Friday, June 30, 2006

I smell the rose

in her hair.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Do the method

The Method Actors are pretty much a forgotten band now. That’s kind of surprising, the duo was part of the first wave of Athens bands after The B-52’s first got the town noticed. Pylon still gets plays out and plays occasionally, R.E.M. is still R.E.M., Love Tractor got back together a few years back, and the Method Actors have just about disappeared into obscurity.

The 1979 breakup of Athen’s second band band called the Tone-tones led to the Vic Varney and David Gamble forming a two piece band. The drummer & guitarist didn’t want the trouble of dealing with a lot of different people so they decided to stay a duo. The Method Actors may have been the first completely self contained two-piece guitar-and-drums rock band.

The Method Actors played clubs up & down the East Coast of the United States and were reportedly a powerhouse live act. Peter Dyer of Armageddon Records saw the band play a club show in Atlanta and signed them to his label. He flew the duo over to England and put them in a studio the very next day. The record came out in late 1980 and was named ‘single of the week’ by The New Musical Express. "The Method" is my favorite Method Actors song.

The next move for the band was a terrific 10” record called RHYTHMS OF YOU released on Armageddon Records and most of the same songs came out again on a dB records EP called DANCING UNDERNEATH. All of the Method Actors records have at least one song exclusive to that release. Get ‘em all! The records were critically acclaimed in England and the usual places where independent records get noticed in the U.S.

In January of 1982, The Method Actors releases a double album called LITTLE FIGURES. It’s too long. The songs are good, there’s just too many of them to listen to at one time. I usually only play a side or two at a time. There was a single LP version available in the U.S. but I’ve never seen a copy. A couple of the songs were re-recorded from the earlier releases. Vic Varney started playing more bass and less guitar on this record. The duo even brought in a third musician for one song - a steel drum player! Again the record was well received in the music press and ignored everywhere else.

By this point, the Actors were getting tired of wonderful reviews and empty clubs. David Gamble left the band and joined Boat Of... and made a record with Thomas Dolby under the name Jack Heard.

Vic Varney expanded the Method Actors to five members. This lineup recorded a live LP and a second studio album (worth getting for the great cover of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”). There was finally a change to the pattern, the records stopped getting favorable reviews. Varney brought the Method Actors to an end in early 1983.

Vic Varney is still playing as solo act. He gets a lot of great reviews.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


help the boys come home.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What a lonely way

to start the summertime.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else

My friend Jim Cavender made me a CD of a band called the Masqueraders. I think it's great and was going to write something up about the band. I asked Jim about the band and realized that he should write something instead. So here's something from our first guest blogger. Here's Jim, who is welcome to post anytime he wants to:

I first discovered the Masqueraders in 1979. I was 17, and my mom had remarried, so we'd moved in with the stepfamily. Their attic was full of the usual stuff, including a shelf of 45s, many of which had already melted from the annual oppressive summer heat. Among the survivors was one with a red and black AGP label, "I'm Just An Average Guy"/"I Ain't Gonna Stop" by the Masqueraders, whom I'd never heard of, but since the fine print said it was produced by Tommy Cogbill, who I knew to be the bassist on Elvis's '69 Memphis sessions, I figured it'd be worth a listen (I have no idea who'd bought that 45 in the first place, or why; my stepsisters were far too young and musically uninclined to be interested in an obscure soul group, and my stepfather had no interest in music at all). One listen and I knew I'd hit the jackpot. Their harmony was tight, assertive and richly textured, as if everyone in the group could be an outstanding lead singer. The actual lead vocalist had an explosive presence, like the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, but with southern flavor. The A-side was a deep soul ballad that gave the lead singer plenty of room to testify, and the flip was a hip dance number with a streamlined groove that showed off those tight harmonies. I loved it, and it soon found a place on a compilation cassette that I played in my car so often my friends probably still have it memorized.

Flash forward to 1990, and my wife and I were making a weekend ritual of hitting an open-air flea market in a huge parking lot near our apartment. I came across a bunch of 45s melting in the hot sun, and bought the whole box just to rescue all that precious vinyl, much of which perished anyway. One of the more resilient pieces had a blue and silver Bell label, "I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"/"I Got It" by The Masqueraders. I'd loved my earlier discovery, but figured it was a one-shot by a group that missed the brass ring and never got a second chance, yet here they were again. The A-side is probably my favorite southern soul side ever. Their harmony sounds like commitment -- to the song, and to each other, like they'll be singing together as long as they live. The B-side is another dance number, this time distinguished by an odd arrangement that really shows off the American Sound rhythm section. So now I'm hooked: who are these guys (and what an appropriate name for such men of mystery)?

Once we got a decent Mac and the internet became all-pervasive, I started occasionally looking for clues. Several years ago, both of my previous finds surfaced on a comp CD called Lifestyles Of The Slow & Low, aimed at fans of low rider soul. A soul fan in Israel posted RealAudio renderings of some of their other sides, and provided some impressive biographical detail. And then, while searching (the British version has lots of stuff won't list), I found a Masqueraders comp called Unmasked. The good news was that it had a lot of great stuff on it; the bad news was that some of it was mastered horribly, and my scratchy 45s and those midrangy RealAudio renderings actually sound better than some of those CD tracks.

Besides those earlier discoveries, I particularly like "I Don't Want Nobody To Lead Me On", "Poor Boy's Dream", the Bacharach-ish waltz (!) "Tell Me You Love Me" and especially "This Heart Is Haunted" (originally credited to Lee Jones & The Sounds Of Soul, and issued on Bell's Amy subsidiary), but really, these guys could do no wrong. They don't sound as rustic as, say, Otis Redding, but they're every bit as soulful. In the same way that Elvis sounded southern but never sounded like a country singer, these guys sound southern, yet urban, with a delivery as polished as their Detroit and Philly counterparts and a passion as pronounced as Otis, Wilson Pickett and all the rest. They were also fantastic songwriters who steered clear of stock musical underpinnings, which means their stuff still sounds amazingly fresh today. Until recently, they actually had a website, and it showed photos of recent gigs they'd played in Memphis (even though some of them live in Memphis and others in Dallas, which means they go to a lot of trouble to keep performing together -- again, commitment). How they never hit with crossover success is still a mystery, but at least now we get to listen to these sides without any of those annoying associations with Big Chill soundtracks and saturation airplay on goodtime oldies stations. Enjoy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Powerful Percussion! Dramatic Sound! Exciting Variety!

This unique collection presents some of the greatest percussion performances ever released, now gathered in one scratchy album. Here are the thrilling sounds of big-band drummers, Latin rhythm men, drill field percussionists, all captured in the finest sound a fifty cent flea market record can provide.

"Bangkok Beat" - Pepe Dominguin...Here you can enjoy a bongo duet between Dominguin and his rhythmic cohort. And from the time a big gong sounds (a deep resonant sound that produces perceptible overtones, and should reverberate long and clear without the tones 'breaking up'), until it comes in again at the end, the drummers don't let up. An occasional chord from the celesta chimes out between the bongos, as does a random tinkle from the little Chinese cymbal tree.

"Uncle Tom Tom" - Les Baxter...This flashy duet between high and low-pitched tom toms provides sharp varied drum reports that are again, an excellent test of a good speaker. Tenor sax man Plas Johnson is in the middle of it all, aided only by an occasional dry thump from a dampened bass drum and pops & clicks from dusty 45-year old vinyl. Splendid musician that he is, Plas wails his way through it all in fine form.

"Rocket Racket" - Dick Harrell...Wild, swinging and uninhibited, the ability of young drummer Dick Harrell is, in itself, out of the ordinary. But added to this is the revolutionary procedure used to record his two tracks. First soloist Dick and rhythm drummer Roy Harte came into the studio and recorded drum tracks. Uniquely, the other instruments were recorded over the drums! Unhampered by the need to accompany anyone, and further aided by another drummer to hold the beat, Dick really 'rolled'.

"Drivin' Around The Block" - Dick Harrell...Here's another of those very appropriate melodies scored as accompaniment for the drums, which this time include temple blocks and the pop and rattle of a tambourine. Dick is aided by sax and guitar, plus a full-throated electronic organ.

Recording note: These tracks were played on an Audio-Technica turntable. Since the record was really dusty, I blew most of the dust off and tried to remember to clean the fuzz off the needle between songs. This didn't really help much. Wav files were recorded using some shareware that I found on the web. The mp3 conversion was done with Musicmatch, also downloaded from the web, I'm too cheap to buy the full version. These mp3s were recorded with all the meticulous care that some free songs you can download to your computer require, and represents the strictest adherence to the most exacting technical specifications and standards possible after having some warmed up Chinese leftovers and drinking most of a six-pack of Yeungling.

just having fun

I just like this track:

The Bonzo Dog Band, "Big Shot"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

When I

put on my long white robe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Repeating PATTERNS

It's repeat time! I had a request to repost this entry from a few months ago. Here's a .zip file of the songs.


This album has been spending a lot of time on the record player lately. Then I remembered that it’s been a while since I posted any jazz stuff so here’s an album by The Modern Jazz Quartet.

I think this 1960 record is the only release that the Modern Jazz Quartet had on United Artists Records. It’s a good one. The music was written for a movie called Odds Against Tomorrow starring Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte. I’ve never seen the movie but it looks like it’s a good film.

One thing I like about the music is that almost every note is a short one. There are no vocals, horns, strings or guitars on the album, it’s only piano, vibes, bass and drums, even the cymbals are kept to a minimum. Pianist John Lewis wrote and arranged all six songs. “Skating In Central Park” is a classic.

United Artists went out of business before the dawn of the digital era so PATTERNS has never been on CD. In 1990, Blue Note Records released the record on a CD called ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW. Same songs, different name, different cover. It’s out of print too but you can find used copies cheap if you look around.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How about a satin brocade?

Guaranteed not to fade.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Aw-wop-bob-a-loo, Aw-wop-bob-a-li

I’m posting today’s record in honor of the great junk store that I found it in a few years ago. I drove by there yesterday and it’s under new management. I didn’t see any records in the place. Dang, I found some good things there.

New Yorker Mickey Lee Lane started making records in the in 1958. There weren’t any hits so Lane backed up Neil Sedaka, The Bell-Notes (who did the great “I’ve Had It”), and wrote songs recorded by The Action and Bill Haley. Lane cut a bunch of records for a variety of labels. The only one that came close to being a hit was “Shaggy Dog” which hit the Top 40 in 1964.

Lane’s cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” (called “Tuitti Fruitti” on the label) is terrific. It’s one of the better versions of that song. Lane produced the record himself. I hope the clunky fadeout was a mastering mistake, no producer would do that to his own record on purpose. The b-side is a Lane original, the singing is, errr, interesting. Not bad but it could be better. I wonder if it was meant as a demo record and got used when Mala Records needed a b-side.

In the seventies, Mickey Lee Lane moved to the other side of the recording studio glass. Eventually Lane became the head engineer at Kama Sutra Records. He also released a compilation of his records in 1997. Anybody got a copy?

The Detroit Cobras and the Sexareenos have recorded Mickey Lee Lane songs in the last few years. John Peel liked this record. There was a copy of "Tuitti Fruitti" in a box of the DJ's favorites 45’s when Peel died.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Heavenly light

is shining.

Friday, June 09, 2006

See you later, Alligator

Johnny Grande, an original member of Bill Haley and His Comets who played piano on their hit "Rock Around The Clock," died. He was 76.

Grande died Saturday at his home in Clarksville, TN and his funeral was Wednesday night, according to McReynolds-Nave & Larson Funeral Home.

Grande was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997. Haley is the only member of the group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I'm getting tired

of working hard every day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hits in the head

It’s time for another Huntsville band.

The Martinlutherkinks were a side project of Sex Clark 5 guitarist Rick Storey. The Martinlutherkinks were mostly Rick Storey, I can hear at least one other member of the SC5 is on the record, maybe two. A press release said the band members were Nathan, Larry and Surf. Storey wrote all 4 songs on HIT PARADE. You can hear that he had a lot of influence on the sound of the Sex Clark 5 when you listen to these songs.

The songs are short poppy historical songs or pop culture – just like the Sex Clark 5’s usual stuff – except they’re all earth based. This song about T. Rex-ish song is quite nice. I think it's about college football. Actually two of the songs on HIT PARADE were included on CRIMSON PANZER, the Sex Clark 5's fourth album. I think they were the same recordings with some studio fussing and bits added on. Dunno why, the songs sound fine on the original record.

Storey released the record on his own Wernher Brothers records. I think it’s the only record ever released on the label. Contact Ricky at the SC5’s website, he may have a copy to send out if you want one.

Oh yeah. Another reason I wrote this: Every other Martinlutherkinks reference on the web is a link to a list of funny band names. Now there’s something else about the Martinlutherkinks on the internet.

Monday, June 05, 2006

from the rather interesting record "Clube Da Esquina"

Milton Nascimento/Lo Borges, "Um Girassol Da Cor De Seu Cabelo"

I've heard later stuff by Nascimento and he sorta turned into something like Sting.
This record has a lot to it though.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sell out

to the Master

Thursday, June 01, 2006

If you've never sinned before

From March 1963, here’s Baby Ray & The Ferns only single. I think it’s a great record. “How’s Your Bird?” was the A-side of the record, the name of the song was a Steve Allen catchphrase. I doubt Allen ever heard the record, he hated rock & roll.

The flipside is the winner here though. “The World’s Greatest Sinner” is a great song. Frank Zappa fans will probably howl in outrage but in my opinion, Frank Zappa never did anything better than this record. Most of the Zappa fans I know are old hippies with little or no sense of humor so if you’re a Zappa fan and you like this song anyway, I apologize. Zappa wrote the song as well as all the other music for Timothy Carey’s The World’s Greatest Sinner movie, I don’t know if this song is in the film or not. Who’s seen it?

Ray Collins was Baby Ray, he was also in the Mothers of Invention. Frank Zappa was the Ferns, he played all of the instruments except piano, a man named Paul Buff was the piano playing Fern. Collins told Frank that “How’s Your Bird” would be a good name for a song so Zappa wrote the song. Zappa produced the sessions as well. Frank was busy, it wouldn't surprise me if he made lunch for everybody too.
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