Friday, December 10, 2004

Poppy Seeds
London, 1971

I know what you're thinking. The Poppy Family? The most bathetic, weepy, hippie-pop sludge? How could you even consider listening to it? And the answer once again is: I already heard all the other stuff, so I might as well try this. This is their third and final LP and I am sure, a very obscure release. I know I've never seen it before.

I started the record with high hopes, as Susan and Terry Jacks perform a cover of No Good To Cry! This song was written by NRBQ dude Big Al Anderson, and was the only hit for his pre-NRBQ outift The Wildweeds. In fact, No Good To Cry is the title of their recent compilation CD of Sixties recordings, which I recommend that all of you pick up right here, right now. So how is this version? Well, The Poppy Family had more than a few similarities with the sound of The Carpenters. So if you can imagine The Carpenters doing No Good To Cry, then you're right there. And it isn't as bad as you would think. I guess I just am grading on a curve here since I am a huge NRBQ fan.

The rest of the record continues the Poppy Family sound, a slickly produced mass of Hippie-country-folk-pop, suitable for the "Lite FM" radio stations of the day or their equivalent. Any of these songs would be right at home on a 1971 AM radio country station, or Top 40 station, or an MOR station. A syrupy blend of twangy acoustic guitar and occasional organ, horns, strings or electric piano in the background. One of the tracks has a tabla, or something that sounds like it. There's the hippie part. Susan takes most of the lead vocal slots, with a few duets with her husband Terry. Good move, as Susan is clearly the better singer, though Terry isn't terryble.

Terry and Susan divorced in 1973, and Terry went on to much greater success with his vomitous "Seasons in the Sun" single in 1974. Most horrifically, the song was co-written by Rod McKuen, so Mr. Jacks gave Mr. McKuen more royalty payments than he had seen in years. Why did you have to encourage him? Both Susan and Terry continued to have some success in their native Canada, while here in the States, they virtually vanished, a mere blip on the pop culture radar screen.
Rating: Freebie.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Are Go!
Mighty Recordings, 1997

Who remembers the great lounge music craze of 1997? Hands? No? Okay, you remember the movie Swingers and The Brian Setzer Orchestra and all that shit? Yeah, I was ahead of the curve on that crap. I was picking up Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman CD's in the early 1990's. Why? Because I had bought every other CD ever made.

Anyway, here's a bunch of post-grunge Seattlites who did just about the only "hip" career move they could in the mid-1990's, and that was to stop playing all those crappy original rock songs they had written, and start playing a whole bunch of old, crappy lounge songs they hadn't written! Genius! Then give the band a goofy, retro name! No Dudley Manlove in the group! (Paging Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd!) Not a quartet, they have six members! (Paging Ben Folds Five! Choke! Wheeze! GAG!)

Needless to say, there's absolutely NO REASON for any of this to exist. It's a bunch of cynical, bandwagon-hopping, turgid dung. And that means, of course...I LOVE IT!!!

Thankfully, this is a live recording, since a lounge act needs to be seen in its natural habitat, A LOUNGE. They hit a wide variety of covers here, and I appreciate the variety. It's a veritable CRAP BUFFET! Yes, Theme From The Love Boat, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Spanish Flea (the seldom-heard vocal version!), and the Theme From Shaft. We cover Tom Jones (What's New Pussycat), Elvis (Clambake, Suspicious Minds), and The Bee Gees (More Than A Woman - the one cut I would have jettisoned). There's even the Theme From Love American Style, a truly insipid (I meant inspired, whoops) choice out of the Cowsills songbook.

The boys in DMQ have since released two more CDs and I believe they are still gigging. Hoist that Zippo high boys, and keep the cheese flowing! By the way, Dudley Manlove was one of the "stars" of the immortal Ed Wood classick, Plan Nine From Outer Space, and a really lame actor. Plus his name was Manlove.
Rating: Used buy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Free Design
Light in the Attic (Reissue, 2003)

Proof that if you wait around long enough, everything comes around again. The Free Design were a pop group from the late 1960's to early 1970's. Made up of four siblings named Dedrick, they formed in the Summer of Love (1967, natch) and took up that mantle for the rest of their existence in the genre of "soft pop." Although this genre was mostly associated with California, and with groups like The Mamas and Papas and The Fifth Dimension, the Dedricks hailed from that land of sunshine known as Buffalo, New York. They were signed to the Project 3 label, owned by bandleader Enoch Light. in fall '67 they brought out their classic first LP, "Kites are Fun." This is their second LP, and usually considered their best.

As a veteran picker of record stacks, I can assure you that Project 3 releases have not been very desired. That is, until a few years ago, when a certain brand of record collector/archivist began unearthing the remains of the "soft pop" genre. Prices shot up precipitously. Free Design LPs which could formerly be had for a few bucks zoomed up to 30, 40, 50 bucks or more in the best condition. As usual, the Japanese have been in the forefront of such untrammeled '60s fetishism, coveting and seeking out these golden baubles. In the face of such insanity, a reissue label, Light In The Attic has sprung up to make these shiny-shiny gems available on CD for the first times.

As to the music, how is it? Top shelf stuff for the genre, certainly among the best. Kaliedoscopic rainbow candy. If you're a punk rock fan, you just really aren't going to get it. But if you understand what The Polyphonic Spree is all about, if you dig Brian Wilson and know who P.F. Sloan is, then you need this. Highlights are a cover of "If I Were A Carpenter" (not as good as the version by American Blues, but that's nitpicking), and the chipper "2002-A Hit Song." Yes, that title was published in 1968. And now we're past 2002. Go figure. This whole thing reached its logical end when the band reformed to record a new CD about two years ago, their first release in about 30 years. Haven't picked that up yet, but it's on my list. www.lightintheattic.net

Rating: Full Retail.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bomp! Records, 1991

From Greg Shaw's Bomp! empire comes this slice of heavy rock psych-grunge. Like many of Shaw's products, there is a late-Sixties hard attack here; think Cream, Steppenwolf, Hendrix (hell, one of the songs is called "Cosmic Jimi Link"). But this also reveals an early Nineties grunge sensibility that now is quite obvious looking back at it from 2004. This was probably released before the seminal breakthrough of Nirvana with Nevermind, but still, hair metal was dying, and grunge was in the air. One surprise is the leaden cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine", really in a Grand Funk Railroad mode. Not an improvement on the original.

Overall, is the disc worth listening to? Yes and no. Fans of hard rock or psych will probably enjoy it, but it won't win any new converts to the cause. It's pleasant enough stuff for initiates, but not vital enough for me. It certainly doesn't grab me by the nuts and demand my undivided attention.

Rating: Freebie.

Late Update: Grew Shaw, 1955-2004, Rest in Peace. Your legacy will live on.

Friday, September 24, 2004


MCA Records, 1988

...but no cigar.

I Can't Stand It
RCA Records, 1982

...so what chance do I have?

Try Too Hard
Epic Records, 1966

...and it's painfully obvious.

You're My Number One
Universal, 2003

...but you sound like number two.

Only Love Can Break A Heart
Musicor, 1963

...but anyone can break this record.

Stop It
Chiswick, 1977

...I concur.

To Cut A Long Story Short
Alex Imports, 1990

...too late.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Alive and Amplified
Columbia, 2004

Now we're speaking my language. This is the best record not from 1973. The Moonies crank up their amplifiers once again. They kick ass, take names, write the names down, swallow the paper and spit out confetti, make a video of it and sell it to Inside Edition. They make boys feel like men, old women feel young and turn virigns into sexual surrogates.

This time the all-out assault of their Rock comes off slightly less Who and Cream and more Grand Funk Railroad and Slade, with a bit of bubblegum influence and even a few acoustic ballads. Producing Team Of The Moment (as coronated by the rock press) The Matrix are on the mixing board. They have brought their serious pop mojo to bear upon the thick, chugging rock sleaze of TMS. Since they have worked with pop divas like Britney Spears, purists worried about them diluting the mighty power of TMS.

Not to worry, though: the boys are still as rocking as ever. However, the Matrix have added a bit of color, and as the band themselves refer to it, "kaleidoscopic depth" to the proceedings. "Primitve Condition," the opener, is a stone-age stomper. "New York Girls" leaves quite an impression as an answer song to "California Girls." "Hot Sugar" is about as bubblegum as this record gets, and it wouldn't be out of place on an album by Sweet. But my favorite, anthemic, booty-shakin', irresistable, unstoppable, groovalicious cut must be "Loose 'N Juicy." (And yes, they do spell it that way.)

While listening to this CD, I felt like I could have been enjoying an especially good episode of Top of the Pops from 1973. Glam, Pop and Hard Rock collide with garage sounds here, and we are all the better for it. The retro vibe even extends to the psychedelic cover painting, which looks to be straight off a Carlos Santana record of that period.

Any fan of hard rock sounds out of the past will find much here to groove along with. If you don't get it, then get it. BOOGIE! RATING: Life Changing

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Primary Domain
Triple X Records, 1995

Miracle Workers were (to the best of my memory) linked with the "Paisley Underground" phenomenon, whatever that was. Okay, for those of you scratching your heads, in the middle 1980's, there were a small number of Rock bands in L.A. that tried to emulate the feel/sound/attitude of 1960's garage/acid rock music. Amongst their influences and models were The Byrds (number one), Beatles, Hendrix, Love, Doors, Velvet Underground, and local heroes like The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Anyhow, Miracle Workers were thrown in with this group of artists, deservedly so or not. Since they were not from L.A., but rather from Portland, Oregon, they may have stood apart from L.A. combos like The Rain Parade. And they were always more about Sonics/Wailers thrust than flights of fancy.

Clearly this release comes well after the main period of the movement, but is still worthwhile for garage fans, although reportedly it was recorded in 1989 and released overseas at that time. The group has toned down the more obvious 60's touches and gone for a meaty-straight ahead Garage Rock sound, playing a program of all original tunes. Their approach was more in line with the rock music scene at that time, which labored under the thrall of Nirvana and Soundgarden et al. Indie label Triple X Records never had a really stellar distribution, so this may be a tough number to find, but the Internet should make the task easier. RATING: Used Buy
See It.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Alternative TV Live at CBGB
Metrodome/Dressed to Kill 2002

Recorded live at CBGB in April 2001 for a Spin Magazine "25 Years of Punk" event, this is original British Punk Rock guys Alternative TV, still bashing it out all those years later.

Punk was never about subtlety, or maturity. So it should come as no shock that this set probably sounds exactly the same, or very close, to one of their gigs from 1977. That either makes it very sad or very admirable, depending upon your point of view. ATV is either "remaining true to the spirit" of the original punk rock (not "selling out" being a very important consideration for a group's vaunted Indie Cred), or are a sad bunch of old men trying to recapture the glories of youth.

Rock and roll increased the danger of artists not being able to grow old gracefully with their art; punk rock upped that danger tenfold. I guess it makes it all the more important to retain audio only recordings of music and concerts: at least we don't have to see the old codgers. Besides, the British all age especially tragically.

We got here a 14 song set of all originals, excepting one Frank Zappa cover (!), not exactly someone that most punks would respect, you'd think. The listener gets just what he should expect here: old-line Punk Rawk. Nothing as compelling as the Pistols or Clash, but maybe somewhere in the range of Sham 69 or the Damned on an off night. There's a bad reggae impression and a Ramones/Television tribute song. Decent stuff, not embarassing, but not life-changing either.

In between songs leader Mark Perry amps up the Cockney-accented punk-rocker schtick, as heard in countless hack comedy routines and annoying TV commercials (ironic, no, considering the band's name?) and throws a few insults at the "ignorant Americans" in the crowd. Naturally, the crowd eats it up. Rating: Bargain Bin Buy.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A Tribute To The Legendary Man In Black, Johnny Cash
Invisible Records, 2002

Tribute records are a hit-or-miss affair, and this low-budget effort is no exception to that well-worn rule. Going into this, my hunch was that this was all going to be the reverse of Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt' which raised so many eybrows. My suspicions were confirmed with the first track, 'Orange Blossom Special' by Nine Inch Elvis. Just what you would think: an overproduced techno-rock fart filtered through one of Cash's folk song favorities.
But the whole CD does not stick to that one easy joke. The industrial version of 'Ring of Fire' by Bagman (whoever the hell they are) is very well done if barely recognizable, perhaps worth the freight alone if you find this disc for only a couple bucks. The listener can also find some rather more straight-ahead country rock takes on some of Cash's country greats, which are quite pleasant if light on innovation. There's a psychobilly feel on some of the numbers. On the down side, the version of 'Folsom Pison Blues' by Kill Switch Kick sounds like the lounge band at the Trent Reznor theme restaurant fronted by a James Hetfield impersonator. For the extremely adventurous or John Cash fanatics only. Rating: Bargain Bin Buy

Friday, September 10, 2004

A Good Tip For A Good Time
Emporer Norton Records, 2001?

The Hives have so much to answer for. Or was it The Strokes, or perhaps The White Stripes, that kicked off the most recent wave of Garage Rock bands, about five years ago. The Cato Salsa Experience, however, are, like The Hives, from Scandanavia. Unlike most of you civilians out there (and I use that term tongue-in-cheek for the masses of not-insane non record collectors, i.e., 99% of the population), I have been aware of the untoward number (proportionally speaking) of Sixties-influenced Garage Rock combos lurking amongst the fjords and permafrost of Scandanavia since the mid 1980's.

Why scandanavia? Why do supposedly mild-mannered, national-health-care patron, Volvo-driving white people gravitate toward what are gritty R & B sounds played on loud, distorted guitars? Admittedly, most of the original Garage Rock combos from the USA back in 65-66-67 were white teenagers, but at least they had SOME passing familiarity with Black People. They may have known some black people in their communities, been to some concerts with black musicians, even purchased a few Motown 45's at their local Ben Franklin stores. A few may even have had real live Black People in their teenage rock bands! How cool would those guys have been? The coolest possible!

But what in the name of Gravlax would cause Sven and Anna to take the tramway through downtown Stockholm or Oslo to search out imported ? and the Mysterians 45's to worship at and emulate? What the?

Who can say? My only hypothesis is the harsh weather of the northlands may have drove them to it. I can only compare the extremes in temperature to those in Texas, a land which back in the day was the proud producer of more lysergic rock shamen than you could shake a stick at, buddy, and I know you can do some pretty intense shakin'!

So, musically, whaddawe got here? This is good solid stick-to-the-ribs garage hooch. Sometimes more on the R & B side, sometime more on the rock tip, but with loadsa fuzz and several cuts with criminal over-use of wah-wah pedal: just the way I likes it! There's also plently of organ, an instrument I consider mandatory in Garage Rock, and even some theremin! The song titles say it all, and include "I Can Give You Anything," "Time To Freak Out" and "Albert Bones Electric Meal."

All the musicians use fake noms-de-garage: Francis Moon, Cato Salsa, Jon E. Lugar and Nina Delay. You're not foolin' anyone, Lars and Ole. All in all, this is a good pick for fans of the genre, but I wouldn't go out of my way or pay full retail. I would guess, however, that uninformed used-record-store clerks would not know the true greatness of this disk, and throw it in the bargain bin. At 3 or 4 bucks, this thing is a no-brainer. It shreds. And it's made me want to go searching for the great, lost, unknown native Alaskan garage combo that must be tearing up an igloo somewhere in the tundra right now! Rating: Used Buy

See The Cover

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Deface The Music
Bearsville, 1981

I picked up this record a way, way long time ago, not so long after it was first released, in the remainder bin of the record store at my local shopping mall. (How young and stupid I was back then). I didn't exactly have a lot of money for the latest new releases, but a trip to the 50 cent bin for a few LP's was always available to me. Of course, I had no idea what any of the music was on any of these records. I was stabbing in the dark, making selections based on song titles and cover art alone. (I still do this, but now I can pick out the name of a songwriter or even a publishing company on an old 45, and have a reasonable idea of what type of music is contained within the grooves, without ever hearing the record).
More often than not, I came up with crap, but I did manage to snag a few great records: The Rumor without Graham Parker (a great obscure UK pop/New Wave release), "Cross Talk" by The Pretty Things (good, but at that time I had no idea of their awesome history; the original LP's show this for the lazy effort it is), and this platter, the first Todd Rundgren release I ever purchased.
I had vague awareness of Todd's body of work as well, although as a new listener to FM rock radio, I'm sure I had heard at least his big hits. The thing that drew me to it was the (wait for it), cover art, which was a parody of Meet The Beatles. After getting home from the mall and slapping this sucker right on the turntable, I was gleefully aware that this was a Beatles rip-off/tribute in the manner of the Rutles album, which just happened to be the first music record that I, as a certified Monty Python fanatic, ever bought. This record concentrates on the early, rocking Beatles sound. Of course I later discovered that Todd had a great deal experience emulating this sound as a member of The Nazz in the late Sixties. But that doesn't make this any less worthy as a Beatles pastiche, or just good rock music with a toe-tapping beat. If you don't believe me, check out the keening "I Just Want To Touch You" and the rocking "Crystal Ball." They will take up permanent residence in your head, and you won't be able to charge rent. Also there's a take of Revolver-era experimentalism with "Everybody Else Is Wrong," an extended not-quite-psychedelic jam. So there you have it. I've seen this record in hundreds of used records bins for $1. Beatles fans should not hesitate to snag this one. It is available on CD as well, or at least it was. Rating: Full Retail

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Greatest Hits
Rough Trade USA, 1981

This record was my introduction to industrial music, and probably a better one couldn't have been orchestrated. It was my first day at college. Me and my roommate headed down to the local commercial block and bought a ton of beer (the legal drinking age at that time was only 18). Then we went back to another guy's depressing cinder-block dorm room. We sat around, reveling in the quiet discomfort shared by people who have just met that same day. We're pounding back lousy American beers one after the other.

Then my roommate decided to put this on the record player (CD's had just come out and nobody had one.) "It's really scary" was his recommendation. He was right. It scared the shit out of me. Within seconds I was crawling up the walls, attempting to claw my own eyes out and eat my own liver. COOL!!!! It was almost as scary as the photo of the "Butcher Cover" on the Beatles' "Rarities" LP, which I bought the day before John Lennon died. Whoah. I couldn't even look at that thing for about five years.

In another context, this music was certainly not that frightening, but still remained just as cool, and about as different as possible from the crap they were playing on the local Hair Metal radio station. Who can possibly compare this to The Scorpions? The intentions and artistic methods are about as far apart as the moons of Venus are from Cleveland. I later got a cassette made of this record and one of the most awesome experiences of my life was putting it on in the car REALLY LOUD while remaining in the car as it slowly crawled through the automatic car wash! CRAZY! It was akin to being in a metallic, throbbing, soap covered womb; the cloth wipers of the car wash coming down over the windsheild of the car; smothering you like some giant alien octopus as the music droned menacingly: WAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW
WOWAWAWAWAWAW!!! HOLY CRAP!!! Cheaper than a hit of LSD, let me tell you. Plus, your car gets clean!

Years later I picked up a copy of the vinyl, and it was only after years of record collecting that I understood that the cover was a parody of Martin Denny's EXOTICA record. The clues were there all along: on the back cover it says "Dedicated to Martin Denny." Of course, when I first saw the record I didn't know Martin Denny from Joey Bishop. Live and learn.

At first, I thought the retro cover graphics were a cyncial, smart-ass statement of detached post-modern irony: after all, what, in the early 1980's, could have been more modern (or even post-modern) than harsh, atonal, unmelodic industrial music? But now I realize their intentions with this cover art. The larger context in which they were creating music stretched beyond the narrow confines of the sub-genre they had been shoehorned into by the music press: they saw themselves as having a kinship with Martin Denny as fellow creators of intense instrumental mood music. It didn't matter that one mood was designed for the alcohol-numbed overload of 1950's suburbia, and one for the teeth-grinding angst of Thatcher's Britian. There's a whole load of this type of writing on the back of the LP in the form of impenetrable liner notes, so me going on at length like this certainly is not helping to clarify matters. Just get it and drive on over to the car wash. Then you'll know. By God, you'll know. RATING: Life Changing.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bubblegum Soul
Castle Music 2003 (UK)

What we have here are 21 cuts from the late Sixties/early Seventies. I have been an outspoken fan of a sub-genre that others have ignored with a dismissive wave of the hand: bubblegum rock. Now this is splitting the hair even further: soul music with a bubblegum feel. Or bubblegum music done by soul music artists. Or, whatever. Why bother with such labels? Well, that's what us human beings do. Categorize things down to the molecule.

Having gotten that gripe out of my way, I must recommend this release highly. Yes, the best aspects of soul and bubblegum can be and were combined successfully, as this compilation clearly shows. The most well-known cuts here are "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations, and "Give Me Just A Little More Time" by the Chairmen of the Board. Now in the USA, I think most people would classify them as soul songs and not even acknowledge their bubblegum music pedigree. But these clearly share the sing-songy qualities, silly lyrics and bright sunny attitude of bubblegum rock at its best. Other less well-known cuts here prove to be obscure gems. These include the absolutely majestic "Melting Pot" by Blue Mink, The Honey Cone's "Want Ads" (one of my faves), and the most bubblegummy cut of all, the hideously rare "Eeny Meeny" by The Showstoppers. A cover of this ditty by the Ohio Express would be more than appropriate. Highly entertaining stuff all. RATING: Full retail.

See the cover

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Persuasions Sing The Beatles
Chesky Records, 2002

Although by acclamation the most successful and popular rock group in history, The Beatles, like any group, had some sublime moments of genius, and also recorded some stone crap. Don't get me wrong, I say this as a Beatles fan. And in the same way, covers of Beatles material by other artists face the same challenges. First, there is the problem of song selection: choosing songs that, on their own, rise to a level of artistic acheivement, and those which are appropriate for the artist making the selection. "Hey Jude" is an amazing song, but should it be performed by, for example, Public Enemy? A great group in their own genre and in their own right, but not fitted to the task at hand.

Then there is the problem of the artist's performance, which has the same ability to rise and fall as with any other material, but choosing Lennon-McCartney songs (from their best work) raises the bar quite a bit. The Persuasions have surmounted these hurdles quite cleanly, and made it look like a walk in the park to boot.

The Persuasions are an a capella singing group from way back in the day, and in fact one of their early LP's (their first?) was released by Frank Zappa on his own record label ca. 1969. They've had a comeback of sorts in the past few years, with the help of Chesky Records. The group recorded a CD of Zappa songs, as well as one of songs originally by The Grateful Dead. I haven't heard those as of yet, but I can comment on this release, which is a welcome gift for Beatles fans.

One of the enduring qualities of the Beatles music, that has allowed to remain popular for so many decades, is its inherent flexibility. Since the Beatles drew from so many influences (R&B, rock and roll, country, Tin Pan Alley, English music hall, and the list goes on), it was appropriate for interpreters in a wide variety of styles. But for my money, the best interpreters of Beatles material have always been Americans of African heritage. On this CD, Paul McCartney's "Oh Darling" takes on an extra soulfulness. "Rocky Raccoon", which was previously covered by Lena Horne and Sara Vaughn, comes alive here. "Ob La Di, Ob La Da," with its caribbean origins, sounds much more appropriate.

The a capella format lends itself beautifully to this project. And the whole thing is impeccably recorded and mastered at 96/24 bitrate, which is a very high sampling rate. Just to make it clear: buy this on CD, and DO NOT listen to this on MP3; if you do, you'll be ripping the very heart out of the recording. Chesky is an "audiophile" recording label, so they have spared no expense to make this recording sound as deep and lush as a tropical forest. It would be best to listen to this on a high-end home stereo system, but if you don't have one of those, don't deprive yourself just because of that. RATING: Full Retail

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Beginning Stages of The Polyphonic Spree
Hollywood Records, 2003

After reading an article about this group, I had to check out their debut release, initially released independently and then picked up by Hollywood Records. This is not everyone's cup of syrup, I realize, but I think this is genius. I've listened to it all the way through multiple times.

If anyone doesn't know about it, it's best described in shorthand as Choral Symphonic Rock, but that really fails to capture the true majesty of both the concept and reality of The Polyphonic Spree. First of all, they play music that's somewhere between ELO, The Beach Boys and White Christian Gospel music. They take all the best elements of these and put them together in a delicate yet loud ensemble. And what an ensemble it is: I think they have about 20 people, including guitarists, bassists, drummers, and full-time players of viola, timpani drums, gong, piccolo, trumpet, flugelhorn, cello, bells, organ, keyboard and tambourine, as well as about 10 vocalists.

Then there's...the robes. They all wear white choir robes, giving the whole group the appearance of a group of maniacally grinning deranged cultists cavorting about the stage in ecstacy. Concertgoers must have the uneasy feeling that any minute the band members will assault them with requests for change and distribution of religious tracts. Unfortunately, the gimmick of the robes will clearly cause many people (unfairly) to dismiss these folks as a mere novelty act. I wish I would be wrong about that, because I would surely relish a long and productive recording and concert career for The Polyphonic Spree, with lots of interesting releases to collect. Here's hoping. RATING: Used Buy.

See The Cover

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Scrapin' For Hits
PopLust Audio, 1993

Let's start off with one that just happened to be sitting next to my computer. A "greatest hits" of sorts from pop-punk pranksters from Seattle. As a fan of comedic music, especially that which doesn't let the music end fall down, this has been a favorite that I keep returning to since I found it. I was first drawn to it by the cover, which is a parody of another famous record cover. Call me a sucker, but that instantly gets my attention. In this case, it's the "vegetarian butcher cover," a joke which a friend created himself years before this was released. This is a recreation of the Beatles "butcher cover" (probably the most famous and valuable oddity in the history of record collecting), but instead of the band members being draped with cuts of meat, they are covered in carrots, with parts of Cabbage Patch dolls adorning their bodies as well (just to carry the joke to an absurd level). As for the music, there are cuts here from 8 different releases covering a period of 13 years, with some straight-ahead yet punked-up covers of oldies ("Take A Letter Maria," "Hair" and the "Oz on 45" medley of songs from the Wizard Of Oz), plus combinations of songs like Johnny B. Goode with Johnny Comes Marching Home and Hawaii 5-0 with Dave Brubeck's Take Five. Also on board are their evisceration of "Seasons in the Sun" which appeared on one of the Pravada Records compilations of 70's hits, and a wild "Hillbilly" version of the Beatles' "Let It Be" which appeared on the "Exotic Beatles" compilation. Plenty of wacky fun. Get it. I need to see if they've released any more music since this release. (Yes, Pink Floyd tribute in 2000...) RATING: Used Buy.
See It

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