Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Ripple Music’s First Anniversary Free Sampler – Get It While You Can

In this age of independent music, do we really need labels at all? If you want to sell more than downloads and unload physical product in a country where you don’t live, or probably won’t be visiting soon, a label can be useful. And good branding never hurts – Norton does garage rock; Tzadik does every shade of klezmer and sometimes the Middle East; and Ripple Music have carved themselves a niche as purveyors of tasty, retro 70s stoner rock. Considering how much great stuff these guys have put out over the last year, the answer’s yes, these guys actually fill a need, unlike the parasitic corporate labels.

Ripple Music went for cred right off the bat by signing Poobah, whose 1972 proto-metal classic Let Me In they reissued last year. And they wasted no time scoring midwestern acid rock cult favorites the JPT Scare Band, who just played their first gig in 35 years if you can believe it. In this age where virtually everything audible online is free, and most commercial radio stations won’t go near good original music, how does a label stay in business? Like a drug dealer. They turn you on to their product for free and then let you decide, heh heh. Their freebie right now is a first anniversary sampler available for free at their bandcamp site, featuring bands whose material they’ve released or reissued, often on vinyl as well as digitally, in the past year, along with previews of a couple of upcoming releases. It’s a cool mixtape for 7-11 parking lots.

As usual with this kind of stuff, the more fun the bands let themselves have, the better the music is (which applies to pretty much any style when you think about it). “70s rock preservationists” Stone Axe are a mighty good choice to open the album with Riders of the Night, a period-perfect, LOL Spinal Tap party scenario. They’re “busy blowing smoke rings around the midnight sun,” and the guitars do the same. Surprisingly, Mighty High, Brooklyn’s funniest self-described regressive rock act don’t go as hard for the comedy as they usually do, although their track, Don’t Panic – It’s Organic, is smoking. Imagine it’s 1973, Blue Oyster Cult is trying to channel Chuck Berry and kicking out the best guitar solos on the entire compilation, evil chromatic Deniz Tek style.

The JPT Scare Band’s contribution, It’s a Jungle, really is a time trip. It has the feel of a vinyl rip – that sidewinding, trebly, melodic bass and those Spooky Tooth metalfunk hooks are killer. And is that a qanun (Arabic hammered dulcimer) slapping the lo-fi synth upside the head? Surprisingly, Poobah is represented by one of the less ferocious tracks from Let Me In, although this one shows off the rhythm section: it’s not just Jim Gustafson guitar pyrotechnics. But Venomin James’ Bullet Juice delivers buckets of evil via a delicious Sabbath-style chromatic riff and a razorwire wah solo that leaves you wanting more. And Mos Generator’s moonshine-running anthem Stone County Line injects fresh blood into a bunch of hallowed 70s moves, with some blunt instrument Bill Ward-ish drums.

There are a couple of ringers here. Modern Day Moonshine offer a soulfully shuffling update on the Grateful Dead’s Cumberland Blues, while Bay Area songwriter Kevin Beadles’ Sharkskin sounds like a metal spoof done as bluesy, swinging, late 70s Rhodes piano pop. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Tubes album. There’s also Tripdavon’s By the River, which merges southern slide guitar rock and blues overtones; riff-heavy Scottish band Iron Claw, which would fit in fine with the Nazareth catalog; and Vancouver band Fen’s Queen of the Mountain, pensive and apprehensive with lots of dynamic shifts – these guys sound like they used to listen to grunge but left it behind. There are a couple of duds, but what do you expect for nothing? Get it while it’s still available.

Advertisements

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Album of the Day 5/9/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #631:

Steely Dan – Katy Lied

Let’s stay in 1975 for another day, huh? This is self-mythologizing, deviously literate jazz-funk from Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and a cast of studio pros. Great band, but practically every one of their albums has a real clunker to go along with the good stuff, so that’s why we picked this one.There’s only a couple of super standouts here – Any World That I’m Welcome To, where Fagen lets down his guard and bares his fangs at the morons he grew up with, and the absolutely macabre Black Friday – but it’s solid all the way through. Bad Sneakers is a spot-on period piece, a couple of losers “with a transistor radio and a whole lot of money to spend” making their way up Sixth Avenue past Radio City. Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More works an oldschool blues vernacular better than any of the band’s contemporaries could, while Chain Lightning goes in a slow, funkier direction. Rose Darling and Everyone’s Gone to the Movies offer a leering, cynical look at romance, the surreal Dr. Wu was a pseudo-hit, and Your Gold Teeth II and the closing track, Throw Back the Little Ones reach for a distant, offhand menace. Here’s a random torrent via Walrussongs.

May 9, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Formerly Whooping Crane, Now Strange Haze, Same Great Album

“You have to be stoned to listen to this” is usually an insult. We don’t ordinarily advocate for or against the use of one substance or another – that should be an individual choice, and a legal one. But if the phrase “strange haze” has any kind of special meaning for you, Strange Haze’s album Riffin’ for Rent is the kind that you really ought to hear after indulging. If your dad still gets stoned, smoke him up and then try to convince him that this band was around when he was doing it all the time. He just might believe you.

Strange Haze (formerly known as Whooping Crane) should have been the band in Almost Famous. Hilariously satirical, sometimes cruelly, sometimes fondly, the Brooklyn rockers’ stoner shtick works as well as it does because they’re such excellent musicians. When’s the last time you heard a metal band with a drummer who can swing like crazy? Everybody knows that you have to have chops to play metal really well, but these guys don’t just know their early 70s stoner music, they know soul, and Stones, and Sabbath, and Skynyrd, and probably a bunch of bands from that era who were quickly forgotten because they weren’t as good. That’s what Strange Haze sound like. They’ll riff on a single chord for what seems minutes on end, and yet there’s something fresh and unselfconsciously fun about it. They know every cliche in the book and aren’t afraid to employ them wherever they’d be the most ridiculous. Likewise, their lyrics, delivered in a deadpan, period perfect faux-bluesy drawl, are beyond hilarious.

The opening track is She’s a Knockout, which sounds like the MC5 as done by Grand Funk Railroad. It’s about a girl “who was born in the heart of the whooping crane,” with an irresistible multiple-tracked bluesmetal solo out. Track two, Tomm Tapp starts out as sludgy but swinging riff-metal in the Poobah vein and adds honking harmonica for, you know, that authentic bluesy feeling – and suddenly goes all starlit and rapt for a second before the bludgeoning begins again. “Can you see the fork in the road? Close your eyes before they explode!” They follow that with Hang Loose, six minutes of wah funk, Sabbath style with some woozy southern overtones: “Summer of love don’t tell no lies ’cause we’re underneath the firefly…smoking the kingsized ultralights, still looking kinda tight.”

One Hit Sally is a tribute to a girl convinced that her smoke-filled room is more interesting than anything that could possibly exist outside it, pulsing along on a Stax/Volt bass groove with grand guignol art-rock guitar flourishes. The perfectly titled Voomp! keeps the funky groove going (if you remember early 70s Texas “hard rock” band Bloodrock, this is that kind of thing). The funniest song on the album is Straight Dope, playfully taking a 60s soul riff, adding more of that honking harmonica and a priceless lyric:

Walked down to the marble garden with a buckskin bottle of wine
Sometimes I get so drunk I can sing just like a child

The bonus track that you can get from their bandcamp site is That’s More Like It, working both sides of the Atlantic for a riff-loaded hash buzz, then a skunkweed heartland metal vibe: “Make you crawl like an armadillo, armageddon in an armchair!” In addition to this one, Strange Haze will be on the Soda Shop’s upcoming free compilation coming out Feb 22.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album of the Day 1/9/11

OK, mini-vacation is over, we’re firing up the engines again. To get things started, as we do every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #751:

Blue Oyster Cult – Tyranny and Mutation

The artsiest and most ornate metal band, at least until the new wave of British metal of the late 70s/early 80s, Blue Oyster Cult blended elegant classical flourishes and epic grandeur into their riff-rocking roar and stomp. Sarcastic, vicious and sometimes satirical, they collaborated with Patti Smith and were a considerable influence on punk, new wave and goth music, covered both by Radio Birdman and the Minutemen. This is their best studio album, from 1973. It kicks off with the split-second precise tripletracked riffage of The Red and the Black, followed by the gorgeously crescendoing O.D.’d on Life Itself. Hot Rails to Hell, Baby Ice Dog and Teen Archer are the heavy tracks here; 7 Screaming Diz-Busters is something of an epic, with a deliciously evil siren of an outro. Mistress of the Salmon Salt is catchy and matter-of-factly macabre; the best song here is the ghoulishly watery Wings Wetted Down, punctuated by a beautifully dark chorus-pedal solo by lead guitarist Buck Dharma. Everything the band released  through the live On Your Feet or On Your Knees album is worth hearing; forty years after they started, they’re still touring with a slightly revamped lineup and can still put on a good show. Here’s a random torrent.

January 9, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/25/10

Our daily best 666 songs of alltime countdown is almost done. And when it’s over we’ll start with the 1000 best albums. Sunday’s song is #4

Bob Dylan – Idiot Wind

Probably the most vengeful kiss-off song ever written. And as a good a candidate as any for best rock lyric ever:

You hurt the ones that I love best, and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle

Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

That’s Dylan on the organ by the way. It’s on Blood on the Tracks, from 1975. The link above is a live take from a year later.

July 25, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/11/10

Less than three weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Sunday’s song is #18:

The Electric Light Orchestra – Kuiama

This majestic, practically twelve-minute antiwar epic is the centerpiece of the vastly underrated 1972 ELO II album. The solo on the bridge, Jeff Lynne’s poignant slide guitar giving way to Mik Kaminsky’s wildly swooping violin, might be the most blissfully exhilarating moment ever recorded by a rock band.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/25/10

Every day, for a little more than a month, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #34:

The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses

As we get closer to #1, you’ve probably noticed that some of the songs are getting kind of obvious. But they’re obvious because they’re so good. This might be the best love song ever written – and one of the saddest ones, since all the good ones are sad anyway. It’s the little touches, like Jim Dickinson’s plaintive piano fills, that make it that way. From Sticky Fingers, 1972.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Renaissance at Rockefeller Park, NYC 6/23/10

Some will find this hubristic, but this is the best edition of Renaissance yet – including the original 1969 lineup. Unlike a lot of their art-rock contemporaries during their seventies heyday, Renaissance opted for drama and majesty over any overwhelming sense of angst or wrenching intensity. Downtown tonight under a starless sky and a welcome sea breeze, they made every one of their fifty power-packed minutes count. Annie Haslam wasn’t even in the original band – she replaced the late, great Keith Relf – but throughout her time in the group she’s made a lot of people forget that. And she’s still got that awe-inspiring five-octave range. Other singers use all kinds of technology to disguise their flaws – not Haslam, and that made itself known not because she backed off from the demanding arrangements of the original recordings, but from the occasional slight imperfection. That she can still deliver those stratospheric notes, even if sometimes more gently than she did 35 years ago, is extraordinary. Not that Haslam would ever subject herself to the indignity of Eurovision or American Idol, but at age 63, she’d still win either one in a heartbeat.

The rest of the band played with passion and precision. Haslam’s longtime collaborator Michael Dunford’s acoustic guitar was too low in the mix most of the time, but when he was audible he was jangly and inspiring, while the two keyboardists, Rave Tesar and Tom Brislin matched piano to sweeping synthesizer orchestration. New bassist David J. Keyes was nothing short of brilliant, firing his way nimbly through a thorny series of changes, using a bristly, trebly tone much like Mo Moore would do with Nektar. Drummer Frank Pagano, a guy with a solid, four-on-the-floor rep from his work with Willie Nile and the Fab Faux, really opened some eyes with his spot-on, boomy and joyously orchestral attack on a big kit. From the first few notes of vocalese on the ornate, Romantically-imbued instrumental Prologue, Haslam held the surprisingly young (that word is relative) audience rapt – one can only wonder how many, relaxing on the lawn, were only now getting to see the band for the first time. Carpet of the Sun was a pleasant, artsy pop hit on record: live, the band emphasized its sweeps and swells, particularly the occasional Middle Eastern allusion (a device that would recur several times, to welcome effect). Strikingly, the best song of the night was a new one, a marvelously suspenseful epic, The Mystic and the Muse (to be released on a forthcoming ep of all-new material), a feast of spine-tingling vocals, a series of distantly Blue Oyster Cult-ish galloping crescendos and a perfectly powerful ending from Haslam.

Like the rest of the first crop of art-rockers, Renaissance were not opposed to pilfering a classical motif or two, most obviously on Running Hard, which makes a rock song out of the theme from the great French composer Jehan Alain’s Litanies. It’s hard enough to do on the organ and must be even more so on piano, but Renaissance’s keyboardist nailed it with staccato abandon. They went out on a high note with the epic Mother Russia, a seamless suite of themes closer to Tschaikovsky than Shostakovich, ending with Haslam belting out a long, low note (low for her at least – D next to middle C?), fearless and unwavering. What’s impossible for most of us still seems easy for her. The rest of the North American tour schedule is here.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seven Sick Inches of Mighty High and Stone Axe

“Brooklyn’s #1 regressive rockers,” Mighty High have a brand-new split 7″ with fellow 70s metalheads Stone Axe and it’s a blast of skunky hydroponic smoke, perfect for dropping on what’s left of your brain. It’s impossible not to crack an illegal smile when you hear this. Metal Damage by Stone Axe sets Drew Brinkerhoff’s woozy/silly David Lee Roth-ish vocals over your basic mid-70s riffage: Kiss might have sounded this good if they’d ever learned how to play their instruments. A smoldering cherry of a guitar solo turns into a twin solo – Hotel California, here we come! Stone Axe are actually a much more diverse band than this would indicate, in fact one of the best retro metal acts around, with a new album due out sometime in the fall.

Mighty High’s Don’t Panic, It’s Organic is classic – there’s nobody better at making fun of wretched metal excess. This is a fast number, Aerosmith’s Mama Kin as Motorhead might have done it. When the lead guitar blurts out of the break before the last verse like a belch that couldn’t be contained, it’s priceless. And of course you gotta have a pickslide! Sweetest thing about this is that it’s on vinyl, with all the low end and sonic yumminess you can’t get from a cd or mp3. Scheduled for release in July at independent stores who have the good taste (well, sort of) to carry music like this, it’ll also be available from Mighty High, Stone Axe (currently on west coast tour, where the single is already onsale) and from Ripple Music, who are already taking pre-orders.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Song of the Day 6/23/10

Every day, for a little more than a month, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #36:

Bob Dylan – Lily, Rosemary & the Jack of Hearts

Symbolically charged nine-minute epic, a murder mystery that ends on a bitter, cynical note like much of the rest of Blood on the Tracks. Reputedly Dylan played it live once and then gave up on it; New York rockers Mary Lee’s Corvette (whose live version of the complete Blood on the Tracks album is better than the original) managed to pull this one off several times: who knows when they might again.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment