Monday, October 25, 2010
This was the second of two late-'80s straight jazz dates by Alvin "Red" Tyler, better known for his years toiling in the city's R&B studios. Tyler savored the opportunity to do more than play short bursts, demonstrating his expansive skills on the disc's eight cuts. While the soulfulness remained in his tone, Tyler proved he could handle hard bop chord changes, build and complete ideas and head a jazz combo. The cuts "Dreamsville," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Like So Many Others" emphasized the jazz connection, but the R&B and blues base came through on "Cutie Pie" and "Count 'Em." This was nicely played, at times above-average, jazz from a celebrated veteran getting to show another side of his musical personality.
Alvin "Red" Tyler - Graciously - Vinyl album on jazz label Rounder Records 1987
Formed in the mid-'80s by singer/guitarist David Bierman, guitarist Dave Boutette, bassist Kevin Perri, and drummer Dan Allen, Dearborn, MI's Junk Monkeys evolved from a previous band named Mystery Girls (no, not those Mystery Girls), and cut their teeth in Detroit clubs before finding an unlikely home with L.A.-based Metal Blade Records. Unlikely because Junk Monkey albums like 1989's Soul Cakes, 1990s Five Star Fling, and 1992's Bliss featured hook-laden power pop/punk inspired by '70s legends like Cheap Trick, Big Star, and the Flamin' Groovies; but not so far-fetched when one remembers Metal Blade had also signed the Goo Goo Dolls around the same time. In any case, just as the latter only managed to score mainstream success towards the end of their relationship with the label, the Junk Monkeys too failed to find an audience beyond Michigan and Midwestern borders during their tenure at Metal Blade, eventually departing to record a final live album in 1995's Follies Review before going their separate ways.
Junk Monkeys - Soul Cakes - Vinyl album on Restless Records
At the time that this record was released, the very idea of SST records releasing an album of instrumental surf music was bizarre. Nevertheless, if SST was going to release such an album, this was the right one. Lawndale rocks hard throughout this delightful and unpredictable album, uniting styles with effortless glee. Listen to the incredible version of the jazz standard "Take Five," which somehow contains the bridge to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" -- what kind of twisted individual could imagine that combination? Or having imagined it, made it work in such a seamless and delightful manner? The mix of German oompah band rhythm and Tex-Mex on "Next to the Last Frontier" isn't nearly as odd, since Germans in Texas had a lot to do with the sound of that music, but never have the two influences sounded so distinct and yet so artfully melded before -- at least, when played by a rock band. "March of the Melted Army Men" is more straightforward, a kicking rock song with what is probably the only appearance on a surf album in Greg Ginn's career. The punk rock stalwart turns in a creditable and manic solo that fits in just fine with the orchestrated chaos of the song. Every cut on Sasquatch Rock is a keeper, but there is one standout, the soaring, complex "Instrumental." (Since there are no vocals on the album except for a couple of screams and groans, there is a certain delicate irony here.) "Instrumental" strings together six musical themes ranging from country and soul to jazz and, inevitably, surf music, and tosses in transitions, recaps, and mutations galore to create an amazing medley. Lawndale's output was meager, a mere two albums, but every track they released was splendid and their influence was widely felt. Sasquatch Rock is a must-have for anyone who loves instrumental electric guitar with a surf rock tinge.
Lawndale - Sasquatch Rock - Vinyl album on SST Records
Saturday, October 23, 2010
West Texas native Ely is a part of a loose confederation of players and singer-songwriters from around Lubbock whose songs have a mythical, larger-than-life quality to them. Ely, along with Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, was briefly in an acoustic group called the Flatlanders. They released one legendarily obscure record in 1972 that was rereleased to almost ecstatic acclaim in the '90s. When Ely formed his own group in the mid-1970s, they played a hard-driving form of Honky-Tonk music that veered very close to rock. The group capitalized on the more open nature of the Outlaw Country movement and became very popular in Texas, which led to a major-label record deal. The Clash were enamored of Ely's sound and had him come to England to open a tour for them. Ely has never had anything resembling a hit record, but his incendiary live shows and near-constant touring have given him a loyal worldwide cult following.
Joe Ely - Dig All Night - Vinyl Album
"Every once in a very long while, songwriters come along who become regarded as classic. The rivers of their many influences flow clear and clean through their work, but what comes out is something wholly original. Their songs sound at once timeless and fresh, with shimmers and shades from many influences flowing seamlessly into something new, something free of the fickle stamps of time and style. A perfect hybrid, a new breed unto itself. David Olney is one such writer, a defining if not definitive example of the contemporary folk-based singer-songwriter. For years, he has been a legend among his peers, revered for his keen craftsmanship, vivid emotional color, sweet sense of space and sturdy melodic grace."
David Olney - Eye Of The Storm - Vinyl Album
A side project by drummer Glenn Evans of the speed metal band Nuclear Assault, who plays the majority of the instruments on the album.
CIA - In The Red - Vinyl album featuring Glenn Evans of Nuclear Assault on Combat records