Music Library: Retribution Gospel Choir, Rev. Gary Davis, Rex Garvin, Rhys Chatham, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Richard Buckner, Richard Davies, Richard Hell
Retribution Gospel Choir - Retribution Gospel Choir (2008). The male members of Low make big rock with a different drummer. I hope it makes Alan Sparhawk happy. Good, but it sounds like a side project.
Rev. Gary Davis - Harlem Street Singer (1960). This has the original version of "Samson and Delilah" on it, I believe. Although it is often listed as a traditional folk song, I believe the Rev. Gary Davis wrote it and recorded it in 1960. All the covers - Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Grateful Dead, Springsteen, etc. - got it from him.
Rex Garvin - "Emulsified." Brilliant 1963 rockabilly track that was covered by Yo La Tengo on their Fakebook album.
Rhys Chatham - Two Gongs (1971), A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars) (2007), Guitar Trio Is My Life! (2008). Minimalist downtown composer who was instrumental in the aesthetics of Band of Susans and Sonic Youth. Two Gongs has, well, two gongs playing off of each other for a little over an hour. Much like the noise experiments of My Bloody Valentine, the mind rejects the drone and imposes order and eventually one can hear a melody emerge from the chaos. Crimson Grail and especially Guitar Trio work in much the same way. Guitar Trio basically involves X number of guitarists (I assume this was three originally) who play an E chord for a certain amount of time. The guitarists are allowed to try different textures and sounds within the confines of the E chord. This Guitar Trio recording in particular is fascinating, the document of a tour that Chatham undertook in which he enlisted different guitarists in each town. Fascinatingly, each recording is different. Different tones, different notes played, different tempo, different length. If art is about affecting your perspective, Guitar Trio is profound art.
Richard "Groove" Holmes - Soul Message (1965). The king of soul jazz.
Richard Buckner - Bloomed (1994), Unreleased (1995), Richard Buckner (1996), Devotion + Doubt (1997), Since (1998), Live At Shuba's Tavern (1998), The Hill (2000), Impasse-ette EP (2002), Impasse (2002), Dents and Shells (2004), Sir Dark Invader vs. The Fanglord (with Jon Langford, 2005), Meadow (2006), Our Blood (2011). Buckner's an interesting cat, part country troubadour and part soul-searing avant-garde wordsmith. To my mind, Devotion + Doubt and Since are two of the finest albums of the 90s. Both throw conventional song structure out the window and boil the lyrics down to an overwhelming intimacy. Both layer on textures more likely to be seen in post-rock than alt-country, which in Since is partially because the Chicago avant-music brigade (O'Rourke, McEntire, Grubbs) worked on it. "Fater" is where this blog gets its literal name. Buckner has never gotten his due, and that's the greatest shame of all.
Here's a video for "On Traveling," a harrowing song driven by accordion or harmonium playing a simple I-IV-V with all sorts of texture noises bubbling beneath the surface, propelling the song.
This is Buckner building a loop and then singing "Fater," which is usually a capella, on top of the end.
I wanted one of the rocking songs off of Since, because they are unlike any other songs ever written, but they are simply unavailable on YouTube. In the absence of one of those, "Ariel Ramirez" is one of the more pensive tracks from Since, and it's absolutely gorgeous.
Finally, here's one of the tracks from The Hill, which is Buckner's concept album with lyrics drawn from the Spoon River Anthology.
Richard Davies - There's Never Been A Crowd Like This (1996), Telegraph (1997), and Barbarians (2000). Like Buckner, Davies is an oddball genre-breaking genius who has never gotten anything close to what is due him. His band The Moles was psychedelic enough to push the Flaming Lips into new territories, his collaboration with Eric Matthews Cardinal managed to out-Bowie David Bowie, and his solo albums are amalgams of both of these impulses, along with lots of folk-rock-Americana to provide a basis for the songs. His last solo album (so far) was the brilliant Barbarians, completely unrepresented on YouTube, an album-length meditation on the weird, feral normality of his adopted home country of the US.
Here's Davies in 2012 playing one of his Cardinal tunes. Listen to how many times the song changes up its structure into minor keys and still circles back to the base major key.
Here's Davies in the 90s, the Moles basically reduced to him alone, backed by the Flaming Lips on one of his psych-pop masterpieces.
Here's a chamber-pop song from his first album. It's actually the simplest-sounding track I've posted so far, but it's full of flourishes and slight variations from the basic chord structure.
Here's Davies' masterful "Cantina," which could be any number of genre of songs. I love how it phases through the intro just enough to keep things off-kilter.
Richard Hell - Blank Generation (with the Voidoids, 1977), Destiny Street (with the Voidoids, 1982), Time (compilation, 1975-84). Here's the most successful oddball of these three. Hell was, of course, the original bassist for Television, the guy who invented punk fashion, the author of "Blank Generation," the most poetic of all the CBGBs crowd, the guy who put Bob Quine front and center in his band when he already had a brilliant guitarist in Ivan Julian. In short, a genius.
This is one of the songs added to the end of the reissue of Blank Generation that has not one but two perfect guitar solos in it.
This song is perfect.