Broccoli Is It

Friday, December 30, 2005

:: The Association - Broccoli ::

Well, here I go trotting out another well known '60s band. What can I say? I'm old! The Association were actually a pretty cool band at one point, but ultimately were killed off by the likes of such "heavy" bands as Ultimate Spinach and the Fugs. Their first hit, "Along Comes Mary" was genuinely cool, and perfectly demonstrated their unique ensemble vocal style. Unfortunately, they quickly became saddled with a reputation for being soft rock, AM radio pop wimps, and as the decade wore on they found that rep more and more difficult to shake.

Not that they didn't try though, which made their later recordings all that much more interesting to me. This song, "Broccoli" was taken from an album that was considered an ultimate low point for the band. Doing everything they could to appear hip by 1969 standards, this song comes off like one of Brian Wilson's post Smile low points minus the genius parts. The word "daft" never seemed so appropriate, or was it perhaps some kind of joke? I don't know and I don't care, I'm just glad it's there. I dig it steamed.


Spontaneous Combustion

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

:: Spontaneous Combustion - Chessboard ::

Spontaneous Combustion were a British trio who put out a few albums in the early 70's, when they were very young. Brothers Gary (guitar, vocals) and Tristian (bass, vocals) Margetts joined drummer Tony Brock, who later was a Baby and then a drummer for hire, and now runs a studio. Their fairly successful first album was produced by Greg Lake, their second they produced themselves. The a-side to this single is the song "Rainy Day," from that album, which they named Triad. The b-side is a song called "Chessboard" credited to a Chris Redwood, and was produced by Robert Kirby. I have no idea who Chris Redwood is, but Kirby has done a lot of things in British rock, from arranging for Elton John, Vashti Bunyan, Audience, Nick Drake and Nick Lowe, to playing keyboards on a 1978 Crazy World of Arthur Brown album, to blowing some french horn for the Strawbs.

This song is pretty tasty. I wouldn't call it prog, but it's got some of that flavor. The drumming is particularly tight, especially for a Baby. The lyrics don't make much fucking sense, at least the words I can understand. The Margetts pretty much disappeared from sight after Triad came out, though Tristian resurfaced in the early 80's to play with Greg Lake's band. Funny how talented people can fall through the cracks like that, whether they do it on purpose or not.



:: MUZAK - Teach Me Tonight ::

What is Muzak? Why is Muzak? Is Muzak inherently evil? I hope to answer some of these important questions today.

I worked in a grocery store for 6 years that played a Muzak tape loop, which was probably about 8 hours in length and played over and over the entire time I worked there. Now, I'm the kind of person who can't help but listen to music when it's there, which can be really annoying at times (take for example how our government seems to love to use music as a torture device), but in the six years I worked in that store, none of that Muzak left a lasting impression on me as far as I could tell. I hated the principle of it, because I knew that it was "programmed" to make people want to buy more Wonder Bread and Sugar Smacks, but even though it was banal crap, it didn't bother me that much. Sometimes I'd make an effort to really tune in to it, but it was so wallpaperish the first distraction that came along would wipe it from my consciousness. So yeah, it bugged me because I knew it was getting into my subconscious and was maybe even affecting my behavior in some way, but I could never understand how.

Back in the 1920s, a retired military man named Major General George O. Squier patented an invention that allowed audio to be transmitted over power lines. He had the idea that music played in the workplace would increase productivity, so he piped it into offices to keep typists typing. He sold the patent to a large utility company, and they created the Muzak Corporation. At first they tried to charge people to bring music into their home but free broadcast radio killed that idea. By the '30s they were piping music into elevators in high rises in New York, mostly as a way of calming peoples nerves, and thus inventing "elevator music." They also focused on businesses like hotels and restaurants sending music via phone lines from a central location, where they played pre-programmed 33 1/3 rpm LPs, about 20 years before they were available to the general public.

In the mean time, a team of British industrial psychologists were looking into the General's theory about music increasing productivity in the workplace. During WWII music was found to have great benefits in improving the moral of the troops abroad and the workers in the bomb factories at home. Great scientific strides were made in understanding the subliminal effects of music on people's moods and behaviors, and Muzak seemed to have a monopoly on it's implementation. Ultimately, the theory of Stimulus Progression was born.

If Stimulus Progression sounds scary there's good reason. Basically, here what it is: In the workplace, music is played in 15 minute intervals. During the 15 minutes there's maybe 5 songs. The first one is kind of slow and subdued, then the next one picks up a little bit and so on until the last song of the cycle which totally rocks (in a Muzak sort of way), thus stimulating the workers subliminally. The weird part is they would follow this with 15 minutes of silence to keep the music from becoming a distraction. I don't think I've ever worked in that office, although I think I do remember being in certain businesses where the Muzak seemed to go away for a while, then crept up on you again. Kinda creepy like.

If you're like me, and you don't like the idea of a bunch of shrinks sitting around trying to figure out ways to make us work harder and buy more crap, then yeah, Muzak is evil. But what are you gonna do about it, hippie? In the mean time they've done some good things too, like inventing the tape loop system that was used in my grocery store, which was a forerunner to the 8-track tape. So really I guess there's not so much to be afraid of when it comes to Muzak. It's just dull background music. The company is still around, although they've been bought and sold a million times and nowadays instead of using instrumental versions of popular hits, they tend to play original recordings by Sting and Elton John, arranged in a way that makes capitalism work, somehow.

This LP was meant to be a demo for Stimulus Progression. "Teach Me Tonight" is the first song on side 2, so it's the one that sneaks up on you after 15 minutes of silence. I have to admit I kind of like this album. It sure did help me type this post in no time at all! Now I need a drink.


A Groovy Kind of Silent Night

Friday, December 23, 2005

:: Rotary Connection - Silent Night ::

So what's not to like about some groovy '60s kids from Chicago, mixin' up the races and the sexes and making some mellow, psychedelic, acidic and sometimes funky pop? Nothing, I say.

From 1967 through '71, Rotary Connection were well known in the mid-west, but never made it beyond their regional popularity. I'd never heard of them until a couple of years ago, 30+ years after they existed.

One of the three lead vocalists of the group had made her mark on my psyche though. I remember hearing "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton in 1974 and just going, "Jesus Christ!". The fact is, Minnie had a vocal range well beyond any of your Yma Sumacs or Mariah Careys, and it was used to great effect within the chamber pop trappings of Rotary Connection's dense arrangements. Of course the tragedy is, after years of toiling in relative obscurity and then finally achieving the stardom she deserved, she died of breast cancer at the age of 31.

Peace was Rotary Connection's 3rd album, and while it is a Christmas album, it's no less an artistic statement than any of their 5 other albums. Featuring full-blown production straight outta Ter Mar Studios with arrangements by legendary Chess man Charles Stepney and co-produced by Stepney and Marshall Chess, Silent Night (which is actually revisited several times during the course of the album) is a trip from beginning to end. I recommend you listen to this with a nice cup of nog by a warm fire with someone special. Happy holidays!


Jingle Bells and Daisy Bell

Thursday, December 22, 2005

:: Chan Pao Chu and Lu Kay - Jingle Bells ::

:: Chan Pao Chu and Lu Kay - Golden Christmas Eve ::

I’ve been pretty fascinated with the Asian take on western style music during the ‘60s and 70s since stumbling onto Parallel World’s compilation, “Cambodian Rocks,” a few years ago. Since that time, there’s been a good amount of interesting comps popping up as good as the PW comp. Truly makes you hunger for more. Khmer Rocks has been putting out their series Cambodian Rocks, supplying song titles, artist names, and good background history in the liner notes – everything the Parallel World compilation completely left out. The KR versions are also the original songs; the Parallel World CD re-mixed them with massive overdubs of synthesizers and electronic drums -- something I’ve learned is done with a lot of Cambodian originals to keep them fresh and interesting for their youth. There’s also Subliminal Sounds’ “Thai Beat A-Go-Go” series, Trikont’s “Ho! Roady Music from Vietnam,” Sublime Frequencies, “Radio Phnom Pen” and “Cambodian Cassette Archives,” and the out-of-print “Teenage Dance Music from China and Malaysia,” off of a label called Thrift Score. Basically, these are good times to be living in, because there’s a bunch of fine folks out there finding all this hard-to-find music from decades ago in another world and putting them out for us to consume, here and now.

Which leads me to this little double seven-inch record that I found at the San Francisco Amoeba for $1.99, or rather, our pal Mark found, as he got to the Christmas seven-inch bin before I did. Thankfully, Mark was filled with the Christmas spirit when he saw my sad droopy eyes as he dangled the record before me and said, “Look what I found!” and then, knowing my obsessions, handed it to me, saying, “Oh, you can have it.”

Sadly, I can’t tell you much about it, as any information on the record is in Chinese. There are eight songs, four on each record, and they’re all delicious and creamy Asian style holiday treats. You'll recognize Jingle Bells, of course, but it may take you a minute to figure out why Golden X'mas Eve sounds so familiar - it's the Victorian chart-topper "Daisy Bell," more famously known as the bicycle built for two song.

Song titles are included in English, as are the album title (Golden X’Mas Eve) and artists – Chan Pao Chu and Lu Kay. I could find nothing on Lu Kay, but I did find a brief reference to Chan Pao Chu as an actress in Cantonese cinema through Google. If that’s her on the record cover, then I should hope to see these movies. I hope you enjoy the songs as much as I do, and if anyone out there knows anything about these two artists, feel free to let us know in the comments.


Got A Problem? Ask A Trucker

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

:: Richard Gillis - C.B. Santa Claus ::

Well, you knew there'd have to be a trucker Christmas song, right? This probably isn't the only one, but it's the only one I've found so far. This little number takes the heroic everyman nature of the trucker introduced to us in Red Sovine's "Teddy Bear," and combines it with the classic premise of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. See, evidently Donner bowed a tendon (Wouldn't he have to be put down? Aw. I'd hate to be a dead reindeer named Donner. Think what could happen!) and Rudolph had the flu. So Santa beseeched the truckin' brotherhood to help him make his deliveries, and they responded as quickly as if, oh, say a little crippled boy had wanted some rides because his daddy can't take him on any, since he's dead. On this special day, the truckers and their rival smokey bears set aside their differences to work together in perfect harmony, and everyone got their toys. Yay.

Who the fuck is Richard Gillis, you may ask. Well, he may have teamed up with Jerry Goldsmith to do the music for the Peckinpah film "The Ballad of Cable Hogue," a good film as long as you don't expect the usual festival of gunshot wounds that made ol' Sam famous. He might very well be responsible for the song "Butterfly Mornings," which made me burst out laughing when I heard it in the movie as a duet between Jason Robards and Stella Stevens. Someone named Richard Gillis did those things. This here song was produced by Joe Saraceno, who definitely worked with The Ventures and Marketts. It starts out pretty smooth, but by the end it sounds like Richard was just stuffing in words every which way to make 'em fit. Kind of like this article.


The Yellow And Black Attack Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

:: Stryper - Reason For The Season::

:: Stryper - Winter Wonderland ::

There are fewer words that will put the Fear of God into any self-respecting metal fan than Stryper. The yellow-and-black-clad Orange County rockers not only epitomize Metal Lite, but are Holy Rollers as well, playing a brand of Christian Metal that encourages more laughter and scorn than head-banging. But there was a huge audience for this kind of Jesus Rock in the ‘80’s— evangelical kids who wanted to rock with their cocks out, but were afraid of gettin’ the tar whupped out of them by fire-and-brimstone parents who caught them with illicit copies of “Screaming For Vengeance” or “The Number Of The Beast.” In a time when heavy metal was equated with Satanism, Stryper was, in theory, the band to put Mom and Dad at ease.

The “Yellow and Black Attack” was led by the Sweet brothers -- lead singer and guitarist Michael and his drummer brother Robert -- both of whom were the quintessential Lite Metal pretty boys (though one-time Creem and Hit Parader cover subject Robert, with his obviously dyed blonde hair and black Tom Savini-style goatee, now looks like a shrunken apple head with a David St. Hubbins wig perched on top). Latino guitarist Oz Fox (ahem, Richard Alfonso Martinez) rocked out on a custom tiger-striped axe; you Stryper fans with deep pockets can find a replica of it here. Oz later formed the unfortunately-named Sin Dizzy, which put out a rock opera centered around the crucifixion of Jesus Christ called “He’s Not Dead.”

Christian metal sounds like an oxymoron, but Stryper sold upwards of 8 million albums (!) such as “In God We Trust” and “To Hell With The Devil” when other God Rockers like Barren Cross and Guardian were signing up for government cheese. The chunky, generic power chords that made up most of their louder songs did a pretty good job of concealing the fact that they were howling about the Bible, but when it came to their ballads — particularly “Honestly,” one of the wimpiest songs in all of metal history — they sounded like Christopher Cross en route from a revival meeting.

The band thrived during the mid-‘80’s hair-metal heyday, but when grunge and alt-rock took hold in the early ‘90’s, the scripture was on the wall for Stryper. The band’s long-time label Enigma Records folded and they moved to Hollywood Records just long enough to put out a best-of with the suspiciously secular sounding “Can’t Stop The Rock” (a passage unlikely to be found in either Testament). Michael Sweet bailed on the band in 1992, but it’s no surprise. Here’s a testimonial from Jennifer, a Friend Of The Robot:

"Yeah, my friend's mom Cassandra (who was a total MILF) was their makeup and hair person for a couple years and they actually LIVED with his family but then my friend's little brother got everyone sick and they had to cancel some shows and subsequently Michael Sweet turned into a raging dick about it and turned them out into the street. So my friend and her family were living with her grandma and figuring things out."

On one of Michael’s “Message To The Fans” on his website, he turns another cheek. “No matter how much we fall short,” he says, “God’s message and anointing still goes out!” ROCK PROPS to God. “He deserves it all,” concurs Michael, looking strangely like Bob Odenkirk as the leader of the band “Titannica” on TV’s“Mr. Show.”

But fear not, Stryper fans! After playing a few festival shows and cutting a couple of new tracks in 2003, they’ve returned, older and wis--, okay, just older, with their new album, “Reborn.” You feel bad taking pot-shots at these over-the-hill Christian rockers, but just look at the cover, which makes them look like those Uruk-Hai creatures birthed from slimy muck in the first “Lord Of The Rings” movie. The spandex is long gone and Robert tries hard to distract us from his leathery countenance by wearing a bunch of yellow-and-black stryped neckties all at once. The reformed band toured the U.S. throughout ’05, so if you’re late on the “Reborn” bandwagon, you’re going to have to hoof it to Sweden (or Minneapolis) to check them out — Praise Jeebus — this summer.

Stryper’s Christmas contribution is a 1984 recording of “Winter Wonderland” that starts out with some painful band shtick and turns into the kind of bloozey rock Xmas song you expect to hear over Everclear eggnog at a frat house. But it’s not nearly as horrible as the A-side, “Reason For The Season,” which tries to stretch out a single rhythm guitar chord for five grueling minutes’ worth of song (there’s a nearly 7-minute “Long Version” we’ve spared you from). Alas, “Reason For The Season” is more of a Sunday School lecture (“Every day is a holiday/When He is with you”) than the Christian Rock Yuletide Classic the band prays for it to be.

Mark (of the Beast)

Joe Yule Jr.

Monday, December 19, 2005

:: Mickey Rooney - Mr. Wha Da Ya Want ::

I kinda paid too much for this, but when I heard it, I wasn't disappointed. I don't really care that it's autographed, but then again that never hurts. What it comes down to is, this is a very good Christmas record. Full of good humor, subtle arrangements, good song selections and plenty of personality.

Mickey Rooney was born Joe Yule Jr. in 1920 to showbiz parents. With a name like that, I have no idea why his name was eventually changed to Mickey Rooney, but you know Hollywood. Anyway, he has been in the business since birth, and God love him, he's still at it at 85. I won't bore you too much with the obvious stuff, but I will say that Mickey Mouse was named after him, he was married to Ava Gardner among many others, he's five foot three and he loves ponies.

This album was made in 1979 and was basically self released. There's a letter from Mick inside the sleeve with his home address on the letterhead. Apparently the record was available through mail order only, so I suppose he probably autographed every copy of the album he mailed out. I really am struck by the level of professionalism on each and every track. The album starts out with 3 original Rooney compositions, followed by chestnuts (roasting) like White Christmas and The Christmas Song (written by Mel Torme who also wrote the liner notes), plus a few new songs written by the likes of Jerry Hall (?!) and R. Elsmo. No musician credits are given but we can thank producer J. Michelle Scott for giving this record a timeless quality uncharacteristic of most recordings of that era.

Mr. Wha Da Ya Want is the lead-off track and is by far the silliest song on the album (although not the only silly song). I wonder, is Mickey Rooney a national treasure? He should be. And although he titled the album Merry Merry Micklemas, I think he should have used his real name this time.


Phil's Heartfelt Holiday Tidings To You, The Reader, With Special Guests Who Are Disabled

Friday, December 16, 2005

:: The Crafty Ladies - Deck The Halls ::

Has the phony, fake fucking “War on Christmas” got you down? Have you recently said, “Happy Holidays,” to someone, not because you’re a liberal/secular/humanist/tree-hugging/commie/pinko/fag, but because, oh, I don’t know, it’s easier than saying, “Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or a Joyous Kwanzaa to you, whichever you might celebrate, and a peaceful New Year to you, as well” – only to have the words, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!,” spat loudly, obnoxiously and sometimes, repeatedly back at you? Yes? No? Well, I’ve had it happen to me 7 times in the last few days while wrapping things up for the year with clients at work, and each time I’ve made a mental note that I’ve just gotten off the phone with yet another Brainwashed Bill O’Reilly-Believing Boob®.

Fear not, friend. The Crafty Ladies are here to bring you down even further, for they have our true holiday interests at heart. They’re here to remind us into acknowledging what the season is really about – the selfish greed, the blind hype, and being duped into the belief that we all give a shit about each other, if only once a year, while we willfully ignore the loneliness of the unfortunate, the discarded, and the disabled. Or, perhaps these Crafty Ladies will serve to remind you of what a complete and utter fucking prick you are as your big, round belly shakes when you laugh, like a bowl full of jelly, while listening to this record. Bah, Humbug, and have a happy Festivus!


Buon Natale, Molto Brutto Canzone

Thursday, December 15, 2005

:: Joe Dolce - The 12 Days of Christmas ::

I have to admit I was a little excited when I came across this album. There was a sticker on the wrapper (this sucker was sealed) that said "It's Christmas, Shaddap You Face," and immediately I remembered that obnoxious "Shaddap You Face" song that was big when I was in grade school, back when songs like that were funny to me, and not coincidentally, my favorite place at the mall was Spencer Gifts. A Christmas version of that song?! RIGHT up my alley.

Criminally, there is no such song on here. If a sticker can burn in Hell, this one surely deserves to, for being so deceitful. If I can tangent for a second, Sticker Hell would also contain those peeing Calvins, memorials to people who have died that really have no place on the tinted rear window of a Toyota pickup, and Truck Nutz, which I know aren't stickers; I just needed to find a way to get them to Hell. Any-away, lemme-a-tell-you, listening to someone talk, sing and ad lib in an affected Italian accent for the duration of an entire album, especially a Christmas album, is enough to turn my brains to Ragu. By the end of it I was begging for some Father Guido Sarducci. The real kicker? This is pressed onto really nice, heavy vinyl. THANKS.

The song I ended up choosing is the closest he gets to "Shaddap You Face", in that he at least utters the phrase before the song kicks in. It's an Italianized version of The 12 Days Of Christmas, and it's a bit of a chore, to say the least. I think even Dr. Demento would have passed on this one.

But let's get to the weird parts. First off, Joe's evidently an American turned Australian, which I guess makes him the Mel Gibson of novelty music. In 1979 he did a song called Boat People, which was later translated into Vietnamese. I can only hope it's nothing like Randy Newman's Short People. He appears to be quite the peacenik now, and recorded an updated version of Shaddap You Face called "Shaddap You Face - No Room For Racism" to oppose the One Nation Candidate in a recent Australian election. Yes, I want to hear that one, too. He also did a blues version of Thriller. His bio says many nice things about him, none of which I can confirm after listening to this entire album.

Uncle Tony

Holy Frijoles

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

:: Mel Blanc - Pancho's Christmas ::

If you don’t know who the late Mel Blanc is, you’re either very young or had overprotective parents who wouldn’t let you watch “Looney Tunes” reruns on Saturday mornings (these were usually the folks who wouldn’t let you eat sugar cereal and made you sit through “Zoom”). From Bugs Bunny to Daffy Duck to Yosemite Sam to Elmer Fudd to Sylvester (and Tweety Bird), Mel Blanc gave them all voices. From France came the randy Pepe Le Pew. And from South of the Border came Speedy Gonzales, “the fastest mouse in all Mexico.”*

Speedy first showed up in 1953’s “Cat-Tails For Two” as Sylvester The Cat’s nemesis and then starred in 1955’s “Speedy Gonzales,” which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short that year. Speedy was featured in dozens of shorts, many with him pitted against Sylvester or a number of other hungry “Greengo Pussygatos” as he swiped cheese out from underneath their whiskers. The sombrero-wearing Speedy, with his high-pitched voice and never-say-die attitude, is sometimes accompanied by his cousin, the dense Slowpoke Rodriguez -- introduced in a short with the great title of “Mexicali Shmoes” (!) -- and is known for being in love “weeth EVERYBODY’s seester.” Speedy is hugely popular-- there are Speedy Gonzales toys, figures, and even video games (if the Sega Master System is still applicable). There’s even a “Speedy Gonzales” drink (a shooter of Amaretto and Bailey’s) which seems to have nothing to do with either the cartoon character or Mexico or, well, just about anything.

But Speedy wasn’t considered controversial until 1999 -- over 45 years after his first appearance -- when the Cartoon Network, which acquired broadcast rights to the Looney Tunes series from Nickelodeon, declared that they weren’t going to show the Speedy Gonzales shorts because he was an “offensive ethnic stereotype” of Mexicans, despite his intelligence, his speed, his strong sense of honor and his wisecracking skills. But when the story hit the press in 2002, who rallied the loudest to Speedy’s defense? Uh, the Mexican-American community. Ironically, Speedy can be seen most easily -- other than on the recent Looney Tunes DVD sets, which showcase a couple of vintage Speedy shorts -- on The Cartoon Network Latin America, where the character is apparently hugely popular.

“Pancho’s Christmas” doesn’t have anything to do Speedy Gonzales per se-- but it’s Mel Blanc’s weird “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”-style Mexican voice that rings through loud and clear as he sings the tale of a “small muchacho… (who) never had a Christmas tree.” How bad does Pancho have it? He lives in Despondent, Mexico and has so many brothers and sisters that his father, when he comes home from work, is afraid to ask “what’s new?” Sad Pancho wants a real Christmas and writes to “Santy Claus,” who drops off 200 pesos for Pancho to buy his family whatever they want-- including “all the chili beans you can carry.” Politically correct, it’s not (the flip-side, “The Hat I Got For Christmas Is Too Beeg” is even more extreme). But, like Speedy, Mel’s heart is in the right place; Pancho spends the pesos on a camera -- if only to take a picture of his family, which is happy for the first time ever. Hating “Pancho’s Christmas” for Mel Blanc’s over-the-top accent is like missing the forest for the trees-- and, frankly, how much more offensive is this compared to the awful “Mind of Mencia” on Comedy Central?


*And from outer space came the voice of the midget robot Twiki on TV’s ‘Buck Rogers In The 25th Century.'

Scary Claus

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

:: Santa Himself - What Santa Wants For Christmas ::

And now, a very special visit to the Record Robot from Santa himself. Though this recording of Santa's voice is nearly 40 years old, and is reproduced via a technology that in this digital age is considered passé and inferior, one can still hear in his voice a certain forced quality. Like maybe he doesn't always use his "Santa voice" unless he's talking to little kids or something. And what's with all the God talk anyway? How does religion enter into this? I mean, Santa equals toys. That's all there is to it. Santa does not equal socks or underwear. Your parents get that shit for you from J.C. Penney or Walmart or some depressing place like that. Also, I think maybe Santa gets a little thrill by suggesting kids go out and tell their playmates next door that they "love them very much". You know, some little kid's gonna get the shit kicked out of him by the homophobic 8 year old bully next door, and Santa goes "ho ho ho!". This dude's scary looking too. He says he's hundreds of years old, so I guess he looks pretty good considering, but that ain't sayin' much. And what's with the picture on the back cover where he's doing the Michael Jackson crotch grab thing? Is this guy a sick fuck or what?

Anyway, I sure hope he brings me that new Sota turntable I asked him for, with the Graham Nightingale tonearm I've had my eye on and the Transfiguration cartridge. If not, fuck 'im.



Monday, December 12, 2005

:: Alcoholics Unanimous - Santa Claus DWI ::

Released in 1989 in a pressing of 500 on snow white wax, with a second edition of 300 on black vinyl and a different sleeve, Alcoholics Unanimous bring us this crusty holiday treat to accompany us while we swill our rum-laden eggnog and holiday gift booze. I’ve had a taped version for years until happily finding a copy of the first pressing buried in a box of crappy 45s the last time I sifted through the stacks at the Philadelphia Record Exchange.

Alcoholics Unanimous was formed by a few of the members of the Portland line-up of Rancid Vat in the late 1980s. Though I don’t yet own the rest of their output, I’ve heard some of it and it’s in the same vein as this single: drunken drinking songs devilishly doled out by drunks, with some pretty hilarious lyrics to boot. Dig the fine mental imagery that this verse from “Santa Claus D.W.I.” inspires: “Weaving through the clouds, driving pretty weird / Shit in his pants, puke in his beard / Cruising to the store for another case / Santa is the terror of outer space.” Shit, can someone loan me a million bucks so I can make this song into a movie?

The record was produced by the 450 pound guitarist for Poison Idea, Tom Roberts (a.k.a. Pig Champion). There’s a great insert included with the record, A.U.’s Ten Commandments of Drinking, for which I still need to buy a frame and hang on my wall. It’s so great I’m including it here for your enjoyment and edification.

There are also funny liner notes provided by band member Whiskey Rebel, in which he reminds us of all the reasons to groan at Christmas time – the wasting of drinking money on gifts for boring relatives, having to spend the day with said relatives, the onslaught of torturous Christmas TV specials and receiving sweaters. I’ll drink to that.



Friday, December 09, 2005

I don't know how many of you saw the genius reworking of The Shining as a romantic comedy trailer, but in that same vein (heh), here's a reworking of the modern holiday classic A Christmas Story as a horror film.

I also want to mention that our brother blog, Black Houses, (which so far we've been pitiful at updating), is going to be expanding into other arenas, like live music reviews, miscellaneous crap, and contributions from writers who I am lucky enough to have as friends. It should be updated a lot more often, and you really need to check out the first installment of "Jeez, Grizz", the adventures of my friend and his foray into the world of movie extra-ism. Enough outta me already!


That's One Huge Lei, Yo

:: Kalikimaka Vocal Group - Mele Kalikimaka ::

I love promotional records. I don't run across them as often as I'd like, but when I do they are usually gold. This vinyl postcard from Hawaii's Ilikai Hotel in Honolulu features an introduction by GM Howard Donnelly, whose voice and delivery sound a heck of a lot like Les Nessman's. It then breaks into a very short and pleasant version of the famous Hawaiian Christmas song, Mele Kelikimaka. There's no date on here, but seeing as how Mr. Donnelly refers to the hotel as "the new Ilikai," I think it's safe to assume this came out the year it opened, 1964. If the hotel looks familiar to you, it might be because it was featured for years in the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O, in the sweeping aerial shot where Jack Lord is up on a balcony.

Another interesting side note --- there's a picture of the Ilikai's president on the back, and his name is Chinn Ho. There's a character, named for him, in Hawaii Five-O named Chin Ho.


Achy Breaky Ho Ho Ho

Thursday, December 08, 2005

:: Hasil Adkins - Santa Claus Boogie ::

There aren’t many one-man bands around these days and, with the death of the legendary Hasil (pronounced “hassle,” not like the herb “basil”) Adkins this past April in his home state of West Virginia, we’re down one more. More people know about “The Haze” than have heard him and a good chunk of those are because either The Cramps covered him (“She Said”) or that he got retro “cred” for being released in his latter years on rockabilly label Norton or -- like the similarly-unappreciated-for-most-of-his-life R.L. Burnside -- Fat Possum. But The Haze’s recording career stretched from the ‘50’s, where he looked like a skinny, sneering greaser -- sort of a cross between Viggo Mortensen and Hank Williams around the time of his demise -- and was billed as “Hasil Adkins and His Happy Guitar,” to 2000, when his last record, Norton’s Poultry In Motion, was released.

To say The Haze’s sound is primitive is being generous-- while his early ‘50’s sides have an edgy, stripped-down sound, later songs have the vibe of a man fueled on radiator-distilled white lightning and something called “commodity meat.” It’s just him, a guitar, drums he pounds with pedals, and a healthy dollop of Appalachian-style whoops and hollers. The two major themes in his music are sex (“hunchin’” in Haze-speak) and chicken; the aforementioned Poultry in Motion contains songs ranging from 1955’s “Chicken Walk” to 1999’s “Chicken Hunch,” which seems to combine these two fascinations in a way that would cause the Subservient Chicken to fear for his life (“Do it to the right/Do it to the left/Chicken hunch, babe/Yahoo! Yahee! Yahoo!/Chicka-chicka-chicken hunch!”).

In 1998, Shake It Records -- both a label and a highly-recommended record store in Cincinnati -- put out the early-Haze compilation Drinkin’ My Life Away. The Haze would call owner Darren Blase late at night, leaving half-hour long messages/demos on his answering machine at three in the morning. The Haze earned about $7,000 from the record, which he then promptly spent on a bulldozer that he used to dig a trench around his property and then never touched again.

Here’s a dose of Yuletide Haze that will hopefully transport you to Boone County, West Virginia where, on Christmas Eve, Santa Hasil staggers down the chimney to deliver buckets of fried chicken and corn liquor. R.I.P., Haze.


Season's Greetings

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Holidays are upon us, faster than Tom Sizemore on an opportunity to make some quick cash for drugs, and we'd like you to know that the Robot is here to help you get in the spirit. Starting tomorrow, we'll have The 12 Days of Robot Christmas. Our friend and holiday music obsessive Mark will be helping out and guest curating a few choice items from his collection. If you don't like the holidays, or holiday music, perhaps you are going to hate our guts for two weeks straight. Just remember that some of us spent hours going through Record Surplus' 33¢ vinyl to make this the worst Christmas ever.

And in somewhat of a Myspace update, it looks like I'll be putting up some songs on there now and again. The one up there now is a doozy. There, now I've finally done something with Myspace that didn't involve peeping 20-year-old girls who pop up in Cool New People.


Blow 'Em Away, What Can I Say

:: Precious Metal - Bad Guys ::

Precious Metal were an all female power pop band from the '80s. I don't know much about them, but I guess they made a minor splash in the hair metal scene of the period. I "found" this record tucked into my soundtracks section, and couldn't remember where it came from or why I have it. Looking a bit closer, Bad Guys appears to have been a wrestling comedy from the mid-80s starring Adam Baldwin, Sgt. Slaughter, Ruth Buzzi and Mike Jolly. Mike Jolly? Oh, that explains it! (As you know, Mike Jolly was the original music geek on Comedy Central's "Beat The Geeks". I'm a huge fan, what can I say?)

When I first listened to this, I didn't realize the singer was a chick. But when it comes down to it, male or female, the voice sounds weird, and is the outstanding feature of the song. Apparently, this was a very early Precious Metal song. They were given a chance to get a song on the Bad Guys soundtrack at the last minute. Just so happened one of the PM ladies had a half finished song called Bad Guys, so they went into the studio that night, worked up the song, recorded it and turned it in the next morning. Now that's rock.

Unfortunately, I don't think Bad Guys (the movie) is available on DVD currently, and although there are a couple of Precious Metal comp CDs out there, I don't believe Bad Guys is on any of them. So, as usual, if you want the good stuff, you just gotta come here. What can I say?


Sailing The Seas Of Cheese

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

:: Port Authority - Ride Captain Ride ::

:: Port Authority - Wild Turkey ::

I've never been tempted to post an entire freaking album on here before, until now. From the briny docks of Washington DC's Navy Yard, this is the United States Navy Band, Port Authority. There are 4 covers and 3 originals on this amazing piece of work. According to a note on the back, this album was not to be sold, but rather used as a recruiting tool for the Navy. Evidently they were looking for a few good men. With this music, I think you'd probably take in a lot of Herb Tarleks.

What I am not sharing with you is their hilariously white cover of the Michael Jackson weeper She's Out Of My Life, or their flaccid reading of the old R&B rocker Money, Honey, and you really should thank me for not putting up their cover of a Manhattan Transfer song called Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone which contains some really dreadful Rod Serling impersonations, and sounds like the kind of thing you'd hear in that Navy the Village People sang about. We're talking jazz hands and glittery Danskins here. You are also not getting two other originals, I'm Coming Home and Reflections. Each have jaw-dropping moments, and I mean the kind of jaw-dropping like you just saw your grandmother shoot a fork out of her ass and kill the cat.

What I am giving you is their astounding cover of Ride Captain Ride, which I cannot begin to do justice to with mere words. Well, I do have one word: stiff. But there's so much going on here; I almost cried when I heard it the first time. And because you acted now: you also receive, at no additional charge, the Port Authority original number, Wild Turkey. It's an unholy instrumental stew of Chicago, Steely Dan, 70's game show music, Mike Post, Chuck Mangione, and the Cantina Band from Star Wars. I happen to have a bottle of Wild Turkey about two feet away from me, and listening to this just about had me grabbing for it.

I am sure these guys were just trying to do their bit to help recruit, and probably had a blast being able to work in making music as part of their duties. But man, this stuff is funny. They can all play their instruments pretty damn well, but where's the soul? Why, it's been strangled by military precision. All things considered, I feel a lot better when these guys are out killin' folks.


Ern Knows Why The Caged Bird Sings

Monday, December 05, 2005

:: Tennessee Ernie Ford And The San Quentin Prison Choir - Higher Ground ::

Six years before Johnny Cash performed for the inmates at San Quentin, good ol’ Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded this album performing with San Quentin’s Prison Choir. Ford explains on the liner notes that as a child, he and his family would visit the jails that surrounded his hometown of Bristol, TN and would sing gospel songs for them. This is something he continued to do throughout his life, apparently. I don’t know, if my folks ever tried coercing me into doing something like that, I would have been the usual brat and whined that they take me to a ball game or something.

The songs on this album are traditional hymns, not my favorite genre. But this song, “Higher Ground” really jumps out amongst the bunch. Ford’s rich baritone accompanied by the choir and sparse instrumentation is simply gorgeous throughout, making it one of those religious tunes that almost makes me a believer when I listen to it. Almost, bless his pea-pickin’ heart. The belief it does reinforce for me, however, is that there is good to be found in everyone - something I’d hope Governor Schwarzenegger might take into account sometime in the next eight days when deciding the fate of a current San Quentin inmate.


Hobbit Hystrionics 101

Friday, December 02, 2005

:: The Hobbits - Feeling ::

The Hobbits were a Sunshine Pop, Psych-Folk group masquerading as some kind of J.R.R. Tolkien cult. Of course most of their songs had nothing to do with Tolkien, but who's counting. The band was the brainchild of one Jimmy Curtiss, who by 1967 was already a veteran of the music business. In the late '50s he was groomed as teen idol who actually wrote his own songs, but he didn't get any hits. He tried fitting into various different trends in the early '60s, but didn't make a dent until psychedelia came along. For a couple of short years, everything changed.

When most people think of psychedelic music, they think of loud, heavy bands that play songs which included 15 minute fuzz guitar solos meant to accompany their audiences drug induced "trip". The other side of the psych coin though was discounted at the time as lightweight and ultimately square.

Born out of the Folk movement of the '50s, and the Folk Rock of the '60s, Psych-Folk took the message of the flower children and packaged it for people who tended to bathe everyday. Not all Psych-Folk was mind numbingly sugar-coated pop, and the last few years has seen a resurgence in it's appreciation. This song, "Feeling" is simply a bad example of the genre. Co-written by Curtiss and vocalist Marcia Hillman, the song combines a "White Rabbit" sort of Bolero with hackneyed lyrics delivered by an overwrought singer who "feels" a bit too much for the listener's own good. One can only hope this feeling does not spread like bird flu as it is surely fatal.

The name of the album is Men and Doors - The Hobbits Communicate. The communication is ill.


Robotic MySpace Plug

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Alright, so we are up on MySpace now, warmly ready to accept you as a comfortably detached cyberpal. I am sure there is something we can do to make it interesting over there, but it hasn't happened yet. ANYway, be our friend?