It's getting close to Halloween, and with Halloween comes a few traditions. First, I always watch at least the first Halloween movie on Mischief Night, over the past few years it has turned into a full on Halloween marathon consisting of as many movies in the series I can stay awake for. The second is, since college, I've gone to a show every October 31st. Two years ago it was World Inferno's Hallowmas, last year it was The Flaming Tsunamis/The Fad/Hostage Calm/My Heart To Joy/Coldsnap in Connecticut and this year I'm going to Hallowmas again. The third tradition is that I start listening to a lot of Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig. Nobody gets me pumped for Halloween quite like Glenn Danzig. So in the spirit of my favorite holiday this post is all about Danzig.
Glenn Danzig is a personal hero of mine. He's a run of the mill Jersey kid who made it big and all on his own terms. He also kept a variety in his career, never sticking to one sound for too long. His story starts in 1955 in Lodi, New Jersey. He grew up as an outsider, liking "dorky" things like comic books and b-movies. He formed the Misfits in 1977. They went through many lineup changes, had a handful of releases and broke up in 1983. In 1984 he began work on his next project which would be called Samhain. The band released 2 LP's and 1 EP, then around 1987 morphed in the band Danzig. Danzig released its first album in 1988, and the band has continued ever since though Glenn Danzig is the only original member remaining. On top of these three bands, which account for the vast majority of his work, he has also released a solo 7", 1981's "Who Killed Marilyn" b/w "Spook City USA", had the song "You and Me(Less Than Zero)" appear on the Less Than Zero Soundtrack credited to Glenn Danzig & The Power and Fury Orchestra, though it's actually played by the everyone in the original lineup of Danzig except Eerie Von. He has also released two CD's of classical compositions called Black Aria and Black Aria II released in 1992 and 2006, respectively.
The Misfits formed in 1977. I'm not going to go into much of this history, because I'd have to name a ton of people who went in and out of that band over the 6 years they were together. I'm not going to go release by release either, because they put out a fair amount of 7"s that are so incredibly rare I doubt I'll ever own them and some of them are so rare I'll probably never even see one in real life. I'm instead going to talk about what's available on CD and what I know about them off the top of my head. In order to have as complete of a Misfits discography as you can you need 3 things: The Box Set, Static Age, and Walk Among Us.
The Box Set has almost everything in it. It is 4 discs and contains Collection, Collection 2, Evilive, Earth A.D., Legacy of Brutality, Static Age, and a disc of unreleased demos. It's a lot of music. It runs the gamut of the entire Misfits lifespan, from the very first 7" ("Cough Cool" b/w "She" which was never released in their original mixes before) through the 7"s, the Static Age Sessions, and their hardcore period when they released Earth A.D. It does not contain their final LP, Walk Among Us due to licensing issues but it does contain every song on that album found throughout the collections and the disc of unreleased demo sessions. This set was also the first time the Static Age sessions were ever released in their entirety. A lot of it had made its way onto 7"s and compilations like Collection and Legacy of Brutality, but some were still unreleased. It is my favorite Misfits material, however, you really need to get the reissue by itself.
Static Age is my favorite Misfits release. It was recorded during 1978, my personal favorite time period of the band, and contains some of my favorite Misfits songs, including "Bullet," "Angelfuck," "Hybrid Moments," and "Last Caress." The CD reissue is necessary because it was remastered and expanded after its original release with the box set. Not only is the sound remarkably better but they give you 3 songs that were claimed to have been found since the release of the box set. Those songs are "She", "Spinal Remains" and "In The Doorway." The last track is studio outtakes, like an audio blooper reel from the recording sessions.
Last on the list is Walk Among Us, their final LP, released in 1982. One year earlier, the Misfits had dabbled in hardcore with Earth A.D. and it was great. For this album they took that hardcore and mixed it with the classic Misfits sound for the most varied release of their career. It went from classics like "Skulls" and "Night of the Living Dead" to really heavy hardcore with "All Hell Breaks Loose" and the live version of "Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?" All of it is amazing and absolutely necessary for any Misfits fan.
Samhain was Danzig's next band. They formed out of the ashes of the Misfits. Originally, the band featured Brian Baker and Lyle Preslar, formerly of Minor Threat. Neither of them remained in the band for very long, although Preslar's guitar can be heard on four tracks on the band's debut album, Initium ("Black Dream" "Macabre" "Horror Biz" and "The Shift). The band was a transitional band for Glenn Danzig. The sound was much darker than the Misfits, but not yet the outright blues/metal sound he would perfect once changing the band's name to Danzig in 1988.
Samhain released Initium in 1984, Unholy Passion in 1985, November Coming Fire in 1986, and Final Descent, a posthumous collection of unreleased material, in 1990. All of this can be found in the Samhain Box Set, along with a live CD featuring 2 shows, one from 1985 and another from 1986. The box set also contains a VHS (it's never been updated from VHS to DVD) of a few live shows which were heavily bootlegged, and a reprint of a Samhain comic book.
Samhain is an interesting period of Glenn Danzig's career. It usually goes overlooked and is his least celebrated work. Don't let that fool you though, the music is great. It's got the horror-themed lyrics you loved in the Misfits but the music is much darker and heavier. They also reworked a few Misfits classics ("Horror Business" "All Hell Breaks Loose" and "Halloween II").
In 1988, Glenn Danzig changed Samhain's name to Danzig when they signed on to Rick Rubin's Def American label. The band now featured Glenn Danzig on vocals, Eerie Von on bass, John Christ on guitar, and the legendary Chuck Biscuits on drums. There was also a distinct shift in style. The band now played bluesy riff-based metal. Danzig are still playing together and occasionally release albums, however this original band only lasted through 1994. In that time Danzig released four amazing albums, Danzig in 1988, Danzig II: Lucifuge in 1990, Danzig III: How The Gods Kill in 1992, and Danzig IV in 1994. All four of those albums are great, though the first two are really essential. Those two albums were landmark albums in Glenn Danzig's career and in what was happening in metal at the time. The metal genre mostly consisted of thrash bands at the time, and the stoner metal scene was just beginning, but not many bands were bringing it back to the basics and just focusing on a good, heavy, and bluesy guitar riff.
All of this music is great year-round, but every October when I start getting psyched on Halloween I start listening to copious amounts of Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I've been a huge Black Sabbath fan since I was an awkward 7th grade boy. I got into Ozzy's solo stuff first because Down To Earth had just come out, which is actually a really good album. Then I got the Ozzman Cometh best of which had two early Sabbath demos of "Black Sabbath" and "War Pigs." When I heard the riff from "Black Sabbath" I fell in love. I knew I needed to immediately go out get all of their albums. Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, and Bill have been a huge part of my life ever since. Every time I'm walking or biking around at night, I listen to Black Sabbath or Masters of Reality. From the 1970 debut all the way to Heaven and Hell with Ronnie James Dio, I've spent more hours than I could possibly ever recount listening to Sabbath. After a while I started to wonder where this music came from, who were the bands that were playing this heavy music who influenced Sabbath, and which other bands from the 70s were playing this heavy music at the same time or slightly after. Sabbath are called the fathers of heavy metal, but it couldn't have come out of nowhere. I was a little surprised when I found out where Sabbath got there sound from (though now that I'm older and wiser it makes perfect sense)...it came from the blues.
Sabbath started out as a blues band who experimented with heavy riffs. From there, I started to discover other heavy bands based in the blues, namely Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer formed in 1966 in San Francisco and were extremely radical in that they combined the blues with hard rock and psychedelia. Some of you might be saying to yourself, it's not that radical, Cream were doing it at the same time...Well, Blue Cheer were doing it much heavier and freakier than Cream. They could go from a straight ahead blues rock tune to the craziest, distorted freakouts being made at that time. Their first two albums, Vincebus and Outside Inside, both released in 1968, are essential listening. No other band at the time or since has done it quite like Blue Cheer, and every band based in blues rock, especially the entire stoner metal scene with bands such as Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, etc. owe a lot to Blue Cheer for paving the way more than 40 years ago.
Then there was the MC5. Though the MC5 are considered more of a proto-punk band than a proto-metal band like Blue Cheer, they used the blues as a starting point for creating something much heavier which is why I would argue they were both. All you have to do is listen to "Borderline" "I Want You Right Now" and "Come Together" to hear what I'm talking about. Though all three of their albums are great, their 1969 live debut Kick Out The Jams is essential, and fits the proto-metal sound I'm talking about best. (I reviewed this album in my 1969 article).
Now fast forward one year. The '60s are over, having officially died on December 6, 1969 at the Altamont festival organized by the Rolling Stones. With this new decade came heavier music. Black Sabbath released their first two albums in 1970. Two other bands also released their debut albums in 1970, and these albums should have been huge but for some reason just faded into obscurity. The first was Wishbone Ash, a British rock band formed in 1969. Their self titled debut album released in 1970 was grounded in the blues but it had an edge to it that set it apart from the other British blues rock bands of their time, such as Fleetwood Mac and Cream. It was heavier than what was going on in pop music but today it just sounds more like a blues rock album than a hard rock album because of how hard rock and metal have progressed. The band also sported two lead guitarists. Their twin lead format was really incredible and the vocals were very bluesy. Their first album, which sported 6 songs in 42 minutes was their crowning achievement. After this album they moved on to softer territory incorporating folk into their sound, and from then on they were never as heavy again.
The second band, Sir Lord Baltimore, formed in 1968 in Brooklyn. They released two albums, Kingdom Come and Sir Lord Baltimore in 1970 and 1971 respectively. These guys were HEAVY. They, along with Sabbath, were some of the first people to get really heavy and write bone crunching, distorted riffs. They also straddled the line, keeping it really bluesy while also making it distinctly heavy metal, as you can hear on heavy metal blues freakouts "I Got A Woman" and "Hell Hound" off the first album. In addition, they also did straight up heavy metal in songs like "Kingdom Come" from the first album and "Where Are We Goin" and "Woman Tamer" from the second album. These two albums are incredible from start to finish. They were both reissued on one CD, but that reissue is long out of print. If you ever come across a copy, GET IT.
There was another band who embodied the early heavy metal sound perfectly. They were second only to Black Sabbath themselves. The band was called Pentagram. I felt they deserved their own article, so stay tuned for more 70's metal, because if you were at all interested in this article you'll need to hear about Pentagram...
Monday, August 31, 2009
One of my favorite NJ hardcore bands is reuniting for a show at the Asbury Lanes at the end of the month, so I figured I'd write an article about them because I don't think they get enough recognition. I also figured I might as well advertise the show as well (assuming someone's actually reading this). So...
Rorschach formed in 1989 with Charles Maggio on vocals, Andrew Gormley on drums, Nick Forte on guitar, Keith Huckins on guitar, and Chris Laucella on bass. Laucella stayed with the band until 1991, when he was replaced by Tom Rusnack who stayed with the band until they called it quits in 1993. The back cover of their discography CD sums up the band very succinctly: "Rorschach existed from May 1989 until August 1993. Their first show was in August of 1989 at the Pipeline in New Jersey with Chain of Strength, Insight, Turning Point, and Poor Excuse. 25 people attended that show. 247 shows, 3 tours, and 31 songs later Rorschach played their last show on July 31, 1993 in the Basement of Mama Joe's Pizza in Kent Ohio with Spork and Splinter. 20 people attended this show."
In the band's lifetime they released two albums (Remain Sedate in 1990 and Protestant in 1992), three 7"singles (a split 7" with Neanderthan in 1990, Needlepack in 1991, and a split with 1.6 band in 1992), and two exclusive songs on two different compilation albums( Fear of Smell and God's Chosen People). Almost everything was compiled in 1995 for the band's discography CD called Autopsy released on singer Charles Maggio's own label, Gern Blandsten. Later, in 2001, Maggio released a Rorschach live album consisting of a show recorded in Italy in 1992. Also, specifically for this reunion the band released both full lengths as a limited edition double LP.
I'm not gonna go through this band's discography item by item like I've done in the past, but suffice to say EVERYTHING is worth owning. This band is one of the heaviest bands I've ever heard and I've yet to hear someone scream as well as Chuck Maggio. My personal favorite songs include "Pavlov's Dog" from the Remain Sedate LP, their cover of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" from the God's Chosen People comp, "Bone Marrow Biopsy" from the Needlepack 7", and their cover of Black Flag's "My War" from their split 7" with 1.6 Band. I'm not entirely sure what happened to Gern Blandsten, whether they're still operating or not, but I believe the Rorschach CD is out of print. All of the original vinyl is long out of print as well, but not too hard to find if you look hard enough. As an interesting side note, more than a few bands list Rorschach as a big influence, the big famous on is Converge.
Fast forward to New Brunswick, 1994 and Rorschach guitar player Keith Huckins is now in a new band called Deadguy. Deadguy built on the Rorschach sound keeping the heavy as fuck attitude but making the music more technical. They were also influenced by one of my favorite metal bands, Unsane. For their first 7", the band consisted of Crispy (Chris Corvino) on guitar and vocals, Dave Rosenberg on drums, Pops (Tim Naumann) on bass, Keith Huckins on guitar, and Trim (Tim Singer) on vocals. That 7" was 1994's White Meat 7" which contained the songs "Extremist", "Druid" and "John Dear." These three songs are such an incredible debut they need to be heard to be believed. Later that year they released the Work Ethic 7" which again contained three songs that will blow your head off. Both of these singles were repackaged on CD as the Work Ethic EP.
From there, with two 7"s under their belts, they singed to Victory Records and put out a full length. Fixation on a Coworker was released in 1995. It's louder, heavier, faster, and angrier than the 7"s, and it kicks ass for a half hour. By the end of the tour they did supporting this album, the band was split. It was Dave, Crispy, and Pops against Keith and Tim. Keith and Tim ended up quitting the band and moving to Seattle, where they would form a new band, but before we talk about that band, Deadguy still had one EP left in them. Pops switched to vocals, and they recruited Tom Yak and Jim Baglino to play second guitar and bass, respectively. The EP they made was called Screamin with the Deaguy Quintet, and it came out on Victory in 1996. While not as instantly classic as Fixation, it's still really good. It has more of a metal sound than hardcore sound this time and Pops' voice works really well. The band called it quits the following year, playing their last show in May of 1997 in New Brunswick.
Kiss It Goodbye
After leaving Deadguy in 1996, Tim Singer and Keith Huckins formed Kiss It Goodbye with Huckins' former Rorschach bandmates Andrew Gormley and Tom Rusnack. Soon after forming they moved to Seattle and signed to Revelation Records. Their first release was their only full length, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not... in 1997. The album builds on what they had done with Rorschach and Deaguy, and it would have worked as a really good followup to Fixation on a Coworker for Deadguy had the band not split up. It takes the sound they had on Fixation and slows it down just a bit, giving it just a touch more atmoshphere and suspense in the music while Tim Singer screams his fucking head off at you for 45 minutes straight. After the album, Revelation released the "Preacher"/"Target Practice" 7". The two songs were from the She Loves Me sessions, but were left off the album. After a tour with Unsane and Obituary in 1997, Huckins left the band, and was replaced by Demian Johnston. They recorded an EP in 1998, but then according to Johnston, Tim Singer only wanted to tour once a year and the rest of the guys wanted more out of it so they went their separate ways.
That's some of the musical lineage stemming from Rorschach. Nick Forte put out a few solo ambient LP's and some of the members have gone on to other bands as well, so if you dug what you read, go out and keep searching for more. Maybe I'll see you in Asbury at the reuinon...
UPDATE: I got home from the Rorschach reunion show a few hours ago and it was incredible. Torchbearer were amazing, and the drummer was in Deadguy back in the day. Black Kites were also really good. Rorschach's set, however, was life-changing. It was honestly one of the most incredible shows I've ever seen and I've seen my fair share of bands play. 20 years later, and they still rocked out like they were 19 years old, flinging their guitars all over the place and jumping around like lunatics. I spent $50 on Rorschach merch and do not regret it at all.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The running joke is that there are a lot of reggae fans out there but only about 10% of them have anything other than Legend. However, on the flip side, there are reggae fans out there who dismiss a lot of Bob Marley's work because he was/is internationally famous (it's not like he ever pulled an Inner Circle and went from classics like "Tenement Yard" and the Killer Dub and Heavyweight Dub albums to doing "Bad Boys" and "Sweat"), and everyone equates him as the personification of reggae music. There is a happy medium and that's what I'm going to be writing about tonight.
Bob Marley brought reggae to a wider(whiter) audience and though he wasn't the first (Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" was a number one hit in the UK, and Johnny Nash had a few reggae hits in America even if he wasn't actually Jamaican) he did it on a much more massive level with his albums on Island Records. However, there is more than Exodus and Legend so I'm going to explore the Wailer's musical realm and hopefully you'll come across a few new gems in the process. If not, maybe you'll pick up some interesting info on these classic albums.
The Wailers-African Herbsman
This is a compilation album put out by Trojan Records in 1973. The Wailer's gained commercial recognition with Catch A Fire, their Island Records debut, but they had actually released a few albums before that. One was a ska record for Coxsonne Dodd's Studio One label in 1965 called The Wailing Wailers. Their next album was called Soul Rebels, this time for Lee "Scratch" Perry's Upsetter label. Both are great and highly reccomended, but African Herbsman compiles tracks from their second album for Scratch called Soul Revolution, which came out in 1971, with a few singles from the period. Actually, all but 2 songs from the Soul Revolution album found their way onto the set. Not only is this classic Wailer's material (a lot of these songs would end up resurfacing on their Island albums) but its got that classic Upsetter production. Many people consider the Wailer's time with Lee Perry to be their best and I have a hard time disagreeing with them. Just listening to "Put It On," "Kaya," and "African Herbsman" will prove it. While I am a fan of Marley's later work, none of the re-recordings of these songs recapture the beauty of these original versions. The CD reissue also offers up 10 bonus tracks, including a Peter Tosh melodica instrumental called "Memphis" and 9 dubs and versions, including a deejay version of "Keep On Moving" done by Big Youth.
Also of note, there was a dub companion to Soul Revolution
aptly titled Soul Revolution Part II. It is considered the dub
companion to the album, however there is no echo or delay or anything
to hint at the dub albums Perry would release in the following years.
They are actually just the rhythms, with the vocals turned down,
though still audible in many cases. This album was reissued as
Upsetter Revolution Rhythm with a bonus version of "Kaya".
The Wailers-Catch A Fire
This was the album that "started it all." It was The Wailers' Island Records debut, released in 1973 (though, like all of Marley's work for Island, it was released by his own Tuff Gong label in Jamaica). It really is a classic album from start to finish. There are remnants of Lee Perry's guidance, but the music lacks the Upsetter feel which dominated the African Herbsman and Soul Rebels material, which is neither good nor bad. The band has instead found their own sound. I'm not sure whether this was the case for their entire Island catalog, but for Catch A Fire there was a Jamaican version of the album, and a version for rest of the world. The album which was released in Jamaica was played by a band consisting of Marley on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Peter Tosh on piano, organ, guitar, and vocals, Bunny Wailer on congas, bongos, and vocals, Aston "Family Man" Barrett on bass, and Carly Barrett on drums, with Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths providing backing vocals. This version was released as disc 1 of the Catch A Fire Deluxe Edition. It also contains two songs not included in the final Island record, the beautiful "High Tide or Low Tide" and "All Day All Night." For the "English" version, Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records, enlisted the help of some session musicians to add instrumentation which he felt would appeal more to rock fans which included lead guitar played by John "Rabbit" Bundrick, synth played by Wayne Perkins, and more percussion and organ. Also Robbie Shakespeare (of Sly and Robbie fame) overdubbed a new bass part on "Concrete Jungle." While I prefer the more organic feeling Jamaican version, there is nothing wrong with the alternate version. Also, Peter Tosh wrote and sang two songs on this album: "400 Years" and "Stop That Train." While Bob Marley was the frontman, Peter and Bunny were also important parts of the group.
As a fun vinyl note, the original pressing of the LP came packaged like a Zippo. The top third was on a hinge and actually opened up like a Zippo to reveal the disc and the Zippo flame. This design had to be done by hand and became too expensive so only 20,000 were made. All subsequent pressings were pressed as the instantly recognizable photo of Marley smoking a massive spliff. Needless to say, they have become collectors items. The cheapest I've seen them go for on the internet was $40-50, but they tend to change hands for much higher amounts. I've kept an eye out for a copy for years, so far I haven't had much luck in finding a copy I could afford.
This, the Wailer's second album for Island records, was also released in 1973. This one is much more a collaborative record and also contains a fair amount of re-recorded songs from the African Herbsman material. For this album Peter Tosh wrote and sang "One Foundation" and "No Sympathy" and Bunny Wailer wrote and sang "Hallelujah Time," "Pass It On," "Reincarnated Souls," and "The Oppressed Song." That's 6 out of the 13 songs on the album not sung by Bob Marley and also Tosh sings a verse on "Get Up Stand Up," which happens to be my favorite part of the song. The 3 songs which were recycled for this album are "Put It On" (which was originally recorded for Studio One, then re-recorded for Perry, making this the third version), "Small Axe," and "Duppy Conqueror." The songs are stripped of that signature Upsetter sound, and given a whole new life. Though I prefer the original recordings simply because I am a huge Lee Perry fan, these versions are great as well. They have the roots feel that The Wailer's were perfecting at this time, rather than the crunchy, early reggae style Perry did so well.
This album was also the last album Bob, Peter, and Bunny would do together. After this album the three parted ways, and Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer went on to pursue their own solo careers. The story is that Bob Marley was becoming very ambitious at this point in their career, while Peter and Bunny wanted to spend more time in Jamaica as opposed to the constant touring the band was starting to do due to their rise to fame. After this album The Wailers became Bob Marley and the Wailers, and went on to make such critically acclaimed albums as Natty Dread in 1974, Rastaman Vibration in 1976, and Exodus in 1977. While these are the albums which are generally considered the best and most important, I don't think Marley's music ever topped the music made by the original Wailers, which goes to show how integral Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were to the group though they never became household names like Bob Marley did.
Peter Tosh- The Toughest
This is a collection released by Heartbeat Records compiling nearly all of Peter Tosh's solo recordings for Studio One and Upsetter (only two songs are missing from this set and both are covers from his Studio One years. "Lemon Tree" was released as a single, but according to the liner notes, a decent copy has yet to turn up. He also recorded Dylan's "Blowin In The Wind" but it was never released and the tape couldn't be found). The Studio One songs were recorded between 1963 and 1966, and the Upsetter songs were recorded in the late 1960's/early 1970's. The earlier tracks cover the Ska and early Rocksteady periods while showcasing a heavy R&B/early Rock 'n Roll influence, specifically on tracks like Nina Simone's "Sinner Man," the Temptations' "Don't Look Back" (which he would later re-record in 1978 on his Bush Doctor album as a duet with Mick Jagger), "When the Well Runs Dry" (which is a straight ahead R&B song with no signs of ska or rocksteady anywhere in the recording), and the straight ahead rock 'n roll of "Can't You See" which would have fit right in with anything from the 60's mod scene in England. The Upsetter portion of this set is the early reggae Lee Perry does so well, however it is much more dread minded than what the Wailer's were doing at the time. "Rightful Ruler" is a straight up nyahbinghi, which features a spoken introduction from Tosh, first spoken in Ahmaric then followed by the English translation. It is also an important record, because it was U-Roy's first appearance on wax. Many of these songs would be re-recorded: "Don't Look Back" was re-recorded for Bush Doctor, "When the Well Runs Dry" was re-recorded for Legalize It, "400 Years" was re-recorded for Catch A Fire, "No Sympathy" was re-recorded for Burnin' and Legalize It, "Brand New Secondhand" was re-recorded for Legalize It, and "Downpresser" which is a re-recording of "Sinner Man" was re-recorded for Equal Rights.
note: There is also a Peter Tosh best of called The Toughest which just compiles 10-12 songs from his albums. The CD reviewed above is worth getting, the other best of is not .
Peter Tosh-Bush Doctor
Peter Tosh released his debut album Legalize It in 1976. That album is fairly well known, and the song has become a standard for every weed smoking teenager. He followed that up with the equally classic Equal Rights in 1977. However, it was in 1978 that he released Bush Doctor, his third album in 3 years and the one I find most interesting. When discussing Peter Tosh's post Wailers career, everyone brings up Legalize It, and if it goes any farther than that, Equal Rights will be mentioned, but I hardly ever hear any mention of Bush Doctor. It was Tosh's first album after being signed by the Rolling Stones to their label. In fact, the album opens with a cover of the Temptations' "(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back" with Tosh singing it as a duet with Mick Jagger. The album is a mix of fun reggae songs ("Don't Look Back", "I'm The Toughest", "Soon Come") and spiritual roots ("Moses The Prophet", "Stand Firm", "Creation"). Of course, there is also a song which calls for the legalization of marijuana, "Bush Doctor." Two of my favorite Tosh songs are also found on this album: "Soon Come" and "Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin." "Soon Come" is just a perfectly crafted song, it's catchy, it has great distorted lead guitar which mixes well with the synth and horns, and a female chorus for backgound vocals. "Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin" is a beautifully infectious song. It's got a groove you just can't deny which mixes with a heavenly female chorus singing oooh's and aaah's on top of funky clavinet and horns.
Bunny Wailer- Blackheart Man
Like Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer released his solo debut in 1976. Blackheart Man is a landmark roots album from the opening of track one with Tommy McCook's beautiful flute playing on "Blackheart Man" to the very end of the 8 1/2 minute long "This Train." This is one of the most beautiful roots reggae album ever recorded because of the beautiful songwriting and also Bunny Wailer's beautiful voice, which was one of the best parts of the vocals on the early Wailer's recordings. Wailer re-records 2 of his Wailer's songs for this album with amazing results. "The Oppressed Song" has an added beauty in it's slightly slower tempo, and the addition of the horn section playing the melody between verses instead of the synth found on the Burnin version makes it sound more organic this time around. "Reincarnated Souls" is funkier on this album than it was in its original version. The rhythm is turned around and it's got a funky groove. Bunny's vocals are much more soulful due to his change in phrasing, and once again the addition of horns, especially Tommy McCook's jazzy improvisations during the verses give it a fresh new life. Also of note is Bunny's choice of musicians. He borrowed heavily from past Wailer's musicians, including The Barrett brothers (who played with them during the Upsetter and Island years), Tyron Downie (who played organ on the Island albums), and Tommy McCook and Dirty Harry (who played horns on the Upsetter recordings). Also featured on the album is Peter Tosh playing guitar on almost every track, and lending his vocals to a few, and Bob Marley lending his vocals to "Dreamland." I can't reccomend this album enough.
Monday, July 27, 2009
The Flesh Eaters are a fascinating band in the history of L.A. punk. They aren't as much a band as they are a group of musicians revolving around Chris Desjardins. Chris D. is the singer and and main songwriter for the Flesh Eaters (he wrote nearly every song in the bands catalog). He is considered by many, including myself, to not only be a punk poet but to be one of the most poetic lyricists in L.A. punk, and maybe even American punk in general (the only person who comes to mind who gives him a run for his money is Darby Crash). Chris D. knew how to get his ideas across, whether it was writing Flesh Eaters lyrics or writing for Slash magazine. The band formed in 1977 with the first wave of L.A. punk, and became a Los Angeles punk supergroup with a revolving cast of musicians including members of X, the Plugz, The Eyes, Black Randy, and The Blasters. He is a list of their releases during the original run as a "band" between 1978 and 1983.
Disintegration Nation, Agony Shorthand b/w Radio Dies Screaming, Twisted Road
This single was recorded in the summer of 1978 and was released on Chris D.'s own label, Upsetter Records (an homage to Lee Perry). This 7" contains 4 songs, "Disintegration Nation," "Agony Shorthand," "Radio Dies Screaming," and "Twisted Road." "Disintegration Nation" is one of the best Flesh Eaters songs, and one of the classic L.A. punk songs of all time. Chris D.'s vocals are in great form, the music is loud, fast, blaring, and yet has one of the catchiest melodies of the early Flesh Eaters canon. "Agony Shorthand" is another classic. The verses have the idiosyncratic guitar melody and seemingly offbeat vocals, but when the chorus kicks in it turns into a catchy punk sing along: "It's alright with me/It's alright with me" etc. "Radio Dies Screaming" fits in with the early L.A. punk scene better than the other three songs on this single, while "Twisted Road" hits at the roots rock tendencies which would emerge some years later.
Tooth and Nail Compilation
This compilation was released in 1979 on Chris D.'s Upsetter Records. The LP features songs by The Controllers, U.X.A., Negative Trend, Middle Class, The Germs, and 3 songs by the Flesh Eaters. The first two songs, "Word Goes Flesh" and "Pony Dress" were recorded for the compilation. They hint at the sound the band would take on for the upcoming debut album, No Questions Asked. These two songs are also very interesting because of the band members. Pat Garrett (Co-founder of Dangerhouse Records, drummer for the Dils, and guitarist/singer for the Randoms) plays guitar, John Doe, of X, plays bass, DJ Bonebreak, also of X, plays drums, and Exene Cervenka, also of X, contributes background vocals. Basically, all of X but guitarist Billy Zoom are on these two songs. The third song is called "Version Nation." It is a different version of "Disintegration Nation" in which Chris D. kept all of the original music but re-recorded the vocals.
No Questions Asked
This album was recorded and released in 1980, also on Upsetter Records. This was the band's debut full length. There is not a cohesive band throughout the entire album, different people play on different songs. Featured throughout the album are Joe Ramirez (of the Eyes and Black Randy's band), Pat Garrett (of the Randoms, the Dils, and co-founder of Dangerhosue Records), John Richey (of the Eyes), John Doe (of X), "Maddog" Karla Barrett (of the Controllers), Joe Nanini (of the Eyes), DJ Bonebreak (of X), and Judith Bell (writer/artist who also did the album cover for the Gun Club's Fire of Love album). The album has fast, spastic punk songs (like "Police Gun Jitters" and "Jesus Don't Come Through the Cotton"), more straight ahead, mid-tempo, melodic punk songs ("Suicide Saddle" and "Crazy Boy"), and Chris D. and co. even dabble in reggae with "Cry Baby Killer" which clocks in at 4 minutes and 20 second, at least twice as long as any other song on the album. Every song, even the ones which are more reminiscent of what was going on around them in the L.A. punk scene, has that specific Flesh Eaters feel, with weird rhythms, weird melodies, and those signature Chris D. vocals. Considering the entire album is played by musicians with their own bands, sometimes playing with the other musicians from their other bands, to keep such a distinct sound throughout the entire album is nothing short of amazing.
AND as a bonus, the CD reissue also gives you the 3 tracks from the Tooth and Nail comp, the 4 tracks from the Disintegration Nation 7", and the band's very first demo, recorded in 1978 while Tito Larriva was still in the band (he left soon after to form The Plugz).
A Minute To Pray A Second To Die
This album was recorded and released in 1981, and unlike No Questions Asked, features a consistent band. This time around, the band consists of Dave Alvin (of The Blasters) on guitar, John Doe (of X) on bass, Steve Berlin (of The Blasters and later, Los Lobos) on sax, D.J. Bonebreak (of X) on marimbas, snare, and maracas, and Bill Bateman (of The Blasters) on drums. This album sounds NOTHING like anything The Flesh Eaters had done to date. All hints of Los Angeles hardcore are completely gone. If I had to describe it as briefly as possible, I'd have to use what a friend of mine called this album when I showed it to him, "punk rock Zappa." It is not a typical album of any sort, specifically because of the weird rhythmic patterns the Flesh Eaters are known for, and because on this album the melody (or melodious noise in some cases) are in three very different instruments: guitar, marimba, and saxophone. The combination of the three form a very unique sound, that is almost incomparable to anything else I've ever heard, however at the same time, you can hear the roots rock that this particular incarnation of the band are so deeply a part of and in love with (The Blasters were a rockabilly revival band, and X were a punk band who's roots were planted deep in rockabilly and early rock and roll). I feel like this is what rock and roll bands would sound like if I were to die and go to some Beetlejuice-like dimension.
*interesting fact: The song "Cyrano De Berger's Back" is one of the only songs in the Flesh Eater's original history not written by Chris D. It was written by John Doe way back in 1976/1977, and a very early demo of X playing this song in 1977, very differently, can be found on the CD reissue of Los Angeles by X.
Forever Came Today
This album was recorded and released in 1982. Unfortunately this album has never been released on CD, and I haven't yet found myself a vinyl copy. If I do, or if "They" ever decide to release this on CD, I will be sure to include a write up here in this section.
A Hard Road To Follow
This album was recorded and released in 1983, and was the last album to come from the Flesh Eaters' original run. This time the band consisted of Don Kirk on guitar, Robyn Jameson on bass, Chris Wahl on drums and percussion, Jill Jordan with the backing vocals, and Steve Berlin on saxophone for a couple songs. This happens to be the same band as was used on Forever Came Today, the first time in the band's 5 year run that Chris D. used the same band twice. This album is also COMPLETELY different than A Minute To Pray. It's very heavily based in roots rock this time, as opposed to just being an influence you could pick out. This makes A Hard Road To Follow the most conventional rock album of their career (although it still has that Flesh Eater's deathrock sound, it's less prominent on most of the songs). This album also features two very interesting covers. The first is "Rhymes" by Al Green, and it just might be my favorite song on the entire album. The second is "I Take What I Want" by Sam & Dave, and it features great duet vocals between Chris D. and Jill Jordan. Who knew the Flesh Eaters would be able to handle classic soul songs SO well. Besides those two tracks, the standout originals are the album opener, "Life's a Dirty Rat" and "Eyes Without A Face," which was also featured on the soundtrack to the classic punk rock zombie movie Return of the Living Dead (the soundtrack is highly reccomended, featuring bands like The Cramps, Rocky Erickson, Flesh Eaters, Damned, 45 Grave and T.S.O.L.)
The CD Reissue features 5 bonus tracks, including "A Hard Road To Follow" and "Lake Of Burning Fire" which were from the album sessions but not included on the original album, re-recordings of "Pony Dress" from Tooth and Nail and "Impossible Crime" from No Questions Asked, and a version of "Divine Horseman" from A Minute To Pray recorded live in 1982.
Hard Road was released in 1983, and later that year the Flesh Eater's broke up. Chris D. began singing in front of a new band which he called The Divine Horsemen. This band lasted until 1988, then in 1989 he released an album with a band he called Stone by Stone. By this time SST had released a Flesh Eaters greatest hits LP in 1987 called Destroyed By Fire, and Homestead Records released a life album called Flesh Eaters Live in 1988 (which I found an original copy of once in Cambridge, Mass down the street from the Middle East, but it was beat to shit and the store wanted far too much money for it, so I passed it up, which I sometimes regret doing).in 1990, Chris D. started using the Flesh Eaters name again. SST released another greatest hits package called Prehistoric Fits and then in 1991 the Flesh Eaters released their first new album since Hard Road in 1983. They have continued to release albums sporadically over the past 19 years since reforming, but they don't even compare to the revolutionary music this band made from 1977 to 1983.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The Weirdos were one of the most unique bands to come out of the first wave of L.A. punk. They formed in 1976 with the original lineup of John and Dix Denney, Cliff Roman, Dave Trout, and Nickey Beat.
Note: Nickey Beat also did stints with The Cramps, The Germs, The Dickies, and later the L.A. Guns. On top of all of that, as the reigning king of L.A. punk drumming, he filled in on drums for just about every early L.A. punk band when they needed it. At the famous Masque Benefit show at the McArthur Park Elk's Lodge in 1978 he played with at least 3 bands: The Weirdos, The Germs, and The Bags. He also got some face time on the big screen in Penelope Spheeris' punk classic Suburbia as the dorky concert promoter who stops the show when the girl gets her clothes torn off.
According to the liner notes of the CD reissue of Destroy All Music/Who What When Where Why?, the inspiration for the band came from Cliff Roman seeing The New York Dolls and the Stooges at The Whiskey A Go Go, on separate occasions. In 1977 they told Slash magazine, "We're not punks, we're weirdos from Hollyweird." They were punks though, just not playing the kind of music anyone had ever heard before. There were bands in L.A. that had a very heavy New York punk influence and there were bands who obviously worshiped the British bands but the Weirdos were just the Weirdos. Everyone who was their at the time knew immediately that they were special. The infamous Kickboy Face of Slash magazine wrote in 1978, "The Weirdos are one of the most important things to come out of L.A. for a while." Alice Bag of early L.A. punk band The Bags, said this on her website, www.alicebag.com, about the first time she saw them, "The Germs opened the show. They played horribly, but were funny and very interesting to watch. The Zeros played a rocking set, but it was the Weirdos who brought down the house. When they were done playing people were screaming for more."
Here is an annotated discography(to the best of my ability) of the Weirdos recorded output:
Destroy All Music b/w A Life of Crime, Why Do You Exist
This, the Weirdos' debut, was released on Bomp! Records in 1977. The three songs comprising this 7" EP, "Destroy All Music," "A Life Of Crime," and "Why Do You Exist" were all recorded in August of 1977, just a month after the Germs released their first single on What? Records. "Destroy All Music" is a loud, fast, and completely UN-sloppy punk rock song and the double guitar onslaught of Dix Denney and Cliff Roman was never done better than on this particular song. On top of all that the vocals are incredibly catchy. "A Life of Crime" is a little slower, and has a bit of a Stooges feel deep down. "Why Do You Exist" is even faster than the title track and the music is a bit like early Johnny Thunders but twice as fast.
We Got the Neutron Bomb b/w Solitary Confinement
This was the Weirdos second single, recorded November of 1977, and released by the legendary Dangerhouse label. "We Got The Neutron Bomb" is one of the catchiest songs to come out of the entire L.A. punk scene. Its got fast and powerful verses, and a brilliantly catchy singalong chorus all set to loud, heavy guitars, once again provided by the team of Dix and Cliff. Around the same time, another early L.A. punk band, one that has not retained the popularity of other bands like the Weirdos and the Germs, called the Controllers had a song called "Neutron Bomb." Once the Weirdos released this single and gained the attention which the song would give them the Controllers changed the name of their song to "(The Original) Neutron Bomb." "Solitary Confinement" is another great early Weirdos song that would have fit beautifully on the first 7". If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? EP
This 6 song EP was recorded in February of 1979 and released, once again, on Bomp! Records. By 1979, the band's sound had evolved along with their lineup. Nickey Beat and Dave Trout were gone, and instead Danny Benair (formerly of L.A. rock legends The Quick who had just recently broken up in '78) was on drums, and Billy Ford Persons was playing bass. On this EP they slowed down a bit and the band was incorporating more rock and roll into their songs, in fact, "Big Shot" has a saxophone and "Jungle Rock" is a straight up rockabilly raveup originally written and recorded by Hank Mizell in the 1950's (I'd like to think the Weirdos were influenced by X, The Cramps, The Blasters, and The Gun Club to venture into rockabilly). The opening track, "Happy People" and the closing track, "Fort U.S.A." are the strongest on the EP. "Happy People" is a slower version of the early Weirdos sound. It's got the two guitar attack, catchy choruses, and its loud and heavy, it just happens to not be as fast as "Destroy All Music." "Fort U.S.A." is as catchy a song as they've ever written. The chorus is a total singalong, and the guitars are very early rock/NY Dolls influenced.
Message from the Underworld b/w Teenage
From what I understand, this is their 3rd single, recorded in July of 1980. I haven't been able to find any info about this single, and what I did find was ambiguous. I found what I think is the cover art, but the liner notes to the Weird World CD lists the song "Message from the Underworld" as previously unreleased. Either way, the title track is a great song. It is very reminiscent of the original Weirdos sound but with their modern approach. I've never heard the single version of "Teenage," as far as I know it's not available on CD, but there are two demo versions out there on Weird World from 1978 and Destroy All Music from 1977. It was one of the first songs the band wrote and its snotty lyrics and loud, fast musicianship are a perfect pairing.
This, The Weirdos' second EP, was recorded in June 1980 and released on Rhino Records. It would be their last release before they broke up in 1981 (though they reformed throughout the 1980's and recorded an album in 1990, nothing after this initial breakup will be covered in this blog). The EP consists of four songs, the first of which being "The Hideout." The song is slow and very dark. There isn't much in these recordings which resemble the early Weirdos sound. This is much more of a rock song with a punk influence, especially in the drumming. The second song, "I Feel" is even more of a straight ahead rock and roll song, very much like the garage rock/powerpop thing going on at the time with bands like The Real Kids. It's a fun, upbeat toe-tapper of a rock song. Next up is a cover in which the band pays respect to L.A. legends, The Doors, not unlike the Weirdos' contemporaries X who covered "Soul Kitchen" on their 1980 debut album Los Angeles. The Weirdos take on "Break On Through" and they do it very well. Ending the album is the frenetic rock and roll of "Helium Bar." The band takes on the rockabilly sound once again, except unlike "Jungle Rock" on their first EP, this one's fast as hell. The only lyrics are "Bop to helium bar tonight" repeated over and over again but it never gets annoyingly repetitive. It's a great way to end their last EP.
Weird World vol. 1
This is the first CD which takes on the task of compiling the Weirdo's catalog. It contains bits and pieces of every release discussed above, plus 7 demo recordings from 1977-1981. It goes in reverse chronological order, and starts with 3 previously unreleased demos from March of 1981. The songs are "Weird World," "Arms Race," and "Pagan." Next up is "Helium Bar" from the Action-Design EP. After that are two songs from a 1980 demo, "Rhythm Syndrome," and "Fallout." The next two songs are "Fort U.S.A." and "Happy People" from Who? What? When? Where? Why?, however, "Fort U.S.A." is an alternate mix. Next is "Message From the Underworld" followed by "Teenage" and "I'm Not Like You" from a demo session recorded in 1978. The CD ends with both sides of their second single, "We Got The Neutron Bomb" (which is another alternate mix) and " Solitary Confinement," and "Life of Crime" from the Destroy All Music 7". This is a great compilation and covers their entire career up until the initial breakup, however, it is only 36 minutes long and that is inexcusable when there were B sides and even A sides left off this release. They could have fit at least the rest of the Destroy All Music single, the B side to the "Message From the Underworld" single, and more from the 2 EP's. As a bit of a neurotic completist, it bothers me. However, the demo tracks are really cool so they kind of make up for that.
We Got The Neutron Bomb: Weird World vol. 2
This set compiles previously unreleased live performances and studio recordings from 1977-1989. I don't own it, but it seems to contain material mostly from the original band, and only a few from the reformed, late 80's version of the Weirdos.
Destroy All Music CD
This CD reissue from Bomp! Records compiles the entire Destroy All Music single, the entire Who? When? When? Where? Why? EP, and 4 songs from their very first demo recorded in 1977. The demo songs are "Teenage," "Destroy All Music," "A Life Of Crime," and "Why Do You Exist?"