Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs • Clippety Clop [CD]

If you like yer country with all the dirt, dust ’n’ twang missing from most of today’s “country,” then you’ve probably heard of HOLLY GOLIGHTLY AND THE BROKEOFFS. Her/their new album, Clippety Clop, is a doozy. A dozen tracks built around songs about horses and mules, it’s a fun album that trots and gallops happily through alt country territory without ever leaving the stable. [Does that count as a mixed metaphor?] There are traditional songs such as “I Ride an Old Paint” and “Stewball,” and a wealth of well-known old school country tunes like “Strawberry Roan” and “Mule Skinner,” plus some fairly obscure ones that only the most hardcore of hard country fans would know.

Holly and her partner, Lawyer Dave, came up with a real cool collection here. Some of the tunes on Clippety Clop are of a typical I-IV-V blues pattern variety, while others occupy a darker place, such as “Horses in the Mines.” What’s really swell about this album is its arrangements and production. Not sounding like your usual slick Nashville or Hollywood thing, it’s of a more lo-fi, indie vibe. Naturally distorting guitars mix with Holly and Dave’s raw vocals in a small room with none of the glitz that makes up most of today’s records, giving the songs a more authentic feel. I don’t think I heard a pedal or lap steel on here, but don’t let that get you down. This’ll appeal to not only fans of Golightly (she’s got numerous albums under her belt, both solo and as one of Thee Headcoatees, a little sister band to Billy Childish’s Thee Headcoats), but to anyone who enjoys the genuine article. Those of us who discovered alt country via college radio and No Depression magazine will take a real shine to Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs’ “concept” album. Though Holly says it’s merely “what came out best from a batch of songs we wanted to do,” the fact that all of these songs come from the same corral makes it an even juicier apple. Horses like apples, right?

3.5/5 (Transdreamer TR-6225-CD, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

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Robyn Hitchcock & His L.A. Squires • “Insanely Jealous” [7″]

ROBYN HITCHCOCK, never content these days to play with any one group of musicians for too long, lest his muse abandon him, conjured up His L.A. Squires last year and was wise enough to capture a gig for posterity. Three songs from their gig at The Troubadour in Los Angeles last May make up this 7″, another winner from YepRoc Records and a Record Store Day “first release.”

“Insanely Jealous” is the A-side, a song Hitchcock originally performed in The Soft Boys (from their stellar Underwater Moonlight album). The B-sides are “I Pray When I’m Drunk” (from last year’s eponymous release, see my review here) and “If You Were a Priest,” the lead-off track from Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians’ Element of Light (from 1986). Though none of the arrangements veer very far from Robyn’s originals, it’s fun to hear him sing the songs with a very capable, current combo. I hope there’s a complete album in the offing, as it would make a fine companion to this 45.

3/5 (YepRoc YEP-2586, 2018)

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Elvis Costello • “Someone Else’s Heart” [7″]

Weird timing for this one. ELVIS COSTELLO (with Roger Bechirian) produced Squeeze’s 1980 album East Side Story. The record was lauded then as a “new wave masterpiece” and it still holds up extremely well, even without the new wave tag. “Someone Else’s Heart” is one of the songs on that record, and it must’ve made quite the impression on EC that he would do his own version 34 years later. Just released for Record Store Day, the 7″ on YepRoc features that on the A-side and an instrumental mix on the B. It’s a more chilling arrangement than Squeeze’s, which relied more on the quirky, Farfisa organ style they’d used on their previous album, Argybargy. Costello recorded this with ?uestlove of The Roots, the “hip hop” band he worked with on the 2013 Wise Up Ghost project, and a few other heavy hitters. What they serve up here has a loping heavy bass line courtesy of Owen Biddle, some gritty guitar from Kirk Douglas and ?’s trademark drumming and loops, and it’s a fine version of the song. Leave it to Elvis to not cover the obvious songs (though “Tempted” would have been pretty interesting, I’ll bet). The instrumental version on the B-side is great for hearing the individual bits the band is playing (especially the clavvy keyboard part from Ray Angry), since EC sings both lead and layered backing vocals on the regular mix that cover some of the nuances of the arrangement.

A worthwhile 45 to pick up, and supposedly available beyond Record Store Day. I originally had this on my “save it for later” list, but my inner Costello fan ghost whispered to me something like, “what if they run out?” and “what if it’s awesome,” so I gave in and got it. You might want to get in on this action, too. Or no action. Your call.

3/5 (YepRoc SI-YEP-2558, 2018)

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Wreckless Eric • Construction Time & Demolition [CD, LP, DD]

“All your records are shit, except maybe one…” So goes one of the lines in a song on the new album from WRECKLESS ERIC, Construction Time & Demolition. If you were around in the late ’70s you might remember a few of Eric’s releases on Stiff Records, home then to names like Elvis Costello, The Damned and Nick Lowe. Or maybe you’ve heard the cover of his biggie “Whole Wide World” (by Cage The Elephant). Eric was an oddball – he sang in a low register squeak that sounded like some weird guy’s speaking voice – and appears to have stayed one. But not all of his records are shit…

His new album is a beautifully ragged semi-lo-fi collection of remembrances of things like his childhood in Hull, England, and how the (whole wide) world seems to have been continually constructing and demolishing itself ever since. The opener, “Gateway to Europe,” tells of his hometown becoming that when a bridge was built that spanned the Humber Estuary and Britain became part of the European Common Market. (Look it up, I’m not a history teacher.) The arrangement of this song, as well as the rest of the eleven songs that make up Construction Time & Demolition, is one that sounds like it’s building up, getting denser and denser, while simultaneously kind of falling apart. Jagged guitars, weird organs and fuzz bass are at home among drums, percussion, and a “horn section” led by a brilliant trumpet blowing whenever some musical bit needs underlining. As Eric himself says, “I wanted the music to sound as though it was demolishing itself as it went along, and at times I wanted to actually hear it destroy itself, fuzz in and out until all that was left was the flat tone of a heart that’s stopped beating.” Well, now. That’s a grand concept and I think Wreckless Eric has achieved it. His lyrics remain wearily wistful in a jaded sort of been-there-done-that way, making canny observations about how getting older isn’t always easy (“life is all the same old lessons / until you learn ’em / And I’ve got so many lessons left to learn, I wish I could burn it all! / I’m coming unraveled here!”).

So how did Wreckless Eric fall off my radar? I mean, I loved his new wave records back then (see the clip below with his magnificent “Whole Wide World”), but he’s kind of come and gone over the last forty years. (I actually got to see him perform in NYC in the early ’90s during a New Music Seminar – met Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys at a bar down the street before the show and bought him a beer. Cheetah, not Eric. On my company’s dime.) Wreckless Eric’s had a few albums out in the last decade or so but I guess I just missed them. Meanwhile, he’s now stationed here in the States and has a pretty good thing going with this new record. You can catch him on tour if you live on the East Coast or in Britain. I hope he’s got a full band with him, and one that can deliver the goods and bads that make up Construction Time & Demolition. Meanwhile I’ll be looking into some of the records of his that I missed over the years. My bad.

4/5 (Southern Domestic)

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Madness • Absolutely, 7 [CD]

[Originally published 3/23/2010 on Skratchdisc]

Two more masterly remastered and expanded reissues from MADNESS, and once again, their new parent label Salvo does a fantastic job. Absolutely and 7 were the sophomore and junior (third) efforts from Camden Town’s Nutty Boys, and instead of proving the rule that the second outing is usually nowhere near as good as the first, they disproved it by a landslide. (Quite possibly the worst mixed metaphor I’ve ever committed to paper… Oops, there I go again!)

Absolutely, released in late 1980, featured the singles “Baggy Trousers,” “Embarrassment” (one of my top Madness tunes) and “The Return of the Los Palmas 7,” and continued the band’s chart reign. Bubbly, fun melodies were still to the fore, but beginning to get noticed was the melancholy subject matter. Sure, they didn’t say directly that the girl got knocked up and made her family look bad in “Embarrassment,” but that’s clearly the story. “In the Rain,” a different recording than the one that appeared prior as a B-side (though both are here), also isn’t exactly chipper. Whatever—Madness still had it goin’ on.

In 1981 they released 7, their third longplayer and another successful outing. More big singles here, including “Cardiac Arrest” and “Shut Up” (a lot like “Embarrassment” and another Marsh-certified goodie),  kept Madness in the NME and other papers, and paved the way for eventual US success (“Our House” from the following album). They hadn’t changed the formula yet, and since these two albums followed in such quick succession, nobody seemed to notice. Original label Stiff could barely keep up with these guys, nor could those of us over here who’d already discovered them despite little or no promotion from American label Sire.

Salvo’s treatment of the band’s catalog so far has been great… all the videos are on the corresponding CDs, bonus tracks are in abundance (Absolutely features seven bonus cuts plus a 21-song live show from London), the notes and photos of ephemera are also plentiful, and the mastering is superb. No qualms here at all! Can’t wait to hear and see what they do with The Rise and Fall.

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The Rezillos • Flying Saucer Attack: The Complete Recordings 1977-1979 [CD]

THE REZILLOS – Scotland’s, and maybe the world’s, greatest punk band – recorded only one studio album, a live one, and a few singles in their original incarnation. For years, their records (especially here in the US) were hard as hell to find. In the early ’90s, Sire Records put out a CD compilation that sated those of us who couldn’t find a vinyl copy that wasn’t completely hammered. It featured their studio LP, Can’t Stand The Rezillos, most of the live record (Mission Accomplished… But the Beat Goes On) and a single, but it was missing some waxings that hardcore fans would’ve given their left nuts for. Finally that ball-busting shortcoming is rectified with this 2CD compilation, Flying Saucer Attack: The Complete Recordings 1977-1979. Cherry Red Records to the rescue! With 40 tracks, it’s more Rezillos than any sane person can stand. For me, it’s what I and leagues of fans have been waiting for.

What you get with The Rezillos is a “punk” band – that is, a band that played their songs fast and loud, without any synthesizers, lasers or other late ’70s gizmos, but sang about flying saucers, mothers who say NO! “because you’re not old enough” and girls who do good sculptures. Fronted by a guy/girl duo on vocals (Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife) and guitared by one Jo Callis, the band also featured bassists William Mysterious, Simon Templar and D.K. Smythe (not all at once), drummer Angel Paterson and backing vocalist Gale Warning. Sire Records from America signed them after they’d issued their first single (“I Can’t Stand My Baby”) and put out another single and an album, followed by a couple more singles and a live record. The Rezillos charted in the UK but didn’t cause any harm to the US charts and after some inter-band issues they called it quits. Two different factions went on as The Revillos and Shake, but those didn’t last long, either. And that, in a nutshell, is the trajectory of the original band.

The Rezillos have always managed to stay off of those dreaded greatest punk bands lists for no other reason, I suppose, than they did fun songs about nothing at all important. There was no current cause or fashion to attach them to; instead, the band wore kooky, semi-sci-fi outfits and seemed to actually be enjoying what they were doing. You can’t usually say that about The Clash, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols or even The Damned. Plus they did so many Sixties covers, you could almost overlook their great originals. For covers, how about “Glad All Over” (Dave Clark Five), “I Like It” (Gerry & The Pacemakers), and the king of ’em all, Earl Vince & The Valliants aka Fleetwood Mac’s “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite.” What a record! Why they didn’t put this out as a single, I got no idea. Speaking of singles, the 45 rpm versions of their own swell tunes “Good Sculptures” and “Top of the Pops” lack the energy of the LP versions, which is also a big question mark to me. Why didn’t the record company go with the superior versions on the album? Got no idea.

Cherry Red’s new 2CD extravaganza brings you the studio album and all of those singles on disc one, with the live album, further live tracks and some alternate, unreleased versions of a pair of tracks on disc two. The mastering job keeps the concentration on the high end, though the kinetic bass of Mr. Mysterious still comes through like it ought to. For the live album, I see from various internet groups that there is a snippet of “Thunderbirds Are Go” missing (apparently, from the actual movie), but otherwise it appears to be intact in all of its low cost mobile truck glory. The artwork by Keith Davey is pretty groovy, too, and a perfect fit to the contents of the digipack cover. In all, Flying Saucer Attack is so close to perfect I can hardly stand it.

4.99/5 (Cherry Red WCDBRED705, 2018)

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NRBQ • NRBQ [CD, LP]

Omnivore put out an epic five disc box set last year, trying to somehow encapsulate the fifty year history of NRBQ. There was no way for the label to summarize just what makes this band so amazing in a mere five CDs, so they’re forgiven for missing a mark that really no one could hit. The fact that they even tried earns them major kudos. This time around they’ve reissued the band’s first album, NRBQ. Released in 1969, this record introduced to rock fans the wide world of the New Rhythm & Blues Quintet, a band name that also tried to encapsulate just what these guys were all about. It’s a wonder that Columbia Records signed these guys and put out a few records by them in the first place. Because you can’t pigeonhole NRBQ. They’re primarily a rock band, sure, but where do they stand in that strata? Hard rock? No. Country rock? A little. Jazz? Well, how many rock bands have covered Sun Ra (besides MC5)? Rockabilly? Sometimes. A mixture of all of those sub genres and more – that’s what NRBQ does. Imagine what a tough job the marketing department had trying to figure out who to sell this record to!

On NRBQ, the band – fronted by vocalist Frank Gadler, Steve Ferguson on guitar/ vocals and Terry Adams on keyboards/ vocals – demonstrates much of what made them so amazing. From covers of Eddie Cochran (“C’mon Everybody”) and Bruce Channel (“Hey! Baby”) to their hard rockin’ take of the aforementioned Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number 9,” to their own slightly countryish tunes like “Kentucky Slop Song” and the MOR-y “You Can’t Hide,” plus a neat little traditional ditty called “Liza Jane” that induces someone’s hound dog to bark along with it – phew! – the genres and influences on this record make it a hard sell on paper. So you gotta put this motherfucker on and let it do its thing! It comes down to this: you either get NRBQ, or you don’t. That’s been the problem since day one, because if you say that to the Q virgin you’re gonna sound like an asshole. But it’s the truth. And you don’t wanna be called a liar, do you?

Judging from the pre-release digital download, and comparing that to my ’80s vinyl pressing, Omnivore’s done a great job with NRBQ. They’ve expanded the cover to a gatefold, added some historical photos, and likely created new liner notes. (The original release’s back cover is nothing but liner notes, and they’re very much of the era in their language and longwindedness.) Considering the album’s never been out on CD, this reissue is important to longstanding NRBQ fans. For those who haven’t gotten into them yet, well, why not start here? You could try the box set or the one disc highlights release, or grab one of the other compilations that can be found on the internet, but don’t (yet). Just get this and give it a shot. You may just find you get it. If you don’t, then wait a few years and try again. Maybe by then Omnivore will have put out NRBQ’s second album, the one they did with Carl Fucking Perkins!

3.5/5 (Omnivore, 2018)

 

 

 

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Nazz • Evolution: From Woody’s Truck Stop to Nazz 1966-1968 [CD]

A compilation of early, primarily unreleased tracks from rock godd TODD RUNDGREN’s first bands, Evolution: From Woody’s Truck Stop to Nazz 1966-1968 is a welcome addition to any Toddfan’s collection. With a fistful of tracks from Woody’s Truck Stop (recorded in June 1966) followed by numerous Nazz demos, alternate mixes and even a radio commercial collage, this single CD compilation has been newly mastered and approved by the artiste himself.

The five tracks from Todd’s pre-Nazz group are standard Nuggets-style psychedelic tunes: they’re pretty much what you’d expect from a ’66 rock group. The lead-off cut, “That’s Right You’re Wrong,” is narrowly the best of this bunch, followed by “She Must Be Blind,” which features a fairly blistering guitar solo but it’s not clear who played it. Could be Todd, could be a dude named Alan Miller. The lead vocalist (not sure which guy it is from the liner notes, but it’s not Todd) is nothing special and neither is the rest of Woody’s Truck Stop; it’s not surprising that Rundgren jumped ship over a directional dispute.

nazzNazz is where Todd Rundgren started to really find the voice (whether from his mouth or via his fingers) that we know and love. And on Evolution there are numerous Nazz-tastic takes on familiar Todd tunes. From a ballad-tempo “Hello It’s Me” audition tape from late ’67, to a “long version” cover of the Paul Revere & The Raiders hit “Kicks,” to an alternate take of this group’s best known tune, “Open My Eyes,” the Nazz is what gives this release pizzazz. Beyond those there are a handful of unreleased songs (including a killer tune called “Forget All About It”), the aforementioned demos and the finale, a tune called “Cissy Strut” which can’t be The Meters’ tune (because it wasn’t released until 1969), nor do the liner notes indicate any kind of provenance of its creation. Doesn’t really matter – I excel at nitpicking! – because ultimately it’s the historical relevance of this release that is our main concern.

If you’re new to the Nazz then this is not the “greatest hits” you seek. (Likely the 2002 Open Our Eyes anthology is still available, or else a used copy of Rhino’s 1984 Best of Nazz.) However, if you’re a Todd fanatic then this Nazz-centric CD should be on your shelf.

3/5 (RockBeat ROC-3406, 2018)

 

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The Jazz Butcher • In Bath of Bacon [LP]

In the last few months I’ve reviewed two different box sets of albums by THE JAZZ BUTCHER. The first one, The Wasted Years, covered Pat Fish’s first four elpees under his nom de plectrum. Album number one, In Bath of Bacon, has just been reissued on vinyl for the first time since, ever?, and now I’m the proud owner of a copy. Complete with an English OBI, this vinyl treat is a glimpse at the nascent Jazz Butcher, circa 1983, fumbling towards greatness. Recorded primarily as a solo project by the man himself, the songs range from silly ditties about love kittens and girls who keep goldfish, to zombies in love, grey flannelettes and gloop jiving. What does all this mean? Well, as noted by the music press at the time, it’s “reminiscent of… the Modern Lovers,” (NME) and “[conjoins] Todd Rundgren’s DIY home recordings [with] a guitar from Wes Montgomery’s cupboard.” Together these make up a pretty apt description of the sound of Bacon.

Finding this album on vinyl has been a difficult ordeal, with original copies in decent shape fetching $25-30 easily. It was pretty obscure in the first place, at least here in the States, though it was issued at one point on CD (and even that’s been hard to find). And, while not The Jazz Butcher’s best album (I vote for Cult of the Basement or A Scandal in Bohemia), Bath of Bacon is worth checking out as a vital piece of the Butcher puzzle, especially now that you can get it either as a singular vinyl record or as part of a totally worthwhile 4CD box set. Buy it, enjoy its lo-fi charm, and then start awaiting the massive awesomeness of A Scandal in Bohemia and its return to vinyl.

3.5/5 (Fire Records FIRELP461, 1983/2018)

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The Jazz Butcher • The Violent Years [4CD Box Set]

jazz butcher the violent yearsSecond in a series of archival releases culling THE JAZZ BUTCHER’s albums together, The Violent Years delves into the first half of the group’s tenure at Creation Records, from 1988 to 1991. As with The Wasted Years, this one is a 4CD book-bound set, and includes longplayers Fishcotheque, Big Planet Scarey Planet, Cult of the Basement and Condition Blue.

By the time The Jazz Butcher’s residency at Glass Records came to an end, the band had turned in Distressed Gentlefolk, their most polished elpee to date. After realizing that his contract was up – and he had basically disbanded the band – Butchie signed to the hot Creation Records and decided to do an album with more of the indie sound of the early records. He didn’t quite achieve that. 1988’s Fishcotheque came off as an almost identical record, production-wise, to Gentlefolk. As for the songs, yes, Pat Fish had written some real barn-burners, like “Looking for Lot 49,” “Next Move Sideways” and “Chickentown,” the type which were sorely missing from the previous outing. But others, like “Get It Wrong” and “Susie,” were kinder and gentler, despite a new group of musicians. He achieved a bit more of the distress he was looking for on the following year’s Big Planet Scarey Planet, at least in sound, but the songs themselves were mostly of the same two veins – either kinda rockin’ (“Burglar of Love”) or kinda personal (“The Good Ones”). What did stand out, though, were new things like “Do the Bubonic Plague,” a stab at creating a new dance craze (which was a thing back in the day!) with all kinds of dialog samples and a pretty funky rock groove, and “The Word I Was Looking For,” which, though of the fastest tempo on the record, is also one of the smoothest tunes on the release. Fishcotheque and Big Planet delivered both the clever/humorous wordplay and the beat group sound we’d come to expect from anything attributed to any group with the words Jazz and Butcher in its name. Cut from the same cloth, then, these first two Creation releases were indicative of a band that really needed to shake things up.

And that happened on 1990’s Cult of the Basement, which figuratively and literally closed the door on the first era of The Jazz Butcher. Opening with the sound of an actual door shutting, the album ushers in a new, fully realized sound drenched in reverb and perhaps a bit of disgust, tempered by Fish’s usual verve with words. “The Basement” has a sinister, spy-theme vibe motif that is expanded upon a few times on the album, and is followed by the should’ve been hit single, “She’s on Drugs,” a tune that epitomizes the man/band’s ability to house his wry observations about the current pop scene in a spot-on corker of a song. Other JB classics are “Pineapple Tuesday” and my favorite, “Mr. Odd,” both slow/medium tempo songs, the latter somehow encapsulating just what makes The Jazz Butcher one of my favorite bands from the ’80s/’90s. At that time I not only played their records as much as I could get away with on my college radio show (KCMU birthed many a Pacific Northwest JB fan), but also reviewed the album in local music magazine, The Rocket. [Click here for a post of that review.] Further standout tunes on Basement include “Girl Go,” “Turtle Bait” and “Panic in Room 109,” which takes the aforementioned spy theme idea and cloaks it in a complete song of its own. I still can’t get enough of Cult of the Basement, even nearly thirty years later.

Condition Blue, from 1991, is a further expansion of what Fish & Co. created in the Basement. This time the songs are built more around grooves, and the musicians let these grooves go until conclusion (instead of fading them out). That concept doesn’t always work out well, but it does here. My faves on Blue are “Shirley Maclaine,” “She’s a Yo-Yo,” “Our Friends the Filth,” and the super groovy “Harlan” and “Racheland.” The guitars and vocals are pushed into maximum reverberation, creating more of that badass atmosphere that The Jazz Butcher had patented a couple of years earlier.

From here, The Jazz Butcher story goes kinda wonky – and I’m guessing that it will be told in a further box set. However, I must reiterate here that a collection of the JB’s singles and B-sides would be a welcome addition to the two anthologies we’ve been treated to so far. Call it Wasted Violence, or Violent Waste, or whatever you want. As I’ve said before, there are a solid three or four CDs worth of Jazz Butchery that deserve to be preserved before releasing things in a physical format becomes a thing of the past.

4.75/5 (Fire Records FIRECD470, 2018)

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