Thursday, April 23, 2009

Music Library: Cannibal Ox, Cannonball Adderley, Captain Beefheart, Captain Kangaroo, Cardinal, Caribou

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein. I've already proven that I can be surprisingly inarticulate about music that I know quite well, so what I have to say about hip-hop is even more discomgargulambulish. So, uh, wow! What a great album!

Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else, Things Are Getting Better, Fiddler On The Roof, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club", and Spontaneous Combustion. First-rate hard bop, all the way through.

Captain Beefheart:

  • Safe As Milk. Beefheart's first effort has quite a few brilliant tracks, but the most damning thing about it is that it sounds like a product of its time. There's indications here and there about where Beefheart was headed, though, most notably "Abba Zaba" and "Electricity." I don't have the next album, the out-of-print Strictly Personal, but a few of the songs are bonus tracks on this release.

  • Trout Mask Replica. I detested this album the first time I heard it. I mean, I knew it was something different and new (to me, at least; the album was at least 21 years old at the time, older than I was when I first heard it), but I had no vocabulary for the cacophonous structure of the songs, no way into the music. It was difficult, proudly and defiantly difficult. There were in-jokes I didn't understand, constant time-shifts, songs that could have been about any number of things. I was a fan of the Minutemen, which was why I was interested in checking Beefheart out, but I couldn't hear how his deconstruction of rock music had led from the blues and garage-rock to the minimalist Minutemen aesthetic. I can hear it now, though. It's still unlike most anything else (Beefheart's followers have mostly found a way to put his radical ideas about disorientation in music into a more pop context), almost impossible to mix into other sounds because many of the songs make no sense out of context, but it's also a brilliant album and a fun listen at long last.

  • Lick My Decals Off, Baby. The follow-up to Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby is fantastic stuff, maybe not quite as wild and experimental, but still different from just about anything else. The addition of the marimbas is quite a lot of fun, too. The album after this is Mirror Man, which includes more reworkings of the Strictly Personal material. But I don't have it.

  • The Spotlight Kid. This is the first of two 1972 releases. Beefheart pulls back on the peripheral weirdness without losing all of the oddity central to his sound. This is more explicitly bluesy than the immediately prior Beefheart albums, but not out of line with the earliest Beefheart.

  • Clear Spot. The second 1972 album, this one is even more commercial, incorporating backing vocalists and horns and groovy, relaxed guitar parts in 4/4 time. The producer is Ted Templeman, mostly known at the time for easygoing semi-bluesy rock in the Doobie Brothers & Van Morrison vein (he later became the go-to guy for Van Halen, too). And this sounds like Beefheart covering Van Morrison. It's mostly great despite that description. In fact, even the tracks that seem the farthest out from the Beefheart aesthetic are pretty terrific.

  • Bluejeans and Moonbeams. I don't have the prior album Unconditionally Guaranteed, but I understand that, like this one, it's an unbridled attempt to fit Beefheart into an even more commercialized sound. Clear Spot was about as commercial as I can take Beefheart. This is over the line. No fun at all.

  • Doc at the Radar Station. Prior to this is Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), a Zappa-produced album that I'll have to pick up sometime. But this album is what I want and expect from a Beefheart album: deconstructed blues-oriented rock with jagged rhythms and overlapping guitars all piled together into music that's more or less sculptural in nature.
  • "Ashtray Heart" and "Hot Head" from Saturday Night Live. Mp3s of the wonderfully messy live versions from Beefheart's appearance on SNL back in 1979.
  • Ice Cream For Crow. This is probably the last Beefheart album ever, since he's basically retired from music in favor of painting now. And it's a great album. Beefheart and his band sound like they are having a blast, and the music is wild and clever and fun like on his classic albums.

Captain Kangaroo Narrates Peter and The Wolf. I downloaded this from eMusic because my son likes the Peter and the Wolf story and music. I remember this album fondly from my childhood and thought he might enjoy it. So far, nope.

Cardinal - Toy Bell EP, Cardinal, and Cardinal and The Flaming Lips Live in Norman, OK 9/3/95. Cardinal was a brief collaboration between the psychedelic folkster Aussie Richard Davies (previously of The Moles) and Oregan-based chamber-pop experimentalist Eric Matthews. The Toy Bell EP (Bob Fay of Sebadoh was part of the band then) is a great look forward to the lush gorgeousness of Cardinal, one of my all-time favorite albums. As of last year, Davies and Matthews were supposedly working together again, but they split it off over creative differences. Having encountered Eric Matthews on-line, I can say that he's a temperamental sort who de-friended me suddenly on Facebook, apparently for having the temerity to support the current President over the last one. I don't know anything about Davies personally, but I could see where their personalities may clash. The bootleg is basically Davies (sans Matthews) with the Flaming Lips playing backing band as he runs through Cardinals and Moles songs.

Caribou - Andorra. Laptop indie pop, very catchy, but very disposable, too.


Anonymous 8:25 PM, April 26, 2009  

You've got the Bat Chain Puller story mixed up. Shiny Beast was definitely NOT produced by Zappa---it was produced by Don Van Vliet & Pete Johnson.

But the ORIGINAL (and STILL never released!) Bat Chain Puller (without the Shiny Beast bit, and quite a different track listing) was made for Zappa's Discreet records, but Zappa pulled the plug on it. To this day, the Zappa Family Trust refuses to release it, but it's been widely bootlegged.

Both albums are more than worth the listen. The original Bat Chain Puller can be torrented (look for the JWB TRANSFER). It's the only way you'll get it these days.

Hayden Childs 12:00 AM, April 27, 2009  

Thanks for the story and the recommendation, my anonymous friend!

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