* A Hard Night's Day by The New York Dolls. I downloaded this right after watching the DVD of New York Doll, a bittersweet documentary about the death of bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane, shortly after the 2004 Dolls reunion.
(Quick movie review: I loved it. Kane, who left the music world soon after the Dolls broke up in the '70s, lived for years in bitter alcoholic poverty. He found solace as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, working for the LDS Family History Library in Los Angeles. He is a damaged but endearing figure who grabs your heart. I also came away admiring the Mormons in his life. They are completely supportive and non judgemental of Kane's dream of reuniting with the Dolls. No "Devil's music" gibberish. They even raise money to get his bass out of hock. Director Greg Whiteley himself is a Mormon, which could explain this sympathetic treatment of the church, but the Mormons he interviews seem sincere in their love and support of Kane's crazy rock 'n' roll dream.)
This album consists of demos of some of The Dolls' greatest tunes -- "Personality Crisis," "Bad Girl," "Vietnamese Baby," "Jet Boy," "Pills," "Trash," "Give Her a Great Big Kiss." The sound quality is good and the energy is amazing.
*Gang War by Johnny Thunders & Wayne Kramer. I stumbled across this album last weekend while searching for an outlandish version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking" to play on my tribute to Lee Hazlewood on Terrell's Sound World.
It's a 1979 marvel Team-Up of these former New York Dolls/MC 5 icons. Kramer had just gotten out of prison and Thunders was pretty far along the Lost Highway, evident from his bitter misogynistic rant in the intro of "Ten Commandments of Love." But it's a fun listen, even if the "Endless Party" they sing about had its toll.
*NY No Wave by Various Artists. Artists here include James Chance (aka James White & The Blacks, The Contortions), Teenage Jesus & The Jerks (plus solo Lydia Lunch), Lizzy Mercier Descloux (aka Rosa Yemen), Suicide, Mars, Art/Neto (featuring Arto Lindsey.)
This is loud abrasive, sometimes even hostile sounding music, or "anti-music" as some have called it. Sometimes rays of humor shine through, though these are almost always very subtle.
This album inspired me to rent the movie Kill Your Idols, a documentary about the No Wave era that makes a good companion to this album. (You can see this month how my eMusic and Netflix accounts feed off each other.) Funny thing is, some of the icons of No-Wave come off sounding like a bunch of crotchety conservatives. "Kids these days, they don't know nuthin' ..." Fun little doc though with some bitchen footage of Lydia, Suicide, Sonic Youth and even Gogol Bordello.
*Super Taranta! by Gogol Bordello . Speaking of Gogol Bordello ...
If Shane MacGowan was a Ukrainian, if The Clash was raised in a gypsy caravan ...
Fans of Gogol's previous works won't be disappointed. Leader Eugene Hutz, a Ukrainian immigrant to the U.S. not only is a crazed performer but a good songwriter as well.
"American Wedding" is a sardonic look at a culture he finds to be repressed. "Supertheory of Supereverything" can be seen as an Eastern European take on "It Ain't Necessarily So," (which opened a whole new world of skepticism to me when I heard Cab Calloway sing it as a child.)
*The Budos Band II . This is an 11-piece band from Staten Island, N.Y. that blends African pop with soul, funk and just a spooky touch of crime jazz.
The horns and percussion dominates, but organist Mike Deller's slinky sound also stands out.
One caution: I think some of the song titles might be mixed up. I've read reviews that say "His Girl" is a remake of "My Girl." However the song labeled "Mas O Menos" sounds just like a minor key "My Girl." In fact, upon further investigation, all but the very last track appear to be scrambled. Hope eMusic fixes this soon.
Good news: The final track, "The Proposition" was FREE when I downloaded it. Last I checked, it's not but "Chicago Falcon" is, although it's mislabeled. It's actually "Deep in the Sand." Whatever you call it, it's worth trying out.
* A bunch of tracks I didn't already have from Funkadelic's first three albums (Funkadelic, Free Your Mind...And Your Ass Will Follow and Maggot Brain.) I was putting together and burning a P-Funk compilation for a friend, which set me off on one of my recurring George Clinton kicks. Then I stumble across an e-Music feature spotlight called "A User's Guide to Funkadelic." (Guess what e-Music marketing folks -- these damned things work!)
I'm sure it's weird music biz contractual stuff, but eMusic has plenty of Funkadelic albums and a handful of George Clinton titles (I downloaded a live Clinton album last month) -- but no Parliament.
These early tracks emphasize the psychedelic half of the Funkadelic equation. This was the prime era for guitarist Eddie "Maggot Brain" Hazel, who was a lot like Jimi Hendrix but crazier. Among my downloads here are three 9-10-minute acidic epics --"Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?" the song "Free Your Mind ... And Your Ass Will Follow," "Wars of Armageddon" and an alternate take on the immortal title song of Maggot Brain. The latter is not quite as developed as the "official" version, but Eddie Hazel still takes you to some strange places. There's what sounds like a kalimba solo towards the end of the track.
I found a couple of good freebie albums this month:
* Funk/Soul Revival: Classic Tracks & the New Breed . I'm not sure there are actually any "classics" here. These nine tracks are by fairly obscure acts old and new. There's one from The Budos Band, "Chicago Falcon," (which seems to be correctly labeled here unlike the one on eMusic's version of Budos Band II.) There's also one by Clarence Reid, who some of you might recognize as the secret identity of Blowfly. "Funky Party," unlike any other Blowfly song you've ever heard, is completely clean. Not even a hand job! He does shamelessly lift several hooks from Isaac Hayes' Shaft theme. Lots of fun on this album.
* Congo by Various artists . This is a compilation of songs by Congolese bands. No big revelations here, but good solid African band music.
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