A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: September, 2010

Recycled Goods (#78)

by Tom Hull

Came up kind of short when the clock ran out, including only one A-list record. Mostly time pressures here. I do have some African music that would have run the table here, and Tatum is finding more stuff that I haven't got to. But no reason not to stick to the given rules here.

One more thing I don't have time to do at the moment is to plug this data into the archive index scheme, so that will have to wait until some time opens up.

Bloody War: Songs 1924-1939 (1924-39 [2010], Tompkins Square): Fifteen war themes, half by well-known old time country artists, half more obscure, drawing on the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the so-called Great War of most recent vintage, most set firmly in death and squalor. Jimmy Yates' title song is the my idea of valiant: a man who can't fight even if he wanted to which he most certainly does not. A- [R]

Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (1972 [2010], Porter): Philadelphia jazz-funk group, cut four albums in the early 1970s, now reissued for the second time -- in 1999 Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label collected all four on two discs released as The Funkiest Band You Never Heard. Porter decided to sell its otherwise equivalent two discs as separate packages, so this one packages the first two LPs, Catalyst and Perception, while Vol. 2 gets the latter two. The dominant sound here is the electric piano of Eddie Green, who does a fine job of picking up where Jimmy Smith's organ left off, while protean saxophonist Odean Pope plays gutbucket blues channeled through the holy spirits of Coltrane and Ayler. B+(***) [R]

Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 (1974-75 [2010], Porter): The final two albums of Philadelphia's unknown funk-jazz quartet, with drummer Sherman Ferguson more prominent, saxophonist Odean Pope more schizo -- a powerhouse on tenor sax, but what's with all the flute? -- and electric pianist Eddie Green running out of steam. The two halves split bad: Unity is in some ways their peak, but on A Tear and a Smile -- their first album with a chick instead of the four-Afro band on the cover -- the funk fades into la-la exotica, with not just flutes but strings and vocals. B [R]

Tin Huey: Before Obscurity: Bushflow Tapes (1974-79 [2009], Smog Veil): Akron band, cut one album in 1979, Contents Dislodged During Shipment, where they bounced off punk into surreal postmodernism with odd wit and shifty, disconcerting time changes -- one especially memorable title was "I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts." Chris Butler went on to found the Waitresses, and Ralph Carney wound up playing jazz in San Francisco. Early stuff, much of it live, starts out thinner and even quirkier, then figure out how to work a groove, especially when they punk out. B+(**) [R]

Briefly Noted

Amabutho: Sikelela (2010, Alma): Warriors, a group of seven male South African singers, weave voices like mbube masters Ladysmith Black Mambazo but to less concerted effect, partly because they have plenty of percussion -- marimba, mostly -- to fall back on; comes with a DVD. B+(**)

Leo Cipelli/Paolo Fresu/Philippe Garcia/Gianmaria Testa/Attilio Zanchi: F. à Léo (2007 [2010], Justin Time): A tribute to French chansonnier Leo Ferré, b. 1916 in Monaco, d. 1993, with Testa reproducing the speakeasy poesy, Cipelli filling the gaps with champagne piano, and Fresu eloquent as always on trumpet. B+(**)

Ted Daniel Quintet: Tapestry (1974 [2008], Porter): Flugelhorn specialist, hung in the New York lofts during the dark days of 1970s jazz, sneaking out this and a couple more albums; Khan Jamal's vibes sparkle in the dense jungle undergrowth of keyb-bass-drums, with Daniel playing rough when the going gets tough, eloquent when the scenery turns luxuriant. B+(**) [R]

Bad Reputation: Pierre de Gaillande Sings Georges Brassens (2010, Barbès): French chanson, a sort of folkie idiom with poetic aspirations, translated into surprisingly brash and subversive English. B+(***) [R]

Dr. John, the Night Tripper: Gris-Gris (1968 [2000], Collectors' Choice): After a decade or so of studio work and Crazy Cajun singles, Mac Rebennack dresses up scary and croaks his way through his alternate ego's debut album; no notable songs, but enough attitude to get him on his way. B [R]

Blaze Foley: The Dawg Years (1975-78 [2010], Fat Possum): Texas singer-songwriter, claimed to be the bastard son of Blaze Starr and Red Foley, recorded little before he was shot and killed in 1989, age 39. Later he was honored with a posthumous live album, and now he's best known as the subject matter of a Lucinda Williams song, "Drunken Angel." Not sure how many of these 20 cuts have appeared before, but some came out under the alias Deputy Dawg -- hence the title. Modest stuff, some somewhat smart and some somewhat funny but mostly easy going, offhand yarns. B+(**) [R]

Gaida: Levantine Indulgence (2009 [2010], Palymra): Born in Germany, raised in Syria, also lived in Kuwait, Paris, Detroit, and now New York, where she finds jazz musicians with the chops to play Arabic folk-pop, with the lingering suspicion they're slipping in something not exactly halal. B+(***)

Serge Gainsbourg: Histoire de Melody Nelson (1970-71 [2009], Light in the Attic): Smoke-stained narration over arch strings or, better still, spare guitar-bass lines, circling around some jeune fille named Melody Nelson, or closer as "En Melody" claims; a short album, but the "Cargo Culte" closer makes a heavy impression. B+(***) [R]

The Method Actors: This Is Still It (1980-81 [2010], Acute): Athens, GA band, had two albums, a few singles/EPs before drifting into oblivion; not sure how much of their total oeuvre these 19 cuts amount to nor where they fit in -- could be a "best of," could be "odds and sods," certainly isn't all but it's easily all you can find; packed up front with songs that try to sound like the B-52s, or maybe Pylon; rhythm gets more interesting when they try to find their own sound, vocals less so. B+(*) [R]

Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody. The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered, and documentation is especially important for reissues. But also my exposure to streamed records is briefer and more limited, so I'm more prone to snap judgments.

For this column and the previous 77, see the archive.

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Copyright © 2010 Tom Hull.