Lindsey Buckingham, multitude of custom guitars in hands, cannily fleeted from the humongous Mac only to craft one of the greatest folk albums in many an era, whilst that once-and-former misdiagnosed Voice of Someone’s Generation pulled out a clutch of ancient ribbon microphones and somehow produced the quintessential sonic answer to these crazed Modern Times we still try to live in.
Meanwhile of course, your ever-humble virtual listener cocked both ears deep beneath the socio-musical radar, only to hopefully bring to your attention again ten remarkable discs you should all hear too over the many many years to come. So Here They Are (in strictly alphabetical order, I’ll have you know):
While what’s left of those Brothers Gibb may, whenever asked, still like to refer to themselves as the Enigma (Cucumber Castle) with the Stigma (Saturday Night Fever) (for starters), may I posit the REAL, TRUE, ORIGINAL Great Big Rockin’ Rolling Enigma is none other than the one, the still and only, Big Boy Pete Miller.
Why, armed with little more than his twin-tone green ’61 Gretsch guitar – name of Henry, btw – and a clutch of equally vintage recording equipment (including a Goobly Box and genuine Humbert Humbert by way of very special effects, I kid you not) Pete has, since 1959 and counting, been in dozens of bands (the so-aptly-named Offbeats, Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, The Fuzz, even Buzz), toured everywhere with everyone (Beatles, Stones, Kinks et al all round Swinging Sixties England, not to mention the wilds of the Orient – with his trademark electric wah-wah sitar — during no less than the Vietnam quagmire), composed beyond-numerous neat numbers for Freddie and the Dreamers, Damned, and the (original) Knack, and most notably of all as it turns out churned out literally thousands of recordings in studios worldwide these past four-plus decades with, for and/or alongside the likes of Marty Wilde, Peter Frampton’s Herd, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Murray the K, Arlo Guthrie, Elvin Bishop, The Avengers, Tuxedomoon, Roy Loney, Marshall Crenshaw, Johnny and the Potato Chips, and even our good buds The Squires Of The Subterrain, very roughly chronologically speaking indeed.
And now! The good folk over there at Angel Air Records (“Where the Artist Has a Voice”) have gone and collected a dozen of some of Pete’s prime early-Seventies San Francisco productions neatly together right here upon one perfectly titled The Perennial Enigma CD.
Thrill, as I repeatedly have already, to The Great Joe Meek / Marc Bolan Tape that Got Away (“The Demo”), the absolute biggest hit Dave Edmunds somehow never had (“All Down The Road”), and a mere two-minutes-twenty- five called “Get Up And Dance” which finally fills that socio-musical gap between The Swinging Medallions and your very first Elvis Costello long-player.
Elsewhere, Harry Belafonte makes an extremely wrong turn …straight down into Lee “Scratch” Perry’s sub-basement (“Havana Juana”), “Who Stole My Garden?” asks the kind of musical question even those Bonzo Dogs seemed incapable of, and “Rudy’s In Love” – not to mention “The Prayer” – makes one wonder why in holy heck that Plastic Ono Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album didn’t, or should I say COULDN’T, sound half this coooool ??
Not to fret though: For while the inimitable Johnny Rhythm may no longer be with us, Big Boy Pete is still sitting tight there in Frisco, safe and stereophonically sound within his esteemed Audio Institute of America, demo-ing up his next several hundred severely-high-fidelity musical marvels. So until they too begin trickling out upon us Lost Groovers, I’d suggest you grab your own Perennial Enigma toot sweet, awreet?
You know, Japan has already given us, in semi- chronological order, The Blue Comets, The Tigers, coooool live albums from The Ventures, Honeycombs, and the late, very great Buck Owens, plus of course those twin teen titans themselves Puffy (Ami Yumi). Domo arigato, I believe is the only applicable phrase right here.
Nobly carrying quite on with that super-fine tradition is the one and only Daisuke Kambe and his Tokyo-based Wizzard In Vinyl label. He, and they, have been responsible for bringing to discriminating ears worldwide the untold pleasures of The Playmates (Jam meet Hamburg Beatles!), Treeberrys (best cover-art graphics since at least The Association), Movin’ Jelly (deftly ready to pick up if NRBQ ever decide to leave off), plus only the very very highest quality non- J-Pop from across the globe, including our aforementioned Bill Lloyd. Why, I think you’ll even hear Yours Quite Truly singing my Who’s Next version of “Rock And Roll Love Letter” on the Men In Plaid Rollers tribute disc in there somewhere…
However, Daisuke’s latest gracious Package to Pig contained above-exceptional new discs by two combos ALL Lost Groovers should hook onto asap imho:
First, there’s those living coloured Oranges, upon whose so-aptly-titled Teen Rock are squeezed twenty wholly-rockin’ sound-biters in fifty minutes flat. Had Eric Carmen continued writing Top Tens for Shaun Cassidy; had Herman and his Hermits mid-wifed that l-u-v child dem Ramones sorrowfully never sired… in other words, The Oranges taste no less like one gigantic, sugary-Sweet, Chinni-Chapping all-day sucker for the lower extremities, believe you me!
And, as if that wasn’t all, Here Come The Mayflowers, who are never once afraid to pack a whole lotta Power deep into their Pop. Why, it’s just as if Jellyfish played one big Cheap Trick at the XTC / Hollies summit meeting which, until now, never got a chance to happen.
Yes, you just gotta check any, or ideally all of the above, available right now right there at, in Daisuke’s own words, “the best place for crystalline guitarpop & crunchy powerpop.”
I’ve just received my latest Care Package from ol’ pal Mark Weber, via the Zerx Records & Press faux-conglomerate deep down there in the 87108 zip code.
Yes, wittily stuffed inside his very latest chapbook split alongside jazz poet Gerald Locklin were the latest two installments of Mark’s greatest of so many inventions: Volumes 21 and 22 of the rightfully Zerx-famous albuZERXque compact compilations.
The ear truly boggles …particularly at the abundant sharp Dylan retreads spread across Number 22.
“Some people call these things samplers akin to them embroidery and needlework delicacies those dear 19th Century maidens stitched together,” Mark writes. “Just like that.” Yet they, like all 50-and-counting Zerx CD’s, are in fact limited editions of usually a hundred or so, each of which come in hand-printed linocut cardboard sleeves, “rather than computer-generated jewel case art.” It goes without saying, though I will anyways, that all us happily Lost in the Grooves can greatly appreciate this endearingly analog approach to the graphic end of business, no?
Meanwhile, whilst not trawling NM as if on behalf of some bizarro world Smithsonian Institute, and/or heading up his very own self-styled “prettified country band” The Bubbadinos (“Tenuousness, trepidation, drought, locust, musica antigua, cant & want, pock-marked chrome, lapsed backyard hallucinations, clippity-clop cowboys & indians, flat tires, cloven-hoofed, low odds, dice, subdural hematoma, jailhouse coffee, bellybutton lint” is how their most-aptly-titled The Band Only A Mother Could Love album has actually been described, I kid you knot), Mark can as well be seen curating his esteemed collection of modern age jazz photos over there at UCLA, can quite simultaneously be heard hosting Weber’s Weekly Worldwide Radioshow straight outta KUNM 89.9 Albuquerque, and somehow still finds some time to tell us all about it at the inimitable ZerxPressBlogSpot.
Head straight there immediately, won’t you all, to sample for yourselves some of the many munificent Zerx Leisure Products: “Roots Music from the Deep Southwest of the Mind,” “Home of The Bubbadinos and other world / class musicians and poets who happen to live in New Mexico or would like to or visited some time or ‘nuther.”
Rodier was a Montréal-based, Anglophone singer-songwriter whose twee yet slightly sinister style pulls the listener down into a rabbit hole of unexpected pop arrangements, into one of the most bipolar albums every made. This fragmented format is definitely not for everyone, but both styles are so well realized that it’s well worth the risk. Starting off hushed and whispery, the 1972 LP soon turns tough and anxious with the choir-backed anthem of betrayal “Am I Supposed to Let It By Again?” before slipping back into seductive intimacy in adoration of (shades of Jeff Mangum) Jesus Christ, and the heavy guitars and anguished, giddy shrieks of “While My Castle’s Burning.” Five strong bonus tracks flesh out Rodier’s versatility, which includes bubblegummy sunshine pop and sweetly spooky pop tunes in French. A very striking rediscovery, really excellent stuff.
Some of you old timers may know it. It’s an odd type of thrill. The idea that you have been privy to a secret that only a select few know. Like being in on the inside joke before it became known to others. It’s seeing a band– before they hit it big.
U-2 at the Paradise Rock Lounge in 1983,
The Rolling Stones open with Mozart in 1562 (I kid)
Dave Matthews in a coffee shop in Charlottesville, VA in 1991.
Jeff Buckley at Sin-é a few years later.
Every band has had its modest startings, and, being a teenager, I had never really heard a band before they hit it big.
It was a cold night on November 5, 2005– exactly the time and place where one might find musical gold. The Orpheum is an alleyway theatre at the end of Hamilton Place in Boston’s Park Street Gardens, the border between the gleaming neighborhoods that hold the 40,000 seat Boston Garden arena, and the blocks that once held the infamous Chinatown Combat Zone– where there are clubs that can’t fit 40, much less 40,000.
The funny thing is, that night; no one is coming to see this unknown band from Denver, CO. They are coming to see Piano Rock living legend/maestro/creative genius Ben Folds, the main act that the Fray is opening for. While the band begins its set, most of the people who were able to get tickets to Folds’ concert are still clambering off the Boston Trolleys (Or “T’s,” as us locals affectionately refer to them). The ages range from teenaged babysitters to middle-aged baby boomers, and they all stumble down the dark street, away from the Boston Common, towards the Orpheum’s grimy exterior, in search of their bi-annual Folds fix.
Inside, Isaac Slade (see photo at right), the front man of The Fray, launches into the piano solo that heralds the song that the band has now become known for (“Over My Head”). Slade and his mates have come a long way from their hometown of Denver, Colorado, and they are enjoying the new adulation that comes from a national tour. The theatre is less then half full, but gradually, all private conversations cease, and the members of the Fray have the full attention of the crowd. Many cheer… but others simply see the Fray as the last buffer between them and Ben Folds— they wait for the set to be over.
I leave the theatre awed at the musical genius of Ben Folds, but a little nagging thought pushes its way into my head.
Who in the hell are The Fray to make me want to hear them again? So I figure on doing what I always do when I hear a band whose songs stick in my head. Listen to their best work over and over, until I get tired of them, and eventually, when they fade further down on my playlist and slip from my mind, I look for a new band.
Fast forward to April 26th. The Fray is still on my mind. I find their album How to Save a Life (buy it here) to be the best freshman work I have ever heard, and the title song to be melodic, adrenaline-filled, and touching. When I hear their signature track “Over My Head (Cable Car),” on the radio in Arizona, or on the top 10 list on iTunes, or an article about them in Rolling Stone magazine, I get excited, and I know that, even if I missed U-2 in ’83—I saw the Fray in ’05.
Take this home and chew on it.
P.S. I will keep writing about these guys. They rule.
For those of us born right around the time Elvis kinda invented rock ‘n’ roll, but especially for any VH1-educated readers out there who actually believe The Beatles truly were, are, and 4-everafter shall be the B-all and end-all of it all, socio-musically Sixties-speaking that is:
The current Fufkin dot com contains a big piece-o-Piggery regarding three (yes, count ‘em !!) grand new discs from The Viper Label which more than answer the following musical questions …and THEN some:
* What did Gerry and the Pacemakers sound like long before they ever hooked up with Big George Martin or even Joe Meek?
* Which semi-skiffle combo out of the very northern U.K. recorded Johnny Cash songs – possibly inventing cow-punk and/or alt. C&W in the process — decades before Rank and File actually did either??
* Did those B-52’s, masquerading beneath the nom-de-group The Four Just Men, really first record “Rock Lobster” circa 1964???
* and, lastly but far from leastly, did the one and only Kirkbys really usher in that Merseybeat-snuffing Summer of ‘67 as The 23rd Turnoff — singing the until-now seldom-heard-indeed “Flowers Are Flowering” — only to surface yet again as (…wait for it…) proto-proggers Wimple Winch ??!!!
The answers, my friend, are flowing cross the Mersey,
Like The Smashing Pumpkins, Alkaline, and Fallout Boy, Chicago has once again given the world of Alternative Rock a gift that may shake its very foundations. But this is a gift you won’t have heard of. At least not yet. Chris Mills is an astonishing mix of simple mathematical equations, raw talent, and musical genius. In simple mathematics, Chris Mills is like your neighborhood rock player, except he’s a few decibels louder, he’s got a smile that’s a few megawatts brighter, and he’s about a hundred times more talented. Oh, and he’s touring with Ben Folds. So if Chris Mills is a Calculus SAT II test problem, then Garage-Band Billy next door who keeps you up at night is kindergarten arithmetic. But, in essence, it’s still the same subject; at 31 years of age Mills still plays with the same passion and fervor of any 13-year old jamming next to his mom’s Honda with his high school pals. But the Second City native isn’t only playing with his old friends, he’s following in the path of Ben Folds’ Live at Perth, the Ray Charles Masters albums, and Elton John’s Masterworks— he is playing with an orchestra—and that is the Genius of Chris Mills.
In the four years since Mills’ 2002 breakout album, The Silver Line, the rap on him was that his music was no longer unique or exciting, lacked the certain dragon’s breath that made good music great. But in 2005, Mills, who had good connections in the music industry, made a snap decision that defined him. Like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. before him, Mills decided to go for broke with an album completely beyond the scale of anything he had ever done before. In the North Chicago ‘Wall to Wall’ studio, an 18-piece orchestra braved a Windy City snowstorm to play behind Mills, and, in what may later be remembered as a crucial moment in musical history, a blitzkrieg of creativity, an ambitious full-frontal assault on the boundaries of music took place. The instruments encompassed the entire music world, from the glockenspiel to the guitar, violin to vocals, saxophone to baritone, filling up the room, actually, from Wall to Wall. A perfect amalgamation of old school (the album was not dubbed, giving it a 60’s feel), and new (the album features vibes, an instrument virtually unheard of in conventional rock world) gave the album an expansive feel, and in less then 48 hours—The Wall to Wall Sessions came into existance.
The first track, in my opinion, the best two-minutes and forty five seconds of any Indie rock album, is entitled “Chris Mills Is Living The Dream.” And is even better then his hit song from The Silver Line, “Diamond,” a personal favorite that never fails to get played at his live performances.
Chris Mills explains: “Well, I had just gotten back from being on tour, and I was at home, and working delivering pizzas and stuff. One day, I was folding pizza boxes or something, and my co-worker asked me, ‘what else do you do?’ I told him that I had just returned from Europe on tour, I made records, and all that stuff… he said to me, ‘man, you’re living the dream.’ And I thought, ‘What dream?’ I’m sitting here folding pizza boxes, totally broke… Sometimes the dream is being trapped in an elevator, so what dream am I living in? Maybe a nightmare?’”
Living The Dream features the album’s best chorus:
"Ashes to ashes, trust to dust/I don’t know what it means/To be burned by something that you love so much/I think I must be living the dream."
I could talk more about this album, or you can hear it for yourself by buying it.
Thanks to one of Chris’ friends, Jared Reynolds, Chris Mills really IS living the dream. He is touring with Ben Folds, one of the nation’s most popular artists, and playing to sold out shows in some of the country’s best rock clubs. Folds, much like Mills, has just ripped off an album entitled Songs For Silverman that has marked his musical maturity. Folds’ concert seems to move backwards in chronological order, from the family guy he is now in “Gracie” to a disillusioned youth joining the “Army” to the more “Sentimental Guy” he once was (THAT is a story for another time though.) Though Mills is building a fan base, Folds is much more popular, and as Mills steps to a packed stage at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI at 9:00 on April 4, with his drummer Gerald Dowd (who played with him on the WallSessions and also with Mills’ old band, City That Works), he realizes that the crowd is not there to hear him play—but they see him simply “as the last thing standing between them and Ben Folds.” To many artists, that may seem an annoyance, but Mills is an easygoing guy with a great attitude, modest manner, and a genuine grin that seams to constantly on his face. After the show, while the opening act tries to sell his new album to exiting fans, Lindsey Jamieson leans up against the bus and drinks a beer out of a red plastic cup, Jared Reynolds lights up a cigarette, the glare illuminating his mossy face—he comments casually:
“Chris did a hell of a job tonight.”
They are right, Chris Mills is insanely talented, and, fortunately for me, Providence is lucky enough to be a host to that talent. And though many fans don’t know the words and arent paying attention I sing along with the start of “Living the Dream”
"I dreamed I was Richard Pryor/Running on fire down the Sunset Strip/And as the flames burned brighter, my head grew lighter/And I watched the flesh fall from my fingertips.”
Chris Mills grins, and it is then that the ten people in the joint that are paying close attention can plainly see that Chris Mills is lying. He may not be having the easiest time making it big, but the smile on his face betrays the lyrics he sings. Up on that stage, Mills is living the dream, and, though he may fold pizza boxes in a Chicago neighborhood, he is the richest man in the world…
"Ashes to ashes, trust to dust/I don’t know what it means/To be burned by something that you love so much/I think I must be living the dream."