going to be as big as Led Zeppelin because their wild hard rock always had strong Nightclub/pop inclinations. While I love that sound and it really brings me a lot of pleasure unfortunately Caboose just didn't get a chance. Perfect songs for angry lovers "You Are Buying All My Trouble" and "Day After Day" (not a Badfinger cover, but a group original) feature positively shockingly roaring vocals from Gary Johns who sounds genuinely pissed off except for when his voice delves into melodic pop passages. He's equally at home on rockers and ballads with Caboose equally at home with melodic rock, pop psych, hard rock, and funk/gospel rock. I wouldn't call them a white R&B band because that would be an enormous disservice to such an exciting and great band, but the soul/R&B influences are handled for a rare time in the right way- they are original, new, and not just poor imitations of other more famous music. Caboose I can see appealing to a lot of people who like the good early 70s bands and wish there hadn't been so much crap in the charts, but as I said before they may have either been too diverse or just too good to make it when the public seemed to be wanting throwaway garbage in their ears. Caboose are a band who are picking up with collectors and I would grab this while I can if I were you. It won't be easy to track down nor will Friends, but don't waste your time with wasteful big money items that are priced way too high such as the garbage of Khazad Doom and other private press shite records from the same time, buy the real music!
      Two more bands of much interest- Mailer MacKenzie Band who are a great Dutch group and Locomotive who made one blazing heavy psych album for MGM in 1969 with many great moments before group leader John Ussery went totally Hendrix on an also really good solo album.
There is a lot of great music out there, just buy wisely and take chances on some things that aren't just the huge big ticket items that the two bands I've raved about are equally as rare as. Dig for the good stuff and find a lot of the great ones still out there and still obscure. Good luck with your vinyl mania! Cheers. Ben

Monday, August 5, 2013

Genesis Thrusts In The Knife SRC Praise The Black Sheep Ethan Hawke As Will Knott and Richard Thomas As Paul Baumer- Early Trespassers On A Curious Heart, MInd, And Soul

Is it really 18 years ago? 1995? Is it really again a month since I've been doing the proper right things and writing a blog instead of wasting my time with record traumas? Well, face up Ben it has been that long since you wrote a blog. More painfully, it's been that long since I was a knock-out handsome long haired 19 year old who was going through more changes than he could cope with and having to confront some rather painful yet rewarding in later times realities.

              -Basic Information On A Wild Hearted Warrior As I Always Am And Will Be-
        So let's go back then. Let's go back even before then. Let's go forward to now. Life is war. It always will be for me and I'm afraid I've resigned myself that it's always an uphill battle that I'm only satisfied with once I've trampled over all the obstacles be they friend or foe and I have fought hard for what I need to get exactly what I need. Life has always had me polarized between two sides of my personality- the commander and the preyed upon. When I am preyed upon by demons I try to fight them different ways often depending on different times of the year. Summer I get out all my aggressions and spend most of my energy swimming or just soaking up the sun. Autumn comes I become more placid, I get more lazy and go more for meditating and living in the past although I always live in the past because (to put it bluntly)- the present sucks! There are good things now. There are bad things I'd say more than good. It really is miserable when you have to come to some sort of acknowledgement that you've lost a lot of the major battles in your life and you can't get over the fact that things really aren't going to get better- they are going to continue endlessly it seems to be horrible. I don't feel too happy about my life. No, I'm not gonna be daft and say I wish it would end or that I've ever seriously contemplated suicide because I haven't. I've always been strong willed whether I know it or not. The thing is that we all get older and I haven't matured as much as I would like to and that seems to be the war I'll keep fighting till Judgement Day- getting further ahead instead of in the back row seat of the big movie theater known as LIFE THE UNENDING DRAMA OF THE CONQUEST FOR LOVE.

Opening Of The Secret Book Of Dreams And Desire Ethan Hawke As Will Knott Leads The Charge-
       What is love? I used to wonder that. To my surprise and much to my shock and disbelief after too many long lonely years of being victimized for my small height and my bigger than average intelligence and sensitivity love came to me always as a soldier- an armed guard for my hidden dreams, goals, romantic beliefs, and desires. I would not ever admit to even really close friends till later on in life that I was mesmerized by soldiers, but they began to take a hold on me when I was 16 years old and changing- changing rapidly. I was afraid then. What if I was found out? My true identity was torn between the constant fight and struggle and the need for some kind of loving protection. I can't think of a more heartless, homophobic, and everything-that-is-good-and-goodhearted phobic time than the 1990s when I was growing up and growing fast. High school was a place where drug abuse, violence, and physical/psychological intimidation ran wild. I was both a hippie and a warrior. The two sides to the coin led to me coming up with the joke nickname "Zeus" as I was anything but Zeus-like when it came to having power of my situation in school. The joke stuck and I still hate it.
    I never intended to be thought of as arrogant. Zeus, as I was then, was having some problems. I was very emotional and I still am very emotional, but young boys and young girls are especially fragile when they are going through their teenaged years from boyhood or girlhood to adult. I kept turning to soldiers secretly and it was scary for me to keep that secret. Come 1995 that secret got out in the open and A MIDNIGHT CLEAR staring Ethan Hawke (a fantastic actor) as the loveable main character SGT Will Knott and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT in full technicolor unintentional hallucinogenic nightmare staring the innocent and sympathetic Richard Thomas as the doomed tragic hero Paul Baumer opened the whole secret up once and for all.
    I had been going through Hell in 1995 and the ending of my high school experience was a near death experience when I was poisoned by a medication I was on and violently sick. As if that wasn't enough, right before that a best friend since kindergarten had killed himself. When I was recovering and if memory suits me correctly even before I recovered I had come out with the truth about my hidden obsession- soldiers. It was taken different ways and has been taken oftentimes the wrong way over the years. A MIDNIGHT CLEAR capped my feelings- it captured them. As much as I loved and love soldiers I will never believe in war and Ethan Hawke at only around 20 as a young, frightened intellectual who is fed up with the nonsense of World War 2 is particularly damning on the subject of warfare. Watching the film for the first time all my beliefs about soldiers frighteningly roared into real life passion and tragedy. There are scenes in that movie I still can't watch- I can't stand graphic carnage and bloodshed and there are some horrific moments in A MIDNIGHT CLEAR that would I am sure scare actual veterans into a majorly traumatic state. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT the colour version is brutal without the image of any blood or grotesqueness and it basically is just a very tragic yet also very gripping anti war statement.
     A MIDNIGHT CLEAR has lasted over half my life as a kind of parallel that I have between how I was caught in the middle of violence and scornful of it mainly figuratively and Will Knott's literal disillusionment. I had been fighting for a long time and I don't like losing any battle. I never could handle it. I'm always determined to get to the other side of a bad predicament however I have to.
     By the time I was out of school for good I realized that as hard as I had tried to bring the 60s and those dreams of the counterculture to life I couldn't succeed. It was a bitter pill to swallow. You can't bring peace to a world that only knows war. You can't have hippie friends who aren't really hippies they are sycophants who know you have something good and drug abusing idiots. Several years down the road I was pissed with all my fake friends because I hated and continue to hate drugs. I also hate hangers on. I have no place for them. The two or three things that have stayed alive have been me, my passion for music, and especially my love of soldiers. When I talk to British and German soldiers on the phone they are the friends I never really had in my life. We're so far from each other yet the things we have in common bind us together. No soldier who really is good has any interest in jingoism and there is a song of that title by a Danish band called Old Man & The Sea that nails how we all feel about war:
        "Young Boys Are Sent To Hell/Those Who Want To Live Are Slammed In Jail/And Fat Man Controls It All/Killing People I Have To Cry God No- War Is Bringing Down My Mind War! War! War!"
   That sums it up well about any war. They meant Vietnam, but it could be anything from the dawn of history up to the current pointless pseudo crusades. I had my music as my weapon and if life was going to dish out a war to me I was going to keep on fighting for all I believed in and one of the main clashes with the bullshit 90s generation was and is my strong hatred of violence and macho stupidity.

         -At The End Of The Day Music And Resilience Are All I Have In A Hate-Ridden World-
        All the kids I was up against drove me berserk at school and my first battle cry was SRC's "Black Sheep" and "No Secret Destination." SRC is short for Scott Richardson's Case and Scott Richardson was very much a revolutionary writer, singer, and performer who had a storm for the music thanks to the superb sizzling acid guitar work of Gary Quackenbush and Steve Lyman. I would play their music and envision myself as the ruthless conquering hero. Then I got into King Crimson and their quiet moments were together with The Moody Blues and Klaatu (all these bands I still love) the music that pacified me. My other war song is the best and also the most diabolically arranged anti war song of all time "The Knife" by Genesis. This was Genesis when they had a young Peter Gabriel as their go to guy. He had studied Gandhi and at the age of something like 18 he'd come up with "The Knife" as a statement about how "Violent revolutions always just end with a dictator/despot in power."
      I couldn't agree more, but the passion and the raw brutality of the music and Peter's menacing vocals made this song the track that saved me countless times from completely blowing everything I had. TRESPASS will probably always be my second favourite Genesis album. It may even be a tie with NURSERY CRYME, but since I have TRESPASS now in original 1st UK press as my one Genesis album from the Gabriel era it really triggers those memories of long ago just beginning to find some truths out about myself and the world. TRESPASS was the closest Genesis came to making a hard rock record, but there are plenty of soft/tranquil/melodic moments although on that particular album everything is dark and creepy. I was and will always be big into much more obscure music and the music that soothed me back then still does that trick too. I'd go with Forever Amber, New England (actually, they are from New England- Boston and they aren't exactly obscure- they had a major hit with the classic "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya") and Canada's Klaatu. I am rediscovering Klaatu's music now and I love it as much or more than I did then. Their vision is also a powerful one, and I won't use the word "Twee" here because I'll argue hard that Klaatu are no lightweight imitation of The Beatles or any other band and that's a whole lot of narrow minded people and critical rubbish.  
     The music was the good part and still is. Real friends I made were the good part and still are. However, for soldiers to become something I was comfortable about would be a long and painful journey through many experiences that would lead to some cold truths about the world coming to face me dead on. I actually a few years ago was on friendly terms with a soldier over the phone who got killed in Afghanistan. I'm sure he's in Heaven now and looking down on the world thinking we're all fools if we believe that war will solve anything. When I'm talking to soldiers they are almost always parents or just children themselves. The way they are treated by society is disgusting and unforgivable. They always can count on me to take their side, but where is that spirit of unity towards good causes there was in the 60s!? Have we lost out? Is the fight going over to the wrong side winning everything? These are tough to face questions. The more the world grows old the more infantile it becomes. We go backwards instead of advancing and my own growth and development always comes up against the happier times I had in the long distant past. It's really not a nice thing to have to look in the face.
            -Disillusioned, Worn Out, And Sad But Not Giving Up Any Time Soon-
       I never watch the news. I regret that I ever did. A lot of the time I spend looking back not forward because the future looks pretty bad. This entry is pretty depressing, but that's how life can be. One of the most brilliant scenes in A MIDNIGHT CLEAR is at the very end. The long focus pulling back from Ethan Hawke as Will Knott after the horrific killings of innocent German soldiers who tried to make peace with the Americans is probably the most telling portrait you'll ever see of the pointlessness and brutality of war and a life that's been bled dry. That expression says it. I don't feel like I've lost just yet though and there always will be some kind of hope and a whole lot of fight in me. Sometimes I only remember the joy and forget all the misery I went through when I was 18 years younger and even more fragile than today. I'm always glad to let the music trespass back into my life just like that album title, but now that the trespasser is a mate there are other obstacles. Getting on top of bad addictions and ordering the last records for the summer and making it a scant few- that's now. Records have become too much of my life and with that there is the tragedy of living in the past. Were the past not so potent records would be long brought down to a minimum and the simple fact of the matter of my life today is that loneliness and memories are turning me into somebody I can hardly even recognize sometimes. I'm still fighting for what I believe in though and I'll be doing that for the rest of my life until I finally find the land of peace, tranquility, and true happiness. I'm not one to be counted out.