* I maxed out my 90 downloads early this month because I spent nearly half of them on I Hate CDs: Norton Records 45 RPM Singles Collection Vol. 1 . (I grabbed 40 of the 45 tracks here. I already had the other five.)
This compilation sums up what Norton is all about -- crazy R&B, reckless rockabilly, garage-band snot, immortal punk rock. What can you say about a collection that includes Hasil Adkins, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, ? & The Mysterians, Andre Williams, Dale Hawkins, Link Wray,and even some Ramones rarities?
Of course the real fun is discovering the truly obscure artists here. Who the hell is Stud Cole you might wonder. Apparently this Stud's a rockabilly who never got his due. His contribution here, "The Witch" (not the Sonics hit by the same name) makes me want more. "The Limp" by The Incredible Kings is how I imagined all cool, swingin' parties would sound back when I ws a kid, There's a completely goofy, so-weird-it's-beautiful parody of "Surfin' Bird" (as if that song needed a parody) called "Puddy Cat" by Wade Curtiss & The Rhythm Rockers. And speaking of surfing, you've got to hear "Surfside Date" by The Triumphs. Not having any liner notes, I don't know if this was recorded in the '60s or last month. Whatever the case might be, surf music rarely sounded as primitive.
If you're an audiophile, beware. Some tracks definitely are lo-fi. But if you're that much of an audiophile you probably wouldn't like this raw stuff any way.
Hey, check out the bitchen audio promo over at Norton's MySpace.
* Mental Strain At Dawn: A Modern Portrait of Louis Armstrong by David Murray with Doc Cheatham . I'm straining mentally over the title of this album. Despite its name, this isn't really a "tribute" to Satch. Most of the selections here aren't even Armstrong tunes (though I wanted to believe that Louie did a song called "When Jack Ruby Met Joe Glaser.") But what we have is far more interesting than a run-of-the-mill tribute album. It's a collaboration between trumpeteer Cheatham -- a contemporary of Armstrong's who was in his late 80s when this was recorded -- and free jazz sax man David Murray. Between the two, especially in the standards here like "Dinah" and "Chinatown, My Chinatown, " you can hear the evolution of jazz right before your ears.
*Trees Outside the Academy by Thurston Moore. Thurston's new solo album, his first in a decade or so, is kind of Sonic Youthy, but with more emphasis on melody. Some of it's kind of pretty. There's even some acoustic guitar, but Thurston's definitely not going John Denver on us -- though I can imagine playing some of these tunes alongside from Donovan's Sunshine Superman album . You can easily imagine Sonic Youth doing most of the songs in slightly harsher versions.
J. Mascis shows up for some guitar solos, and SY drummer Steve Shelley is on most cuts. But the one that caught my ear was violinist Samara Lubelski. And the duet with singer Christina Carter, from a band called Charalambides, on the song "Honest James."
Consumer tip for fellow eMusic subscribers: If you want this album but only have 11 tracks left in your month, skip track 12, "Thurston @ 13." It's a recording of young Thurston, assumedly at the age of 13, dropping various items on a table.
* Willie's Blues by Willie Dixon & Memphis Slim. This is fine old Chicago blues from 1959 by one of the genre's greatest songwriters (Dixon) and a true blues piano avatar (Slim).
There's nothing here on the level of my favorite Dixon song ( "Weak Brain, Narrow Mind," best heard on The American Folk Blues Festival DVD (Vol. 1), but "I Got a Razor" is a dark little gem. And "Good Understanding," which begins with a reference about two women holding hands is pretty interesting as well. And there's a good version of Dixon's classic "Built For Comfort" here too.
* The Blue Memphis Suite by Memphis Slim. Listening to Willie's Blues reminded me of a politically-charged Memphis Slim song KUNM used to play when I was a freshman in college -- "Chicago Seven," which had the lyrics, "everyone's talking about Chicago Seven/Four in Ohio/That makes 11/ Nobody seemed worried about all the black blood spilled/But they began to take notice when some of their own got killed."
Nope, they didn't make a beer commercial out of that song.
So to my delight I learned "Chicago Seven" was available on eMusic on this album. Blue Memphis in many ways is Slim's version of London Sessions. Muddy waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and probaby bothers I'm forgetting had albums by this title in which the American music icon was surrounded by a bevy of worshipful British rockers. On Slim's album he has Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green and Led Zep's John Paul Jones among others. But this isn't some hyped-up greatest hits workout. There's some stray wah-wah guitar sounds here and there and the sound is far slicker than the smokey Willie's Blues, but it's SLim, not his guest stars who dominate. The first eight tracks make up an autobiographical song cycle in which Slim tells of growing up in Memphis, moving to Chicago in 1937 and leaving this country for France in 1962 (where he stayed until his death in 1988.)
* "Real Live Girl" by The Trashmen. A little Christmas cheer from the Surfin' Bird brains.
Just like last month, right after I post my eMusic for the month I find some nice freebies. This time it's The Gore Gore Girls, who have three free live tracks on HearYa Session at Shirk Music. If you don't mind the little Beer Nuts commercial at the outset of two of the three tracks (I'm not kidding), all three sound great.
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