The best of 2017…finally

Now that the holidays are all packed away and the last of the stale fruit cake has been thrown out… Now that the first blizzard of the new year in NYC is just a few patches of filthy gray slush/sludge being washed away by a balmy rain (climate change? what climate change?)… Before we get too far into 2018 (and before our small-handed president opens his big mouth again!), here’s the Schizomusica top 100 of 2017!

  1. IN BETWEEN (Reprise) – The Feelies
  2. CERTAINTY – Temples
  3. PLAY MYSELF SOME MUSIC – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  4. TRAVELER – The Walk-A-Bout
  5. GLEAM – Richard X. Heyman
  6. ALL THINGS PASS – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  7. AGISTRI – Heather Trost
  8. SURE GONNA MISS YOU – Chandler Travis Philharmonic
  9. DRIFTING TIDE – The Walk-A-Bout
  10. WHOLE LOTTA LOWS – Arrica Rose & The …’s
  11. BEEN REPLACED – The Feelies
  12. WHITEOUT CONDITIONS – The New Pornographers
  13. ANOTHER DAY SLIPS AWAY – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  14. CROSSING THE TISZA – Speed the Plough
  15. BROKEN PAST – The Walk-A-Bout
  16. LOLLIPOP (ODE TO JIM) – Alvvays
  17. SHE GOT HIT – Kim Rancourt
  18. ROMAN GODLIKE MAN – Temples
  19. GONE GONE GONE – The Feelies
  20. CRAZY CRAZY – Yasutaka Nakata (feat. Charli XCX & Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)
  21. ON THE BAY – The Walk-A-Bout
  22. INNOCENCE IN PARADISE – Squeeze
  23. HIGH TICKET ATTRACTIONS – The New Pornographers
  24. A FOOL’S ERRAND – Richard X. Heyman
  25. I WANNA BE YOUR MIRROR – Temples
  26. TOO MUCH TIME – Nona Hendryx / Gary Lucas
  27. OH MANDY – The Spinto Band
  28. OPEN AIR – Temples
  29. FLAG DAYS – The Feelies
  30. (DON’T WORRY) IF THERE IS A HELL BELOW WE’RE ALL GOING TO GO (Theme from The Deuce) – Curtis Mayfield
  31. YOUR TYPE – Alvvays
  32. SHAKIN’ IT UP – The Walk-A-Bout
  33. AND THEN – Richard X. Heyman
  34. PEEL THE MOON – Lisa Said
  35. BORN INTO THE SUNSET – Temples
  36. THIS IS THE WORLD OF THE THEATER – The New Pornographers
  37. IN UNDERTOW – Alvvays
  38. EVERYBODY GET WISE – Richard X. Heyman
  39. DARK CONTINENTS – The Trypes
  40. L’INTERNATIONALE – Barbez with Velina Brown
  41. OH THE SAVIOUR – Temples
  42. LONG TIME – Blondie
  43. INCOGNITO – Richard X. Heyman
  44. WORLD GONE CRAZY – Gene Loves Jezebel
  45. AMPUTATION – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  46. MYSTERY OF POP – Temples
  47. BY THE WAY – Chandler Travis Philharmonic
  48. NOT MY BABY – Alvvays
  49. DETECTIVE MINDHORN – Robyn Hitchcock
  50. IF YOU SEE KAY / RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  51. PEACHES SANS HERBES – Double Naught Spy Car
  52. BLACK AND BLUES – The Jesus and Mary Chain (feat. Sky Ferreira)
  53. STRANGE OR BE FORGOTTEN – Temples
  54. CRACK THE WHIP – The Spinto Band
  55. BLOODMOON – Heather Trost
  56. TURN BACK TIME – The Feelies
  57. THE BIRD HAS FLOWN – Speed the Plough
  58. I H8 PPL – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  59. HEARTWORMS – The Shins
  60. MISS COMMUNICATION – Matt North
  61. THE CITY – The Lil Smokies
  62. CHALK IT UP – Richard X. Heyman
  63. CLAUDINE – Kim Rancourt
  64. PEOPLE I KNOW – The Spinto Band
  65. BUTTERFLIES – No Line North
  66. OASIS – The Walk-A-Bout
  67. MAD SHELLEY’S LETTERBOX – Robyn Hitchcock
  68. CARNIVAL – Neil Young & Promise of the Real
  69. SINCERO AMORE – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  70. MY HEAD IS MY ONLY HOUSE UNLESS IT RAINS – Nona Hendryx / Gary Lucas
  71. IZITME – Gene Loves Jezebel
  72. LINE DRIVE – No Line North
  73. NEW FACTS EMERGE – The Fall
  74. I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT I WANT – Robyn Hitchcock
  75. SONG FOR A SECRET – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  76. SOME DUDES – Lisa Said
  77. PLIMSOLL PUNKS – Alvvays
  78. TIME COAST – Robyn Hitchcock
  79. SPY VS. SPY – The Spinto Band
  80. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National
  81. SURE ‘NUFF ‘N YES I DO – Nona Hendryx / Gary Lucas
  82. ALREADY NAKED – Blondie
  83. I AM THE BEST FOR YOU – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  84. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon
  85. ALWAYS SAD – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  86. CRYING ON A TRAIN – Ohmslice
  87. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent
  88. A GOOD DAY IN NASHVILLE – Matt North
  89. TRACTOR – The Spinto Band
  90. RUBBER BALLZ – The Shins
  91. AIR RUNNING BACKWARDS – Chandler Travis Philharmonic
  92. SI ME QUIERES ESCRIBIR – Barbez with Velina Brown
  93. FEATHERS – The Lil Smokies
  94. RED PIRATE OF THE PRAIRIE – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
  95. COLD LITTLE HEART – Michael Kiwanuka
  96. CIRCLE – Matthew Sweet
  97. SAMBOU SAMBOU – Eliane Elias
  98. STAMPS – R. Stevie Moore / Jason Falkner
  99. SABINE TURNAROUND – Lost Bayou Ramblers
  100. IN BETWEEN – The Feelies

 

Images courtesy itunes.apple.com, clubindustry.com, nrn.com, devopsonline.co.uk, c4lpt.co.uk, electronicfresh.com

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A river runs through it: Speed the Plough’s latest

Tisza River (en.wikipedia.org : Váradi Zsolt)

Flowing through the Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Serbia, from the Eastern Carpathian Mountains to the Danube, is the Tisza river. A long time ago in Hungary someone wrote a folk song about wanting to cross it. In 2017 the band Speed the Plough has revived that song, the childlike voice of Toni Baumgartner floating over the ominous drone of John Baumgartner’s keyboards, complete with clarinet and Hungarian monologue plopped in. “Crossing the Tisza” is the eerie opening track on Speed the Plough’s new digital-and-download-only album …And Then.

STP...And Then cover (pilotonline.com)

Following their 2016 release entitled Now, …And Then (see? Now…and then) is a pleasing journey featuring watery, rivery piano-and-guitar (“Take Me”), fragile, strangely-phrased poetry with – let’s call them waves – of organ (“Azimuth”), mellow, folky punk rock – what? (“The Bitter End”), a lovely, flutey rendition of Brian Eno’s “By This River” (again with the river), and a darkish descent into the realization that “It must be summer ’cause the love’s all burned away” (“The Bird Has Flown”). Uh, and then…the album culminates with two brilliant bonus tracks, recorded by the Trypes (a band that grew into/out of the Feeliesand then into Speed the Plough): the hypnotic “Running On” (which rivers do) and the mysterious, psychedelia-infused “Dark Continents” (which usually contain dark rivers).

stp-mexicali-wide-2013 (willyoumissme.com) Speed the Plough ca. 2013

And, as they say, it takes a village (the village of Haledon, New Jersey, not far from the Passaic River). The present incarnation of Speed the Plough is a multi-generational mix of musicians from that town: Toni Baumgartner (vocals, woodwinds, percussion), John Baumgartner (keyboard, vocals), Ed Seifert (guitars), Michael Baumgartner (guitars), Dan Francia (bass), Ken Meyer (drums), and Anna Baumgartner (spoken word). The Trypes are/were Haledonites Elbrus Kelemet (vocals), Marc Francia (guitar), Glenn Mercer (guitar, percussion), Brenda Sauter (vocals), Toni Paruta (later Baumgartner) (vocals, woodwinds, percussion), John Baumgartner (keyboard, bass), Bill Million (guitar), and Stanley Demeski (drums).

Trypes-EP cover-1984 (floweringtoilet.blogspot.com)                          The Trypes ca. 1984

Not sure if STP will be performing in support of the album, but in the meantime grab …And Then (including a “limited edition package” with liner notes by the great novelist Rick Moody among other goodies), HERE!

battery-park-and-the-new-freedom-tower-hidden-in-the-clouds-new-york-new-york-usa (richedwardsimagery.wordpress.com)
“Here we are / Stuck by this river / You and I / Underneath a sky that’s ever falling down, down, down / Ever falling down”

Lyrics by Brian Eno, Dieter Moebius, Hans Joachim Roedelius • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

Images courtesy en.wikipedia.org/Váradi Zsolt, pilotonline.com, willyoumissme.com, floweringtoilet.blogspot.com, richedwardsimagery.wordpress.com

Happy Holidaze again!

Man With Tangled Christmas Lights

Back by popular demand, here’s a repost of last year’s schizomusical playlist to help you stay sane (or drive you insane, whichever the case may be) during the holidays. With links to individual videos this time.

So haul out the holly! And those tangles of tree lights that don’t work when you plug ’em in because one stupid bulb is burned out.

Link to playlist: https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify%3Auser%3Amscholl345%3Aplaylist%3A0SHtAdM5ZYfxQ3lgwJeIj4

I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERYDAY – Wizzardlets_rock_snowman_postcard (zazzle.com)

WE THREE KINGS – Book of Love

DECK THE HALLS – Mannheim Streamroller

WINTER WONDERLAND – Cocteau Twins

SLEIGH RIDE – The Ventures

MERRY CHRISTMAS (I DON’T WANNA FIGHT TONIGHT) – Ramones

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME – Status Quoheavy_metal_santa (pinterest.com)

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS – Booker T & The M.G.’s

FELIZ NAVIDAD – Boney M.

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW – Aaron Neville

TWISTIN’ BELLS – The Barbary Coasters

ROCKIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE – Joe Lynn Turner et al.

MELE KALIKIMAKA – Tiki Lounge Troupe

JOY TO THE WORLD – Craig DuncanPeace_Love_Rock'n'roll_ornament (polyvore.com)

MUST BE SANTA – Bob Dylan

FROSTY THE SNOWMAN – Mike Frost Jazz

LITTLE SAINT NICK – Hollyridge Strings

MARSHMALLOW WORLD – The Gravel Pit

WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME – The Shins

JINGLE BELL ROCK – Jeremy Camp

SANTA CLAWS IS COMING TO TOWN – Alice Cooper et al.

happy_holidaze_glasses (dribbble.com)

THE FIRST NOEL – The Butties

WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS – Davie Allan

THE CHIPMUNK SONG – CHRISTMAS DON’T BE LATE – Aaron Crowell

WHITE CHRISTMAS (Guitar Stooge Version) – Iggy Pop

 

Images courtesy huffingtonpost.com/CSA-Printstock via Getty Images, zazzle.com, pinterest.com, polyvore.com, dribbble.com

Some great 2017 albums we missed…and brand new Neil Young

Temples_-_band (musiceyz.co.uk)

Temples – Volcano

These guys churned out a masterpiece of neo-psychedelia entitled Sun Structures in early 2014. Three years later, here’s the stunning second album by U.K. band Temples, and it could possibly be the best album of 2017 (but I’m a big neo-psychedelia fan so what do I know). Volcano begins (erupts?) with a “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” drum beat, a gorgeous keyboard melody, and James Bagshaw’s dreamlike vocals echoing through the time-warped canyons of the 1960s. It’s “Certainty,” released as a single back in the fall of 2016. The majestic cathedral keyboards continue as the drums get off to a gallop on “All Join In,” the Left Banke jams with Iron Butterfly on the incredible “I Wanna Be Your Mirror” – chamber pop on acid! – and one of the greatest guitar hooks of the year (or is it a keyboard) rules on “Born into the Sunset.”

Temples_-_Volcano (en.wikipedia.org)The rest of Volcano keeps that vibe, uh, vibrating, with flashes of late-60s Beatles (“Oh! the Saviour”), bouncy Motown (“Open Air”), Mozart-meets-Sparks (“Mystery of Pop”), T. Rex-style glam (“Roman God-Like Man”)…right up to the jangly last track (and second single) “Strange or Be Forgotten.”

Formed in Kettering, England in 2012, Temples are singer/guitarist James Bagshaw, bassist Tom Walmsley, keyboardist/guitarist Adam Smith, and drummer Samuel Toms. And not only do they sound like they’re trapped in 1968, they also look the part, with Bagshaw’s curly locks, the rest of the band’s punky page-boy dos, and an assortment of outfits out of the coolest closets of Carnaby Street. Right now they’re on tour in the U.K. only, but they’ve ventured to the States in the past, so keep an eye ’n’ ear out!

Alvvays_-_band (stereogum.com)

Alvvays – Antisocialites

From Toronto, Canada comes the band Alvvays (pronounced “Always”), and their sophomore release following a 2014 debut. Antisocialites is shimmering dream-pop at its dreamiest (“In Undertow,” “Dreams Tonite,” “Already Gone”), poppiest (“Your Type,“ “Hey”), punkiest (“Plimsoll Punks”), and all three (the album’s shining moment and tribute to/fantasy about the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Jim Reid, “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”).

Alvvay_-_Antisocialites (alvvays.bandcamp.com)

Were it 1978, this would be dubbed “new wave” and inevitably compared to Blondie. And were it 1998, it would be “alternative” and probably compared to the band Garbage. Singer Molly Rankin emulates the beauty and brashness of Ms. Harry and Ms. Manson as she tosses off lines like “You’re the seashell in my sandal / That’s slicing up my heel” and “You look like Iggy Pop / Circa ’73 or ’4”!

Providing the propellant behind Ms. Rankin are guitarist/co-producer/co-songwriter Alec O’Hanley, keyboardist Kerry MacLellan, bassist Brian Murphy, and drummer Chris Dadge. The band is currently in the midst of a sold-out stretch at the Mod Club in their hometown of Toronto, after which they head to Europe for a few months. They sold out a show at Brooklyn Steel in October, so hopefully Alvvays will alvvays return to NYC.

And speaking of Canada…

NeilYoung_-_photo1976 (aquariumdrunkard.com)  Desert Trip - Weekend 1 - Day 2
1976 Neil                                                                                              2017 Neil

Neil Young – Hitchhiker and The Visitor

NeilYoung_-_Hitchhiker (en.wikipedia.org)

Recorded in one night back in 1976 but only seeing the light of day in September 2017, Hitchhiker presents Neil Young, his voice, his acoustic guitar, and occasionally his harmonica, breezing through ten tracks of red-eyed, head-nodding stoner stuff, most of which would appear in more polished form on later albums like Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks & Doves, American Stars ’n Bars, Comes a Time, and the Decade collection. Here we find the original (short) version of “Powderfinger,” the original (long) version of “Campaigner,” the title cut “Hitchhiker,” which appeared not too long ago on 2010’s Le Noise, and two previously-unreleased songs, “Hawaii” and “Give Me Strength.”

Apparently the execs at Reprise Records felt the album was too demo-like for release at the time, so there it sat, collecting dust on the shelf, while Long May You Run, Young’s collaboration with Stephen Stills as the Still-Young Band, ended up being his 1976 release. Until now…so sit back, roll another number (for the road if you like), and nod along as Neil tells of “Pocahontas,” “Captain Kennedy,” and scoots over to the piano for “The Old Country Waltz.”

NeilYoung_-_TheVisitor (en.wikipedia.org)

On the other side of the Neil Young coin, and out just a couple of weeks ago, is The Visitor. Recorded with L.A. rockers Promise of the Real (led by Lukas Nelson, son of Willie), this is heavy-duty Neil, stomping through the door with “Already Great,” a response to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” We also get angry Neil (“Fly by Night Deal”), laid-back, Tonight’s the Night-style Neil (“Almost Always,” “Change of Heart”), crazy Neil (the eight-minute-long, Buffalo Springfield-like “Carnival”), sing-along Neil (“Children of Destiny”), loose ’n’ goofy Neil (“When Bad Got Good”), and good old philosophical Neil (album closer “Forever”).

Always there with his distinctive sound and timely lyrics, count on Neil Young to be rock’s…rock!

NeilYoung_-_photo1950 (kawarthanow.com)                                                             1950 Neil

images courtesy musiceyz.co.uk, en.wikipedia.org, stereogum.com, alvvays.bandcamp.com, aquariumdrunkard.com, relix.com, kawarthanow.com

YouTube videos courtesy TemplesVEVO, KEXP, Alvvays A, neilyoungchannel, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real / Warner Music Group

THEJESUSANDMARYCHAIN!

In a parallel rock ‘n’ roll universe somewhere, Phil Spector bursts into a recording studio brandishing a chainsaw, demands the knob-twiddling lackey on duty go to the nearest hardware store to snag twelve more, and eventually proceeds to replace his wall of guitars with a wall of switched-on chainsaws. Keeping the pop song, the singer, and a minimum of drums, he chops up the resulting sound into fourteen tracks, calls the band the Jesus and Mary Chain, and calls the album Psychocandy.

JAMC-Psychocandy (en.wikipedia.org)

Well that scenario never actually happened, but the band and the album did. In late 1985, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid and their band the Jesus and Mary Chain let loose a storm of songs, many indebted to the 1960s Spector style and all buried up to their sonic necks in feedback and distortion. The gorgeous single “Just Like Honey” opens the album – in fine “Be My Baby” style – with the drum intro from that very song. The rest of Psychocandy set the tone for the burgeoning “shoegaze” genre that would pour out of the U.K. in the early ’90s.

JAMC_1 (ohmyrockness.com)

The band released five more albums and several compilations up until 1998, when – after numerous personnel changes, side projects, and, uh, disagreements, they called it quits. Then in the 2000s – like so many other old-but-suddenly-rejuvenated bands – the Jesus and Mary Chain reappeared, played a few festivals, put out a few greatest-hits box sets, and finally produced a new album, their first in nearly twenty years. Released in March 2017, Damage and Joy is their best in a long time, featuring piles of that wonderful JAMC catchiness/edginess, and showcased recently at the NYC stop of their current tour.

JAMC-Damage and Joy (en.wikipedia.org)

On November 17, 2017, the brothers Reid, along with current drummer Brian Young (formerly of NYC band Fountains of Wayne), bassist Mark Crozer (whose band Mark Crozer and The Rels opened the evening with an enjoyable set of Brit-rock), and guitarist Scott Von Ryper, pummeled an adoring audience at the PlayStation Theater with a blinding, colorful, strobe-driven light show and their trademark distortion-bathed pop-rock creations. In keeping with their earlier-days penchant for playing with their backs to the audience (often resulting in violence on the part of frustrated fans), the band members came off as unidentifiable, haze-engulfed silhouettes against the stage lights, which were trained more on the crowd than on the stage. Only singer Jim Reid appeared to have an actual face. Also in the background, the band’s name in ALLCAPSNOSPACES.

JAMC_4 (twitter.com)    JAMC_3 (njarts.net)
Jim Reid                                                                                        William Reid

Kicking off with Damage and Joy’s intense opener “Amputation,” the band propelled through greats like “Head On”* from 1989’s Automatic, “April Skies” from 1987’s Darklands, “Far Gone and Out” from 1992’s Honey’s Dead, plenty more from Damage and Joy like “Always Sad” (special guest vocalist Bernadette Denning), “Black and Blues” (special guest vocalist Skye Ferreira on the record but unfortunately not at the concert), and the scintillating “All Things Pass”* (no relation to George Harrison). Winding it all up, the frenzied 1992 single “Reverence.” A six-song encore including classics like “Just Like Honey,” “Cracking Up” from their 1998 album Munki, and the crowd-pleaser single “Sidewalking” sent the audience out into the night, ringing in their ears, spots before their eyes, and amazing songs reverberating in their reeling heads.

JAMC_5 (howweare.net; © Angela Datre)                                         l-r: Scott Von Ryper, Mark Crozer, Brian Young


images courtesy en.wikipedia.org, twitter.com, njarts.net, howweare.net/© Angela Datre

YouTube videos courtesy RHINO, The Jesus and Mary Chain Official, njarts.net/SHARKYS NIGHT, njarts.net/Michael Kirik, pojk_tant

* live videos from the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, 11/16/17 but pretty close to the NYC performances

Brazil, Bossa Nova and Bill Evans

eliane-elias_Eliane-on-Piano (whatshouldwedo.com)

On November 4, 2017, Grammy-winning Brazilian pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias walks out onto Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall stage wearing a striking sequined gown, all smiles and sexiness, settles onto her piano bench and – with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe Labarbera on drums – slinks into a gorgeous tribute to pianist Bill Evans. No singing just yet, only free-flowing jazz including a “finished” rendition of a work that Evans had begun just before his death in 1980, “Here’s Something for You,” beginning with film footage of Mr. Evans’ evolution of the piece and seamlessly segueing into Ms. Elias’ own performance.

eliane-elias-dance-of-time-cover (allmusic.com)  eliane-elias-plays-bill-evans-cover (amazon.com)  eliane-elias-made-in-brazil-cover (amazon.com)

After intermission the real party starts as Ms. Elias – now clad in a skintight, shoulderless black dress, crimson arm-warmers, and matching red pumps – starts the fire with the classic Ary Barroso composition “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” (which I first came to know through the Ritchie Family’s disco version in 1975), followed by selections from her award-winning album Made in Brazil and her latest, Dance of Time. An exquisite Chet Baker number, “Embraceable You,” then up-and-jumping again with more Ary Barroso.

jobim-songbook-cd-cover (discogs.com)

Finally, a musical voyage through Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” the song that, as Eliane explains, brought bossa nova from Brazil to the States in 1959. And to me in 1995, via one of my first ever CD purchases, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook, with its cool, colorful cover and jazz artists’ interpretations of numbers like – besides “Desafinado” – “Só Danço Samba,” “Wave,” “Agua de Beber,” and “Chega de Saudade.” Oh and the original hit that nuzzled its way out of radios tuned to the local “easy listening” station in 1964, “The Girl from Ipanema.” This evening Eliane Elias certainly embodies the smooth seduction of the vocalist on that one, Astrud Gilberto.

eliane_elias_marc_johnson (theiridium.com)

Joining Eliane on the second-set journey are guitarist Rubens de la Corte, drummer Rafael Barata, and, once again, bassist Marc Johnson – who treats the audience to an emotional and otherworldly moment when he switches from fingers to bow on his instrument. Mr. Johnson also played with Bill Evans from 1978 to 1980 – and is the husband of Ms. Elias.

Encore! But of course, as another extended Elias working of a Jobim standard, “Só Danço Samba,” pours forth and concludes one of the most beautiful Jazz at Lincoln Center shows ever. Viva Brazil!

brazil (monipag.com)

images courtesy whatshouldwedo.com, allmusic.com, amazon.com, discogs.com, theiridium.com, monipag.com

YouTube videos courtesy bluenotefrance, Concord Music, steve3ri, Urief Urief, Serdar Yasar, Jan Hammer, ru.vocal

A taste of fresh Beef

Beefheart-psychedelic (wprbhistory.org)

During my early rock ’n’ roll life the name Captain Beefheart pops up here and there, on posters in record departments, on track lists of sampler albums put out by the Warner/Reprise label. I probably hear a song or two on the radio without much care or concern. But it takes a few months living in a charmingly rundown tenement in the Little Italy section of the Bronx with my bandmate, Alter Boys vocalist/lyricist John C, to realize that Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet, or just “Beef” to John and me) is one of the greatest vocalists/lyricists/song stylists to ever grace God’s Golfball (a favorite Beefheart phrase for the Earth).

Beefheart-twocb-cover (garylucas.com)

Now, thirty-something years later (and nearly seven years since Van Vliet’s passing), a collection of his songs has emerged on Knitting Factory Records, piloted by one-time/some-time Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas and featuring vocals by Beefheart fan Nona Hendryx of Labelle fame. Due out November 10, The World of Captain Beefheart is a long-overdue and stunning tribute. Lucas was a member of the Magic Band (Beefheart’s moniker for his constantly-changing army of backup musicians) on their last two albums, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). He’s also led a free-jazz, Van Vliet-repertoire outfit called Fast ‘N Bulbous, named after a ridiculous recurring phrase on the album Trout Mask Replica. Diehard Beefheart fans will recognize his name – and all the song titles here. But to the person who’s never experienced the music of the Captain (or who just never cared much – like I’m sure would include me if I hadn’t crossed paths with John C back in the 1980s), it should prove a nice introduction to the Beefheart library – via the more accessible avenue of Hendryx’s deep soul singing (on par with Van Vliet’s own bluesy-tenor register) and the slightly more straightforwardly-pop production. But the heart – or the beef – is there every step of the way.

Beefheart-the-magic-band (blurtonline.com)                                                   The Magic Band in 1969

1972’s Clear Spot leads the pack here with four songs, including the first two, “Sun Zoom Spark” and “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains.” Up next are a couple from Beefheart’s first album, Safe as Milk, released in 1967 – with the down-home blues of “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do” and the decidedly-un-Beef-like ballad “I’m Glad” lending themselves perfectly to Nona’s soulful vocals. The early-70s works Lick My Decals Off, Baby and The Spotlight Kid are represented with one track each (“The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)” and “When It Blows Its Stacks”), and 1978’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) provides the instrumental “Suction Prints” as well as the funky closer, “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” Of course no Beefheart collection would be complete without something from 1969’s epic Trout Mask Replica. Here we get two – both from that album’s third side – “Sugar ‘n Spikes” and “When Big Joan Sets Up” (“Big Joan”’s problem being her “hands are too small” – hmm, sounds like someone else we know). And tempering the characteristic Beefheart musical anarchy are “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” and “Too Much Time,” both from Clear Spot and showcasing the Captain’s poppier side. “Too Much Time,” in particular, is another one that seems tailor-made for Ms. Hendryx.

Beefheart-Safe_as_Milk (en.wikipedia.org)    Beefheart-Trout_Mask_Replica (en.wikipedia.org)    Beefheart-Clear_Spot (en.wikipedia.org)

Joining Lucas and Hendryx on this disc are Fast ‘N Bulbous members Jesse Krakow on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums, as well as keyboardist Jordan Shapiro of Gods and Monsters, another Gary Lucas project.

Mr. Van Vliet’s clever, surreal poetry, Howlin’ Wolf-style singing, and blues-rooted avant-garde, often cacophonous music occupy a somewhat dark and unexplored corner in rock ‘n’ roll. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas lead us bravely into that corner, wax-encrusted candelabra in hand (hey, it was Halloween last week), with The World of Captain Beefheart. And catch ‘em live in NYC at City Winery January 22!

Beefheart-shadows (bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com)

 

images courtesy wpbrhistory.org, garylucas.com, blurtonline.com, en.wikipedia.org, bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com