Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Gee, What A Sap I Was ...

In a recent summit meeting of finer minds in the comments section, I loftily dismissed late Spirit albums as generic hard rock, and not worth the time. It's a standard Rock Snob reflex. Strictly speaking - and who wants sloppy speaking? - we're really talking about two albums here, Rapture In The Chambers and Tent Of Miracles, both from the ass end of the eighties. In the spirit (swidt?) of critical objectivity, I decided to re-audition these albums in th' Conversation Pit O' Sound©, to see if the wiser perspective of maturity like what I got (out th' ass) would shine a different, softer light on the music.

Rapture gets a kicking for its "over-produced sound" and synthesizers, and being from the eighties. Well, yep, all that, but ... it sounds great. It does. If we have to have eighties music, and I suppose we do, it should sound like this finely detailed Randy California production. The man knew his way around a studio. That period drum sound, usually so flatly metronomic and irritating, becomes a tribal heartbeat in Cass's capable hands. John Locke's synth isn't overplayed, and remain untouched most of the time. A few of the songs do qualify as generic hard rock, but there's some first-tier Randy California material here, thoughtful, imaginative, and atmospheric. Plus also too: great title, great cover. Their last major label release, as it didn't impress floppy-haired synth-pop fans, and such Spirit fans as were left had mostly wandered away into th' fog after the half-assed nothing-burger of The Thirteenth Dream. If you were one of them, as I was, then please do give it a spin on th' Victrola. It's a swell Spirit album, and deserves its place in the canon.

The following year's Tent Of Miracles limped out on a non-label with a toxic cover [at right - Ed.] that actively terminated any remaining chances of sales.
I mean - what the actual fuck? Couldn't they have found someone, anyone, who knew what a Spirit album should look like? This would shame a bootleg. Plus point - it cost them nothing. Minus point - it cost them everything. The stupid fucks. Because lurking in this shitty package is another great album. With another great title. And now, thanks to th' graphic genius available on tap at th' House O' Foam©, it's got a cover that doesn't make you blow chunks. I posted it at the top to lure in thumbnail clickers.

The sound is stripped-down after Rapture, as is the line-up. Mike Nile's playing, singing and writing is an asset, and the whole deal slips down a treat. As much as I like their last album California Blues (which is to say, not a whole bunch) it doesn't have the cohesiveness or *gulp* artistic integrity - blues covers? - of these two. I was wrong about them, and it's a great pleasure to catch up.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Birthday Boners

Yeppers! It's my birthday! To mark this auspicious occasion, th' House O' Foam© offers a couple of swell recordings you'll be proud to display in den or lobby!

We have to thank Fourth Or Fifth Guy Scott1669 for the heads-up to the Smithsonian Legacy Recording At The Waleback by Robbie "The Werewolf" Robison. Who he? Hoo hah? He was married to Barbara/Sandy/Sandi Robison [see Roses Gone - Ed.], and after honing his showbiz chops as the US's premier (and possibly only) beatnik monster comedy folksinger he joined the innerezdingk band The Brain Train, which morphed into the awesome Clear Light. But after he left. Hmm.

Completing today's exquisitely tasteful boners bouquet of song is Patrick Sky's immortal classic Songs That Made America Famous, and you really should audition this one alone, too. Which won't be a problem if you're in solitary, of course. I'm a-skeered to even type out some of the song titles from this biscuit, but if you want something to sweep away those Millennial Blues, this will work against the woke.

Happy Birthday to me!

The Kurse Of The Kaftan

Ignoring their mothers' advice, The Tokens ate a bunch of blotter after their It's A Happening World album (already FoamFeatured©) made them the psychedelic darlings of absolutely nobody, and delivered the riskily-titled Intercourse to their label, confident it would carry them to the top of the charts on a wave of lysergic bliss. They should have listened to their mothers. And their management. And their label, who, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, ushered them gently out into the street and changed the locks.

The album runs through seventeen song fragments in twenty-seven minutes, averaging 1.6 minutes per fragment. Sporadically issued and re-issued since, it's inevitably been hailed as a lost psychedelic classic. It ain't that. It's a pleasant curio you'll play a few times, enjoying the Smiley Smile vibe. Good enough.

Meanwhile, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart saw The Monkees on their Head trip and decided to do their own, releasing It's All Happening On The Inside (man) to mild indifference from both their teenybopper fanbase (well-served by two superb previous albums) and the hippies. The same pleasing-no-one career move as The Monkees, and The Tokens. And The Happenings. And just about any other pop group struggling into a kaftan before it got out of style. As you'd expect from these guys, you get professional audio entertainment. Good enough, and sometimes good enough is just swell.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Staff News

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the departure of Cody from th' House O' Foam©. Again. Her feckless and lackadaisical attitude to work, and her callous indifference to the needs of you, th' Four Or Five Guys©, resulted in an entire album being wrongly uploaded [Peggy Lipton - Ed.] causing Monahoohah much inconvenience, wasted time, and personal embarrassment down at Manny's Tire & Lube.

I generously gave Cody time to clear her desk (Happy Meal toys, mostly) and had security escort her off the premises.

Thank you for your understanding.

Meet Th' Monk

Thelonious Monk is frequently the rock fan's third gateway drug into jazz, after Miles and Coltrane (as noted before here, never refer to Miles as Davis, nor Coltrane as John, if you want your jazz cred to remain intact). By far the most interesting and sympathetic of the three in terms of attitude, technique and personality, his music has something maybe unique among his bop peers - a sense of humor. Not laugh-out-loud comedy - Monk (never Thelonious) never plays it for laughs, but wit is there in his idiosyncratic composition and playing. In spite of its "difficult" reputation, his music is fun, more likely to bring an attractively wry smile to your lips than a furrow to your brow.

Here's his earliest recording sessions from 1947, as "curated" [compiled - Ed.] for the 2001 Rudy Van Gelder reissue, and as a bonus, something I thought I was going to loathe but love to bits - last year's "re-imagining" [interpretation - Ed.] of his music by "Mast" [Tim Conley - Ed.], using contemporary recording techniques, beats, and feats. It's as fantastic as that exquisite cover art would lead you to hope, and shows, seventy-two freakin' years on, that Monk's music is truly timeless.

Swell jazztertainment for Sunday!

Millennial Music News

Boduf Songs (me neither) have a new album out! Oboy! It's called Abyss Versions, and here's some highlights culled from its accompanying text! Just in case you're wondering, this is not a parody.

... songs are stripped bare and trembling ... whispery nakedness. Existential angst binds the album together ... begins in a vortex and ends in a void ... not just thematically but with a palpable shiver ... alienated, evocative, full of murmured violence ... a scream that is sighed ... disquieting ... extremes of horror, despair and dystopia ... one isolated lonely voice, musing on how “fingers break, flowers fall.” Let the chill run down your spine, let the melancholy linger, Abyss Versions speaks to your quietest, deepest doubts.

Some fun, huh? I wonder what they'll pull for the single? Call me old-fashioned, but I preferred it when album sleeves detailed what the group liked in the way of girls and food. Not for the first time, I have to ask myself what is wrong with these people? They seem to have entirely lost the idea of music as entertainment, and entertainment as a business like any other - best left to professionals.

Normal service resumed later in the day.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Roses Gone

Sandy Robison sang with FMF© faves The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. This collection of recordings featuring the PBC was released with the world's worst cover a few years back. I can't even bring myself to post it, it's so damn ugly. So I done did a new one, and changed the title an' everything. You'll groove to its sunshine pop vibe.

Peggy Lipton starred in TV's hip The Mod Squad, and made a bunch of swell recordings, too. Much later, she made a surprise appearance in Twin Peaks. The roses were gone for her as a child, but remember her this way, as a blurred Kodachrome summer.

Peggy and Sandy, th' House O' Foam© thanks you. Drop by any time.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lost Music From A Lost Boy

Lewis Taylor is a genuine oddity. A massively talented musician, vocalist and arranger, his composing skills fell just slightly short of getting the hits he deserved. He started his musical career touring with a late-model Edgar Broughton Band. Why? We shall never know. Debuting his recording career as the whimsydelic© Sheriff Jack, he recorded two albums and a couple of mini-albums in '86/'87, of which I have only Let's Be Nonchalant (the internet knows Sheriff Jack Shit about this stuff).

Then he swerved inexplicably into blue-eyed soul, releasing his first album under his own name (oops, sorry, eponymous - nearly had my Rock Music Writer card taken away from me there), but even universally enthusiastic critics couldn't make it fly from the racks. There's a swell review here https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/w428/ In the likely event of your not having the energy to click and read - who has the time? - it calls it the "album that everybody talked about but few bought ... a slow-burning secret."

He followed it with more of the similar, in a confusing discography of international variations, none of which brought him the fame you - and he - might have thought due. Lesser talents (the tune-dodging clothes-horse Lenny Kravitz, for example) had greater success.

Then something dark happened in the life of Lewis Taylor, and he "retired from the music business." The Lost Album, a gorgeous homage [Fr. cheese - Ed.] to Surf's Up-era Beach Boys, was assembled for a belated release to gasps of wonder from those who loved his work and indifference from everybody else.

As a postscript, he left possibly the most baffling and left-field project in the history of recorded music - a cover version of Trout Mask Replica. A startling piece of work, neither slavishly accurate nor lazily loose, it remains unfinished, and doesn't appear on any discography I can find.

Here's what I have - not a complete œuvre [Fr. egg - Ed.], but all of it worth a listen. The Lost Album gets regular spins in the FMF© Conversation Pit O' Sound©, and makes Cody go all dreamy. Play it next time you pitch woo at your main squeeze.

Even Back Then ...

Thursday, October 10, 2019

He Played Percussion On Goat's Head Soup!

Electronic music! It's so futuristic! The thing with this stuff, if it can be said to be a thing, is that it's impossible to tell if it's "good" or not, even in relation to other music of the genre. It qualifies as sound over noise because it has been created and organized through an artistic process, but is it music? This kind of argument seemed to matter a few years back. Now, nobody gives a fuck. Futuristic music is a thing of the past, as retro as ray guns and personal autogyros.

Nic/Nik Raicevik/Pascal somehow finagled himself a major-label (Buddah qualifies) release for his first album, but credited it to Head, clearing up any ambiguity by titling its three lengthy tracks Cannabis Sativa, Methedrine, and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. Happy times! It also came with a coloring book, a nice touch as many of its listeners were only allowed crayons.

Claims for him being some kind of sonic pioneer don't stand up to scrutiny, though. Head was released in 1970, three years after the Monkees premiered the Moog in a pop context and two after their Head project. Yes, the Monkees did everything first and best! [See Tear The Top Right Off Your Million Dollar Head, March - Ed.]

When the suits at Buddah realised that avant-garde hard drug advocacy wasn't the hoped-for cash cow after their bubblegum music bubble burst, they kicked his sorry ass to the curb, and over the next five years he released a string of albums on his own Narco label (see a pattern yet?), all of them featuring his gorgeously lurid pulp S.F. paintings.

And here they are. "Do not listen to this music if you are stoned", as he cheekily warns on the sticker, the scamp.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

French Music From France, In French

L'Affaire Louis Trio and Les Innocents were France's answer to Britpop, which wasn't a question. France never had a strong pop group tradition, favoring solo artists, and neither group came from Paris, so their success came as a welcome surprise, seemingly out of nowhere - at least to Parisians, who tend not to look beyond the périphérique, the grim ring road that acts as a wall to keep out the rest of France, and the world. From the eighties into the nineties L'ALT and Les Inno sent hits up the charts, lighting up the radio with infectious tunes and making it seem like l'âge d'or [Fr. big door - Ed.] of pop group pop. Unfortunately, they didn't start a tradition, and French pop, with some exceptions, refocused on solo artists.

L'ALT started out making jumpy disco and dancehall pop, but quickly matured into a band capable of delivering one of the finest concept albums ever made anywhere, Mobilis In Mobile, which means, before Ed. sticks his nose in, free in a free world. Sorta. It's the Latin motto adopted by Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. Older readers may remember when Nemo wasn't a fish. As you might expect, L'ALT are a bunch of boulevard intellectuals, and this album is fathoms deeper than Yellow Submarine (thank God). But what hits you is the giddy melodic joy, the thrilling production, the sheer boggling quality of the thing, from the beautifully constructed cover to the last submarine bell. How can a single album contain so many great hooks, song after song? It is fucking brilliant.

Les Innocents were a dryer bunch, with a yearning quality to much of their work, and not as adroit with a melody, but there's a lovely element of classic pop jangle, Gallicized with a little squeezebox and tasteful strings. Fous à Lier is maybe their best album, with their best song, L'Autre Finistère, which packs a universally understandable emotional punch.

These albums are as good as pop group pop gets, which is to say, as good as music gets. Vive le pop!