Sunday, January 10, 2010


* The Roots of The Cramps by various Artists Hot diggity dog! Not only is this a serious eMusic bargain (56 tracks for 12 credits!) it's a serious dose of rockabilly, R&B, surf and garage obscurities.

In short, these are the songs The Cramps covered or, in some cases the tunes that The Cramps mutated into their original songs. (Listen to "Strolling After Dark" by The Shades and you can easily understand why Lux and Ivy were inspired to add a teenage werewolf.)

There's lots of overlap here with a now-out-of print 2007 compilation called Songs The Cramps Taught Us. But that only had 31 tracks.

Among my favorites here are "Miniskirt Blues" performed by The Flower Children, an early band of Simon Stokes; the bubblegum classic "Quick Joey Small" by The Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus; a version of Elroy Dietzel's "Rockin' Bones" by a young Ronnie Dawson; and "Storm Warning," some pre-Dr. John gris-gris from Mac Rebennack.

Then there's the girl-biker anthem "Get Off the Road" by The R. Lewis Band. "We are the Hellcats who nobody likes/Man-eaters on motorbikes." Well, I like 'em

* Interplanetary Melodies by Sun Ra. If Lux Interior runs into Sun Ra up in Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, they will have a lot more to talk about than you might initially imagine.

You see, Herman Sonny Blount not only played cosmic jazz, but also dabbled in recording doo-wop and R&B in the 1950s. And damned if he didn't make that sound cosmic too! One of the bands represented here was even called The Cosmic Rays, but they're not as otherwordly as The Nu Sounds, a Ra vocal group performing songs like "Spaceship Lullaby" and "Africa."

Norton Records recently released three CDs of this material. I picked up Rocketship Rock over on Amie Street. (My favorite tracks there are the down and gritty "Hot Skillet Mama" by Yochanan -- there are two versions here -- and the short version of "I Am Gonna Unmask the Batman" by Lacy Gibson.) I'll definitely pick up The Second Stop is Jupiter before long.

* Ow! Ow! Ow! by Barrence Whitfield. Good news: Rounder Records is now on eMusic. That means classic '80s Barrence albums are now available.

For those unfamiliar with this contemporary R&B wildman, I'd start out with Live Emulsfied, (which I already had) -- if only for "Mama Get the Hammer" and "Bloody Mary."

But Ow! Ow! Ow! is a fine choice too. Not a bad track here and some, like "Girl From Outer Space" are downright crazy. And for those who like Whitfield's slower, prettier side, "Apology Line" is one of his finest ballads.

* Sun Recordings Vol. 1 by Jerry Lee Lewis. Here's another good eMusic bargain. Several years ago I downloaded eight tracks from this album. With eMusic's new pricing plan, they only charged me four credits for the other 12 tracks.

Those familiar only with the smattering of Lewis hits they play on oldies radio might be surprised to know that Lewis' fire went well beyond "Great Balls of Fire." He did an excellent version of Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush," not to mention his raucous cover of The Dominos' "60 Minute Man."

But even back in those Sun Records years, Jerry Lee displayed his knack for country music. "Who Will Buy the Wine," included on this volume, has as much soul as The Killer's honk-tonk classics like"What Made Milwaukee Famous" and "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye."

* Seven tracks from No Requests Tonight by The Devil Dogs. This is a live album, released in 1997 by the Dogs, a fine New York punk/trash trio. It's a California show and the stage patter consists largely of East Coast/West Coast abuse Previously my favorite Devil Dogs tune was their cover of former New Mexico Music Commissioner Tony Orlando's grease ballad "Bless You" from the Choad Blast EP. But here the The Devil Dogs cover Bono -- Sonny Bono, that is. Their version of Sonny's proto-hippie lament "Laugh at Me" is a heart-warming delight.

* The tracks I didn't get last month from The Kids Are All Square - This Is HipGirlsville by Thee Headcoats and Thee Headcoatees. Most of the ones I got this month were by Thee Headcoatees, Billy Childish's "girl group" of the '90s, which included Holly Golightly, Miss Ludella Black, Kyra Rubella and Bongo Debbie.

There's a great cover of The Beatles' "Run for Your Life" (remember the John Lennon Rolling Stone interview in which he was expressing politically-correct remorse about this tune?) Meanwhile, "Melvin" is a re-write of Them's "Gloria." But none of these are as cool as "Wild Man," in which the singer sounds as if she's on the verge of a lust-induced nervous breakdown over the boy next door's uncivilized daddy.

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