Sunday, August 25, 2019


I see people debating Frank Zappa on social media a lot, but of course they are, he's an annoying genius. Inevitably, someone asks what album or albums they should check out, which is raw meat to the classicrocksplainers, who immediately show up in droves for the feeding frenzy that quickly devolves into the 'just list every Zappa album we can think of because we'd rather parade our knowledge than give a useful answer' approach. Well, I've got a useful answer of my own: do it yourself. But if you want, do check out this guest radio spot he and Captain Beefheart did in 1975 to promote the Bongo Fury album and tour, for which Beefheart briefly joined Zappa's Mothers and they laid down an underrated avant/R&B/contemporary classical stew (much better than any Zappa material with Flo & Eddie on it, take that classicrocksplainers). This radio show is revelatory, featuring some Bongo Fury cuts (I really like "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy"), but mostly made up of early Zappa recordings, experiments, live jams, etc. that took place before the Mothers of Invention were named as such, and man this stuff is raw and punky avant-madness, predating the LAFMS almost in full (not as much synth/electronic input, but it's creeping in the corners).

POSTSCRIPT: After listening to the whole 67 minute upload on YouTube, with a different tab up, the next video started immediately, Muddy Waters live at the Checkerboard Lounge in 1981 (the time when the Rolling Stones happened to drop in), and as Muddy's band went into the intro vamp and played it for several seconds, before any vocals came along, I didn't even bat an eye thinking it was still more early Mothers and/or Beefheart music. These Mojave Desert weirdos were a straight-up top-notch greasy raw rhythm & blues band! Respect due! 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

LONG HOTS Monday Night Raw CS (NO LABEL)

(This Long Hots tape review has been lying around not-quite-finished for months, but I'll finally post it now in advance of their just-announced upcoming 7" on Third Man Records and summer tour with David Nance Group:) An honest-to-goodness primitive power trio laying down extendo trance rock and roll music, heavily instrumental, but not without a brat/boogie group vocal approach that really puts the roll into the rock. Eva Killinger is on drums, and she was in the ultimate Philly underground trance gunk rock and roll band Spacin', so you know that's a good start. The guitarist and other vocalist is Rosali Middleman, who just released a singer/songwriter album under her first name Rosali called Trouble Anyway, but Long Hots ain't singer/songwriter, it ain't even really songwriting at all, this is ur-rock, and Ms. Middleman's primordial grinding/keening/singing rhythm/lead guitar kills throughout, not surprisingly heard to great effect on the 9-minute "Boogie Trance." (See, it's not just me using the word "trance.") Kathryn Lipman plays bass guitar that is also very ur-, locking in with Killinger and laying down the train tracks for Middleman to flow over. And to be honest, it's a pretty rough practice-room recording, any/all mistakes left in, and as much as I like it, it still feels like they're just getting started.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Shoutout to the @GreatestMusicOfManAndWomankind IG feed, which recently turned me on to the work of Charles Amirkhanian. From 1969 to 1992, he was the music director of KPFA (Berkeley, CA), the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network, where he hosted countless programs featuring guests from the world of experimental contemporary classical avant-garde music (or, in the parlance of the times: "new music"). Said IG feed pointed out a 2-hour 1980 episode of Morning Concert that was hanging out on, in which Amirkhanian's guest was Eliane Radigue, and from there I found a 1979 episode of the same program with guests Joan La Barbara and Morton Subotnick. I wondered if Joan and Morton appeared in two different segments, but it turns out they were a married couple then (how did I not know that?) and still are (he's almost 86 and she'll be 72 in June). They both sound so cool and intelligent and nicely humored, and wow, the music on the show: a super-great excerpt from a Subotnick piece called "A Sky of Cloudless Sulfur," and my god, the holy of the holies, Joan's "Twelvesong." About 20 years ago (around the same time I bought my own cheapo second-hand copy of Silver Apples of the Moon), I was lucky enough to first hear her extended vocal pieces, thanks to an #oldhead (music-hound college professor, in this case). They've always haunted me, but "Twelvesong" is the hauntiest of them all, her unreal non-electronic vocal soundscape (the title refers not only to the 12:12 running time but to "twelve tracks of voice, layered") getting way into oft-forgotten subconscious nooks. (Not to mention crannies.)

Saturday, March 09, 2019



Released in 1978, an older, wearier, wiser Anita O'Day, post-heroin, enjoying a second career in Japan. A fine document of her easy chemistry with long-time drummer John Poole (they also co-owned the record label, Emily Records). Picked this LP up in a free stack at the local oldhead used bookstore which, against all Amazon-hellworld odds, is still open noon to 8pm every day. And speaking of the neighborhood, Anita O'Day is my all-time favorite former attendee of Nicholas Senn High School, a mere 15 blocks away from Blastitude HQ (and she's got a real rogue's gallery of competitors for that honor, including William Friedkin, Harvey Korman, Harold Ramis, and Shecky Greene himself). She might be your favorite Senn alum too if you've seen her smashing outfit and stoned improvisational regality onstage at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, as indelibly captured in the film Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960, d. Bert Stern, Aram Avakian).

Even if that performance somehow doesn't do the trick, I know you'll love her early 1940s tenure with the Gene Krupa band, especially the super-fun (and for the time daringly integrated) million-selling 1942 duet with trumpeter/vocalist Roy Eldridge, "Let Me Off Uptown."

I wondered if the song was meant to be about Chicago's legendary northside entertainment district, just a couple miles south of where I type, though figured they were probably talking about the more nationally known "uptown" of Harlem, New York. Then again, c'mon... Anita grew up and learned how to be a jazz singer in Chicago's Uptown, and Krupa was from Chicago too. As luck would have it, she wrote a great memoir in the 1980s called High Times Hard Times, and it answers the question with this crucial passage featuring the song's lyricist Redd Evans (as well as good ole Senn High):

Senn Junior High had my body between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, but my mind was wandering the taverns of the Uptown district. In 1936, Chicago was still a toddlin' town. In addition to the big clubs and theaters in the Loop that used stars, there were a lot of funky Uptown hangouts such as the Barrel of Fun, Liberty Inn, Warm Friends, and, of course, the 5100 Club where eventually Danny Thomas was to make his name. 
         At school, the only time I felt I was living was during Friday afternoon entertainments. I was obsessed with music and Fridays I'd let it all out. The rest was zilch. The way I looked at it was I had to serve my sentence. 
        On December 18, which I thought was my sixteenth birthday, I split again. That night I sneaked out the window of our apartment, as I'd been doing since the truant officer got me, went over to the 5100 Club where a lot of kids hung out on the street, listening to Fletcher Henderson's brother Horace blow. Horace had a terrific band. On this particular night, I fell into conversation with the cat named Redd Evans, who played the sweetpotato (ocarina) with Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights. He and I got to singing and I really felt alive, as if I was where the action was at last. 
        "I like riffs, don't you?" Redd asked. 
        "Riffs? What are they?" 
        He sang one, then explained that it was a repeated musical phrase. I really dug that. Riffs became the center of my world. I went around working out riffs all the time. So Redd had an influence on me from the first time we met.

Hey Anita, guess what? I like riffs too. There's no doubt that Anita knows and feels and gets music, with passages to that effect throughout, like this nice one about Charlie Parker:

I idolized Charlie Parker because I would say he was one of the great jazz geniuses of all time. He changed the whole face of the music. What I mean is that when Louis Armstrong became popular, all trumpet players had to change their styles. Not the rest of the band. But when Charlie Parker became popular with his be-bop tunes, everybody had to change his style -- the drummer, the piano player, the singer, whoever. 

There's also this excellent episode of the NPR program Jazz Profiles that spans her entire career, with lots of great interviews and musical selections. I love it when John Poole emphatically points out that she wrote a song called "Rock and Roll Blues," and the year she wrote it was 1947, long before Elvis Presley showed up. (Maybe he's so emphatic about the year because a recording of the song didn't seem to come out until 1952.) Could it be that the swing era is the actual birth of rock'n'roll? I did once say on twitter that Gene Krupa was the first rock star....


PHOTO: Dolman. LOCATION: Raising Cane's #352, 6568 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago IL

Finally wrapping up this Anita O'Day piece, to the point where I'm even filing the LP, and I thought it was notable that it was right next to The Visitor by Jim O'Rourke. He didn't go to Senn, but he is also from Chicago, and not all that far away. "I grew up on the northwest side of Chicago, near the airport, near the beginning of the suburbs," is what he told Popwatch magazine (issue #8, Winter-Spring 1997), and I swear I remember him saying, in a different interview I can't find, something about going to the Goldblatt's store in Anita's old haunt Uptown to buy records when he was a kid. It's an impressive historic building, built in 1915. Anita would've also known it as Goldblatt's, as they were in the building for a very long time, from 1931 until they finally closed down in 1998, possibly an early victim of the internet. It became a Border's Book Store in 2004, which is how I knew the building as a Chicagoan. That store never felt quite right, and was definitely a victim of the internet when it closed in 2012. The building has been shuttered since, and even with the forces of hypergentrification that have swept into so much of Chicago, Uptown remains a relatively funky multicultural big-city music neighborhood, with shows almost every night at the Aragon, the Riviera, and the Green Mill.

Saturday, December 08, 2018



BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD "Kahuna Sunset" Ever peeped the Squires tracks that led off the big Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 box? The Squires were Neil's first real band, when he was like 19 years old, and though the rest of the group never made it out of Canada, they were pretty damn good back then around Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. Check out "I Wonder" (later remade and rocked up for the Zuma LP as "Don't Cry No Tears") and killer surf instrumentals "Aurora," "The Sultan," and "Mustang," dreams of the Pacific Ocean via the north coast of Lake Superior. The table was set for a track like "Kahuna Sunset," an outtake from 3 or 4 years later, another surf exotica Martin Denny-riffic instrumental, recorded by Neil's later and better-known band Buffalo Springfield. Some of his pet 1970s chord changes are sneaking in there if you pay attention.

ROYAL TRUX "Vile Child" Might be my favorite single Royal Trux track. It was recorded during the Twin Infinitives sessions, and sure sounds like it was, harsh and severe rock concrète, with a genuinely unsettling croaking chant for a chorus. Nonetheless, it wasn't intended for Infinitives, but commissioned for a concurrent 7" EP sponsored by and released with the seventh issue of Bananafish magazine, which is where I discovered the track a good 20 years ago, then bearing the extremely improbable title "Theme Elementary School Psycho (Ax in Y Bad Boy BBM)," and sounding particularly terrifying crawling out of those Bananafish-curated grooves, sequenced next to last among recurring excerpts from a "live exorcism" by Bob Larson, glorious shrieking noise by Hijokaidan, possibly even weirder sound collage by Felipe X. Milstein, a distant ringing progressive electric bass guitar solo by Anne Eickelberg of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, and I think even more madness. All on a single 7-inch! Pretty life changing record for me, actually. You can find "Vile Child" there, or on the Singles, Live, Unreleased box set on Drag City.

PRINCE "Witness (4 The Prosecution)" I know he was a super-talented genius who constantly wrote and recorded music, but I still sometimes sacrilegiously suspect that "the vaults" are not quite what they're hyped up to be... my hunch is that the really great non-album tracks from the 80s all ended up on that amazing run of B-sides from roughly 1982 to 1989... "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?," "Irresistible Bitch," "17 Days," "Erotic City" (!!),  "God," "Another Lonely Christmas" for chrissakes (no pun intended), "She's Always In My Hair," "Hello," "Girl," "♥ or $," "Alexa De Paris," "La, La, La, He, He, Hee," "Shockadelica," "Scarlet Pussy"... damn. The truth is, his B-sides started falling off around Lovesexy and especially Batman, and honestly I've yet to hear leaked stuff, even the bonus tracks on the recent Purple Rain deluxe reissue, that are necessarily on the level of that original B-side run... but I just came across this unreleased 1986 track "Witness (4 The Prosecution)" and it is a killer, Prince in stripped-down heavy guitar mode, still funky as hell, taking a torch to the already-hot post-Hendrix continuum of high-level heavy black funk rock. (Oops, just found another really good vault song, a short fragile fairytale ballad from 1992 called "Be My Mirror"... and I'm well aware that Prince's vast and disorderly post-namechange work, both released and unreleased, is really begging for a deep dive in general, one that I may never muster the fortitude to undertake...)

SONIC YOUTH "Little Trouble Girl" Another #veryheavy song, which is par for the course when this blog's entire raison d'etre is #heavymusicinallstylesandvolumes. Kim Deal's girl-group double lead vocal is such a good 'indie rock guest appearance' move, while Kim Gordon's lyrics get into some deep fissures of adolescent feeling. She can't help but be a little arch and camp, but that's just one of her primary performance delivery systems, and sure it speaks to how we filter our emotion through pop representation. Either way, the emotion is very much there, and that's what matters."I'm sorry mother, I'd rather fight than have to lie," for example.

TERRY CALLIER "You Don't Care" Beeeeyoooootiful melancholy big city orchestral R&B chant/lament/ballad/interstitial/closer, arranged & conducted by Chicago legend Charles Stepney, the perfect soundtrack for the gauzily lit love scene in a blaxploitation flick from the 70s that you're watching on VHS in the 90s in your mind.

RHYTHM & SOUND "Aerial" and "History Version" The time is always right for a 9-minute Rhythm & Sound track to come up on shuffle...

MILTON NASCIMENTO "Carlos, Lucia, Chico e Tiago" A really lovely dark brooding track from Nascimento's 1973 album Milagre dos Peixes, described by obscure music review site as "one of Milton Nascimento's most experimental albums." This is a haunting wordless falsetto ballad, beautifully sung by Nascimento and played by Brazilian jazz musicians blowing lovely, including the wild percussion of Nana Vasconcelos (who was later to form lowkey blastifave Codona with Don Cherry).

DELMA LACHNEY & BLIND UNCLE GASPARD "La Danseuse" Just as pretty and still-danceably melancholy as an instrumental fiddle tune from 1929 is gonna get.

ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS "Berd Guhrl" Such a great album, holding up heavily twelve years later. Also, here's an exquisite 2006 live version of this song.

LORD FINESSE "Check the Method" Great great track from 1996, I'm listening to the version DJ Premier mixed into his Crooklyn Cuts tape, which is even better than the (linked) original, with that magic Premier dust sprinkled all over it. Man, this is good. "I don't front like a man on a high horse/but yo, I make more noise than July 4th." Also, the way Premier ridiculously cuts up Finesse's "Aw fuck it, my shit be flowin' like springwater" reminds me of this time last summer at the basketball court, during a full-court pickup game... a guy was bringing the ball up court and a pesky defender was pressuring him, so he crossed him up not once, not twice, but THREE times (the third time was just to be hilarious).

JIMMY GIUFFRE "Present Notion" Weird experience to be in the middle of one of my semi-annual AACM-and-related binges and then Free Fall by Jimmy Giuffre comes up on the shuffle, and for a minute I'm like, "Is this Roscoe Mitchell?"

THE GREAT UNWASHED "What Happened Ray?" Was David Kilgour as high when he recorded this track as I feel now listening to it? How does his voice sometimes sound like a guitar played by an e-bow? Or is that indeed a guitar played by an e-bow, overdubbed and blending with his voice? What kind of a chorus refrain is the line "And your world has vanished" over and over? I have no answers for this otherworldly track; there's a reason Flying Nun originals from 1983 are selling for over a hundred bucks.

KEVIN AYERS AND THE WHOLE WORLD "Lunatic's Lament" Always good to go Shooting at the Moon.

J.J. CALE "River Runs Deep" One of the slightly deeper drum machine cuts from J.J.'s masterpiece Naturally. Forecast most definitely calls for breezy.

J.J. CALE "Crying Eyes" A deeper cut still, but a huge hit in this household, this is Naturally's honey-sweet closer.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE BYRDS (UNTITLED), a cut up poem by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

...their emergence, they signalled the first one of those big deal ambition-striving beginnings of a thus-far stillborn "concept" album; McGuinn once said morning. They endure, thank goodness, Byrds albums are electronic magazines, and it's actually beginning to look this one is too, but it contains more like they might see the real dawn pictures than any of the others. And hopefully you and I will be as lucky. Pictures move. Someone ought to Jim Bickhart film it. There; it's been said. All these cats runnin' around with their easy awareness... innovative turbulent rider film script trips, talkin' about how personalities... perspective... enormous... they're gonna capture the vitality of motion... subtly forceful... dear rock medium on film. Well, that's a Byrds; we attended your concert at wonderful notion too, but somebody (Seton Hall University, South Orange, New) should really take on the challenge of Jersey... and it was the greatest... reversing the process: compose, we were treated to the concert by hour. Perform and record the music first, then 19-year old son Alan we wish shot the film the music is. More parents would listen to your music... Sincerely, Murray and this album also rebuts the argument that Gloria Mankowitz rock reaches a peak when it's more so the thing they do best, the thing nearly approaches a European tradition people follow best, is their music. There is a country/blues/folk/jazz or any story in this album that can only be other tradition that's made it. As a poem told aloud. Each song is a chapter, reaches its most perfect form it, but the story is best of all. This is not approaches the dance. Ezra Pound.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


The Revolutionary Ensemble was an avant-garde jazz trio (probably most specifically what was then called a 'new music trio'), formed in New York City by Leroy Jenkins, Sirone (aka Norris Jones), and Jerome Cooper. They started playing around 1972 and ended around 1977 or 1978. Their line-up was somewhat unique in that it was a violin trio, with Jenkins on that instrument, and Sirone and Cooper rounding out the traditional jazz-trio rhythm section of double bass and drum kit respectively. Without a horn or a piano, the group was going to have a singular texture, that spiky fractured singing-string vibe, less breath, less percussiveness (although Cooper is a monster drummer). In a sense they are a post-AACM group, not officially affiliated, but Jenkins was a member, and Cooper was from Chicago as well and, like Jenkins, studied under the legendary music director Walter Dyett at Dusable High School. I only have 3 of their LPs, but these are cherished:

VIETNAM (ESP-DISK) This is the one that started it all for me, when Blastifriend C. Möön bought a copy, one of those blessed German ZYX-label CD reissues of the ESP-Disk catalog, and played it on his weekly community radio show The Cosmic Egg, which I used to tape directly off the air. I could not believe the sounds I was hearing coming from these refined classical instruments, the violin and the double bass, thrashing away at high amplified volume like they were in the middle of a contemporaneous King Crimson blow-out. Add an incredible drummer playing in a free-form but very disciplined pan-African free-music style, with a very strong underlying formal/classical sense of architecture, and you've got one intense band. And to have the name of the piece(s) be "Vietnam," performed in 1972 while the Vietnam War is still raging? Easily one of my Top 10 Proto-Metal LPs.

THE PSYCHE (RE RECORDS) This one was released in 1975 on the bands' own RE record label (stands for Revolutionary Ensemble) with a oddly bracing text-only cover design. Kinda scary, like it could be the title card for an early 60s noir/arthouse movie. Music's kinda scary too. Which can't be underrated with regards to the whole AACM approach to creative post-jazz music, the fact that it was so often SCARY, because it was influenced by International New Wave cinema soundtracks, and scary spiky composers like Bartok and Webern and Berg, not to mention proto-punk with its sometime forays into Artaudian shock theater. Regardless, the way the pieces are arranged and the way they progress, in contrast to many other 60s/70s examples of revolutionary music, exemplify the point Lester Bowie makes, 'mock-prosaically,' on page 338 of A Power Stronger Than Itself by George E. Lewis (2008, University of Chicago Press): "The main difference was that we would STOP. We had rests. We had whole notes. We were dealing with some melodies."

REVOLUTIONARY ENSEMBLE (INNER CITY) This self-titled album was released by Enja in 1977, then reissued the next year in America by a label called Inner City. The Inner City cover is kinda dry and schoolbookish; I prefer the somewhat proto-cyberpunk plainness of the original edition, but regardless of the sleeve, this is a great album of music, my favorite by the Revolutionary Ensemble after Vietnam. This is a quieter album, with some of their most precise and haunted playing, spinning out delicate themes, long-held quiet sections that build into vicious-tempests-in-ornate-teapots, then space back out again into eldritch 12-tone styles. It also has Jenkins's composition "Chicago," which really struck a melancholy and heavy chord in me long before I bought this copy, when I first heard it in 2002, having checked out a copy from the Sulzer Regional Library up in Lincoln Square (same Inner City edition). It was less than a year after I moved here, and I loved the city of Chicago then, and love it now, but was certainly already aware of its cold overpowering strength as a location, and could really hear that in the music. But now it's 15 years later and I've lived here and learned a lot more about Chicago, certainly a lot more about the African-American experience here, and now I've read Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and now I know that the melody was composed and performed by not only a Chicagoan like myself, but unlike myself, a black Chicagoan who grew up in Bronzeville on the South Side, born in 1932 to parents who had come to Chicago from Tennessee and Mississippi, looking for work and to escape rampant unpoliced white supremacist terrorism, only to find a different kind of racial hostility, one that was "unwritten, mercurial, opaque, and eminently deniable." So, needless to say, I can now hear a whole lot more in the melodies and performance of "Chicago," things that even just 15 years ago I was only aware of in the broadest and briefest 4th-grade-textbook sense.

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