Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Think of the Good Times: The Tucson ‘60s Sound

The wait is over! After years of Bacchus Archives promising to offer this collection in the CD format, the label has really delivered the piñata’s prizes by extending the range of the original LP to make this a sweeping retrospective of the Tucson ’60 scene and sound. Unlike most ‘60s, comps which usually focus in on particular styles/years, this one boldly round-ups an entire decade of music from the old pueblo of Tucson. To introduce the wide-spectrum of sound, influenced by an untranslatable regional culture along with the best elements happening in Los Angeles and London during that decade, the disc opens with a KTKT “teen dance” radio promo (which also exemplifies the loving detail the label invested into this amended re-issue). Musically, the record starts with some sharper than a cactus instrumentals branded with twang and cavernous echo reflecting Eddy/Hazlewood’s pioneering production up in Phoenix. The standout instrumental is the Travelers’ “Spanish Moon” which conjures up finding solace between the Shadows under the glow of TraveLodge’s “Sleepwalk’n” Bear sign (on Speedway Blvd.) after the harsh glare of the sun has finally set under a purple streaked Southwestern sky. “Baby Do” makes me wonder if the Woggles were once known as the Intruders before taking a quantum leap from Arizona 1963 to Atlanta circa now. Conversely, “Then I Know” finds the Intruders in confusion with love and in concord with the Beau Brummels and the Zombies (or Phoenix’s Phil and the Frantics). I wondered how the driving “Dark Side” by the Reason Why drifted from the discerning consideration of the “Fuzz, Flaykes and Shakes” series compiler Tony Sanchez, until reading the lavish liner which explains this Cooper State colossus was previously never released. Other highlights are the bougainvillea entangled psych-pop of “309” by Butterscotch, the moving Davies directness of the Quinstrels’ “I’ve Got a Girl” and the pronounced and propulsive drumming found in the Sot Weed Factor (who really resemble the Missing Links from the other down under). Coincidently, Tucson High’s Missing Links finish the disc by turning in a murky cover of the Zombies’ “You Make Me Feel” loaded with gray locker lament. Commendably, Bacchus Archives have reopened the wrought iron gates to a wide-open musical frontier town during an incredibly evoking era. It’s time to hear and “Think of the Good Times” once again. (Dionysus Records)

The Untamed Youth-Major Chaos

The Untamed Youth were the essential link between the mid-‘80s “Summer of Fuzz” 2nd wave garage barrage and the current garage high tide. While many mid-‘80s garage revival bands fell into the pattern of their forebears and bottomed out with a heavier sludgy sound by decade’s end, the Untamed Youth slogged it out on the highways and low-profile stages by bringing back the lost canons and firing its own multi-directional cannon--aimed anywhere between the feral ‘50s through the monumental mid-sixties garage battle grounds. They left a lasting impact which spans from the gritty lo-fi budget rock like the Mummies, over surf like the Phantom Surfers to the harmonic-pop side stacked by Fortune & Maltese. This compilation successfully corrals their rarities, singles and their bigger than a hearse sense of fun (as heard on the closing interview track). With Deke Dickerson’s stellar “Golden Stated Missour-ahh” voice and ace guitar playing on the forefront, the Bobby Fuller Four-ish “Don Stole My Girl” and the haunting “Surfin Man” confirm why this band will always be considered standouts in a now crowded and more diverse garage. They were also renowned for bringing back the non-obvious, yet not too arcane vintage covers with their “Blue Ribbon” renditions of Every Mother’s Son’s “Come on Down to My Boat,” the Camaro promotional song “SS 396” by Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Remains’ remarkable regional hit “Don’t Look Back.” Plied from a Gearhead Magazine insert, “My General Lee” is like a musical funny car that revs up, lifts up a lyric about Enos and releases its parachute complete with its trademark musical horn which sends me right back to Friday Night 1980. My only complaint is the lack of documentation regarding these recordings, but maybe that’s a mark of this band--which knows when it comes to the “Midnight Hour,” “Little Latin Lupe Lu” was never made or meant to be analyzed. (Double Crown)

Wendy & Bonnie-Genesis

Upon first sight, I thought this reissue was being geared towards the “Incredibly Strange Music” listening audience. Into the initial spin, I imagined this organic record washing up on Stereolab’s shores about a decade ago. (The liner notes do reveal that this been a favorite of ‘lab’s guitarist Tim Gane.) Further listens revealed new aspects, dimensions and layers resulting in an entrancing and enduring sound which transcends any novelty and/or collector-cult factors. This is competent lite psych soft pop with striking female harmonies floating over a musical foundation built by consummate jazz players. The arrangements are accomplished and are most akin to the “Astrud Gilberto Album” or moments of Boettcher’s Eternity’s Children. The bright, breezy and vibrant “It’s What’s Really Happening” sounds like it should have been a 1969 Top 40 AM hit on an illuminated flip-number clock radio, while “5 O’Clock in the Morning” has a chilling contrast of eeriness. The demos are so intimate they are like looking through a sliding glass door into the intangible levels of unhindered creativity. Wendy & Bonnie reveal a wise beyond their years knowingness in “Conventional Man” balanced with a youthful perspective of wonderment found in a San Francisco bicycle ride under the local color and tint of the “December Sun.” “Genesis” successfully captures the innate characteristics of an enigmatic time/place with brilliant musicianship and two sisters who expand the songs to the rarified realms of timeless beauty in the larger context. (Sundazed)

The Holy Ghost Reception Committee:# 9-The Collected Works

Just when I thought “Mass in F Minor” by Electric Prunes (aka David Axelrod) was the only Catholic concept album of the sixties, Hallucinations CDs reissues the beyond rare “Songs for Liturgical Worship” from 1967 and 1969’s “The Torchbearers” albums on one CD. (Both albums sound one to two years musically behind their original issue years.) With a trebly thin and chiming electric guitar strumming stark, yet endearing folk rock, “Songs for Liturgical Worship” sounds strikingly similar to the minimalist moments of “Volume One” by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, psychedelic embellishments which echo “CQ” by the Outsiders, the hushed shadings of the Velvet Underground, along with some jangly Byrds-ish guitars and appropriate ringing bells characterize the sound of “The Torchbearers.” In contrast to those “Electric Prunes” staying in the sacred stained glass confines of the cathedral, HGRC: #9 were out in the secular sixties streets concerned about plight of the displaced, downtrodden and also the soulless plastic materialism of the suburbs. While the Kinks in “Well Respected Man” and the Turtles in “Suburbia” mocked and protested the similar hypocrisies of the problematic socio-economic structures and systems, HGRC: #9 called for the noble solutions of direct political activism and working for social justice. Indeed, this approach could had easily lead to a didactic and imposing self-righteousness, however the band simply offered new trails up a mountain paralleling the previous populist paths of the Jesuits and radical priest Daniel Berrigan (and very far above the corruption of the concealed institutional religious church). Overall, the recording captures an authentic somberness, world weariness and mournful sadness descending upon a generation trying to make sense of it all in an era scarred by the assignation of JFK, the maelstrom of the Vietnam War, burning cities/rivers, burnt-out lives and the impeding fate of MLK. With the current scandals and complacent reaction of the institutional church, severe capitalism running rampant, high unemployment and the perennial warfare, these hallowed hymns still offer relevant hope and mercy for a better world. (Void Records)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Chuck Perrin :44 of Love

“I think that there’s something about the character of California and the West Coast that has encouraged people with new and different ways of looking at stuff. Obviously, it’s not the only place where that kind of innovation takes place, but it does seem to be conducive to people who have a different way of looking at things."

Tony Asher (lyricist who collaborated with Brian Wilson on the 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds. Quotation taken from the book Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece by Domenic Priore.)

In shadow of this, maintaining one’s original visions can be an ardent ordeal in an area where creativity, happenstance and improvisation seems frequently contrived, calibrated and tied to a cost. Fortunately, between and beyond the congested Southern California-land of unnecessary push and content providers, an untold number of iconoclastic artists continue to work along the peripheries to actualize their original conceptions in an authentic spirit and tradition of pioneering exploration. However endangered, these artists keep forging beyond the convenient paths of least resistance and make their own subterranean sidetracks. Throughout his lifelong involvement in music, Chuck Perrin has remained true to his muse and moods and come to exemplify a California dreamer who has been a continual source of providing something better. From his formative days in the Illinois heartland to now, Perrin has offered others welcoming physical spaces and ameliorating sounds where music can transcend the pettiness and weariness for all those who gravitate towards such natural notions.

These same enlightened concepts can be found in his latest words, sounds and vision on :44 of Love. However, the opening song “I Gotta Have You” seems a little too close to the overwrought dentist office soft rock of Don Henley, Mark Cohn and Bruce Hornsby & the Range for my tastes (which have been largely informed by Rod McKuen when it comes to a symbiosis of poetry and music). Also, the drum machine abates a level of warmness needed for a welcoming song. This adult contemporary album then gets on digital track with the low-key rendering of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” capped off by a tenor saxophone solo. His treatment of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” resonates with solid masculine tenderness, ascending vocals and a direct come-on not heard on the original. The song then stretches out on blankets of sound furnished by a slew of guest musicians with a Moog melding with a Hammond B-3 that provides the most abundance of warmth and comfort. These opening songs display both Perrin’s pronounced interests in soulful-R&B along with his exposure and openness to a wide assortment of sounds that come with him being a prime-mover behind the all-ages performance space of Dizzy’s in San Diego.

Next, Perrin translates a Jacques Prévert poem and transforms a serene still life into passionate fauvism in the song “Alicante.” The song is also a nod to his influential ramblings in 1966 France (while his bandmates/classmates in the Shaggs were shaking down the thunder at Notre Dame and laying down tracks in Chicago that would comprise the rarified and highly-sought garage/frat-rock/folk-rock long-player Wink). “Balance” is an appropriate title of a song that sooths with its pedal steel guitar stretching out over the shifting sands of the Mohave Desert, while the coinciding lyrics express the graceful sweep & beauty of a lover’s back. Through songs like this, Perrin emanates balance in a world that has seemingly long knocked itself out of balance (if a glance at the continual conflict and strife projected by the internet news is any kind of indication). His cosmopolitan leanings float to the surface on “A Letter Home” with its soft afternoon jazz-chorded bossa nova bounce awash in light and sunny resonance. Perrin still appreciates, expresses and reminds us presence of California’ s indigenous golden light and inextinguishable inspiration that still has the possibilities to surmount the real and imagined blockades of workaday life.

Perrin then proves more nimble than a 1978 Kurt Thomas and the album deftly pulls a maneuver from ‘70s soul-ish R&B to the ‘60s-based crystalline folk that seeks and sometimes finds the confluence between earthly matters and the celestial. In “Time Fades Away,” Perrin is able to convey a wide-eye wonder and awe that harkens back to the hallowed collaborative efforts (with his sister Mary) of yore (that have been recently restored and reissued by Rev-ola under the titles The Last Word and Life is a Stream). Also, in “Time Fades Away” Perrin sings with the authority of a man who has remained a steadfast romantic and artist in a world time that has seem to have figuratively turned over the message of Robert Indiana’s Love sculptures and have regulated reflection to Folgers Coffee commercials. (Incidentally, underneath this song’s delightful flute intro and fade, it sounds like someone tapping the fire-button of the classic video game Galaga to approximate the singing of early birds.)

When Perrin wanders back to his troubadour roots is when the musical alchemy takes place and time moves into timelessness and matter transcends to spirit. His inclinations towards the metaphysical, the transcendental and other destinations unknown surfaces in the concluding song “Minor Blue Surcease.” Here Perrin searches for the essences of life and sweeps through both inner-depths of consciousness and the outer reaches of thought like Mel Fisher once hunted for shipwrecked treasures. It also continues one of Perrin’s ongoing themes of the heightened awareness gained by leaving the familiar behind as a suspending pedal steel guitar vanishes out into the vast Pacific skies. When all is said and done, :44 of Love is Perrin’s latest foray in building artistic monuments that maps his continual unfolding explorations through the interior frontiers of the soul and the connected paths leading to new vistas of love.