Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DVD Review: Black Lips – Kids Like You & Me

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Black Lips – Kids Like You & Me
Written and directed by Bill Cody
Subterranean Productions / A Middle East Tour Film
MVD Visual
79 minutes, 2012 / 2013
www.mvdvisual.com

A week after huge anti-United States riots in Cairo in 2012 that included storming of the embassy, the Atlanta-native pop-punk band Black Lips began a tour of the Middle East. It was two years of preparation to line up all their punks in a row, and they were on their way.

I was touring around in Egypt for a week in 1993, and while there was a level of happiness by businesses that we were there spending tourist money, there was also an undercurrent of suspicion, even then, about us scholars from New York University traipsing around the Nile tombs and valleys. I certainly did not hear any Western music there back then, never mind punk rock. Post-9/11, it is even more astonishing to have this band touring the countries of Cyprus, Egypt, U.A.E., Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. I am going to assume that no member of the band was a – er – of the Hebraic faith.

The documentary of this tour begins with news broadcasts of the riots, leading into a live performance by the band. This is a nicely handled juxtaposition. There are a couple of other wise choices, such as starting in Cyprus, which is an easier country to transition into the tour. The band also picks Lebanese “indie rockers” Lazzy Lung to share the bill. The lead singer moved to Lebanon just as the Israeli conflict happened and formed his band then.

For the first show in Egypt (where a majority of this documentary takes place), we see a clip of the band playing, the audience bouncing, mixed with annotated film excerpts of the Arab Spring two years earlier. The added historical video bites include sound that drowns out the band, which does seem like an unwise choice because in this context it sounds preachy. See the band or hear a history lesson? Both important, but both conflict. It’s the same mindset as having a PowerPoint slide that says one thing and the person at the podium saying something else. Well, it can be read or heard, but not both. By presenting the history lesson during the song, it takes the emphasis away from both.

The band also starts off coming across as a bit shallow to me, I’m sorry to say, but I think that's more of the director's choices. I mean, we follow one of them in an excursion to buy aftershave. You’re in Egypt and that’s what interests you? Then they’re skateboarding on some steps; well, falling more than skating. I would have not bothered including that footage, as it has nothing to do with anything. Plus, they’re touring with a band that speaks the language, so why not show them as interpreters (which they probably were)? The answer is probably that theoretically, cinematic “confusion = chaos = interest.”

Now before you think I’m talking all doom’n’gloom, there are way more positive things about the film than not. Besides many shots of Black Lips playing, as well as giving some nice time to Lazzy Lung, we do get to see some really interesting current news, such as a brief commentary by an ex-pat (woman) writer, and we watch the band listen to an NPR report about them being in the Middle East.

More interesting than bad skateboarding is seeing them at the Giza pyramids (a life highlight when I did it), and talking to locals who are interested in who the band are, and what Westerners are doing there, braving possibly dangerous waters of political and cultural change. I met up with some of that as well. It’s both scary and thrilling to have complete strangers in that part of the world walk up to you and try to talk to you because you are different.

One thing I noticed is that at their shows, there seems to be a lot of Westerners, including blonde women. However, you never see the band do any hook-ups, with men or women (I have no idea about their orientation, honestly), which is fine with me. Another female-related aspect I was interested in is that the film is shown being shot by a Western woman with dyed blonde hair, and wondered how the locals would react to her. Apparently, this is never mentioned or touched upon, which I think is a mistake, even if she isn’t a member of the band.

It gets more interesting as they head off to play in Erbil, Iraq, not a place you may imagine as being welcoming to an American band. Also, comparing the extreme opulence of Dubai to the more austere Erbil is a lesson all in itself to this viewer.

I also found the interviews with members of Lazzy Lung talking about living through the civil war in Lebanon, and how “normal” life became in the midst of it, more fascinating than most of what is said by Black Lips, and wanted to hear more about that.

For me, the big flaw of the film is that we never really get to know much about the band as individuals. Yes, they are interviewed separately, but nothing deep. I know as little about the band’s personnel as when I started the film, other than they like to skateboard, nearly all have facial hair of some sort, one of them is a “news junkie,” and one of them always annoyingly wears an oversized baseball cap. What we do learn about them, and this is a strong point in the film for me, is that we see the band interviewed on numerous media in various countries, including Cairo and Dubai.

Also, it would have helped if their music had a caption crawl. Speaking of which, to be honest, I wasn’t really familiar with the Black Lips, musically, before this, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to hear what they sound like. Definitely not my taste, and they reminded me of the slickness of the Eagles of Death Metal more than punk, which is fine, just not something I’m going to run out and buy. I found the music of Lazzy Lung more interesting.

There isn’t anything really controversial here; nothing to make you say “wow,” but it is interesting how the news footage is interspersed with the location of the band. The closest they get is a very quick discussion of how one of the venues cancelled because the band had once been in Israel, but they get another gig in that city in Egypt, so all is good, I guess. The tour seems to have been a success, and when they talk about how an earlier excursion in India did not go well or as expected, I wanted to see the film of that. Perhaps a prequel?

The extras are the trailer (natch), an almost three minute clip in Cairo of the complete song “Oh Katrina” by Black Lips, a (more interesting) complete song by Lazzy Lung at the same venue, and a nearly 8-minute interview on Lebanese MTV (I kid you not).

If you’re a fan of the band, or curious about them, this is a release that is worth the view; if not, well…

 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bush Tetras: Not Your Common Garden Variety [from 1980]

Text by David G / FFanzeen, August/September 1980
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos, FFanzeen blog, 2015

I never did get to see the Bush Tetras play live, and now they are about to reform for their 35th Anniversary, despite the passing of one of the trio.

Back in August 1978, I met the drummer, Dee Pop, while he was still living in Buffalo, and saw his band, the Secrets. I even temporarily lent him my spiked bracelet for a night or two. He eventually moved to New York and formed the Bush Tetras with Pat Place (guitar), Cynthia Sley (vox), and Laura Kennedy (bass). The band was hard to categorize, not being New Wave or No Wave, or even punk, but leaning more towards avant-garde dissonant funk. Heck they may have even been the leaders of that sound. For a while, you could not go to a club without hearing their single, “Too Many Creeps,” the recording of which is discussed below.

While reforming occasionally over the years, Laura Kenney succumbed to liver cancer in 2011, and was replaced by Cindy Rickmond, who had a long history on the scene, including a band I enjoyed, Cheap Perfume.  In May 2015, they will be playing a 35 anniversary show in New York. – RBF

The Bush Tetras. Four shrubs? Actually, an amalgam of Bush Babies and Neon Tetras. Tetra means four – that’s convenient – but what about Bush Babies? The name conjures images of the jungle: wild, dangerous – like a big cat; feline, graceful, sensual. Laura Kennedy prowls the stage, her taut, slinky bass figures meshing with Dee Pop’s rolling, tribal toms. Elemental rhythms. Pat Place’s slide guitar cuts through the mix like a bird in a rainforest, as Cynthia Sley, moving nary a muscle, chants a vision of urban life; for the Bush Tetras, the city becomes the jungle.

Song titles like “Tropics” and “Voodoo” only seem to increase the feeling; for anyone who’s ever lived in the city to long, “Too Many Creeps” says it all. Sparse and funky; easy to dance to. The music is oddly magnetic. The Bush Tetras don’t overpower with needless volume, or bore with tired riffs; they draw the audience in with sheer feeling and conviction.

The following interview took place in Pat and Laura’s apartment – carefully watched over by Pat’s amazing collection of miniature monster movie models – the day after the band recorded some tracks for their debut single. Cut sometime in July on the new 99 Records label, the 45 will feature “Too Many Creeps,” “Snakes Crawl,” and “Tropics.”

FFanzeen: How did the band get together?
Dee Pop: I was playing with a friend named Jimmy [Jimmy Joe Uliana – RBF, 2015] , way back when, and me and Jimmy went and jammed with Pat and Laura one day – this is last August – and we fucked around for a few months’ time, getting the group together, but that combination didn’t work. Then Jimmy left the group and we tried to get somebody else to fill in the spot that would be a singer, and we worked with Adele Bertei for a little while, and that didn’t work; we just wanted to do different things. We did one gig with her in November.
Laura Kennedy: At [the club] the Kitchen. It was supposed to be an art performance.
Dee: And we weren’t very arty. That didn’t work and Adele left, and then Cynthia joined and – here we are.

FFanzeen: Did you already have set songs by this time?
Laura: Well, the three of us played together for a real long time, and since it was obvious that the other people hadn’t worked out, we just figured we’d play a while together and wait for the moment when we’d find the person who could actually fit in with us. Cynthia and I have known each other for a long time.

FFanzeen: You’re both from Cleveland?
Laura: We went to art school together and she never sung before, but we just said, “Hey, come on and try it out.” Anyway, it worked really well.
Cynthia Sley: We played out after three weeks.
Laura: Yeah, we spend like two weeks getting together about seven songs.
Dee: Six
Laura: Six songs was it? And then we played [the club] TR3; we opened for the Raybeats.

FFanzeen: About that time, some of the local music press were making a big thing out of the fact that the ex-Contortions were all back on the scene. Pat, what were you doing in the time period after the dissolution of the Contortions and before the Tetras, and how did that press affect this band?
Pat Place: Well, that’s when Dee and Laura and Jimmy and I were just jamming. At that time I felt very open to just experimenting and playing music with different people, and also try to develop my guitar playing. It was really kind of a relief when the Contortions broke up, because that situation was more or less a dictatorship, so in a way, I felt set free. The Bush Tetras are very democratic. We all feel free to throw out ideas and work on them. To find people that you can work with in that way, to me, is the most satisfying way to work.
Laura: That’s how we met Dee and Jimmy; Pat and I did a performance at TR3 with Judy Nylon and another friend – a multi-media thing – and Jimmy saw that and wanted to get together, so we did.

FFanzeen: The lyrics to a song like “Creeps” seem to convey a kind of intolerance towards certain people.
Cynthia: Well, “Creeps” is Pat’s.
Pat: That’s from living in New York too long.
Laura: “Snakes Crawl” was written at the Bleecker Street [Cinema].
Pat: No, it was “Too Many Creeps.”
Cynthia: It’s hard walking around in the street. “Snakes Crawl” and “Creeps” are going to be on the record.
Laura: Yeah, they’re going to come out on a single on this new independent label that Ed Bahlman at [the store] 99 Records on McDougal [Street] is doing. We just recorded it.
Pat: I feel kind of bad about “Too Many Creeps.” I hope people don’t misinterpret that. We rehearse on the lower East Side, where all those, like, junkies (and) creeps hang out and harass us all the time. You get that all the time in the street. I was working at the Bleecker Street and so many creeps would come in there and just bug you, and it was driving me crazy. But I don’t want to make it sound like we’re talking to the audience or anything.

FFanzeen: When do you expect the single to come out?
Laura: We hope it will come out the end of July. I guess you never really know how long it takes these companies to press ‘em or release ‘em.
Dee: We still have the mixing to do and some more overdubs and stuff.

FFanzeen: Do you consider ourselves a dance-oriented band?
Cynthia: Oh, I think so.

FFanzeen: It seems a lot of the new bands are dance-oriented as almost a backlash; rock’n’roll dance music.
Laura: Yeah, it seems like a lot of people are jumping on certain bandwagons, which is kind of unfortunate; but I’ve always liked to dance.
Cynthia: In Cleveland, Laura and I just danced our butts off.
Laura: There was one club in Cleveland where you could hear New Wave music on Thursday nights, and we’d always have Pere Ubu and Devo on a double bill.
Cynthia: The Rubber City Rebels.
Laura: Yeah, so we’d just hang out down there: if you can dance to Pere Ubu, you can dance to just about anything.

FFanzeen: What made you come to New York?
Cynthia: If you ever lived in Cleveland, you’d know why you’d wanna leave.

FFanzeen: You recently opened for Gang of Four at Hurrah. Is it harder to open for a fairly established English band then to gig with another New York band?
Laura: It seems like it’s a hard situation to open for a band that has an established audience, but most of the comments that we’ve had from people, the ones that stick out in my mind, are from people who’ve gone out of their way to come up to us after our sets and say, “You know, I really like your band. I really relate to you.”
Pat: Yeah, that’s a real surprise to me. I’m glad.
Laura: But it seems it’s a real crossover. Even at the 80s Club [with Lydia Lunch’s 8-Eyed Spy] which was a real strange audience for us, and out in Hoboken where we had to really work hard to get across to the audience, because they’re very removed from New Wave music it seems. They don’t know if they’re supposed to like you or not, so they kind of examine you for a while first. It seems like it hasn’t been too hard for us to get across to people in that way. They instantly sort of like us, or I guess if they didn’t like us, they’d leave.
Pat: Or they’d want their money back, saying it’s disco. That happened at [the club] Maxwell’s.

FFanzeen: I think there are similarities because of the beat and the fragmented guitar, but they’re very English, and you’re kind of…Dee: They must listen to the same records as us.

FFanzeen: Like what?
Cynthia: ZZ Top.
Dee: We have a lot of different influences.
Pat: Like Dee likes reggae and I hate reggae, so we sort of compromise.
Laura: Well, reggae is great drum music, and the dub stuff is real cool, too.
Dee: We take all of our influences, and instead of saying, “Okay, now let’s write a reggae song,” when we write a song, I might come in and I’ll be inspired by a particular rhythm I hear on a record or something. Then everyone will add their own different influences to the songs, so it comes out like a conglomeration of a lot of things, instead of just one token label, like “This is the rock song,” and “This is their reggae song,” and “This is their punk song,” or whatever.
Laura: Yeah, instead of trying to come out like one of those punk/funk groups or anything, we listen to a lot of rock’n’roll – it’s pretty good dance music – but I don’t think we sound like a ‘60s rock’n’roll band, either. We don’t sound anything like PiL, but I think we’re all influenced by them because their way of working is real new, and it’s real modern. I think, like Dee said, what we try to do is take all the things that we hear and feel and think about, and when we get together, we just try to pick up on whatever the other person is doing, like a rhythm – it’s all real personal.
Dee: It’s all really democratic. If I have a drum beat that sounds kind of reggae-ish, I won’t go to Laura and say she’s gotta play like Robbie Shakespeare and boost the bass, or something – whatever she does, if it fits and we all like it, that’s the way it works.

FFanzeen: I can hear that diversity in a lot of your stuff.
Laura: Someone once said that we sound more like an English band than an American band, but I’m not really sure what an American band is supposed to sound like.
Dee: Well, it doesn’t really matter, because the English bands steal everything from the Americans anyway.
Cynthia: I think that the diversity is good, ‘cause I like all the different kinds of audiences. I’d rather see a different audience every time rather than just the same audience. It’s really fun.
Laura: There’s something challenging about winning over people that don’t know where you’re coming from or have never heard of you, or they’re there to see something else and they’re sorta surprised.
Pat: Yes, but we’re not Blondie or Tom Petty or, you know, all that slick sounding, bland stuff. I think a lot of people prefer that because it’s familiar – rehashed from the past. It’s easy for them to swallow and it’s what radio pushes.

FFanzeen: Do you feel that the record industry is ignoring a lot of the music that’s coming out of New York, in favor of the “blander” stuff that’s coming out of California and Middle America? There’s a lot of publicity surrounding New York bands, but no recording contracts.
Laura: Well, that’s not really true.
Pat: It’s pretty true because of the state of radio right now. I think it’s really horrible, and it’s all because of big business and the people running it. They don’t want to let the stuff in. They’re afraid to take a chance on anything. I mean, in the ‘60s, you could turn on the radio and hear Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, you know, the new music that was saying something and making changes, but the Middle Class got scared and it decided, it seems, to never let that happen again. I think things are kind of scary right now – reactionary. Most kids in mid-America are not very hip; they’re content to buy new cars and jeans. Radio or the record companies could help, but hey obviously don’t want to. The whole PIX thing proves it [re: the closing down of radio station WPIX, the only station that played punk at the time – RBF, 2015]. I think that was a big setback. The clubs are the only hope for new music right now.
Cynthia: It’s really at a low point right now.
Laura: Well, there are a few bands. Polyrock’s with RCA. The B-52’s didn’t get signed till they came to New York. You can almost consider them a New York band – they were discovered here. They couldn’t have been discovered out in [Athens] Georgia… Talking Heads – but that’s pretty old. There’s a lot of music coming out of New York that is discovered.
Cynthia: On the scale of things, I think they’re in the minority.
Dee: Did you read the article in the Soho Weekly News this week, about independent labels in England and big business in America? They were just saying that there’s more chance in England of being spotted for your own music, rather than being some sort of safe act that you can push on people that don’t know anything at all.
Laura: The whole situation in England is different ‘cause it’s a small country; there’s lot of media that’s ready to pick up on everything. They have weekly music papers. It’s probably as easy to tour their whole country as it is to get gigs here, around the city. And the corporations there are meant to lose money – they have tons of money to get rid of, or they’ll lose it to taxes. So, they’re probably more willing to take chances on unconventional groups.

FFanzeen: There are indepen-dents popping up around the city, like 99 Records. And there are more on the way.
Laura: That’s picking up. There’s still the problem of radio; there’s basically no station, which is pretty outrageous for a city this size.
Dee: Now there’s no station that plays anything; not unless they’re playing the safe stuff. It’s hard even to hear the Clash in New York City on the radio.
Pat: That’s why I’m really glad that Public Image did so well over here. They reached a lot of people. What they’re doing is really different. It’s really great.

FFanzeen: I find that live, the Tetras seem to draw the audience in with the music alone. You don’t seem to be taking the usual, “You have to like us” type stance, you just play.
Pat: Well, it’s hard sometimes doing these gigs. You can’t think about the audience too much. I really like playing with this band, so I just figure, “Alright, so we’re gonna go up there and play, and they either like us or they don’t.” When you go onstage with the attitude, “Well, we’ve gotta win this audience over,” I think it’s pretty hard. Its nerve wracking. So you just have to think, “Well, I don’t care, we’re just playing our music.”
Cynthia: It’s a real gas when people dance.
Laura: It’s great when they respond that way. That’s what I mean about a place like TR3, where it’s so intimate and there’s this immediate response because the audience is right there. And the thing about the way we are on stage is just that we all like playing together so much, and the songs that we do come together out of these things. We put them together like, “Okay this is our presentation of our music,” but we do other things, like some of the songs we do in rehearsal go on 20 minutes, but I don’t think people want to hear that in a club.
Dee: All of our sets are really different. It all depends on the audience.

Fanzeen: When I saw you, I felt that your music prodded the audience without hitting them over the head.
Laura: Well, we’re growing. We’re not really afraid to grow in public.
Cynthia: We’re trying to seduce.
Pat: We wanna play music that puts people in a trace.
Laura: Yeah, music is seductive, and you don’t always have to hit somebody over the head. You don’t have to hit ‘em really hard, anyway.
Cynthia: You just hit ‘em where it counts.

FFanzeen: You really get worked into a nice groove.
Pat: That’s the most important thing: finding that groove.
Laura: It has a lot to do with how you’re feeling that night. Some of our sets have been really fast-paced and over in 20 minutes; and then the same songs could take up 40 minutes if we’re feeling different about it that night.

FFanzeen: Do you have any immediate plans to play out of New York?
Laura: We’ll probably play Philly soon, and Buffalo and Toronto.
Dee: There’s talk of going to Italy in July with the Lounge Lizards.

FFanzeen: Do you have other recordings lined up after the single?
Cynthia: We could make an album if somebody wants to pay for it.
Dee: If this first 45 does well, I could see quickly doing another record for 99. So far, it’s been really great working with Ed. We had an offer to do a single for Fetish Records [an English-based label], but Ed’s a great fan and very open; and he’s right down the block, which makes it easy to check on what’s going on.

FFanzeen: Are you the only act on 99 so far?
Laura: No, they’ve got Glenn Branca.

FFanzeen: Do you feel that there’s a community of musicians in New York, or is every band out for themselves?
Laura: Well, Don Christensen, the Raybeat’s drummer, is helping us produce our single.
Pat: 8-Eyed Spy, the Raybeats, and us are all pretty good friends, and it’s nice. It’s fun to do double bills with them, but you can’t do that too often. It’s just too incestuous or something. Basically, it’s not that everyone is just out for themselves, it’s just that everyone’s busy with their own thing.

FFanzeen: Pat, do you use any special tuning when you play slide?
Pat: No, I just use regular tunings.

FFanzeen: When you started, did you decide to play slide, or did you pick it up later?
Pat: Yeah, well, if you haven’t played guitar before, it’s the easiest way to get by [laughs] – you know, make a lot of noise.
Laura: Tell him how long you played before you did your first gig.
Pat: [Laughs] I’d been playing for a coupla days. But I liked Teenage Jesus; I like the way Lydia [Lunch] used to play slide guitar. I was influenced by her, actually; and Mars, I used to like that band Mars. And I started to learn to play regular now.
Laura: ZZ Top style.
Dee: She’s the only guitarist, so she has to take up more.

FFanzeen: Do you ever consider getting another instrument, to free Pat up for playing more slide?
Laura: We thought about it.
Pat: We tried playing with some other people; it’s just really hard right now ‘cause we work real well together and we have to write songs, and trying to add another person right now is pretty difficult because things are going so fast.
Laura: Right now we have about four days between gigs or recording or something, and if we want to write any new songs, which we’re trying to do at least a couple of times a month, it takes a lot of time. We rehearse a lot, and to bring in a new person at this point, would be…
Dee: Besides that, we would have to change our name, because, among other things, Tetra means four.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jack Bruce: The 50th Anniversary Concerts, DVD Edition

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Jack Bruce: The 50th Anniversary Concerts – DVD Edition (2 DVDs)
MIG / Intact
235 minutes, 1993 / 2014
www.mig-music.de    
www.mvdvisual.com

Jack Bruce is associated with many of the important blues rockers of the 1960 and onward, including John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann, Blues Incorporated and West, Bruce & Laing. However, it will always be Cream for which his name will be linked first.

Quick side story: when I was in sleepaway camp during the 1960s, during one year the only record anyone thought to bring up for the three weeks was Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” When we had dances, we would play it over and over. If we wanted to dance fast and frantic, we played it at 78. When we wanted to slow dance, we played it at 78. I don’t remember them putting the needle to the B-side, though they probably did. To this day, I am conformable hearing it at all those speeds.

On November 2 and 3 of 1993, concerts were held at E-Werk in Cologne, Germany, to celebrate Jack Bruce’s 50th birthday, almost 21 years before his passing on October 25, 2014 at age 71.

As presented here in usual excellent Rockpalast standards, the beginning is at a slow build. It initiates with Bruce playing Improvisation on Minuet No. 1 solo on the cello. A multi-musical talent, I understand now why people don’t usually know him for this instrument. I’m just sayin’ and truthifyin’, not hatin’.

After he jumps on the piano (much better) and starts a selection of tunes that sound pretty jazzy in an early style that Fats Waller would have loved, he is joined by keyboardist Gary Husband. With Bruce playing a full piano and Husband on electronics, they blend a sound that is both titters and full chested. Getting better all the time.

When those numbers are completed and Husband is dismissed, Bruce picks up the bass and brings out British blues saxophone legend Dick Heckstall-Smith (d. 2004), along with his Cream compadre, the one and only curmudgeon drummer Ginger Baker. This, of course, changes the dynamics of the room. Interestingly, the trio does not break out into busting some Blues, but into some beautify jazz riffs, usually led by Heckstall-Smith’s sax (though sometimes he does this trick where he plays the sax and clarinet at the same time). Naturally, everyone gets their solo shots. There is a lot of off-kilter-style jazz improvs that would have made Miles proud, full of a-tonal and arrhythmic phrasing.

At 42 minutes, the band expands and we finally get to hear some rock solid blues, with “First Time I Met the Blues.” Of course, it is heartfelt and respectful. Then, as the band gets even larger – including the amazing keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who I had the pleasure to meet in the 1980s when he accompanied Human Switchboard at Irving Plaza – they start to rock a bit more.

About an hour into the first disc, the selection starts turning proggish, and my interest started to wan… Part of me wanted to put on the Ramones, which is always an antidote to this. It was going fine until then, but I suddently starting thinking about what was for supper, and that’s a bad sign. But I was determined to stick it out.

It was worth it, of course, because being the Blues man, you know that would come back, and it did strongly with “Neighbor, Neighbor” and “Born Under a Bad Sign.” This, as with most of the songs, comes with many solos by various musicians, everyone getting their limelight time.

One of the variances into classic rock style with a Celtic lilt is “Ships in the Night,” when he is joined by singer Maggie Reilly (who, elsewhere, was the female vocal on Mike Oldfield’s amazing “Five Miles Out,” but I digress…). With this and the following numbers, she goes into back-up singer, Darlene Love / Uta Hedgwig mode for a few numbers, before vanishing into the night.

“Willpower,” a blasting and grinding number, also shows one of the reasons for the rise of punk rock, just seeming to go on and on (and on). It’s over 5 minutes, and it seems half of it is just the chorus, consisting to the song title, over and over (and over). The follow-up, with Bruce switching back to piano, is “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune,” which goes on for over 9 minutes. Fortunately, it’s a totally up-beat blues-based

raver, and like so many choices on these, there is sections of instrumentals. Rightfully so, he backs off to a slower number, “Theme From an Imaginary Western,”for which he never lets up with the power. Being his 50th birthday, it makes sense to end the first DVD with “Golden Days.”

Before discussing the second disk, I need to stop here for a moment and reflect with an explanation. Jack Bruce is extremely talented, as was all members of Cream, and everyone who participated on this is stellar. I am certainly not trying to put it down in any way. That being said, there was a reason I stopped listening to the radio soon after Sgt. Pepper’s, and especially into the ‘70s, because music became too…sterile. Even the bluesy numbers of, say, Led Zeppelin, sounded bombastic to the point of driving me to the “1-2-3-4” of the Ramones. Jack Bruce and company are the same. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the talent behind these British Blues rockers, but there is still something about long songs, seemingly endless solos and earnest musical masturbation that can make me…distracted to something else.

Now that I’ve cleared the air a bit, I’m ready for disc two, which seems more focused on the Cream era. We shall see.

As with the first, this disc opens on a nice, slower note, with Bruce sitting with an acoustic guitar, singing “As You Said,” accompanied by two cellos. It’s pretty effective, and has a mix between Celtic and modern. The band comes in for the next, similar sounding “Rope Ladder to the Moon.” See, part of the problem with me, particularly, reviewing this, is with the exception of some of the Cream stuff, Bruce’s material never really entered into the realm of my tastes, so I am not familiar with much of it (e.g., “Oh, this is from that group and that album…”).

For example, after he switches back to the bass, they do “Life on Earth.” This song, from 1981, sounds like another of that string of Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer” / Steve Winwood “Higher Love” ‘80s solo comebacks. I was listening to hardcore and the Garage Revival back then, so this is kinda out of my ken. The next few songs seem from the same period.

I was amused at the juxtaposition of Toto’s Simon Phillips’ extended drum solo. His kit is huge and he rambles on with it. Afterwards, you see Ginger Baker, ciggy-butt dangling from his half-toothless mouth (he has COPD now…keep smokin’ kids!), get into his miniscule-by-comparison kit, and almost nonchalantly show how it’s done. One of my fave moments.

The Cream starts rising, with “Sitting on Top of the World,” a folk song they Blues’d up to fame. And here is where the really long, extended songs begin (this one is over 7 minutes, as are many of the others to come). Baker on drums, Bruce on bass; all that’s missing is, well… Clapton would tour with the two in the next decade, but he was not present for this. Ably taking his place for this section is Humble Pie’s Clem Clempson. Pete Brown, the lyricist who co-wrote some of Cream’s biggest hits (and cousin of Marty Feldman), jumps in and joins the vocals for “Politician.”

It’s the Cream era that I’ve been patiently (sorta) waiting for, and here it is. “White Room” (8+ minutes) bleeds out, and a near full orchestral “Sunshine of Your Love” (7+ minutes) are actually done great. With the extra instrumentation (including two bassists, two drummers, a horn section, an acoustic guitar, piano, Bernie Worrell’s keyboard) and Clempson’s guitar, they show that the songs retain their power even after all these years…make that decades.

This section ends with the sizzling 8+ minute (get my point?) blues grinder, “Blues You Can’t Lose.”

Though everyone seems to be wearing the same clothes, I’m wondering if this next part is from a different night, because he covers a bunch of the material that’s already be done. However, for this part he’s joined by Baker on drums and Thin Lizzy’s Gary Moore (d. 2011) on guitar. Moore is a dynamic player, different in style than Clempson, so he manages to shake up the redone material, making it fresh.

Even “Life on Earth” takes on a more rock mode than ‘80s pop. Thanks, Gary, for that! Also, not only does he breathe an entirely different flavor into the mix, he also pushes Bruce into a different direction, as they both play their asses off, feeding each other’s energy. So much better than the first time around, even the solos.

While this trio doesn’t re-do “Sunshine,” they cover Willie Dixon’s Blues classic “Spoonful,” in a glorious fashion, and finish off, however, with “White Room.”

Again, in usual Rockpalast fashion, the sound is great (though I notice Worrell gets drowned out sometimes), the visuals sharp, and the editing enjoyable (not MTV-ishly quick cuts). I also like the way the camera focuses in on the musicians rather than the audience, who are only in a few shots. Better that way, because it’s the talent I want to see, not a roll call.

There are three different versions of this release. One is, obviously, this one, called the DVD Edition, containing 2 DVDs. There is also the Extended Edition, with both DVDs and a CD Digi-Format (just over 5 hours of material), and the Special Edition boxset of 3 DVDs plus Bonus DVD and CD (almost 8 hours). Up to you to get yer Jack Bruce fix, and how much of it you can handle.

Jack Bruce, you were a talented man, and I thank you for your years of playing; RIP. Meanwhile, I’m turning on “Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach…”

DVD1:
Improvisation on Minuet No. 1
FM
Can You Follow?
Running Thro’ Our Hands
Childsong
The Tube
Over the Cliff
Statues
First Time I Met the Blues
Smiles & Grins
Bird Alone
Neighbor, Neighbor
Born Under a Bad Sign
Boston Ball Game 1967
Ships in the Night
Willpower
Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune
Theme From an Imaginary Western
Golden Days
 
DVD 2:
As You Said
Rope Ladder to the Moon
Life on Earth
Drum Solo by Simon Phillips
NSU
Sitting on the Top of the World
Politician
White Room
Sunshine of Your Love
Blues You Can’t Loose
Featuring Gary Moore:
Life on Earth
NSU
Sitting on the Top of the World
Politician
Spoonful
White Room


 
BONUS:

 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Music Impresario Kim Fowley Obit (1939-2015), by Scott Kempner

Text by Scott Kempner / FFanzeen, 2015
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos, 2015

Kim Fowley was an enigma. He’s one of the more important and shadowy, behind-the-scenes figures in rock and roll history, from its birth through its various forms. He was part of the original West Coast doo wop groups, the Hollywood Argyles who rose to fame with the off-beat novelty ditty, “Ally Oop,” and followed up with a number of his own releases as singles and LPs that were genre bending and leaning towards psychedelia and glam. Kim was also known as the contentious manager and Svengali of the original The Runaways.

There was much that had Kim’s presence in the biz. For example, the experience of holding up a lighter in concerts was his brainchild. He had his hand in John and Yoko playing in Toronto (he even emceed the event), did the first recordings with Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, co-wrote a number of songs with major bands such as KISS, Cat Stevens and Alice Cooper, played on Frank Zappa’s Freak Out!, and… Well, if you want a taste of the man, check out the 2003 documentary, The Mayor of Sunset Strip. Born in California in 1939, the 75 year old Fowley died of bladder cancer on January 15, 2015, in West Hollywood.

Bronx-bred Scott Kempner’s career started with the seminal rock punk (as opposed to punk rock) band, The Dictators, who in 1975 was the first of the bands to spring out of CBGBs to release an album; he was known as Top Ten in those days. He moved on to another well-known band, the Del-Lords, before moving out to California. – RBF

Just heard the news that Kim Fowley has passed away. I didn't meet Kim until the mid-‘80s, at one of the first South By Southwest conferences. I never knew what to make of him from afar, and even when I first got to know him a little, I was a little suspicious. I guess it was kind of a NYC-to-LA trans-continental kind of suspicion. But I did get to know him, and hung out bullshitting with him many memorable times, including one especially memorable week when Stevie Van Zandt had his Underground Garage Festival in NYC in 2004, at which the Dictators performed, and Kim was the MC.

Stevie put both Kim and myself at the same hotel for a week. I would see him for breakfast every day, and we would chat for hours, as he held court, regaling all with his endless tales of rock'n'roll heroes and the sometimes even more interesting also-rans. He was hilarious, original, knowledgeable, madly in love with rock'n'roll, and he knew EVERYBODY!!!

It was a tough time for me, as I had been out of the band [Dictators] for two years, and this was gonna be my first show with them in two years. In fact, if not for Stevie, I don't know if I ever would have played with them again. But, Stevie went to bat for me, and I rejoined the band for another five years, and Kim listened to it all, and always had advice or some bit of Kim wisdom that would lift me and get me through the day. He also never once let me pay for breakfast, and always saved a seat next to him each morning so we could pick up where we left off.

Kim was so gracious, and just a great pal and sounding board. The private Kim was very emotional and sweet, and had so much passion for the music and those that played it. He remembered every detail you had spoken to him about. After that week, we were "officially friends," as he told me. That made me very happy and proud.

He was a prime mover on the West Coast, as I am sure you all know. He seems to have a million friends. Kim's name is on dozens and dozens of hits. A true original, a classic hustler - in the best sense - and one of my favorite people out here on the West Coast. I was always thrilled to run into him. He even knew of the Del-Lords, and our guru/hero, Lou Whitney "and his Trans-Am song". His stories were the very best anybody ever told, or anybody ever heard - if people like Dylan, Morrison, The Stones, The Beatles, The Byrds, Ray Charles (remind me to tell you that one), etc., etc., etc., mean anything to you.

It pains me that the days of running into him at a Springsteen show (at which I saw him at least five or six times), or some other rock event are over. I feel like I will still be looking for him towering above the rest of us, and spotting me before I could spot him and calling me over to regale me with yet another tale that I will be repeating to anyone who'll listen for as long as I live.

I am quite sure I am safe in saying we will never see anyone (even remotely) like Kim Fowley again. R.I.P. Kim, I know there are scores of broken hearts around town right now as the news of your passing spreads. I guarantee you, you will never be forgotten. That's a fact. Goodnight, Kim.
 
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

FFanzeen FFiles: Music release reviews

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

At the bottom of each the reviews is a video from the release, if available.
 
John Batdorf and James Lee Stanley
All Wood and Stones II
www.allwoodandstones.com
The other day I was in a store and they played that horrible disco mash-up of the Beatles. What a waste when they could have put on this much more enjoyable release.  Singer-songwriters/folkers Batdorf and Stanley have this side project where they take some rockers and quite successfully translate / re-imagine songs we all know so well. This is their second excursion into the Jagger and Richards songbook, covering material like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Jumping Jack Flash, “Sympathy For the Devil,” and “Time is On My Side,” to name just a few. Stanley and Batdorf trade off on lead vocals as they pound their acoustic instruments. Stanley tends to play his songs more like the originals with a folk twist. With Batdorf, he totally makes the songs his own, transforming “Get Off My Cloud” into a near singer-songwriter ballad. This is a wonderful excursion. Sure, purists are going to be scratching their heads on what to make of this, but I smiled throughout. Batdorf and Stanley are their own Glimmer Twins as they do the rearranging and producing. The ballads like “Play With Fire” and “Wild Horses” definitely lend themselves to the harmonized playing here. The production is clean and I could easily listen to and enjoy this almost as much as the originals. Gutsy.

BlueRace
Beautiful Sky
Big Radio Records
bluerace@live.com
BlueRace (or, actually, bluerace), have been around for a bit now, and they definitely wear their influences on their guitar straps. There’s quite a bit of the later Beatles, Byrds, and the late ‘60s American guitar sound (more rock with a touch of garage than blues, for example). Normally, classic rock is not something that is my expertise, but I gotta say these guys are fun. The songs are catchy as all get out, and listening to this full length release was an easy pleasure from beginning to end (and not because I’ve known the Media Ecological rhythm guitarist, Thom Gencarelli, longer than the band exists).  A good example is the reverb-infused “Why Is There Goodbye (Temporary Angel)?,” which has a hook that will stick with you. Yeah, the cuts are arguably a bit long at an average of 5 minutes apiece, but if the songs are as strong as these, it’s forgivable.  Vocalist (and bassist) Dean Diaz thankfully sounds more late ‘60s than, say, hair band screechy ‘80s, which is a major plus in my view.  Roger Diller’s lead guitar never overwhelms even as it flashes its smile on cuts like “Left to Turn.” I mean, these guys’ sound would fit right in at the Fillmore, both East and West. There is also a good balance between the vocals and the instruments, none really drowning out the other, each one quite distinguishable, which is always a bonus. Some fave cuts include “Daily Minefield” and “Bridge of Sighs.”

Jeremy Gluck and Robert Coyne
Memory Deluxe: I Knew Buffalo Bill 2
Flicknife
www.facebook.com/IKnewBuffaloBill
It was many and many a year ago in that kingdom by the sea – aka the UK – that ex-pat Jeremy Gluck was part of the 1980s post-surf/paisley revival with The Barracudas, and infamously put out the first volume of I Knew Buffalo Bill with the likes of late giants Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Nikki Sudden nearly three decades ago. I’ve heard of this release of course, but haven’t heard it. Now, with Robert Coyne, Jeremy musically resurfaces with the sequel.  This collection of fourteen tunes shows a definite progression in the sound of what I’ve heard of Gluck and co., using a slashing guitar and synth beats. Now, synth is something you won’t hear mentioned much in this blog, so the fact that I’m covering it means there is definitely something to which is worth paying attention.  With a husky voice with an edge of growl, Gluck uses the years on his vocal chords to strike a mood effectively. Most of the “pop” sound of “I Want My Woody Back” is replaced by a poetic earnestness that remains accessible. Honestly, my fave cuts were the ones that were more guitar-based than synth, such as “Old Father Death” and “The Extra Mile,” but giving a chance to this set is worthwhile.

Jann Klose
Mosaic
www.mosaicsongs.com
Having reviewed Jann’s releases before, it does not surprise me that this release was going to be excellent, but I was still impressed. He does keep getting better. The opening cut, “Make It Better” grabs you by the collar and never lets you go.  More than just a pretty face singer-songwriter, Jann shows he can hit the notes both figuratively and literally. A blazing electric guitar complements the acoustic, and the messages are as powerful as his voice and production. Most of the songs are heart related, both present love or past, but for me, it was the opening political songs that raised my eyebrows highest. That being said, “Long Goodbye” is a lovely pastiche of a love fading. “Falling Tears” has reflections in classic blues, as “Four Leaf Clover” has a light tone with reggae touches. The exceptional Carrie Newcomer joins Jann for “Beautiful One,” showing how well their styles go together. Better known for slice of life songs, she backs this romantic ditty supported by Leah Potteiger’s luscious violin. The closer is a luxurious a capella cover of singer-songwriter touchstone Tim Buckley’s “Song of the Siren.”  


Larkin Poe and Thom Hell
The Sound of the Ocean Sound
Edvins Records
I have a lot of Norwegians in my extended family, so this CD intrigued me. Recorded mostly at Ocean Sound Studio in the city of Giske, for those who don’t know, Larkin Poe is two folk-rock sisters from Atlanta, Rebecca Lovell (vox and guitar) and Megan Lovell (vox and resonator guitar / steel top). They joined forces with Norwegian-based singer-songwriter Hell (vox, piano, acoustic guitar), including songwriting, and have come up with this lush, folk rock collective (yes, there are other musicians backing them up). The sisters are actually a powerhouse on their own, both individually and as a team, and joining in with Hell has certainly complemented their sound quite strongly. While some of the lyrics, especially those by the sisters can be a bit opaque in their poetic leanings at times, their message gets across to the listener, which is fortunately worthwhile. Hell’s contributions are a bit more straightforward in their message, that is not to say his lyrics and tunes aren’t well written. It’s a beautiful collection whose topics tend to heavily lean on the topics of different shades of love. Among my faves here are “I Belong to Love,” “PS, I Love You” (which has nothing to do with the Beatles or Robin Sparkles/Daggers), “Tired,” and “Wait For Me,” but to be honest, as there isn’t a bad cut here, my faves may change and vary over time. Lyric booklet included.


Lydia Lunch & Cypress Grove
A Fistful of Desert Blues
RustBlade Label
www.rustblade.com
Without taking away any of the importance that Lydia Lunch had to No Wave, Transgressive Cinema, and Spoken Word since the late 1970s, and she was key in all of those movements, I don’t like her as a person, as I can never tell when she is begin genuine or not. I’ve seen her do both. Just so you know in case you believe it has colored my review.  Joining with British noise blues guitarist Cypress Grove after Grove’s previous collaboration with Gun Club founder Jeffrey Lee Pierce, they have quite successfully released something here that is both familiar and new. Borrowing from Sergio Leone’s scalding guitar on numerous spaghetti Westerns, Grove lays down the foundation of scorched earth guitar riffs, while Lunch does her own vocal riffing, sometimes whispered, other times full throated, but always echoy and “mysterious.” Y’know what, it works. With song titles like “Sandpit,” “Devil Winds, “I’ll Be Damned,” Summer of My Disconnect,” “End of My Rope,” and “TB Sheets,” they managed to consistently keep this listener’s attention. It’s often hard to make out what Lunch is saying thanks to the reverb, but even without the text, the vocals layer on the guitar well. There is also an interesting cover of Pierce’s “St. Mark’s Place.” The songs feel like the waves of heat that rise off the highway in the distance on a blistering day.

Molly Hatchet
Live at Rockpalast 1996
MIG / WDR
www.mig-music.de
Molly Hatchet never really crossed my musical bow, but the powers that be brought a live performance of Hatchet from the famed Rockpalast show dated June 23, 1996, at the open-air Loreley Stadium in Germany. Then-new vocalist Phil McCormack replaced long-time voxer Danny Joe Brown, who left for health reasons. I have to say, as of this 1996 version – as it’s all I have to go by – is awful. Well, the band itself is stereotypical of the Southern Rock sound and not much exciting, but McCormack is, well, bad. Sure, he has a growl, but there is nothing noteworthy about his style. He isn’t even too determined to worry about being on key. I mean, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie could fuckin’ wail, as with Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas, but Phil suffers from lack of stage presence.  The songs here are okay, but nothing that’s going to sick in my mind longer than writing this review, quite frankly. It’s obvious the band can play, centered on Bobby Ingram’s lead guitar, but overall this was hardly what I would call electrifying.  This show is also available on DVD.

My Own Worst Enemy
“Paul Revere” / “Angel of the Underground”
Pristine Indigo Records
www.myownworstenemy.net
A vinyl single. While I can hear an ex-colleague of mine say, “How quaint,” this is a powerhouse release. I had the pleasure to have seen MOWE on their home turf in Boston in ’08 or so, and they had the audience (including me) moving. “Paul Revere” is a wonderful example of powerpop punk by this trio that has nothing to do with a Disney musical. This is a hysterical tune with an anthemic chorus that will definitely get you pumping that fist in the air. While Steve does a solid job on the vocals with this rocker (he’s also on guitar), his partner Sue picks it up for the more serious ballad on the flip (she’s also  guitar, as there is no bass), “Angel of the Underground” about one of my favorite buskers, Mary Lou Lord (who I interviewed almost two decades ago; her tune “Light Are Changing” is referenced here). It’s a touching song focused on a talent that is missed (by me, too). AJ’s drumming and harmonica on the flip is just the right touch. This slower B-side is a perfect yin to the A-side yang, and this release is not just quaint, it’s a fun mix of silly and somber.

Tess Parks
Blood Hot
359 Music / Cherry Red Records
www.359music.co.uk
With one foot on either side of the “pond,” Tess meanders back and forth from Toronto to London, and shows the influence from both in this post-psych release. With a nice voice that is hidden behind echo and the music, the melodies are a bit chaotic sounding, in an off-beat and sometimes jangling way, that make it a cross between the late ‘60s flower power sound, and a bit of noise rock as it clashes along in a sort of meditative labyrinth.  Honestly, I could hardly make out a word, if that’s important for you, but I have found when dealing with music that is flowing and repetitive (not in an insulting way), it’s more the entirety than an aspect.  The fact that her voice is deep and throaty, and not always classically on-key, is meaningless, because the zeitgeist is what is important here, and that is what’s effective. This could be a missing link cross between hippie and punk. You can hear full album HERE.

Michael Schenker Temple of Rock
Live in Europe (2 CDs)
Inakustik
www.in-akustik.com
For the greater good or bad, Germans are known for their precision. With his guitar in hand, Michael Schenker has proved over the decades that he knows his way around a metal fretboard. His decades on the stage and in the studio have rightfully made him a legend. Despite his name on the helm, Schenker is a member of the band, standing to the side of the stage with fingers ablazing, while for one of the show recorded here singer Doogie White stands front and center, in another, Michael Voss, making it practically a Scorpions reunion. Schenker is a superb musician, no one can argue with that, and yet I seriously wonder when does it become too clinical? Celine Dion is a surgical singer, and that makes her dry as a bone, all the emotion ripped out of her songs. That is not to say that Schenker’s guitar is emotionless, but it certainly borders on a Metal cliché, and one he helped birth. The same can be said about vocalist Doogie. He hits all the notes, but he can also be seen through rear-view mirrored glasses as a Metal cliché: high pitched and wavering vocals, especially on the last note of each stanza line.  For the Voss songs, they seem to play faster. I would like to add that everyone sounds to be having fun. There is a strong reliance here on some of their varied classics, including “Armed and Ready,” “Another Piece of Meat,” “Shoot Shoot,” “Rock Bottom,” and of course their best known “Rock Me Like a Hurricane,” with its ear worm chorus. No matter what the Michael Schenker Group incarnation, they have extremely high energy. There are a couple of ballads, but mostly this is full tilt, and they never waiver. Not  bad for a bunch of guys in their 50s. Also available in DVD.


Sweet Magma
Atrocious Saints
www.Facebook.com/sweetmagma
Once when I was hanging out with metalhead lead vox/bassist Nick Massios, there was some background music playing. I said, “This sounds familiar, what is it?” He said, quite surprised, “You write about music and you don’t know Dark Side of the Moon?!” That is typical of the kind of jokingly sharp conversation we have had. Of course, I tease back with an earlier song of theirs, “The 8 Foot Bong” (more about that later).  And despite the Floyd reference, it’s pretty obvious that Black Sabbath and Motörhead are bigger influences, with a solid bottom and Nick’s growly (but not death metal’s annoying level) vocals. For a power trio, they sound much fuller, including live (yes, I have seen them play a while back).  Their newest release starts strong with the nearly hardcore laden “LTBM” (which ironically stands for Let There Be Metal). When the band gets cranked up, such as on “I Go Zen,” the mix of noise and metal screeches together solidly.  There had been moments before this, where there were flashes of guitar solos, but the band lets loose here and everyone gets a few moments to shine. Yeah, this is metal, but they seem to keep the solos to a minimum, which of course gets my interest (hence my lack of caring about Floyd or other prog bands).  Oh, it’s not the last time for them to show off their multiple talents, that’s for certain: for example, “Lifeline,” one of my fave cuts, is consistently in the listener’s face/ears, in metal assault mode. It also takes some chances with fake endings and pounding beats, which works just fine.  Towards the collection’s end is a cover of Sweet Magma’s own “The 8-Foot Bong,” as I mentioned above. Pure goofiness, which made me smile, even as a semi-strait-edger. This isn’t rocket science, and honestly I believe it shouldn’t be, and isn’t pretending to be either, but man it is enjoyable fun. And, yes, I would say the same thing about Motörhead. Lyric booklet included.

Up For Nothing
In Trance
www.facebook.com/upfornothing
I’m proud to say that I was there at UFN’s very first show, and have had a sit down at Lenny’s Pizza in Bensonhurst with lead singer/guitarist Justin Conigliaro. They are a solid alt punk trio that has changed over the decade they’ve been around in one way: they’ve gotten better. Justin’s songwriting has improved remarkably, and it wasn’t shabby to begin with. He’s doing better at nailing the catches.  They lean a bit to the Green Day pop side, but honestly, I think they’re actually more fun than that other overrated band. Right from the opening cut, “This Moment,” with its chanted chorus, you can feel the power consistently through the 5 song EP. That being said, “The Worst Things to Say” is more classic pop hardcore. Just really good stuff. The opening cut and “The Side of Caution” are my fave cuts. They’ve played the Fest and tour often, so if you get the chance to catch ‘em, do it.

 
Kathy Zimmer
Static Inhabited
www.kathyzimmermusic.com
Having heard Kathy on and off over the last few years, I can tell you she’s quite versatile, be it jazz or standards. Here she stretches into original music that that has a jazzy but theatrical folk vibe. She fluctuates between them by vocally exercising up and down the scales. That’s not an easy thing to do, and she flexes like a champion, showing she not only sings sweetly, but can write a decent tune as well.  There are a few toe tappers, such as “Laundry Chute,” as well as ballads, but it’s the brash experimental adenoids stretchers that also keep you tuned. There are some definite theatrical references, the obvious one’s include “Glinda,” “Lost Boys,” and “Farinelli.” The background choral vocal “ooohs” and “aaaah” lean towards this as well.  If that wasn’t enough, there is also just hint of country themes, though I would not call this C&W by any stretch of the imagination. Fave cuts include “Right Around the Corner,” “Take You As You Come,” and the sultry “Eva.”