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Unpublished manuscript, undated

And Another Consumer Guide Fragment

ABBA. Sweden's double-barrelled Capt'n & Tenny still reign over pop overproduction, with three singles, "Bang-a-Boomerang" (squandered as a flip), some middling stuff and the era's worst instrumental cut (#2 is 10cc, "How Dare You"). A greatest hits would be tasty, but I mostly pick and choose. B+

Amazing Rhythm Aces: Stacked Deck. Best new group of 1975, with 12 cuts covering everything under the Sun, Sun Records, that is. Could be an all-american Brinsley Schwarz. Could even be better. A

Amazing Rhythm Aces: Too Stuffed to Jump. The former album's eclecticism gives way to the intelligence that made it all work in the first place. With an easy, jazzy flair. Hands down the best american group since Steely Dan, whose urbane paranoia is perhaps the Aces inverse. A

Albert Ayler: Witches & Devils. Though recorded in 1964, Ayler's brooding netherworld is a better fit for our sonic urban jungle than the pseudorockstyle pap dominating jazz bestseller lists today, and in my very limited acquaintance with the man and indeed the whole form, is the strongest sax voice I have encountered. A-

The Band: Northern Lights -- Southern Cross. Tuneful and pleasing when I play it, which is hardly ever. Which, come to think of it, is close to par for the Band, which I was once highly taken with and today find tired and overweening. Greil Marcus likes it, though. B

Be+Bop Deluxe: Futurama. As far as the guitar-tricks-disguised-as-music school is concerned, I prefer Fred Frith, flashless but fond. For the "sophistico" lyrics, I suggest hiding the essential and worhtless sheet. Which leaves us with flash and volume, a tired esotericism disguised as energy. Could be a major nuisance (I've been known to attribute headaches to the album), but in limited doses the flash has some interest, and one or two of the tricks are sort of amusing. B-

Bees Make Honey: Music Every Night. Aside from the Grateful Dead rip that wears thin rather fast, this is probably the most consistent, comfortable and down right pleasurable pub rock on vinyl. Well worth working into. A-

Beserkley Chartbusters, Vol. 1. Undergroudn and under-the-table rock from Berkeley's self-appointed Home of the Hits. Secret weapon: Jonathan Richman, boy genius. A-

Randall Bramblett: That Other Mile. Low key, understated, slow to ripen, but very tasteful and supremely tuneful, with some very nice sax. Perhaps the South will indeed survive the boogie plight. B+

Randall Bramblett: Light of the Night. More of the same, with his genteel liberalism a bit too present. B

Anthony Braxton: Five Pieces 1975. I am somewhat nonplussed by this, but I approve theoretically, and sometimes find myself gratified. B+

Brinsley Schwarz: The New Favourites of . . . . Easily one of the very best albums that never got released here, with ten sterling genre tunes and Dave Edmunds production, dirty sax, motown funk, and the best song the Byrds never did. A

Gavin Bryars: The Sinking of the Titanic. The experimental composer to a large extent responsible for unleashing the Portsmouth Sinfonia on the modern world, he also makes the best presence on wax. B/w a tape-loop experiment, "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet," that is equally successful. B+

Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey. More rastamania from the Island, dense and brooding this time, with heavy african overtones. B

John Cale: Slow Dazzle. Cale doesn't believe in masterpieces, so he doesn't make them, only hints, of which this collection has at least half a dozen. "Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll" is classic, though. A-

John Cale: Helen of Troy. My copy omits the by-now-legendary "Leaving It All Up to You," puts a JC lullaby in its place, and it showcases Cale's first band sine the legends of yore, typical sloppiness, and many things you just wouldn't believe. A

Robert Calvert: Lucky Lief and the Longships. Concept album on Viking longships circa 1000 a.d. by veteran spacerocker (Hawkwind) and acquaintances that just might be the weirdest album since S.F. Sorrow were it not for Eno's pallid underproduction. Which is precisely what keeps it within the bounds of credibility. Lyrics are magic ("I've tried every conceivable pill/ To stop me from getting so ill/ But when the ship starts to rock n roll/ I've got to reach for me medicine bowl"), toons perfectly sublime (or sublimely perfect, as in "Barbarians" to the tune of "Barbara Ann"), and not even the tape loops, fog horns, chants and prayers, machine gun rolls, etc. spoil the fun. A-

Can: Soon Over Babaluma. Jazzrock from the country who gave you Silver Convention (the latter in fact make Can seem prescient -- of what is another problem). I'm lukewarm on the piece. Which may be the point. B

Jim Capaldi: Short Cut Draw Blood. Mixed bag, but the best cuts ("It's All Up to You," "Johnny Too Bad," title cut, "Keep On Trying") are excellent, catchy and rhythmic, and the whole beats anything Traffic has done sine Mason split. B+

Cate Bros. "Union Man" gets a lot of play around here, which I'm paranoid enough to find distressing. The rest has a nice grain, and I'm generally sympathetic to obscure secondhand groups, but nothing's clicking. So far, anyway. B-

Guy Clark: Old No. 1. Oozes shortstory prosody from every pore, which makes its musicality all that more difficult. But often as not Clark comes through with the goods, giving the whole production more the quaintness of Remington's paintings than Zane Grey's novellas. B+

George Crumb: Music for a Summer Evening (Makrokosmos III). With all his composerly prerogatives intact, Crumb wisely bows precise meanings to open processes and sly evocation, relishing his sounds more than his music. One of the best pieces of modern music around, and cheap. B+

Dr. Feelgood: Down by the Jetty. The mono debut, full of good songs underproduced and a bit shorn of the group's legendary dynamism. A good harbinger. A-

Dr. Feelgood: Malpractice. American debut, the tunes are weaker and the sound suffers. But for Dr. Feelgood even more than Roxy Music style is content, and this is the first album styled down. B+

Dudes: We're No Angels. The Kim Fowley (asshole as ever) lyric to the title track threw me, but I've been playing this as much as anything lately, which don't make it great but it sure is listenable, with lots of nice vocal affectations and lightweight instrumental work. B+

Duke and the Drivers: Cruisin'. The Drivers remake Stax like Flash Cad handles Leiber & Stoller, only sub Beantown funk for Californey sun 'n' sand. A good debut, though a bit inauspicious. B

Bob Dylan: Desire. I was had. Sorry. B-

Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids: Sons of the Beaches. This is beginning to wear a bit thin -- probably listening to Jan & Dean too much -- but this still suggests masterpiece, and Flash & Co. are still among the best things to have befell american music of late. A-

Fumble: Poetry in Lotion. Incongruities for a pubrock band hammering out perfectly solid late-fifties Dion and nearly a dozen other minor but ultimately bizarre concoctions, in an album that you can live with more than revere or even like. But I like that, and qualify my befuddledness with a grade. B+

Lewis Furey. A sui generis Canadian freak who sounds Hungarian, plays violin,k and is occasionally mistaken for genius. B-

Daryl Hall & John Oates. Blue-eyed soulful that I've never been able to make any sense out of, good in bits but doesn't quite add up. B

John Hiatt: Overcoats. I've been avoiding this sine catching him live in Indy, but please note that he's a genuine midwestern oddity with a nasty religious streak sometimes mistaken for surrealism, and onceuponatime the title cut scared me half to death. A-

Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Fredericks & the Clamtones: Have Moicy! This was promised as a fucking masterpiece, and damn well lives up to the notices. Could even wind up making folk music fun. A

Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson/Jessi Colter/Tompall Glaser: The Outlaws. A cheapo sampler that almost makes it. B

Elton John: Rock of the Westies. Not that I'd ever recommend buying an EJ record, but this does have his first single in ages not to go top ten, the only ballad he's ever done that doesn't turn my stomach, a number that may or may not be about wifebeating, and generally more highpowered, ragged-about-the-edges (and in fact through and through) sloppiness than almost anything of late, and of course the rinkydink piano and fey throatiness of his best jukebox cops. So I like it, I play it along with Abba and Brinsley Schwarz, and I don't expect anything more of him. A-

Speedy Keen: Y'Know Wot I Mean? Good toons. B+

Kilburn & the High-Roads: Handsome. There are at least two, maybe as many as four dynamite songs on this album, but the other 8-10 are some of the worst things ever to happen in a studio. Beware. C+

Kraftwerk: Ralf & Florian. I'm not a devotee of this group by any means, but there's some nice stuff on this particular piece of vinyl, and you can probably pick it up cutout. B+

John Lennon: Rock 'n' Roll. Lennon recently picked up $45,000 in damages to his sensitive reputation because of the Roots album fiasco. If that was just and the courts are consistent, he should make millions on this junk. Deport him. Quick.

Loggins & Messina: Native Sons. Still better than Seals & Crofts, no matter how hard they try. C

The Lost Gonzo Band. This has cosmic cowboy horseshit written all over it, but the last time I listened in it sounded sort of girlgroupy and I'll give it another try when I get the chance. B

Bob Marley & the Wailers: Rastaman Vibration. I don't begrudge their success but then I don't have to listen to them either. In fact, they're the best case I've come across in defense of the Ohio Players. (Still, if I did listen to the album, side one anyway, before writing this I'd have to admit that for what they are they're pretty good, not quite as good as Burnin' was good, but except for the Haile Selassie speach this is slightly better than Natty Dread, and if you love them you're sure to love this -- 'cept for the Haile Selassie speach, that is.) B

Hirth Martinez: Hirth From Earth. Now this is great, that is GREAT. 13 songs, all of them real fine, good words fitting perfectly in snazzy melodies, snappy arrangements. It's broad, it's deep, it takes a while, possibly quite a while, but it's a record that will startle you, amaze you, make you tink and wonder and feel. In other words, the bes tsimple song collection since Randy Newman's 12 Songs, and that's five years, bub. A+

The Frankie Miller Band: The Rock. Scottish bluesman-rocker in a record I've enjoyed the few times I've played it, while not coming back too soon or too often. Might grow. B

The Modern Lovers. The legendary Cale demo tapes, Jonathan the Genius, the best rock organ since Strange Days, incredible songs, great vocals, tremendous lyrics, and not a single person I've played this for can stand it. But then I'm doing the grading, right? A

G.T. Moore. Remix of two English albums with nice, lively cuts, snappy reggaeish dynamics (as opposed to real reggae, which is sloooooowww), and a penchant for sneaking Moore's crummy liberal political spiels in. What was that song about smiling faces sometime tell lies? This is one, which is a shame, maybe even to the point of proving that bad lyrics just might ruin a good song. B-

Robert Palmer: Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley. True, I bought it for the cover, but side one redeems the whole design with great covers and a truly superb original, "Get Outside." Side two drags a little, though. B+

Robert Palmer: Pressure Drop. Another Palmer album, so soon, too. Decent originals, weak covers (e.g., "Pressure Drop" itself). B

Gram Parsons/The Flying Burrito Bros.: Sleepless Nights. Another repackage from the grave, or beyond, which is what it sounds like and where they belong. Not really. I'm glad to have them, but ceratinly not that glad. I heard Tom Jones doing "Green Green Grass of Home" on the radio today; Parsons' version doesn't hold a candle to it. C+

John Prine: Common Sense. Folkie goes to Memphis, consorts with rockers and comes up with one of the better albums of last year. A-

Ramones. Crummy fifth generation Dolls rips, just what we need more of. B+

Lou Reed: Coney Island Baby. Easily Lou's most purely musical album since Metal Machine Music, which is bears pleasant likeness to. Or to put it differently, there's not a single lyric on the whole album with any meat to it -- I've played it thirty times in a row and the sum total is zilch. Which don't make it bad, good, or anything else but a Lou Reed album, which you can judge accordingly. I happen to prefer the third Velvets album to the second, which makes me more sympathetic to Coney Island Baby than MMM, but you can have it either way. And now that we've gotten through the object lessons, perhaps Lou can do something more normal next time. Till then, love. A-

Revolutionary Ensemble: The People's Republic. Too early to say much of anything definitive, but it's too pseudonotable to ignore, and "China Rock" is a good omen, and besides they've always struck me as so together they got to be good, and Sirone is tops on the bass. So, for that it's worth. B+

Roswell Rudd & the Jazz Composers Orchestra: Numatik Swing Band. So far in my current modest jazz bent this ranks numero uno, a nice swing with the style of dissonance I'm most attracted to. Excellent. A-

Todd Rundgren: Initiation. The side with the songs is so awful I'm scared to even play the side without the songs. D+

Todd Rundgren: Faithful. Still another exercise in the agonies of trying to make a living off an elpee's worth of toons, but at least both sides have real, genuine toons, and while the origianl stuff side is longwinded and don't make any sense, the classic covers side is shorter, perhaps with even less raison d'Ítre, though. But you can listen to the thing -- a distinct improvement over Initiation and Utopia -- and in its overarching meaninglessness it assumes a perverse fascination. B-

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: From South Africa to South Carolina. Not only does this kind of exercise give politics a bad name, it's making it rough for disco as well. C-

Neil Sedaka: The Hungry Years. There's enough here that I like that I dig it out quite frequently, but I rarely stray so far from the stereo that I can't skip over a piece of precious garbage like "Stephen." "Baby Blue," though, is outstanding. B-

Patti Smith: Horses. This otherwise great album is beginning to suffer from its bastard artiness, which could easily develop into a conceit on the part of its admirers that would spoil the whole project. A-

Steely Dan: The Royal Scam. Perhaps as Wolcott argued there's nothign right with this album, but then there's nothing wrong with it either, and I'd love to see the title cut emerge as a disco crossover. More deep seated paranoia, in cas eyou haven't snappit it up yet. A-

Billy Swan: Rock 'n' Roll Moon. I just finally got started breaking this in last night, and it has a softie, MORish flair that occasionally erupts as the rockabilly legend has it. Some nice emlodic material, and it might warm on you, but I doubt it has any chance to greatness. B

James Talley: Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love. A minor masterpiece, picaresque childhood outside lovely Cushing OK; I was slow on it, but it is persuasive enough to break form, and understated enough to charm. A

James Talley: Tryin' Like the Devil. If Got No Bread was Talley's smart hick album, this is his educated hick album, full of old-timey protest songs, love and work ballads, and some stuff that even rocks. The exception is "Deep Country Blues" -- every bit as good as the best on the former album -- but it still doesn't set quite right with me, perhaps I don't believe a sane man can carry on, but it doesn't miss the mark by much either. A-

Cecil Taylor: Nefertiti the Beautiful One Has Come. 1962 sessions that sparkle. A-

10cc: How Dare You. The history of 10cc reminds me of Pynchon's V, with their latest effort the most metallized to date, clunking in fact, with lots of latin effects thrown in to tantallize, lure you in to thei rperverted ethos, and slam. Side two is listenable; side one is not, by any circumstances. But this band has progressed beyond the point where listenability matters. And it's hard to imagine that Graham Gouldman once wrote "Bus Stop"; hard as it is to conjure up "Victoria in Cairo 1898." Hard as it is to deal plausibly with the kind of horror 10cc machinate. E

Third World. More reggae from Island. MORish and a dab soulful this time. C+

This Is Reggae Music, Vol. 2. As reggae goes, this is the pits, with no more than two songs that I dare even fantaics to withstand. (Those two songs are on the Third World and Burning Spear albums, noted elsewhere.) D+

Richard & Linda Thompson: Pour Down Like Silver. English folk with Lawrence of Arabia overtones, in an excellent album that breaks through all my displeasure with the form. Karabell should cough up the dough for this immediately. A-

Toots & the Maytals: Funky Kingston. Even the best of the current rash of reggae albums drags for most of a side and is highlighted by a John Denver tune. What can I say? When I want it I reach for this (or less often Burnin', or Catch a Fire); it's okay stuff, but that's it. B+

The Tremeloes: Shiner. Martin Cerf has provided us the worst album notes in the history of western civilization ("Benevolently, Shiner will please the Bowie die-hard . . . with its ultra-trendy lyrical/disco signs of our times. By the same token, McCartney maivens will find cause to rejoice . . . since there's all the pretty boy/pretty girl relationships here even the most romantic co-ed could dare fantasize . . . Certainly no informed pop purist would have second thoughts about stacking Shiner between the latest Eric Carmen or Sweet album"), and although the music doesn't stoop to such levels, the whole effect must have been rather dispiriting. B-

The Troggs: The Trogg Tapes. Dimwits Liberation Movement? Yeah. B+

David Werner: Imagination Quota. Paul Yamada is still the only person to have said so in print but this is really a pretty good album, with sly songs and a couple very good hooks. "Cold Shivers" is particularly excellent. A-

Hank Williams Jr. & Friends. Williams makes such good use of Toy Caldwell that I may have been wrong dismissing the Tuckers as I did, and the second side treats many of the things I so admird in Gary Stewart's latest album. A bit spotty but very respectable. B+

Archaeological notes, May 11, 2002

This is another typed manuscript. More likely just personal notes than anything actually intended for print. The probable date is 1976.

Two things I'm particularly struck by in looking at this list:

  1. The low grades and disparaging remarks about reggae music. By this time I was on Island's list, which means I was picking up quite a bit of reggae.
  2. There are no soul or disco albums on this list. By the time Terminal Zone came out and I moved to NYC in Spring 1977 I was pretty heavy into both.