Friday, February 22, 2008

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: SONGS FROM BLOGDOM

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 22, 2008


It’s been nearly a year since I surveyed my favorite audio blogs in this column. So let’s look at some sites where you can find all sorts of amazing, rare, mostly obscure sounds for free.

* Licorice Pizza: This is a fun blog with a wide variety of stuff maintained by a guy called “aikin” from Miami. It’s a little more mainstream than some of the bizarre musical corners I’m drawn to, but there are some great MP3s here.
Amy, what you wanna do?
Among my finds is a series of live Amy Winehouse tracks (not the ones posted after her Grammy wins. These are from a December post featuring songs from Amy’s July appearance at the iTunes Festival in London.) There are some cool Lightning Hopkins songs, a live version of Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and demos from The Who’s Who Are You sessions and The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street sessions (I downloaded a poor-quality demo of “Sweet Virginia.”).

But the MP3 from this site I’m fondest of lately is an acoustic mariachi version of “Conquest” by The White Stripes.

* Music for Maniacs: “The Web’s longest-running strange-music blog! Dedicated to extremes in music and utterly unique sounds.” This creation of North Hollywood blogger “Mr. Fab” lives up to its hype.

Recently MFM has featured a section of “car tunes.” No, not songs about cars. This is music made by people using various auto parts. A musician named Wendy Chambers invented a car-horn organ (“25 car horns operated by a homemade keyboard and powered by a car battery charger”) on which she plays “The Star Spangled Banner” and “New York, New York.” And there are bands like The Car Music Project and The La Drivers Union Por Por Group, a group of Ghanaian cab drivers who play instruments made from squeeze-bulb horns and other parts of their vehicles.
It's raining men.
This blog seems perversely fond of crimes against music by “Golden Throat” Republican politicians. You can find John Ashcroft’s classic “Let the Eagle Soar” (the sound quality is as awful as the song), some patriotic grandiosity by Sen. Orrin Hatch, and even a disco exercise song by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Talking over “It’s Raining Men,” an old tune by The Weather Girls, the governor of California leads a series of workouts. (“Now remember, this is one of my favorite exercises that made me blast my biceps up to 22 inches.”)

There’s a tribute to early electronic-music meister Mort Garson, who died last month. His soundtrack work for the 1972 film Son of Blob (also known as Beware! The Blob) is a triumph of the human spirit.

And there’s a tacky-tune tribute to the late Evel Knievel. In a song that only could be described as garage-disco, the singer Eddie Carr asks, “Is he a man like you and I?/Does he have wings/How can he fly?”

* Flea Market Funk: In my previous column on music blogs, I praised a great funk/soul site called Funky 16 Corners. Flea Market Funk, created by DJ Prestige aka Jamison Harvey, isn’t quite as good, but it’s a great source for obscure funk MP3s.
Paul Humphrey
Some of my favorite recent posts include songs by the United States Navy Port Authority Soul Band (not bad for government work), the easy groovin’ “Detroit” by drummer Paul Humphrey & His Cool Aid Chemists (Humphrey played on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”), and the “fuzzed, out wah-wah funk” of an unjustly unknown band The Sound Experience. Check their song “Don’t Fight the Feeling.”

The site’s “Eye Candy” section features YouTube clips of some the artists featured here, plus a selection of podcasts by DJ Prestige.

* WFMU Beware of the Blog: The official blog of this influential independent New York radio station offers a healthy collection of MP3s that are fun and even educational.

Some of my favorite recent offerings have been the themed posts.
A sensitive portrayal of mental illness
There’s a selection of “Loony Tunes for Kooky Times,” 21 MP3s of songs about going insane. Some of my favorites are here: Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haaa!,” Porter Wagoner’s “The Rubber Room,” “Insane Asylum” by Willie Dixon & Koko Taylor, and Lenny Bruce’s “Psychopathia Sexualis.” I downloaded “Spasm” by Little Willie John, “I’ve Got a Tangled Mind” by Hank Snow, and the original “Twisted” by Annie Ross. (I like Annie’s better than the Joni Mitchell cover version, though I do miss Cheech & Chong’s cameo on Joni’s.)

There’s also a post of auto-fatality tunes including “No School Bus in Heaven” by The Stanley Brothers, “I’m Only Seventeen” (a maudlin talking song by the king of maudlin talking songs Red Sovine), and several DWI morality tales by Trooper Jim Foster, who was a Florida highway patrol officer.

One of the most original themes I’ve found here is the “Country Fuzz Spectacular” posted last September. While most people think of fuzz-tone guitar in terms of 1960s garage-band rock (“Psychotic Reaction” or anything by Davey Allan & The Arrows) apparently lots of Nashville cats loved the sound in the 1960s. There’s “The Fuzz” by Grady Martin, who accidentally discovered the fuzztone due to some equipment failure during a 1960 Marty Robbins recording session. Also check out “Mississippi Hippie,” an “Okie From Muskogee” parody (reportedly written by Trooper Jim!) but performed by Chesley Carroll, “I’m Tired of You Satan,” some hillbilly gospel fuzz by Pat & Keith Wayne, and “Little Pink Mack,” a truck-driving classic by Kay Adams.

Sometimes it pays to read the comments section. One reader of the “Country Fuzz” post posted a link to an MP3 of a strange little novelty tune called “Sitar Pickin’ Man” by Bobby Zehm.

* Other favorite music blogs: My original column on music blogs — complete with live links— can be found HERE.

He’s a jolly good Fela: My fellow KSFR jock DJ Spinifex is hosting a Fela Kuti-inspired dance party at the Second Street Brewery, 1814 Second St. (982-3030), at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. He’ll be spinning a bunch of Fela Kuti and other related grooves. There will be video projection and live drummers. No cover.

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