Saturday, September 27, 2008
LENNY STACK, SOUNDTRACK TO "C.C. AND COMPANY" (1970, AVCO EMBASSY)
Joe Namath and Ann Margret. Now if THAT ain’t a recipe for a good film, then I don’t know what is. You’d expect a cast like that to tackle some obscure William S. Burroughs novel, but surprise – here they’re just kinda slumming it in some movie called C.C. and Company, that apparently involves the desert, a motorcycle, and Ann’s crotch being as close to Joe’s face as possible. I can only hope there’s a scene where Joe gets drunk and tries to plant a big wet one on Ann Margrock’s cheek. “Y’know Ann, I jes’ really wanna kiss you…”
I can only hope, of course, because I’m not one of the seven living people who’ve actually seen the film, but I can tell you this much – the soundtrack sho’ is funky! But then again, how can it NOT be when the man responsible is named “Lenny Stack”? I mean, that name ALONE conjures up images of huge gold ’73 Impalas, giant afros and muttonchops the size of small ferrets, and a guy who, had he been on the sidelines that day, would’ve made sure Suzie Kolber was REALLY taken care of that evening.
So it’s no surprise then that Lenny gets down and dirty on this soundtrack album, with a heavy mix of funk and rock, especially the super funky blaxploitation groover “The Chase,” with its chuggin’ keys, rubber Bootsy bass and chukka chukka scratch blocks. As it always seems in these movies, the funkiest tracks are where someone’s being chased, and in this case, it sounds like C.C.’s making a beeline for the ESPN locker room. “Where are you, Miss Kolber? You can’t hide from C.C. baby!”
The other two indispensable monster funk jams are “The Duel (Part 1)” and “The Duel (Part 2).” Why they split ‘em up is anyone’s guess, since they’re both the same great fuzzed-out spy theme riff, screaming scuzzed-up inner city Peter Gunn rips spewing black clouds of burned Harley rubber amid the scattered pieces of lace and cotton from whatever Ann Margret was wearing underneath that pink dress. Part 2 has a blistering acid guitar solo, Part 1 has a skuzzy fuzz bass battling to the death with a squad of Baretta style inner city horns. Both of ‘em lay absolute WASTE to whatever they touch. And Suzy Kolber just stumbled into work an hour late, looking like hell, eyeliner running down her cheek and I swear to God I saw bite marks on her shoulder. CC, you devil. Looks like you got more than a kiss.
THE SQUID FUNK METER READS: Off The Chart
BEST TAKEN WITH: PBR, Old Spice and Chloroform
Monday, September 22, 2008
THE 5TH AVENUE BUSES "A TRIP TO GOTHAM CITY" (ABC Movietone LP, late 60's)
Sure, the comic book world is filled with buxom, overaccentuated vixens that are, at least in the real world, physically impossible to replicate, even when Pam Anderson goes under the knife for the 17th time this month, or whatever Kardashian sister is popular at the moment tries desperately to get the attention of anyone bored enough to watch. So it isn’t surprising then that the literary medium most predatory on the prurient interests of still pre-pubescent little boys should translate into one sexy mindfuck of an album when it finally hits the record shops. And even though you wouldn’t think the Fifth Avenue Buses Trip to Gotham City could get you hard for a second with a Banana Splits in the Bowery cover sleeve like that, trust me, when it’s time for these skintight super goddesses to purr like the sex-crazed Marvel kittens they really are, you’ll be wishing you had Julie Newmar tied up and lapping cream off of the turntable in your bedroom.
The little boys understand. And so Trip to Gotham City works best when it’s the girls who are singing, or slinking, or purring in the background, which they do really really well. And even though “Joker” might get your attention with its masculine distorted wah wah guitar licks, it’s still the go-go girls who steal the show, scatting nonsense vocals over the jazzy shuffle beat like a bunch of horned up schoolgirls trying to get you out of the BatCave. Fuck Cesar Romero, “Joker”’s really about what you’d do to Harley Quinn if she ever passed out on your dorm room floor.
Likewise, when the girls purr “Go to sleep, go to sleep” over the big beat sounds of “Sandman,” you’re much more likely to think of them succumbing to chloroform than backing up some overgrown supervillain on yet another dumb crime spree. But the sexiest superhero of ‘em all, and the one that naturally gets the biggest bulge out of your corduroys here, is the AMAZING slinky sex and sax-fueled track devoted to “Catwoman,” the all-time number one greatest DC spank bank heroine bar none. Sporting a sensational Danger: Diabolik style melody with great mysterioso surf guitar licks, this is every bit as playfully sexy as Selina Kyle in her skintight black leather catsuit, catching a claw on skin every once in a while with those lethal fuzz guitar breaks. The go-go girls are practically inspired here, knowing that this time its their turn to shine, purring and mewling “Meow!” over and over again while turning around and lifting their tails high in the air. Go ahead and sniff, little boy. Because whether it’s cats or shapely go-go girls or that elusive download that lets you see Lara Croft's gravity-defying jumps and tits, we’re all just suckers for a little superhero ass.
THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Nine Out of Ten
BEST TAKEN WITH: Rum and Coke, Vaseline and a Poster of Lynda Carter
Thursday, September 11, 2008
ALICE COOPER "Easy Action" (1970, Straight)
There’s a theory called Quantum Physics that deals in alternate universes and potential realities. But I’m a record collector, not a quantum physicist, so you’ll have to excuse my very limited knowledge of the subject. But I have to think that somewhere, there’s a parallel universe where Alice Cooper went on to become the most creative, envelope-pushing recording artist in rock music history. We, of course, ain’t in that universe, but we can, through carbon-dating and vinyl-studying, pinpoint the EXACT moment where those two universes split apart. It was 1970, right after this, his second album Easy Action on Frank Zappa’s Straight label. In OUR universe, a major label signing would result in Alice’s slow but steady decline into sub-Gwar kiddie metal and a side career as a good, if somewhat skeletal, PGA golfer. In that OTHER universe, however, Alice continued to release twisted psych-prog gems like Easy Action all the way up until his death, a tragic beating at the hands of some jealous renegade Droogs. Turns out they were only preventing him from doing an ill-advised commercial for Staples. Something WE couldn’t do.
Thankfully, at least, Alice DID drop a handful of pre-Staples masterpieces in our world before picking up a golf club, and on Easy Action, you can see just how fucking BRILLIANT this band was. I mean, if ZAPPA liked him, that means SOMETHING, right? (Okay, it doesn’t explain Captain Beefheart, but still…) He looks toward his past on the blistering “Return of the Spiders,” a heavy acid garage psych barnstormer with steam locomotive rhythm, flying twin guitar attack and gruff snarling pre-punk, post-garage vocals, as if ol’ Vincent Furnier finally remembered his mid-60’s years cranking out zombie garage singles in his basement before he got momentarily sidetracked by the prissy Pretties For You. And as we’ll find out later, he did.
Several songs on Easy Action are Alice Cooper as psychedelic popsters, just as legit as the Electric Prunes and the Human Beinz, and worthy of as much adoration amongst the weed-smokin’ box-set-buying retro hipsters who scour Ebay for that original Music Machine vinyl album in MONO. “Shoe Salesman” is popsike brilliance, a trippy little number that tones down most of early Alice’s eccentricities for a short radio-friendly shot of electric kool-aid that SHOULD have marked the band’s entry into the Billboard charts, if this universe were as fair as that other one. And if not that one, what about “Refrigerator Heaven,” a damn-near BRILLIANT psychedelic mushroom cloud decked out in layers of phasing and processing and even some fake Johns Children crowd cheers? Or maybe they’re real, I don’t know. Or maybe Vince just sank a ten-foot putt on the back nine.
Either way, Alice was on a fucking ROLL here, and if you dug his homage to those pre-album days cranking out garage beat with the Spiders, then just wait’ll you hear what this lean and hungry freakpsych band does with Alice’s old 1967 garage punk nugget “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye” (when they were known as the Nazz). The original single was lucky if it ran 3 minutes, but here, the Easy Action Coopers down some mescaline and stretch the thing out to a mind-bending 7-and-a-half minutes, a post-Syd Barrett “Interstellar Overdrive” freakout that probably wasn’t being done anymore in 1970, but fuck everyone else, right? Those extra 5 or so minutes are spent shredding instruments in a genuine psych-o-delic extended midsection jam, smashing amps, bending strings and generally creating the kind of mythical inhuman noises that Syd Barrett used to get out of his guitar back when he was still able to play on stage. But, to his credit, Syd never went on to make Monster Dog.
It’s hard to believe that Easy Action isn’t viewed as the psychedelic benchmark it SHOULD be, a lunacy module for the ages. Perhaps if someone ELSE recorded it – and by that I mean someone whose career wasn’t tainted by “Only Women Bleed” – it would be better remembered. If this were a homemade one-off album by some unknown Gandalf the Grey Wizard type whose identity remains shrouded in mystery, you might be remortgaging your house right now to get it. And it would STILL be worth every penny. But Quantum Physics aside, in OUR universe, it remains simply an early album by a creepy-looking PGA golf pro. Still, I betcha Seve Ballesteros never recording anything THIS good.
THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Ten Out of Ten
BEST TAKEN WITH: Acid, Hallucinogens, Ben-Gay and a -5 Handicap
Saturday, September 6, 2008
THE NEWBURY PARK, "GREEN TAMBOURINE" (from the 1968 LP NEWBURY PARK, Cream)
Every so often, you come across an album that just kinda stops you in your tracks. Not because it’s great music or anything, but because there on the front cover, staring right at you, is an absolute total sixties BABE. One that you just KNOW you’re destined to meet, provided you could somehow muster up a word or two while in her presence. I mean, let’s be honest, you didn’t REALLY like the Shocking Blue THAT much, did you? But yet you bought every album you found because that smokin’ hot chick with the deadly eyeliner called to you from every album cover, practically begging you to take her home (in Dutch, probably, but you somehow understood). And hey, for $5.98, you didn’t have to listen to it – you just propped it up on your dresser and used it when necessary. Likewise those two babes in the Love Generation who looked like they’d rather be sauntering around the Playboy mansion in sheer pink teddies than singing – I’m sure their photo on the cover of every album didn’t hurt sales. And when we discovered that Ruth Copeland and Gal Costa actually put out some GREAT records, well, that was just a bonus. I mean, I had ‘em for three YEARS before I ever bothered to listen to ‘em.
Now, I’m not about to tell you that Newbury Park’s album is great. It’s good sunshine pop, full of breezy melodies and sumptuous girl-on-girl…er, I mean girl and boy harmonies. Or so I’ve been told. I still haven’t gotten past that cover. Speaking personally, and this is just my own opinion of course, but that right there is my 60’s dream come true. Two of the most AMAZING hotties in folk pop history, the perfect pair of hippie chicks – and if I were alive back then, I’d have gone to EVERY ONE of their concerts, even if they sang nothing but old sea shanties. I don’t know what’s BEST about this photo – the sexy come-hither look of the slightly-sluttier version of Michelle Phillips, the impossibly perky, gravity-defying shirt on the button-cute brunette, or the fact that these mega-babes are actually hanging out with two guys I KNOW I can take. I mean, LOOK at those guys! They HAVE to be the girls’ brothers, right? There’s no way in H*#@ a love goddess in tight striped pants would EVER hang out with Kevin Costner’s dad, right? Where’s my time machine, forgodsake?
Should you ever go so far as to actually PLAY this album (while staring at the cover), you’ll find some very pleasant gentle soft pop and breezy summershine grooves. But again, there’s four band members on the cover and one instrument – an acoustic guitar – so what were you expecting, speed metal? “Afternoon Sky” is a great calliope circus ride of soft pop, while “I Wanna Come Home” is a slightly drunken-sounding Mamas and Papas clone that tells the story of a soldier writing home to Mom. And Newbury Park’s cover of the Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine” is breezy soft pop heaven – with four-part “ba ba ba” harmonies replacing the original sitar. It’s all deliriously happy, swinging sunshine pop bliss – just the kind of stuff you’d probably play if you were trying to get into a hot young brunette’s tight-fitting striped bellbottoms and you happened to look like Kevin Costner’s dad with a bad comb-over. Hey, don’t laugh – it looked like it worked.
Now, I’m not trying to reduce Newbury Park’s album to just another slab of T&A – okay, maybe I am – but look, this stuff’s just as good as any other soft pop coed harmony pop outfit – the Green Lyte Sunday, for example, or the Love Generation, or the Free Design, for that matter. But if you got two hot babes in your band, it’s just Smart Marketing 101 that you take advantage of it. But lemme just reiterate, Newbury Park is MORE than just T and A – even when the T is as mesmerizing as it is on the brunette – rest assured all you sunshine pop Fading Yellow Soft Sounds for Gentle People lovers will find a bounty of beautiful new tunes on this record. These ladies DESERVE to be taken seriously as musicians, and as talented vocalists who, together, create a sound that’s as smooth and breezy as a summer’s day in 1968. Now ladies, please. Give me a call sometime, okay?
SQUID POP METER SEZ: A Solid Ten (...he wishes)
BEST TAKEN WITH: Patchoulli, Weed and all the Rufies You Can Find