Wednesday, March 10, 2010

eMusic March

* Animal God Of The Streets by Kim Fowley. I met Kim Fowley -- producer, songwriter, Rock 'n' Roll Svengali, Sultan of Sunset Strip -- at one of the first South by Southwest festivals I attended back in the mid 90s. He was in the Austin Convention Center wearing a fairly psychedelic coat of many colors and was in the company of a sexy young singer he claimed to be "The Next Janis Joplin." (I listened to her cassette tape when I got back home. She was not the next Janis Joplin.) I don't even remember how our conversation started, but he was pitching this singer to me so intently you'd have thought I was some major producer. A film crew approached us and Fowley focused his pitch on the camera. Fowley ranted, the Next Janis Joplin slinked around looking sexy. I decided, what the hell, I held up the tape with a stern expression, nodding my head, as if I were the muscle in the entourage. I don't know where that camera crew was from, but what I'd give to have that footage!

So that's my Kim Fowley story. It has nothing to do with this album. Or maybe it has everything to do with it. His inspired quasi-political babblings of "Is America Dead?" definitely is the same voice I remember ranting about that singer at the convention hall.

Animal God was released in 1975, shortly before he was recruiting The Runaways. But it was recorded a few years before. (In "Is America Dead?" he mentions the fact that Woodstock was the year before., and he's not afraid to use the word "groovy.") The music is good stripped-down blues rock informed by psychedelia.

The first track "Night of the Hunter" sounds almost like Steppenwolf. And "Swamp Dance" is sweet and swampy. I'm not sure why Fowley attempted a cover of Link Wray's "Rumble." But "Hobo Wine" -- a pretty close relative of " Drinkin' Wine-Spo-Dee-Oo-Dee" sounds like something from a jukebox on skid row. I mean that in a good way, of course.

* 1950s Gospel Classics by Various Artists. Here's another happy find. This 25-song collection is a treasure chest of some great, if very obscure, gospel belters and guitar pickers.

There's Professor Johnson, who's got a Henry Green, Rev, Robert Ballinger, Deacon Leroy Shinault and the Rev. Anderson Johnson, who does a tune called "Death in the Morning," which either is a precursor to or a crazy bastard son of "O Death."

Sister Rosetta Tharpe's fans will immediately recognize a couple of her tunes here. Green does a version of "Strange Things" (though he does it as a dirge, not upbeat like Tharpe) and "God Don't Like It," which is done twice here by Anderson Johnson. If anything, his version, featuring his slide guitar, is even more jaunty than Sister Rosetta's. On one take, Johnson ends it with a disclaimer: "Now I wasn't talking about anyone, I was just singing my song." So despite the hell-fire lyrics, he's letting us know he's not really judging anyone. He sings it with a smile on his face and love in his heart.

* Bankers and Gangsters by Black 47. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, a new Black 47 album. Sometimes Larry Kirwin gets a little heavy-handed when he gets going on the politics. The title track here for instance isn't all that inspired. And nothing here matches my favorite 47 song, "Forty Deuce" -- the story of real gangsters.

But there are a few standouts here. "Izzy's Irish Rose" is a fun look at a Hebrew/Celtic romance (and has a tasty little Irishfied blast of "Hava Nagila.") "Celtic Rocker" is a light-hearted look at the subculture that has grown around bands like The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging , The Young Dubliners, and, yes, Black 47.

And then there's "Long Lost Tapes of Hendrix." Check my Terrell's Tune-up column this Friday for more on that.

* Descending Shadows by Pierced Arrows Even though Dead Moon is gone, two-thirds of the band — Fred Cole and his bass player and wife of 40-plus years, Toody Cole — are back with another fine group, Pierced Arrows. The Arrows released an album called Straight to the Heart a couple of years ago on Tombstone.

And now comes their sophomore effort — and it's no slump,

The good news for Dead Moon fans is that the new trio sounds like a continuation of Moon's basic guitar/bass/drums sound. I suppose hard-core followers could argue over which drummer is better, Loomis or new guy Kelly Halliburton (no relation to Dick Cheney), but I don't see a major difference. The important thing is there was no cheesy attempt to update or "modernize" the sound. And Fred is still writing some memorable songs.

See my full review in Terrell's Tune-up a couple of weeks ago.

* The Second Stop Is Jupiter by Sun Ra. Herman Poole "Sonny" Blount, better known in this solar system as Sun Ra (1914-1993), not only played cosmic jazz but also dabbled in doo-wop and R & B in the 1950s and a little funky soul in the '60s and '70s. And danged if Ra didn't make that sound cosmic too!

Norton Records recently released three CDs of his material. Interplanetary Melodies and The Second Stop Is Jupiter feature recordings from the mid-1950s, while Rocket Ship Rock spans the late '50s through early '70s. I picked up the two of the three a couple of months ago, but just got my hands on Jupiter lately. I reviewed the whole shebang a few weeks ago in my Tuneup column. Read it HERE.


* "New Mexico" by Johnny Cash. A few weeks back Leslie Lithicum of The Albuquerque Journal had a fun column about songs about New Mexico. I was ashamed to realized that I had never heard this one. Luckily, eMusic had it on a Sun Records collection. It's a classic chunka chunka Cash tune about a young cowboy who is recruited for a job here, has a miserable time and gets ripped off.

No, this is one the Tourism Department never will use in ads: "Go back to your friends and loved ones, tell others not to go/To the God-forsaken country they call New Mexico."

* The tracks from The Sheik Said Shake by Hipbone Slim & The Knee-Tremblers that I didn't get last month. It's just good British psychobilly blues from the Dark Dimension.

My favorite in this batch is "Buried Next to You," a slow-grooving meditation on eternal love. I don't know whether this is an original or otherwise, but I can easily imagine Charlie Feathers singing this one. And there's "One-Legged Rock," which takes up where Terry Allen's "Peggy Leg" left off.

Now I've got to get my hands on the new one by Hipbone -- The Kneeanderthal Sound of…

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