National Public Viking

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lars's Favorite Discoveries & Reissues of 2006

So here's the last of the year-end features. I was going to do a meta-list (a list of my favorite lists) like last year, but decided that was silly, boring, and redundent. BUT I absolutely must point out my favorite two: "A Few Sac-Ripping Cassettes of 2006" by Emerson Dameron and Webhamster Henry's Top 10 Imaginary Recordings of 2006, both hilarious fake lists, the first being a gut-busting take on Aaron Dilloway's own particular brand of gonzo noise criticism.

Anyway, here are the new-to-me discoveries and favorite reissues of 2006:

Twink- Think Pink [Polydor, 1970; Akarma, 2001]
I spent a good part of early 2006 listening to late '60s and early '70s psychedelic music, but it was Twink (née John Alder) that became an obsession. At this point, drummers weren't exactly an integral part of the songwriting process, but when you listen the many UK psych records to which he contributed (The Pretty Things- S.F. Sorrow, Tomorrow- Tomorrow, The Pink Fairies- Neverneverland, The Deviants- Ptooff!, all landmarks of the early UK scene) and then listen to the records the same bands recorded after he left, Twink's influence is obvious. His warped sense of the pop aesthetic sculpted the sound of UK psych and would even inspire the likes of Syd Barrett and Marc Bolan without ever being properly recognized. Think Pink is an acid-psych masterpiece on all accounts with the freakiest folk freak-outs and the fuzzed-to-hell electric guitar trips. Probably one the most revelatory discoveries for me in the last few years.

Roy Harper- Stormcock [Resurgent, 1971; Science Friction, 2001]
I asked John Fernandes (yes, of Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System fame - it's not really name-dropping if you saw him every other day) what record I should pick up last time I was at Wuxtry in Athens and he went straight for this one. "I heard some of your songs and thought you might really dig this, man," and then John bounced around like John bounces around when he gets really excited about a record. (How I miss talking music with John!) I don't know how Harper at all reminded him of my own music, but I've certainly moved more this way since owning Stormcock. Epic, yet intimate progressive folk music with songs seven to thirteen minutes in length that brings together Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Bert Jansch's late '60s material. One of the few records I actually just sit and listen to.

Patty Waters- Patty Waters Sings [ESP-Disk', 1965; ESP-Disk', 2002]
Phillip actually gave me a CDR promo for Waters's Complete ESP-Disk' Recordings, but I forgot that I had it and bought Sings at Tower Records's massive "going out of business" sale (15 CDs for $70? Amazing). No matter, I like to support the label when I can, even if it was only $3. Of course, it's important to mention her thirteen-minute vocal freak-out on "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" that's as disturbing as it is powerful, but I'm especially attracted to her more vocal/piano jazz songs that are deceptively simple and "traditional." They’re downright haunting, almost scary, as if Waters stalks the subjects in "Why Can't I Come to You" and "You Loved Me."

The Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble- Drumdance to the Motherland [Dogtown, 1972; Eremite, 2006]
The mere mention of the following words will make any jazz collector salivate: "long-lost" and "out-jazz." I thank Dusted Magazine for turning me onto this once rare piece of black psychedelic jazz. The opening cut alone rivals the ambient dub-noise of Human Animal (Wolf Eyes) with live reverb manipulation that swarms with bass clarinet and endless drums. In addition to being the most spaced-out free-jazz record this side of Sun Ra, Drumdance roots itself in African tribal rhythms as well as funk; thus, maybe creating the first dub-funk-free-jazz exploration (?). I delightfully grin every time I put it on. Love love this one.

Julie Tippetts- Sunset Glow [Utopia, 1975; Disconforme, 2004]
I listened to many Julie Driscoll/Tippetts albums in 2006 (notably, Streetnoise with Brian Auger, an amazing jazz/folk-rock album) in as close as a chronological order as I could follow. Her transition from a semi-pop-star to a free-jazz vocalist is a fascinating trajectory and it's on Sunset Glow that she's right in the middle. She began to experiment with improvisation, breath control, and phrasing, all of which would be fully realized with her husband, Keith Tippett, but on Sunset Glow she's still in a psych-rock and pop/folk format. The songs are modal allowing the remarkable line-up of musicians (members of the Canterbury avant-rock scene) as well as Julie to freely improvise on the loose score. In five minutes, she’ll seamlessly move from a soft coo to vocal acrobatics without breaking a sweat. If anything, I’m floored by the life-affirming handclaps in "What Is Living" every time.

Harvey Milk- Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men [Reproductive, 1997; Relapse, 2006]
Harvey Milk- Anthem DVD [Chunklet, 2006]
2006: Year of the Milk. Seriously. Preceding Special Wishes in September (my #2 album of the year), the Athens trio saw a re-release of the most confounding metal record of the '90s (Courtesy) and the already essential (and quickly out of print) Anthem DVD, a three-hour live concert documentary with performances from their humble barn-burner punk beginnings in 1994 to the unrelenting and emotional sludge of the band's reunion in 2005. The album, revered among its fans as the definite Harvey Milk release, is as weird as all of the metal freaks at Aquarius Records say it is: long passages of purposefully repetitive doom-metal riffs (to the point of no longer resembling metal at all), creepy piano passages, early '90s indie-rock aping, classic-rock guitar solos gone haywire, thick, disgusting & distorted sludge, an uncomfortable (in a good way) take on Leonard Cohen's "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong," and Creston Spiers's unmistakable bone-jaw howl. I don't how successful this particular reissue has been, but I hope that in light of all the doom and drone-metal craze, that some metal and/or avant-garde kids are taking to the Milk. Courtesy was way ahead of its time and, in many ways, still is. Here's to hoping that 2007 will see reissues of My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be and The Pleaser and the much-rumored new line-up of Harvey Milk including metal-weirdo visionary Joe Preston (as long as he just plays bass and doesn’t sing, I’m nuts about this).

David Crosby- If I Could Only Remember My Name [Atlantic, 1971; Atlantic/Rhino, 2006]
I literally just started listening to David Crosby's first solo record last week (thanks to an NPR "Song of the Day" feature), so I'm not all that well-acquainted with it, yet. My knowledge of Crosby extends to his time in The Byrds, but I have the feeling it's high-time (heh) for me to explore his work in CSN&Y, too. Totally lazy/hazy Californian psychedelic-folk/rock with cosmic electric guitar work by Jerry Garcia.

Kath Bloom- Finally [Chapter Music, 2006]
It's more than appropriate that Kath Bloom sees the collection treatment the same year as Loren Connors (Night Through, #7 on my top 30 list) as she spent the first half of the '80s as his vocal collaborator (rumor has it that Chapter Music will reissue those long out-of-print records, too!). Those collaborations were more on the avant-garde side of things with Bloom’s sinewy vocals wrapping around Connors's abstract blues. Finally collects from the straight folk and country career that Bloom's followed when she picked up the guitar again in the late '90s, but it's her uncharacteristic vocal style that leads you strangely in. Her voice warbles with an alto vibrato that trails off with sorrow like on the heartbreaking "A Homeless Dream" or "Forget About Him."

Josef K- Entomology [Domino, 2006]
Best-of treatment for the early '80s Scottish post-punk band with the 'tude of Gang of Four and the pop sensibilities of The Cure. The rhythm section is standard (funky bass, danceable drums), but necessary to ground the band because if this was a guitar duo, it'd be like Sonny Sharrock's overdubbed solo Guitar album for the new-wave. Man, the guitar work is totally out there with a matching vocalist to boot. Favorite song of the moment: "Chance Meeting [Postcard 7" Version]" (love the horns at the end, very unexpected).

Karen Dalton- In My Own Time [Just Sunshine, 1971; Light In The Attic, 2006]
I get miffed when someone suggests that because a musician doesn't write his/her own material that it's automatically of lesser value. Off the top of my head, I could rattle off ten names from the jazz pantheon alone that often out-shine the original songwriters for the hits which they are known. Jazz vocalists, Billie Holiday in particular, are a good reference point for Karen Dalton, a shy singer coming out of the late '60s folk revival. Unlike her debut, an acid-folk-rock record recorded unbeknownst to her, In My Own Time is a more country-tinged affair with a full-on electric band. Like Bob Dylan, who counts Dalton's voice as one of his favorites, she got flack for going electric, but when you listen to her interpretations of soul and traditional folk songs, there's absolutely no other way she could have gone about it. Listening to Time, I have to wonder if Chan Marshall (Cat Power) wasn’t profoundly influenced by Dalton as both radically reinterpret classics to the point where the songs are so different that they’re almost unrecognizable and newly canonized.


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