Friday, November 11, 2011

And Bands: Almost Fed Up With the Blues

John Hiatt and The Goners: Almost Fed Up With the Blues


Is it fair, this week, to post a song by a long-time solo artist who made exactly one album billed as the work of an And Band? In the case of John Hiatt and the Goners, I would say yes. In addition to Hiatt, the Goners included Sonny Landreth, Kenneth Blevins, and Dave Ranson. Although Beneath This Gruff Exterior is the only album credited to the Goners, they had been Hiatt’s touring band for many years. Almost Fed Up With the Blues is the sound of a group of musicians who know each other well having fun. The fade out at the end is needed because these guys sound like they would happily jam away on the song for hours if nobody stopped them. The baritone sax on the song is by guest musician Bobby Keys.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And Bands: Let’s Make Love Not War

Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Let’s Make Love Not War


As far as monikers go, it is fair to say, The 103rd Street Rhythm Band does lack the concise zip of your assorted Pips, Blue Notes or Family Stones. Precede that unwieldy handle with the name of your frontman, and you will over the years have annoyed more than one person trying to scribble your outfit’s name and title into the tiny space provided for tracklistings on cassette tapes. Or the pedant who had to suffer the torment of file name limitations on old operating systems or the first version of ID3 tags. Yes, I mean me.

Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band may be unsnappy by name, but the funky sound of their late ’60s/early ’70s soul music offers reparation. They are best known (and most feared by Billboard’s typesetters) for hits such as “Express Yourself”, “Do Your Thing” and, best of all, the superb “Love Land”.

Before forming a succession of incarnations of the 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Charles Wright – who clearly enjoyed the sound of his name – led a group which he called Charles Wright and the Wright Sounds. The Wright Sounds’ keyboard player was one Daryl Dragon, who later would tinkle the ivories for the Beach Boys, where he was given the nickname “Captain”. With that moniker, he’d go on to have a few hits with his wife, Toni Tennille.

The Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band song here appeared on their 1971 album You’re So Beautiful, which defied its soppy title by featuring some seriously funky grooves. “Let’s Make Love Not War” is not one of them, but it recalls Wright’s early days as a doo wop singer – though few doo wop songs have been anti-war numbers introduced by traumatic gunfire followed by the forlorn sound of the death-proclaiming bugle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And Bands: Pygmy

As the entries below already made clear, this week's theme provides ample opportunity to go obscure. And why not indeed? So let me highlight Japrockers Akira Ishikawa & The Count Buffaloes, one of the first bands to come up when I punched in & The in my iTunes. The psychedelic sludge groove of Pigmy ('72) was inspired by an actual visit to Uganda, where drummer Ishikawa spent some high times studying African percussion techniques. Space guitar courtesy of Kimio Mizutani.

Monday, November 7, 2011

And Bands: Glide / Living With God

Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: Glide


Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: Living With God (live, WXPN)


At least four of our regular contributors have heard Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, the upstate NY-based Pink Floyd-meets-The Allman Brothers hillbilly psychedelic folk rock band which takes over the dance and main stages at our fave folk festival each summer for successive evenings of total mayhem and their infamous extended ecstatic jams. I know, because you can hear it from every distant tentsite - and for three years running, the energy has brought me out of my own camp circle like a will-o-the-wisp to dance in the moonlight with the young'uns, umbrella at the ready, already festooned with lightsticks for the journey.

The band members, several of whom are related by blood or marriage, but not one of whom is named Gandalf Murphy, style themselves as the sonic spirit guides to a mythical state of being somewhere between nirvana and Atlantis, where kindness and love reign supreme. Their leather-and-lace costumes are outlandish and cosplay-retro-fantasy, as befits their ridiculous backstory, but the mythos works: their followers are legion, known for travelling hundreds of miles to attend one of their pre-Halloween Grand Slambovian Hillbilly Pirate Balls, and I'm fast becoming one of them, thanks to those few precious nights of uncontrolled wantonness which they provide for me every summer.

Like the Grateful Dead before them, studio recordings from the Grand Slambovian camp offer but a faint hint of what their live performances provide, and so much of their recorded output is in fact live recordings released officially; appropriately, then, I've included not one but two tunes above, the first from their 2003 sophomore studio release, the second a truncated teaser from a live radio show the following year, so you can hear the difference. But really, travel the hundred miles if you can. We'll make a Slambovian of you yet.

And Bands: I Could Be So Good To You

Don and The Goodtimes: I Could Be So Good To You


Portland's Don Gallucci is the one man link between The Kingsmen and The Stooges and it's quite a story. As a high school kid, he played those memorable electric piano riffs on The Kingsmen's 1963 hit "Louie Louie" but was too young to go on tour when the single went nationwide. Down but not out, he got some buddies together and formed Don and the Goodtimes.

They toured the Northwest circuit in top hats-- filling a gap left by the now LA-based hit making machine Paul Revere and the Raiders. In 1966, Don and the Goodtimes became the house band on Dick Clark's TV show "Where The Action Is". They got signed to Epic and, with the help of studio musicians, recorded and  released "I Could Be So Good To You" in 1967. The single went #1 in the Northwest, but failed to claw its way into the Billboard Top 40.

    After an album produced by the prolific Jack Nitzsche and a  few more singles, Don and the Goodtimes  broke up and Gallucci started a legendary progressive rock band called Touch. Alas their self titled album went nowhere and Don lent his studio wizardry to Elektra. His best known producing effort is the one Don says he just tried not to "screw up": The Stooges's Fun House, arguably rock's first punk record.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And Bands: So You Think You’re In Love

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians: So You Think You‘re In Love


You probably have never heard of Dennis and the Experts. I certainly hadn’t until I did research for this post. Formed in 1976, they soon changed their name to The Soft Boys. The Soft Boys included Robyn Hitchcock, Morris Windsor, and Andy Metcalfe, plus one of three guitarists, depending on when you asked. It was only in the last year the band was together that Metcalfe left, to be replaced by Matthew Selligman. The band broke up, having released two albums, and Hitchcock started his solo career. But when Hitchcock decided that he wanted to work with a band again, Metcalfe and Windsor were back on board. There was also a keyboard player, but he was only there for a year. The “new” band was Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. By the time the band recorded the album Perspex Island, the lineup was augmented by guest musicians, including Michael Stipe and Peter Buck from REM. So You Think You’re In Love comes from that album, and it finds the band coming as close as they ever did to pop music. Earlier, the band featured Hitchcock’s surreal lyrics, backed by edgy music that could slip into an odd time signature without warning. But here, Hitchcock sounds like he has returned from his journey to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and is becoming reaclimated to life on earth. I love both the earlier and this later sound, but I thought this would be a better starting point for anyone discovering Hitchcock’s music for the first time.