Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RECORD REVIEWS - November 2010

Trophy Wife "Patience Fury"
If I were to begin with "style over substance", most immediate thoughts would be that I was being critical of a band for engaging in a pose rather than playing heartfelt music. However, I was rethinking this term as I listened to this fine album. There are certainly a lot of punk bands, metal bands, and over time a whole lot of bands with elements of both. I think in a very general sense, most metal bands are looking for the substance of the music, while the punk bands are looking at the style of expression. Hardcore fans will rightly say there are elements of both in their favorite genre, but as I detach myself from being part of a genre, I sense that I prefer my metal acts to have some punk attitude and style. And I prefer any punk band beyond 1980 to try to have some musical substance with their clear and present style. This is a long way of getting to this fine album made by two women from Philadelphia and North Carolina with loads of guitars, drums and vocals. There is metal crunch, but it is the punk attitude and style which creates the excitement for me. They employ some fine tempo shifts and vocal variations to really create some nice dynamics amidst the drums and crunching guitar work. I am reminded of some of the finer bands in the area from the Sockets Records label with some angular post punk riffing going on here. I already knew the live set from this duo was excellent, but I am pleased to find this recording to have nine songs that I want to hear in their entirety over many listens. I believe fans of heavy and thoughtful music should agree with me on this.

Songs to try:

Sister Outsider - Sharp vocals pierce through the layers of rock with good guitar moves and overdubs (listen on the link above)

Risk Big - A nice psyche-metal presentation shows their diversity.

Matt Stevens "Ghost"

I do get wary these days with the ease of which someone can create an album all by themselves in their bedroom. Many are nice electronic and/or ambient pieces that are hard to complain about, but offer little beyond some nice melodies or sounds. It is always helpful to have someone who can play a little along with having some creative songs and sounds. Did I find this here? Mostly. Stevens is a fine guitarist and shows some good progressive creativity on this instrumental album.There are some of the usually progressive ambient sentiments here, but I hear enough interesting melodies to keep me listening more than I usually do in this field. And I like the way the album builds from a modest start to a fairly vibrant conclusion. Stevens is from the UK and works in bands as well as composing solo works. This release has perked my interest and although he is a long plane ride away, I hope to see what his live work is like some day. Until then, this album offers many of musical layers to explore further.

Songs to try:

Draw - Heavy bass sounds with semi-dissonant sounds on the high end amidst a rhythms that is shy of funky, but moving nonetheless.

8:19 - Just a really nice effecting series of acoustic and electric guitars that are reminiscent of some of the British greats in a bit more modern setting.

Caedmon "A Chicken to Hug"

It has been over 3 decades, but like Vashti Bunyan a few years back, a classic seventies UK psyche-folk-rock band has come out with a second studio release. I had the pleasure earlier this year of visiting Edinburgh and seeing the band's two reunion shows (their first shows since 1978!). They did a marvelous job with the brilliant songs off of their one record and were also successful mixing in many new songs which they were recording at the time. And now, the results are here. A new Caedmon album with all five original members. The sound is different, but not radically so. In fact, the band have been a bit amused with the various attempts to categorize their music into folk, rock, psychedelic, acid folk, progressive and Christian labels (and the exponential combinations thereof). So now, there is a more mature sound that still contains exquisite and  delicate folk starting with the vocals and acoustic instruments mixed with the rock elements of electric guitar and bass. There are some real drums this time as well. But you can also add a few more genres: African folk and light jazz-rock. But no matter how you want to categorize it, the major point is that the songs are eclectic, varied and effectively creative. This album has less jarring moments than the debut and is not quite as mystical, but each song has its own personality and strength. And when I compare it to the post reunion newer songs from some of my other favorites like Vashti Bunyan, the Incredible String Band, Roky Erickson and the Stooges, I find this one is the most successful (along with the Bunyan release perhaps, but much better than the rest). There is enough quality here, that even if you are not already a fan (like someone I met at the shows earlier this year who had not heard of them, but thought they sounded like fun), you would find a lot of great music to enjoy.

Songs to try:

Peace in the Fire - They begin with a song they wrote for their final show and performed it that one time in 1978 prior to reunion shows. This classic fits right in with their older material and begins this album in a magical way.

Still Here - A nice theme to continue the album with and bring a bit of updated rock sound into the mix.

Bonnie Boy - A newer folk song with great dual vocals that does remind one of the older days.

Four Winds - An interesting song that reminds me of older rock/singer-songwriter style.

Childless - Of their modern material, this simultaneously sounds like classic Caedmon and something totally new. A great psychedelic vibe on a touching little song.

Elephant in the Chatroom - Nice rocker with a decidedly UK folk feeling present.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Edgewood - Wise Old Lions -- Velvet Lounge - Nov 28 2010

Wise Old Lions - We begin with an interesting local collective featuring a female singer, keyboards/backing vocals, guitar, cello and violin. At least that is how it began when I arrived fashionably late which is usually ridiculously early for a Velvet Lounge show. Kudos for the band for starting on time. The strings are the overwhelming part of the sound. They are well played and remind me a bit of Fern Knight. The vocals are good as she shows a nice range of quiet moments and loud intensity. It's a bit too much of the dreary downer folk at times and the band does seem a bit loose with a few rough edges. But the sound is interesting and their are some strong moments throughout the set. I will stay tuned and see what this group can do as they keep playing.

Edgewood - Unfortunately the opening band took much of the crowd of 20 plus with them leaving an audience of five for this local rock band. Much their loss as the band performed a gutsy intelligent set. They line up with drums, bass, guitar and a vocalist. The vocals sounded as if Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun were trying to sing like Matt Bellamy of Muse. That is a compliment. The rhythm section is rock solid and both the drummer and bassist have moments where I focus on their respective qualities. But as in most bands, the guitar is the key and this guy banged out some interesting post punk power chords. It reminded me of the 80s where catchy melodies were trying to exist with punk power. Good edgy songs here and I have another band on my list that I hope to watch again and see how they grow.

Quote of the Night: Paraphrased from Wise Old Lions guitarist... The song is dedicated to a friend who works at the Black Cat. He lost a tooth when he was working the door and someone punched him and ran off...          Hmmm, that sounds familiar and he went on to mention the obvious connections and about being careful what you read. Good advice.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


60. Hawkwind - Space Ritual (UK) 1973: It is not often a live album will become my favorite album of a band (although it will happen again on this list), but this one is the classic way to experience Hawkwind. Some of the studio work is good, but this is the audacious tour with all the wild components in play such as the carefully designed stage (shown in detail in the booklet) along with spacey Robert Calvert verbage between songs. The songs are long spaced out proto punk jams that still inspire countless garage psyche bands. Futuristic? Timeless.

59. Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed (UK) 1969: In past lists, I had Aftermath here due to Paint it Black, but this record plays through a bit better. I am not in the large "Exile" camp and instead find myself mesmerized by the guitar work in Gimme Shelter. I find it amazing that the great interplay is Keith Richards playing both parts which really shows his songwriting talents. Some of the classic bands don't have albums that I really like to play all the way through, but this is one I often go back to.

58. Thomas Mapfumo - Chamunorwa (Zimbabwe) 1991: When I was living on a mountain in Colorado, I had a big satellite dish that had some oddball channels. One was the Caribbean Satellite Network which was the MTV of reggae, salsa, dancehall, etc. They played one incredible video of Thomas Mapfumo playing the title cut to this album. The guitar work is so unique with great passion amongst all the vocalists all on top of infectious percussion. Mapfumo's music of Zimbabwe is my favorite of all the African varieties and he also is an important historical figure for the area as well. I don't see the video on Youtube, so my link is to the song.

57. Igra Staklenih Perli - Igra Staklenih Perli (Yugoslavia) 1976: There was some surprisingly excellent psychedelic and psyche-folk music from Belgrade in this former Soviet country (now Serbia). This band has the biggest reputation and this album will show you why. They have a great understanding of psychedelic music and make some excellent unique moves, yet have accessible songs. Exotic, but the album stands tall with any of the world's best psychedelic rock music.

56. Aigues Vives - Water of Seasons (Germany) 1981: Maybe if I do this list again in five years, this record will fall hard. But for now, it is one of my favorites from the prog-psyche-folk-rock scene. I had it for years, but didn't give it much listen until putting it on my IPOD last year. Whenever there was some great song that shuffled out and I did not know it, invariably it would be this band. The album balances all the sounds of the seventies (and late sixties) perfectly into very catchy music.

55. Bob Dylan - The Times They are a Changin' (USA) 1965: I certainly place Dylan at or near the top of the true genius songwriters of the 20th Century, but I do find Dylan the performer a bit below the pantheon. And the albums are pretty varied for me. I prefer the folkier Dylan and this one is my favorite for now, although sometimes it is "the Freewheelin'...". This one really began opening things up and was profound for its era, although most of his 1960s albums were. Not much more I can add about Dylan, aside from the fact that we were both born in Duluth, Minnesota.

54. Erkin Koray - Elektronik Turkuler (Turkey) 1974: This guitar wizard is credited with brining rock music to Turkey. He did it all, but really hit a great dreamy psyche vibe combining western and eastern music on this second album. This is one album where I almost always want to hear from beginning to end. Although the songs are varied enough, the hypnotic groove is too powerful for me to want to break up. Another great Turkish artist that I could not find room for on this list is Baris Manco. There was some brilliant music being made in Turkey back in the day.

53. Carol of Harvest - Carol of Harvest (Germany) 1978: More intriguing prog-folk from Germany with the emphasis on prog of the dreamy variety. Soothing female vocals atop a great rock band that uses acoustic sounds well. A real underground hit that has gotten more than one reissue thankfully.

52. The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace with God (Ireland) 1988: It was bound to happen. Someone would figure out that punk rock spirit would easily integrate with Irish folk music. It took a nobody singer from the Nips (Shane MacGowan) to hook up with some great musicians and figure out the path. MacGowan is the force and a brillian lyricist. The musicians are great and even Terry Woods from Sweeney's Men/Steeleye Span becomes a member for most of the way. This album really covers a wide range of sounds, styles and pace. It also includes "Fairytale of New York" which should make many lists of 100 best songs.

51. The Trees Community - The Christ Tree (USA) 1975: Thankfully, I was able to save $1,000 or more when Timothy Renner reissued this Christian psyche-folk classic a few years back in a massive four-CD set that unfolded into a cross. The bonus material was excellent, but the album is still the place to start. This was a New York Christian commune that somehow came up with this great album comprised of as diverse a set of musicians as I could imagine. There is some amazing Christian psyche-folk out there like Mystery Maker, John Ylvisaker and Sounds of Salvation. But start here, as this one will amaze you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kurt Vile & the Violators - Purling Hiss -- Black Cat - Nov 24 2010

Purling Hiss - There are a few things I share in common with Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover magazine. One of them is where if we compare a band to the Wipers, we are giving them some of the highest praise we can. That is precisely what I will do here. Although the power trio known as Purling Hiss, like most all bands, have a way to go before they can reach Wipers like heights, they already have the skills to bring much joy to forlorn Wipers fans. The rhythm section is particularly similar with its steady foundation without frills, but plenty of pop. The guitar and vocals are more unique here as expected but still work a similar territory of accessible yet deep rock music with elements of garage, punk and power pop. There is also a bit more modern feel to this band in a Jay Reatard sort of way. The songs are immediate with good vocals and time for some jamming and soloing. And as for their name? Well, I like Cunning Stunts better, but that's been done a couple of times. The crowded club was enjoying it and I have certainly found a band to fill a niche in my listening world.
Kurt Vile & the Violators - I saw this outfit one year ago (reviewed here) and it was also on the backstage at the Black Cat closing out a tour. The band is the same as I remember with a couple of electric guitarists and a drummer surrounding Vile who sings and plays acoustic and electric. One guitarist plays a sax on one song. I think I enjoyed tonight's show even more than last time. The droning psyche moves early on with primitive Velvet Underground beats really moved me. The guitar sound really swirls around allowing plenty of room for the vocals along with some nice melodic moves underneath. Vile's range is excellent and he varies the songs nicely into dark urban space and open country, yet still has command of his sound. There is a Dead Meadow feel but the rhythms are quite different. I also heard some Bevis Frond, which is not surprising as they have a similar approach, albeit the Frond being a bit heavier. Excellent original songs and a cover of the Rolling Stones "Monkey Man" kept me in a hypnotic happy state all through the set. A good crowd tonight and the already positive buzz around Vile should continue to grow.

Quote of the Night: From Vile's guitarist coming back onstage after the last song... "No one else is coming out. I'll just make some noise until you all leave. But first I gotta tune."  That may have been fun, but they did come out and do one band song with Vile remaining for one (sounded like two to me) solo acoustic numbers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Junip - Lost in the Trees -- Black Cat - Nov 23 2010

Lost in the Trees - A well armed arsenal of instruments is available to the seven members of this collective. The constants are a guy on acoustic guitar and voice along with a drummer. After that, there is bass, electric guitar, accordion, violin, two cellos, tuba, percussion, autoharp, french horn and probably one or two things I did not write down. At times, a note or two from some of these instruments was lost and the voice was a little thin in the first song, but mostly the music was rich with this tapestry of sounds. And for fairly intricate moves, there was a simple clear vision that easily drew me into their vibe. This was in the vein of the Decembrists and Elliott Brood, a couple of my favorites with possibly some Arcade Fire thrown in. A few songs were positively magic with some killer background vocals that brought out the psyche-folk feel as good as it gets in 2010. I could have done without the communal hippie vibe of having the band go off the stage, into the front rows of people and acoustically do their last song. I am sure it sounded better from there than where I was at this point of the set, but probably not much. These things work better in theory than reality. There are hundreds of people into your set, folks, time to learn how to share it with the masses.
Junip - I have seen Jose Gonzalez here before and have enjoyed his solo records, but frankly did not find myself headed back to him for further listening. Gonzalez is Swedish with Argentinian heritage with an interest in some of the finest UK guitarist/singers as far as I can tell. I was intrigued when I heard he formed this band with Tobias Winterkorn and Elias Araya, but was not sure I would attend. Thankfully, I did attend. The trio hit the stage with a couple of others in the band covering keyboards and extra percussion along with the usual (acoustic) guitar, bass, and drums. The first song had a Doors "Riders of the Storm" vibe with the tinkling high notes of the piano over the steady rhythms. As the songs went on, the bass and drums continued to lay down a flowing psyche rock foundation for Gonzalez and the others to put something on top of. The vocals were moving as well and the songs continually pulled me in. In addition to the Doors, the constant flowing nature of the songs reminded me of Kraftwerk or Neu! with the way their rhythms kept taking listeners along the highway (or Autobahn, obviously). Maybe if Nick Drake lived on and embraced Krautrock arrangements, this is the type of music we would have been hearing. Amazing work here--great songs and a more profound vision than the usual psyche-folk, psyche-rock kinds of bands these days. There was a lot here to swirl around in my mind for a long time to come, but I still hope they stay together and give me another dose some time soon.

Quote of the Night: "Shut-up!" "Yeah!" Two loud quotes from people near me who were fed up at the crowd noise during the moderately quiet songs of Junip. This just after I scribbled a note about the assholes should just stay downstairs at the bar. I really did not want to write about this again, but unless you want me to review classical music, or exclusively cover shows from the Birchmere, Blues Alley or the Strathmore, then try to do a better job of listening, folks. I used to be an advocate of free speech, but I am now switching over to the freedom to listen. I want my freedom to listen back. Please help me out. I promise I won't complain about your texting, because that means you are not talking and laughing loudly when I am trying to listen. It really is not that tough, folks.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


70. Folque - Folque (Norway) 1974: Sweden and Norway had some of the finest folk artists that took their cues from what was happening in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, but drawing on the fine folk music up north as well. This band was the most prolific and one of the finest Scandinavian bands. They had female vocals, violins, electric guitars, bass and drums and a cool, rich stinging sound. This album had Norwegian translations of Allison Gross, Cruel Sister and Twa Corbies made famous by Steeleye Span, Pentangle, and many artists respectively. Their Twa Corbies, called Ravenne, is my favorite version of this classic.

69. The Jam - In the City (UK) 1977: In the UK, All Mod Cons usually gets the nod as the classic Jam album. I am not sure if there is an American consensus, but this sharper punk debut does it for me and is the most universal album they did. Ferocious punk attitude combined with an early Who-mod sound made for some exciting listening when my friends and I were devouring everything punk we could find. There is a lot of excellent Jam material after this, but start here to hear how young artists are excited by the local scene and thrilled to have their say in it.

68. Eclection - Eclection (UK) 1968: This was a strong folk-rock band who had the fullest sound of any of the bands in the genre. It had members from Australia, the UK and Norway in it with strong female and male vocals. Sandy Denny's husband Trevor Lucas actually played bass and veteran Gerry Conway was on drums. There was just this one album and it occupies a nice sonic space between Fairport Convention and Mellow Candle with an extra dose of San Francisco psyche-folk-rock in the mix.

67. Spriguns - Revel Weird and Wild (UK) 1976: Initially called Spriguns of Tolgus, this band featured the pure vocals of Mandy Morton. Her delivery was straight forward, yet from far off in some surreal netherworld. Most singers had some intensity in some interesting direction, but Morton captures the mysterious nature of British folk music perhaps best of any of them. The band plays a mixture of electric and acoustic and made some excellent music across several albums. This one is the steadiest.

66. Arzachel - Arzachel (UK) 1969: A posthumous release by four musicians who were calling themselves Uriel at the time, but by release date, had success in the bands Gong and Egg. So out comes this early recording which I enjoy far more than anything they did subsequently. Steve Hillage's guitar is heavy, Dave Stewart's organ is big and spacey and the rhythm section moves things along with strength. Some songs sound of the era, with others from the psychedelic beyond. Amazing, and they really do have a sound that stands out from their future work.

65. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box (UK) 1979: I gave this a sarcastic review in my college fanzine, but I was impressed with some of it instantly and all of it over time. The film canister was the most obviously audacious part of the release, until one actually listened to the invention or at least expansion of post-punk music. Swan Lake (Death Disco) is still one of the more dark and moving songs I have. When you can hear something 100 times or more and still be deeply moved tells me all I need to know.

64. Ougenweide - Eulenspiegel (Germany) 1976: Germany has the great krautrock bands (some on this list), but they had some nice folk artists as well. I still can't believe I could not fit Gurnemanz on this list, but I did find room for the better known and more prolific Ougenweide. They had many strong albums, but this one seems to move better from song to song, especially on Side One. Many albums still not on CD as far as I know, but this one was one of the early CD releases on the really cool Korean label, Si Wan. They are in the Steeleye Span style of sound with more of a Pentangle creativity I would say.

63. Spirogyra - St. Radiguns (UK) 1972: No, this is not Spyro Gyra, the USA fusion band that has been around forever. This was a folk collective that brought in Canterbury progressive sound to their three 1970s albums. They have a great contrast in the vocals with the harsh (and very cool) sound of Martin Cocherham (also on guitar) and the lovely range of Barbara Gaskin (who went on to work with Dave Stewart). Add a bass, violin, keyboards and Fairport's Dave Mattacks to help with some drums, and you have a great cross-genre sound that is out of Canterbury but far more unique. This was their first album and is the steadiest with great cuts all the way through.

62. Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (USA) 1991: I suppose most people would put Superfuzz Bigmuff here, but I like the variety on this third album with its heavy psyche moves and even pop hooks. Green River Really got things rolling in Seattle with some great records but splintered into the very frustrating Pearl Jam and the very brilliant Mudhoney. Try as Eddie Vedder might, he could not match the sincerity and originality of Mudhoney which would be true even if they sold less records. Sadly Mudhoney did not sell as many records as Pearl Jam or Nirvana, but did acquire a strong cult of fans and respect of other musicians around the world. Grunge was just another great variation of post punk and these guys did it the best.

61. Mellow Candle - Swaddling Songs (UK) 1972: One of the rarest records and most talked about records of the psyche-folk-rock scene in the UK. This featured two young women (vocals, keyboards/songwriting), an electric guitarist and two ace session men on bass and drums. At first listen, I found some wildly creative music like Boulders on My Grave. The rest was interesting, but I had to go back to it many times before its real power got to me. My favorite moment is in Sheep Season where after a few minutes of the song, the band cuts into an instrumental passage for another three minutes until the fade-out. The weaving sounds that the four members put out are so intricate and wonderful, that I really wish I had a 30 minute version. Thankfully, lots of CDs and on-line sources are available, so you can use that $1,500 for other purchases.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tame Impala -- Black Cat - Nov 16 2010

Tame Impala - I rushed over to the Black Cat with Grinderman ending at a reasonable time and caught Tame Impala in their first or second song. It is not often, we get two Australian bands (well, it was the genesis for Cave) in competing shows. This really young band is from Perth and is on American shores for the first time as they start their coast to coast tour. The album is quite good and the sound tonight is strong. Early in the set, I did feel that they settled into a one dimensional washed, light psyche pop sound that could have used a little variety--especially with the echo drenched vocals. But I remembered, that in my mind, they had the unenviable task of following Grinderman. So, I relaxed a little and absorbed the quality of their songs and they were doing pretty well. I was hearing a phas shifted Carol of Harvest, touches of Dead Meadow, but mostly a more pop-oriented Ant Trip Ceremony. The last 3-4 songs did have a bit more variety in the rhythms and guitar sound, so the set built to a satisfying conclusion. The club was 2/3 full at least, so it was good to see that kind of turnout for their debut. Sorry to the openers for missing their sets, but I am glad I made the effort to catch this one.


Grinderman - Shilpa Ray -- 9:30 Club - Nov 16 2010

Shilpa Ray - A woman from New York City takes the stage and plays harmonium and sings. No, it is not Nico and Ray's voice quickly dispels images of the former Velvet Underground singer. The harmonium does bring back that icy depressing sound that Nico had, so the terrain is similar. But the voice contrasted the droning with powerful belts of blues-gospel intensity. This is a simple, effective 30 minutes of music that was well received and is a perfect setting for a Nick Cave band to join.

Grinderman - Coming into this show, I think Grinderman was my favorite Nick Cave band. Leaving the show, I will keep that opinion adding an exclamation point. Grinderman is often called a primal blues band and there is some truth there, but it also seems to encompass good things from all the previous Cave bands. It obviously has the musical skill and vision (taken to the extreme) of the Bad Seeds as all four are members. It also adds the feral garage intensity of Birthday Party and even the punk attitude of the Boys Next Door. The 55 minute set (plus encore) featured ferocious songs with some moodier moments featuring Cave on acoustic guitar once and organ another time. Cave did not play guitar often which was mostly on the newer songs, leaving that to multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, who also played violin, mandolin and was making some noise on the floor that I was too far away to see. "Get it On" and "No Pussy Blues" were highlights from the first album. I liked "Heathen Child" with its steady approach giving way to Ellis' violin from hell, which had nothing to do with Charlie Daniels. It was moments like those where these guys took a good song and exploded the sound around it into uncharted dark territory where they succeed like few others. I certainly thought of what the Stooges did decades ago, and like every good Australian, Nick Cave knows his Stooges. He has channeled that into this band in a very fresh and potent manner.

Quote of the Night: Shilpa Ray... "This is called...Euthanasia. I just want to brighten up your day."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ian Anderson -- Birchmere - Nov 15 2010

Ian Anderson - This was a solo show for the famed Jethro Tull frontman/songwriter and the stage was looking pretty Tull like. In fact, bassist David Goodier and John O'Hara on keyboards/accordion from Jethro Tull are here tonight. Apparently Martin Barre was not up to rigors of the road (perhaps Doane Perry, too), so Anderson called it a solo show. And while that made me first think that he could do a more eclectic set, I quickly remembered the last time I saw Jethro Tull, he brought up a young violinist to help them cover Zeppelin's Kashmir! So who knew what to expect tonight? Anderson had Scott Hammond on drums and a young guitarist from the Munich area of Germany named Florian Opahle, who has worked with Anderson a lot in recent years. Anyway, a nearly packed house was greeted with a surprised Anderson who was stunned at how close everyone was to the stage. Yes, this is not one of the gazillion arena shows he has played. And since he always has plenty of stage patter and song introductions, I will just list the set list along with some comments.

(1) Life's a Love Song - solid opener
(2) Up to Me
(3) Nursie
(4) In the Grip of Strong Stuff - dedicated to Fairport and former Tull bassist Dave Pegg who used to have a serious alcohol problem but now is but a mere alcoholic.
(5) Set-Aside - This is one actually from an Anderson solo album
(6) The Hare in the Wine Cup - a newer cut
(7) Wondering Again - His sequel to Wondering Aloud
(8) Andantino - Guitarist's shredding flamenco guitar work-out with band helping on handclaps
(9) Adrift and Dumbfounded - Heavy Tull arrangement
(10) The Story of the Hare Who Lost his Spectacles - OK, this was the bizarre moment. Amusing.
(11) Bach's Prelude in C Major/Bouree - The famous Bach piece at the end has some twists on the arrangement but still with the super cool bass solo.
(12) That Fucking Song - The start of the more electric set was a new number that Anderson explained was a brand new song without a name. He gave it to the band to learn the day before the tour and they named it for now.

(13) Thick as a Brick - Edited, of course, but a good long workout. This did show some of the limitations of Anderson's voice. Aside from Leslie West, most singers in their 60s and beyond have to take it a bit short of the intense moments and Anderson is no exception. He still has plenty left, so it is not distracting.
(14) A Change of Horses - Written for Ravi Shankar's sitar playing daughter, but arranged well tonight.
(15) Budapest
(16) Bach's Toccata and Fugue (or Toccata in D Minor as I know it) - More guitar shredding for the young German gunslinger.
(17) Aqualung - After a long intro on how you can recognize songs, he challenged us to name this one in one note. After the keyboardist struck it, I got it right (although this song WAS due). A really awesome acoustic arrangement for several minutes before they cut into the traditional guitar stomper.
(Encore) Locomotive Breath - I was a bit bummed that they skipped the intro and started straight in with two acoustic guitars, but it sounded great so all was well. Then just as in Aqualung, they went into the normal arrangement with the keys and ultimately the heavy recognizable chords. And I swear I heard a bit of the Horslips flute part from the Book of Invasions in the flute solo. I bet they both pulled from the same folk song. But that certainly much of the fun was trying to keep up with Ian Anderson and his eclectic twists and turns. It was a very satisfied crowd and I had much fun.

Quote of the Night: There are dozens, but as Anderson was describing how difficult he could be at times, he ended with... "I apologize, as I am a miserable bastard. Not as miserable as Roger Waters, but...."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


80. MIJ - Yodelling Astrologer (USA) 1969: ESP was a really cool sixties label that brought us Pearls Before Swine, Fugs, Holy Modal Rounders and others. But if you think those bands are odd, well you may have missed MIJ. Apparently, Jim Holmberg (MIJ) suffered a skull fracture in an auto accident and upon waking, found he had an extra couple of octaves in his voice and new musical perceptions. He went and recording this crazed psychedelic folk album with singing, whistling, yodelling and banshee screams over acoustic guitars. If this sounds like complete nonsense, one listen to Grok (Martian Love Call) should have you believing anything.

79. Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf (USA) 2002: I came to this band rather late and have been exploring the back catalog. I am enjoying Josh Homme's first band, Kyuss, the more I listen to them, but this one still is the one to get. Homme got Mark Lanegan and Dave Grohl to join Nick Oliveri and himself and put out this heavy riffing powerhouse with loads of pop hooks mingling with raucous noisy rock music. Smart powerful music that is well above that of its many imitators.

78. Michael Raven & Joan Mills - Can y Mellinydd (The Miller Song) (UK) 1976: The three albums this duo recorded are all equally excellent, but I rather enjoy this one as it never got a proper release. It was on the Dutch label, Stoof, but got held up for various reasons and plain sleeve copies are available only in the collectors market (fortunately I paid less than the $1,200 I saw recently). Mills hits emotional depths much more than most singers of that era and Raven's guitar work is world class. Quite simply, some of the loveliest UK folk in the classic era.

77. Group 1850 - Agemo's Trip to Mother Earth (Netherlands) 1968: It's a toss up between this record and 1969's Paradise Now. This one is a tad more experimental in the psychedelic rock department. The cover was in 3-D like the Captain Beyond debut. Musically, they avoided cliched heavy psyche and brought in a lot of style shifts and dynamics. Often, I am expecting them to explode and they never quite do creating a lot of dramatic tension. Music that still intrigues me.

76. Genesis - Yakta Mama (Colombia) 1975: No, this is not that Genesis, but a band from Colombia who released three albums. South American rock, folk and psychedelic music from the sixties and seventies is very popular--especially in Europe. Record collectors have scoured out of the way shops for vinyl pressings that were pretty flimsy even when released. While many gems have been mined, the three albums by this band have some of the snappiest psyche rock songs with plenty of hooks, great vocals and local folk moves. Short, but sweet songs here.

75. Pearls Before Swine - One Nation Underground (USA) 1967: This "band" is pretty much Tom Rapp and friends. Rapp released many excellent records with a mix of great songs. A greatest hits record may be the best way to start, but this opening record is my favorite. Rapp is pretty much a folk artist who works with a band and comes up with fuller arrangements. His songs are really spacey with his mysterious lisp of a voice appearing to come from a different plane. Rapp quit the business and became an activist and attorney in Florida before being lured out of retirement in recent years to record again and play sporadically. He is a class act.

74. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced? (USA/UK) 1967: Well, I don't really have to say much about this one, do I? Quite simply, Hendrix was and is amazing and although I think a lot of people graduate to his subsequent works, I'll put the first one on my list with the great hits that got me into him in the first place.

73. Faraway Folk - Seasonal Man (UK) 1975: Superior folk-rock that is fairly hard to find with most likely bootleg CD issues and expensive vinyl originals out there in the marketplace. Clicking this link will give you an example of the jarring rock sounds on top of the folk heart of their music. This genre will make my list a lot as it is a bias, but this record (and others here) are pretty likable for everyone.

72. Caedmon - Caedmon (UK) 1978: This would have made my list even if I had not seen them recently and got to see what a nice group of people they are. The reunion shows in Edinburgh were great fun and they have a new album coming out in a month or so. This first obscure release was salvaged by the great Kissing Spell label, bringing in a hungry audience looking for great psyche-folk type records. This one fits between a lot of categories (and the band themselves play around with at least seven genres). They are acoustic based with electric bass and a really interesting electric guitar. There are cellos popping in and scrumptious male and female vocals. The album is up for free listening at their site and check out their new material as well.

71. Nirvana - Nevermind (USA) 1991: Here's another one that won't need much comment, so I'll pass on a story. I was a fan of theirs prior to this and went out of my way to see them when they were opening for Dinosaur Jr. They were excellent, but there was this fantastic song that I had not heard before. It really stuck, so I quickly bought the one single I had not owned at this point. Turned out "Sliver" was the other song I liked that I did not know. But what was that other song and why the hell wasn't that out there. A couple of months went by and I kept trying to find this song. Then while on travel, I went into a record store in Salt Lake City and while browsing suddenly realized they were playing that lost Nirvana song. I went to the counter and learned it was an advance copy of their new album on Geffen and the song was called "Smells Like Teen Spirit". And you know what happens next.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Suicidal Tendencies - Underdog -- 9:30 Club - Nov 12 2010

Underdog - This venerable NYC band was just here in August, headlining a hardcore matinee that was a bit sparse in attendance due to the time and a venue change (reviewed here). So it is nice to see them get a bigger venue this time around. The early start tonight had some of the crowd filtering in during and after the set, but the attendance was decent. Again, this band impressed me with their solid tight playing and no nonsense, straight ahead songs. Gruff vocals that eschewed histrionics and delivered in a straight-up, one-on-one style. The crowd was not whipped into a frenzy (show started at 6:33pm) but was impressed and sufficiently warmed up for what was to come. They slip in a reggae punk song which was vogue back in the day and still welcome as far as I am concerned. The singer asks "Do you want a fast one". After the yeahs that of course follow, he adds, "well here's a slow one". But they two songs, both slow and fast to finish up a nice 1/2 hour of tuneful hardcore.

Suicidal Tendencies - Ah, yet another trip back to the early/mid-eighties to a band I saw on their first US tour and then once again opening for the Ramones. A good friend was a roadie for the Ramones and said how much Dee Dee loved the first ST album and "Institutionalized" (a deserved monster hit that would have been even more massive 5-10 years later). So the tour was arranged. That night, my roadie pal mentioned how Dee Dee was not really thrilled with them, mentioning their dress with flannel shirts and bandannas. Of course, I don't have to point out the irony when one considers the Ramones uniforms, although Dee Dee was probably hating those at that point, too. But that was Dee Dee, hard to what you would get on any given day--yet he was still the most fun Ramone to talk to. Anyway, back to tonight. This version of course has Mike Muir on vocals with guitarists that have been around a while and a bassist and drummer that are more recent. They filled the set heavily with older material with much of it from the first two albums as far as I could pick out. They did "Institutionalized" quickly-third song I believe, and it still is a powerful and funny rant. War Inside my Head, Possessed to Skate, The Prisoner, Join the Army, I Saw Your Mommy and many more made out this 70 minute set. If this were a pro wrestling match, some old timers might complain that it is all highspots and not as much understory, but I think that is the mark of why this band works so well. They are always careening into wild guitar solos, hyper fast bass and drums, Vocals that sung, talked, screamed while Muir and the others run all over the stage. They still had the energy and the excitement went deep into the crowd, especially with the Stooges like finish with a couple dozen fans on stage during the last number. Muir pointed out that the punk magazines said they weren't punk enough and the metal magazines said they weren't metal enough, but of course they went on their own course grabbing the best of both genres. Some of their songs wear me out a bit, but it may have been due to my need to watch a rather large mosh pit (and with the stage pushed forward, the back of the club was awfully close). In conclusion, it was a good show, better than I expected.

Quote of the Night: From Underdog's singer... "Wasn't the 9:30 Club at a different location last time? (note--this band has had a looong layoff) Cuz I'm old and I forget a lot of shit". At least he wasn't looking for the Atlantis, as he's not that old.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Os Mutantes - Diva -- 9:30 Club - Nov 11 2010

Diva - A tall woman hits the stage, picks up a bass, starts some recordings and plucks and sings. Spacey, bubbly sounds come out along with rudimentary bass lines and somewhat harsh singing. This was a double booked evening at the club, so this was to start late and did start even later than the posted time at 10:15pm. I was not too thrilled that a third act was on this bill for such a late start and it did not help this act, that there was likely no sound check or a rudimentary one at best. Her bass wasn't coming through and some of the harsh singing was due to the PA as the reverb was pretty massive making her patter almost painful to listen to. There were a few nice things within, so there is something to work with here. But a late night, bad sound and very quiet audience did not help matters much. Perhaps another time at the Red Palace would be worth a listen.

Os Mutantes - This band was my show of the year last year. You can read about my reaction right here. It looked a lot like the same band with the founder (Sergio Dias Baptista) and long-time drummer leading a full band with extra guitars, bass, flutes and keyboards. They have newer music which blended perfectly with their older classics. Dias did a cover of the Beatles' "Michelle" which makes sense as this band did a lot to bring in Beatles pop and Brit-American rock and psyche style to Brazil in the sixties. Michelle quickly morphed into a full-band Brazilian rocker. "2001" was a nice snappy number and the whole set was filled with their usual blend of sounds covering various continents and decades (at least three each). And Dias can still shred with the best of them. They were strong tonight and the crowd was into it. This was considered a joint headline show from what I could figure out. This band is what brought me out tonight and I was very happy to catch them again.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - I was talking to someone prior to this set who told me Ariel Pink reminded him of AM radio. That was interesting description, so I was curious to see where I would place this tricky artist. The first song was very much AM radio with plenty of pop melodies. He had drums, bass, and two keyboardists for that song, although the keyboardists ended up playing guitar as much or more as the set went on. And as the guitars came in, they sort of went over to FM radio with a more "album oriented" approach. I was hearing all kinds of classic pop rock sounds from the Bee Gees to Genesis. The rhythms and creative sounds even produced a krautrock experience a few times which was great as far as I was concerned. Truth be told, I was getting worn down due to the starting time of just before 1am, but the the band was keeping my mind active with plenty of interesting and catchy music. There is plenty going on, yet the crowd was into it and the attendance was still pretty strong even late into the night (the stage was pushed forward and there was breathing room, but it was full enough). As tempting as it was to leave early, I am happy to have caught this band.

Quote of the Night: From Sergio Dias "...we did an album... uh, sometime ago, September whatever last year was... I'm fried, but not that much."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mary Black - Roisin O -- Birchmere - Nov 10 2010

Roisin O - This singer/guitarist hits the stage to open the show. I had not noticed the billing and eventually learned this was Mary Black's daughter. Roisin's brother is also in the Coronas, so the family is certainly doing well with their music. Her first song was quite nice with strong vocals and decent enough finger style guitar, although the volume extremes between the different strings seemed a bit distracting. On the second song, her mother's guitarist took over guitar duties. The bassist and drummer joined in for the last two of the five songs. The songs smoothed out a bit and I especially enjoyed a gutsy rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Carey". This was quick, but an effective beginning for the show.

Mary Black - With no pause, Roisin introduced Mary Black who came up with a keyboardist and a sax/keyboardist joining the three already on stage. Although she played a bit of bodhran at the beginning and end, obviously her vocals are what the people in this crowded hall came to hear. I have followed Mary Black's work years ago with De Dannan and even General Humbert, but have not closely followed her solo work. What was interesting to me was how universal her sound is. There are certainly Irish touches and plenty of roots, but most songs had a classical folk sound mixed with a clean lounge jazz and light rock combination. The band were all smart players and the sound was clear allowing the soaring vocals to be on top without too much overkill. Black has an interesting tremolo quality to her singing and is a good interpreter of the material she chose. She debuted a song which she had never played before which was impressive (and successful). She did a really nice "The Dimming of the Day" by Richard and Linda Thompson. Her vocals sounded closer to Richard in spirit, but again she was interpreting it nicely. She covered several Noel Brazil songs and spoke fondly of the late Irish songwriter, who I did not know but reminds me perhaps of a similar songwriter/performer, Alan Tunbridge. The evening went well with a brief break and long second set. The crowd enjoyed it thoroughly and Mary Black seemed quite sincere with her enjoyment of playing in this area at the Birchmere. It was a good night as I think I personally needed some quality Irish music in between some of my recent rocking sets.

Quote of the Night: Good laugh line from Mary's daughter Roisin O... "This (song) is from my ep, being sold somewhere outside, and it's only $10, and I'm a student..."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Mountain - The Black Angels -- 9:30 Club - Nov 7 2010

The Black Angels - This is my second time seeing this Austin psychedelic five-piece. They have a drummer and four people that interchange instruments all night offering a bass, along with anywhere from 1-3 guitars, 0-2 keyboards and synthesizers, and added percussion. Even with all the change, the sound is remarkably the same in part due to the moody laconic vocals and mostly similar beats and tempo. It is an excellent psychedelic sound--lots of swirl and reverb with a great sense of space. The set started strong and their were some nice songs toward the end. The only problem I have with this band is their lack of variety, especially noticeable in this one hour, fifteen minute set. Still, they are not far off the mark with a great sound which I will happily witness again some time soon, I hope.

Black Mountain - It is nice to finally see this band as they tour their third album. Interestingly enough, they begin with a steady diet of selections from their older works and only sample some new songs toward the end of the set. They are a five piece with full keyboards, rhythm section, guitar/vocals and female vocals. No instrument switching at all aside from the acoustic guitar and the keyboardist varying sounds mostly between organ and synthesizer. They give off a stage demeanor similar to that of Bardo Pond, although they are a bit more song oriented in their overall approach. But they are indeed kindred spirits and they also work perfectly off the opening set tonight (Both bands are touring together). I particularly liked the vocals that at times reminded me of Gaskin-Cockerham of Spirogyra and even Balin-Slick of the Airplane. There songs have a nice variety between heavy and light with deft transitions. Whereas their albums contain absolutely great moments amongst passable songs, the live show of course offers the best should they have the ability go construct a good set list. They do and did as the set worked extremely well tonight. They played for just under 90 minutes and the crowd did diminish, partly due to the Sunday night Metro schedule I suppose. All in all and enjoyable loud blast of some of the better psychedelic music being produced on this continent.

Quote of the Night: I thought the Black Angels may have covered an old psyche song, such as that compiled on Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation (which I just read was named by Jac Holzman of Elektra, whom Kaye thanked for not taking his much worse title of "Rockin' and Reelin' USA"). Anyway, when I saw Kaye playing with Patti Smith a couple years ago, this is how he intro'ed "Pushin' Too Hard".... "If you dug it, it's a Nugget."

Sunday, November 7, 2010


90. Dead Meadow - Old Growth (USA) 2008: I am still amazed how neglected this LA band (with DC roots) is. Musicians know how good they are, as do many critics, but the audience is still in the cult numbers. They play amazingly good songs with a psychedelic style that should be cliched, but for their tremendous skill at finding their own sound. I particularly like the songs on this one, although some fans like the earlier works. It is all really good.

89. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (USA) 1988: Well this one is on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, so it is hard to argue against this choice. Clearly, most people accept this as the pinnacle of Sonic Youth's career and a lightning bolt  in indie rock in general. They strike a perfect balance of wild and crazy sonic moves with powerfully written songs. And that combination when blended with the care that a master chef would take with your favorite dish, always will get you on my list.

88. Shirley Collins & Davy Graham - Folk Routes, New Routes (UK) 1964: Davy Graham was a phenomenal talent whose albums have moments of brilliance, but are a bit erratic (although not as erratic as he was personally). Shirley Collins did great vocal work with her sister Dolly and the Albion Band and helped Alan Lomax collect field recordings in America. In 1964 they put together this landmark album that helped knock down walls for thousands of musicians to combine forms and styles in the UK folk world.

87. Strawbs - Strawbs (UK) 1969: Primarily known as a progressive group, the Strawbs played folk, bluegrass, rock, classical rock and even calypso. It did not always work, but there are great moments in the earlier years. This album really connects best for me and they still play songs from this one today, whether in full band form or in acoustic mode.

86. The Doors - The Doors (USA) 1967: Strange Days indeed surrounded this band which people have pretty varied opinions on. I always liked them and liked them best on their first two albums. This is another combination of styles that works with blues, classical, jazz, flamenco and psychedelic rock all coming together nicely. Yes, you can call Jim Morrison a pretentious alcoholic if you like, but these four guys made some great music.

85. Ton Vlasman - White Room with Disintegrating Walls (Netherlands) 1970: This one also belongs on the Top 100 album titles of all time and maybe album cover art as well. The album cover promises a lot and the music delivers. Great psychedelic songs with some folk moves. There are some odd CD reissues floating around but the album will cost you, but it was worth it for me.

84. Buzzcocks - Love Bites (UK) 1978: As the Buzzcocks albums have been reissued recently, many people have dismissed this second album as the weakest of the first three. Some have come around in appreciation, but it was always high on my list. It may be a bit dark, but the songs are strong and really flow nicely throughout. The Buzzcocks singles were all great and frankly, all of the early stuff is essential, but this one has both the highlights and the flow.

83. Boiled in Lead - Orb (USA) 1990: When I was young with far less musical talent than I wanted, I thought of two ideas for interesting crossover bands. I eventually found these bands with this Minneapolis outfit being one of them (stay tuned for the other). These guys combined Irish music, world music and rock'n'roll in ways that few others come close to. Super talented musicians combine with a great vision and archival ability made for each Boiled in Lead album being an exciting event for me. It was hard to pick my favorite, but this one had a great line-up and super mix of songs, be they original, traditional, or non-traditionally arranged.

82. Hoelderlin - Hoelderlin's Traum (Germany) 1970: This band devolved into a rather ordinary progressive band, but this debut album is a classic of psychedelic, progressive folk music. I often get this one confused with Broselmaschine which almost made my list, but this one is a bit stronger end to end. German bands did folk music very well with a progressive and intense undercurrent.

81. Renaissance - Turn of the Cards (UK) 1974: I have always enjoyed classical music and did not go into the spasms that most rock critics did as they sharpened their pencils to attack all the prog bands that combined classical music and rock. I liked the early version with Keith Relf, but most people know the Annie Haslam version represented here. The songs here really move and have everything from exotic landscapes to urban London vibes. The band may agree with me as this album was the most featured in their live set.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Roky Erickson - Benjy Ferree - The Happen-Ins -- Black Cat - Nov 5 2010

The Happen-Ins - A two-guitar four-piece with a very 60s garage name hits the stage and begins with a very garage rock song. There is some roots within and subsequent songs blend classic rock and bluesy roots rock as well. Some times it veers a bit too much toward average 70s rock music, but then a song will come along and show some good energy and have a bit more bite to it. The last song started of like a Canned Heat boogie and just as I make that note, a guitarist screams "Boogie" at the top of his lungs. So aside from the obvious and average moments, this 40 minute set was decent enough and warmed the crowd nicely.

Benjy Ferree - Ferree plays guitar for the majority of his 40 minute set and organ on the last three songs. He is accompanied by a bass and drums, although their output was pretty lackluster and sounded more like a late addition to a solo folk artist. Ferree's songs are kind of old styled rock and roll which Dave Alvin does better. I just was not feeling it tonight and the crowd was tepid all night with the most quiet applause between songs that I have heard in a while. I think he sensed this and kept mentioning Roky being in the house. And after his last note, it wasn't thank you, it was "Roky's on next, everybody. C'mon DC." This set just did not work for the filling club.

Roky Erickson - You could not get odds on this ever happening a few years ago prior to the brilliant documentary "You're Gonna Miss Me". There was some optimism at that film's end which has continued to grow into Austin shows, Austin City Limits, a new album, and now a tour. Mostly insiders read this blog, so I need not go into the amazing Roky story evident in the film and in an excellent 13th Floor Elevators biography. I highly recommend both. Roky comfortably hits the stage with an older, very excited crowd that filled just over half the club I would guess. Even with the new album, it was a heavy set of Aliens era material. Roky played guitar throughout, although got lost a few times and stopped to sing during some songs. His lead guitarist was orchestrating and making sure they started well while the rhythm section was quite accomplished and comfortable filling in quickly. They all did well as the set was pretty smoothly delivered with good sound. Roky's voice is key and it is of course a lot more ragged than the early days, but he still has some nice range and good expression. And really, the simple fact that he can stand on a stage for an hour and deliver these songs is amazing of itself. While this set did not achieve transcendental heights, it was enjoyable enough for even people that don't know the history. But everyone did know the history, so there was excitement for different reasons and I am guessing everyone left the club quite happy that this happened.

Set List: It's a Cold Night for Alligators/Two-Headed Dog/The Wind and More/Good-bye Sweet Dreams/Starry Eyes/Bloody Hammer/Night of the Vampire/Stand for the Fire Demon/The Beast/I Walked with a Zombie/John Lawman/Don't Shake Me Lucifer/Don't Slander Me... Encore: You're Gonna Miss Me

Quote of the Night: "Roky only mumbled something incomprehensible at one time, so I will go to the opening band... "We are from Austin. Rock'n'Roll is alive and well in Austin, TX..." Yes, well, we in DC get accused often of not knowing what goes on in the heartland, but we've heard that one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Masaki Batoh - Kohoutek - Insect Factory -- Velvet Lounge - Nov 2 2010

Insect Factory - I have not seen this duo since the Terrastock festival in Louisville a couple years back, although the drummer plays for Kohoutek and Kuschty Rye Ergot. The guitarist plays some loops and makes noise either via recordings or through the many magic boxes at his feet. The drums are suitably low-key for this atmospheric sound. There were some nice sounds and dynamics and this was pretty effective all told. Not wildly dramatic, but creative and thoughtful.

Kohoutek - I usually struggle to figure out what to say about a band on the third listen. Since this is 8 or 9, I was a bit worried. But immediately I felt silly as this creative outfit had more twists and turns for me right from the opening notes. They featured two guitars, bass, drums, oscillators etc., and a sixth member who started on banjo before moving to a second drum kit. Of course it was the banjo that had me thinking this was their take on Americana which it kind of was and kind of wasn't. It was a great beginning as the guitars and bass played more in an ambient style allowing the banjo, oscillators and ultimately dual percussion to shine through. In the usual fashion, the other instruments slowly came into the mix, but ultimately it was not quite as heavy as previous sets. Still loud and rocking with a clear Hawkwind moment, but an interesting set that is good enough to interest first time listeners and the many of us here tonight who have experienced these guys many times before. Yet another fine half-hour set.

Masaki Batoh - From Japan comes the highly talented singer/guitarist from Ghost. I have seen Ghost a couple of times and Batoh once in a duo with Helena Espvall (of Espers). But this was the first time solo and it was just Batoh with banjo, acoustic guitar and harmonica and not the usual electronic tricks and exotic instruments. His style is a great mix of classic forms and traditional elements from the far east along with his own creative moves. The first banjo part started dangerously close to "Roundabout" by Yes, but thankfully went in other directions (ironic humor is not usually part of his work). Several minutes of the songs focused on his interesting playing prior to vocals. His vocals are outstanding, not exactly Scott Walker but evocative in that direction. There is a mellow rural psychedelic feel through much of the work and it is always highly interesting to me. He finished with the traditional "Black is the Colour" which fit perfectly with his other songs. Hopefully Ghost will hit these shores again some time, but whether you can see their guitarist Michio Kurihara (in Boris or Damon & Naomi) or their singer Batoh, you should see any of the combinations they come up with it. I haven't seen anything less than a very good combination yet. And tonight was a very good night.

Quote of the Night: Although he's very quiet, Batoh apologized..."Sorry to take time tuning, but I rarely play a regular tuning". And if you follow the really great folk artists of history, this is the usual approach, so that is quite alright with me and it was with the rest of the rapt audience.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


To celebrate two years of blogging, I will publish my favorite 100 albums as of now in a series of roughly weekly installments taking us to 2011. These are solely my choices as I feel right now with a mixture of entrenched favorites and newer discoveries. There is bias aplenty and this is mostly designed to give you an idea of where I come from and hopefully a few ideas for new listening. My first cut was to about 400, so there is a lot of good material that didn't make it. I often cut out good albums with brilliant songs and bands I love, but who spread out their music so a greatest hits album would be the better choice. And I tried to avoid those and compilations like Nuggets which also would have made the list. I limited myself to one album per band, as I hate those lists where the top 50 is split among 20 artists. Anyway, here goes from the bottom up.

100. Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II (USA) 1982: Early Puppets were too harsh even for my hardcore tastes, while latter work maybe a little too twangy (but still pretty tasty). This one captured the edge best and has a few killer cuts. A good mind opener for the punk scenes as things were getting too compartmentalized.

99. Armando Piazza -Suan (Italy) 1972: This Italian acid-folk-psyche singer songwriter had a couple of albums that have been reissued. He had American guitar whiz Shawn Phillips playing with him and these songs really stay with me and offer a nice southern Europe perspective to this style.

98. Siena Root - Different Realities (Sweden) 2009: A rare recent album on my list, but I just listen to this one so much more than the rest in my many stacks of new music. They really have a great prog-psychedelic style with a mix of long and short songs. Great music from a country always worth keeping your eye on.

97. Pan & Regaliz - Pan & Regaliz (Spain) 1971: The flute makes one think of Jethro Tull, but there is more psychedelic rock going on in this, there only album. Great mixture of styles from a band that got lost in the shuffle, but is known by record collectors and psyche fans everywhere.

96. Veronique Chalot - J Ai Vu Le Loup (Italy) 1977: French artist with medieval feel and classic folk touches which does have just enough of a psyche vibe to create a lot of interest for people like me.

95. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (USA) 1969: Jazz is a nice diversion for me at times, but this monster is well known for its crossover into the rock arena. Still powerful today and a really exciting record that only a few had the skill (and fewer the vision) to bring forward.

94. John Renbourn - The Black Balloon (UK) 1989: Renbourn is one of my favorite pure finger style guitarists with his work in Pentangle and on his solo records. I wanted to put Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones, and the immortal Davy Graham on the list, but Renbourn's album here is the one I play most as it works from first note to last and is very involving with only an acoustic guitar or two throughout. Well, ok there is a touch of flute and tabor.

93. Third Ear Band - The Magus (UK) 1972: This posthumous release has some of their most accessible music (used in Polanski's "Macbeth"). I suppose real fans prefer "Alchemy", but I think this one has more striking songs in addition to the psyche jams which comprise their earlier work. Purists may disagree, but I would start right here at the end of their career.

92. Quintessence - In Blissful Company (UK) 1969: Krishna rock band that did wonderful psyche chants in between some great rock music of that period. They captured both American, UK and far East styles as well as anyone did back then.

91. Elly & Rikkert - Parsifal (Netherlands) 1971: A great psychedelic folk duo from a country that had more than a few artists that are must haves in this field. Their first three albums are great and a fourth is good, but they transformed into a rather dull Christian straight-folk act that every record collector from Europe warns me away from.

Frightened Rabbit - Plants and Animals - The Phantom Band -- 9:30 Club - Nov 1 2010

The Phantom Band - Frightened Rabbit invited this band from Glasgow to join them tonight and I hope the half-full club was as appreciative as I was. The set was quite creative as I had the always fun challenge of trying to figure out where they get their influences from. I am not sure I ever did come up with a good idea, although I heard some Manchester sound with a bit of Ian Curtis perhaps, but then they weave in guitar heavy songs or keyboards led rhythmic tunes. There was an excellent song with woodblock percussion and one that was a slow building krautrock masterstroke which completely won me over. The singer had a droll presence which fit the set. I was a little frustrated early with the bass being up to high, but thankfully the sound man worked it out very well. A clear-cut winner here with great sound and that always hard to achieve balance of creativity and accessibility. This is a band to watch out for, at least in my world.

Plants and Animals - Another regular on this tour is this trio from Montreal. They lined up with guitar, bass and drums, but the bassist strapped on a guitar 4-5 times and once went back in forth in the same song. Interestingly enough, he played the more creative guitar parts. As for the set, I thought they started rather slow and I thought I was due for 45 minutes of noodling introspective angular pop music. And the first couple of songs really weren't connecting. But they shifted things around nicely and got a bit more push with the remaining songs, mixing in various rock or pop moves along the way. I think the rapidly filling club agreed with me as they were respectful, but very quiet in between songs (which despite my gripes about crowd noise is the time where they will never annoy me with their noise). The guitarist/lead vocalist even commented on the silence, but the band was church-quiet as well. By set's end, the crowd joined me in enjoying this band a little bit more as the respectful applause became a bit more enthusiastic. This was a safer set than the first one tonight, but ultimately a good one.

Frightened Rabbit - From Glasgow (via Selkirk) Scotland, this five piece continues its powerful surge upward in both popularity and quality playing. I missed them a few years back as their Rock'n'Roll Hotel show sold out too quickly. Not making the same mistake, I bought a ticket for the Black Cat show this past April 27th just to be sure. That one also sold out, thus showing DC that they are ready for a four-figure audience at the 9:30 Club. And although not sold out prior to showtime, the show had to have been near-sell out as there was the usual wall-wall mob of enthusiastic fans. I had no doubt that this band could handle the bigger hall and they did so quite easily. What I really like about this band is that they have a great balanced style. Instead of going out of bounds into wild new sonic space, they stay within comfortable formats, but do so in a personal and skillful way. That frankly, is so much harder to do well than to create some 25 minute jam or 25 one-minute hyper-hc blasts (as much as I love those sounds as well). Many bands can slip into some sort of simple Americana or indie rock, but I just did not feel that anywhere tonight. And if a Eurpean band doesn't touch Americana, I figure their quieter moments might slip into Celtic folk-rock. But that was not present either. It was simply personal pop-rock songs that were subtly varied from outright rockers to timeless pop tunes. The band's leader Scott Hutchinson (the band started as a solo project ala Dungen, Porcupine Tree etc.) did a few solo songs on acoustic guitar during the set and in the encore. The crowd pretty much dug the whole set and the rapport was good with some good stage patter as well. There are several hot bands in recent years that I find deserving like this band and the Decemberists (well they have been hot for a while) and there are a few that I don't personally go in for (Band of Horses, Bon Iver). I am not sure I can ever quite figure out the reasons, but I will just call it like I hear it. And tonight was further evidence that this band is doing all the right things and working hard to present their music all over the world. I hope they keep it up.

Quote of the Night - (There were a few but I lost my notes) From the opening vocalist... "Thank you for coming out. Enjoy the rest of the bands tonight and enjoy the rest of your lives as who knows if we will ever be back."

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Zeros - The Shirks - Beasts of no Nation - Maybe Baby -- Velvet Lounge - Oct 31 2010

Maybe Baby - Whether it was the Zeros bringing people in tonight or four bands or Halloween or one less club to party in, I really don't know the reason for this sizable crowd. But they welcomed this guitar/drums duo clad in gauzy mummy wrap with cobwebbed drums. I liked this band before well enough but thought they were really hot tonight. Their highly energized hyper-fast pop-punk is very much in the manner of Jay Reatard and is a great start for tonight's series of bands. They have the garage sound down with super fast hooks. The guitarist sings in the manner of Darby Crash or perhaps Black Randy if memory serves. They did their songs almost non-stop which kept the energy going and the excitement building. 20 minutes was plenty to give a full set of loud fun music. Great job on this, their last show before heading out for a coast-to-coast tour.

Beasts of No Nation - This local two-guitar four-piece is pretty well encamped in the classic harDCore scene. Te vocals remind me of Minor Threat and the music is tough, gutsy classic DC early eighties styled hardcore. It was easy to digest with a good sound that a touch of Misfits-sludge in the rhythm as the melody kept ahead. A good energized set that the crowd dug, causing a few to bounce around a bit.

The Shirks - Another local four-piece with some records out on Dischord. Buzzsaw power-pop, but so much tougher than that label. I am hearing a touch of the Pagans even. They went over well with the large crowd tonight and are clearly a band to catch if you want to hear classic hook oriented punk rock played with relish at a hyper-pace (sounds like classic DC to me). But I can write whatever I want about them and they will never know as they don't participate in the world-wide web. Personally, I think the Amish philosophy makes more sense than that, but to each their own.

The Zeros - From Chula Vista, California, come a band I never thought I would get to see. Yes, that's been said far too often, but for this band with its few singles and belated album on Bomp! Records from the punk era to play in 2010 is quite a shock. It is very welcome as this band really had the great SoCal punk/power pop sound that Bomp! adored and went over well with garge/punk fans everywhere. I had a couple of their singles and could really see the nice place they occupied between the heavy punk rockers and the power poppers. But on to tonight, Javier Escovedo (Alejandro's brother) and his bandmates were in fine form. They have played some shows out west and in Spain in the last year and were in fine form. They opened with "Pipeline" and played many early songs including the singles I had - "Don't Push Me Around" and "They Say That". The Closer was "Wild Weekend" and they encored with a couple of songs including the NY Dolls classic "Chatterbox". Everything was delivered with the hooks up front, the vocals delivered well by three lead singers and plenty of pop. What a nice slice of history in 40 minutes of a band deserving of some late recognition for the great music they added to that important punk era. It was great to see an enthusiastic crowd of young and old who seemed to be aware of that.

More Verbage - I will be posting a link to my CD reviews coming out soon in Folkworld magazine for those of you that cannot get enough of my Proustian drivel. But in celebration of my two years here, I will begin listing my Top 100 ALbums of All-Time tonight. I will do it in sets of ten heading into the new year. Stay tuned and get ready to get annoyed with my oddball choices.