Sunday, November 30, 2008

Put it in first gear

and go on up the hill

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Return of The Masqueraders

There was another request to repost Jim C's Masqueraders story. This is the third time which ties the Masqueraders with Art In The Dark and The Method Actors as our most requested posts.

Here it is again:
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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You know I know

you know I was a fool for you

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is a song about Alice

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s Arlo Guthrie with a couple variations on “Alice’s Restaurant”.

The first is a version recorded live on a WBAI radio show in February 1967. This take rambles on a bit more than the version recorded for his debut LP in July 1967. The tightening up that happened in those few months helped a lot. The playing is good though and it’s nice to hear a different take on a classic. Sorry about the sudden cut off at the end, I guess the tape ran out.

The second variation is a quite a different story. The music is pretty much the same but the story is more of a sequel – this song is not about Alice or the restaurant even though the story does start out there and then the chorus comes around again at the end. This one was also recorded for the Bob Fass show on WBAI, this time in May 1967. I do like the piano.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Before this time another year

I may be gone

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Free dirt


Died Dretty's FREE DIRT - one of the best albums of the eighties - is about to get the deluxe re-issue treatment. Six bonus tracks! I listened to FREE DIRT as much as I listened to anything else in 1987. I still listen to it regularly.

As extra incentive, there's going to be a second disc of the band's early singles - previously collected on the PRE-DEITY compilation are going to be included on a second disc with six live songs.

Now if only some label could talk Husker Du into putting their business disputes behind them and re-releasing their catalog. C'mon guys - put that stuff behind you. At least put together a disc of singles and rarities.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ready or not here we come

Gettin' down on the one which we believe in

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I am the magnificent!

The first time I played "Double Barrel", I thought it was the dub side of the record. Nope. It's not. It's not even a dub version - that's the actual vocal recorded for the record. Here's a video:

I had never heard this record before I found it in a stack of singles at a flea market. It was a surprise when I played it because I really wasn't expecting to find a ska 45 at a flea market in Athens, Alabama. Later on I found out that "Double Barrel" was a top twenty hit in 1971. When I found a copy of the LP, I was pleasantly surprised to find that other songs on the LP sound like an island version of the Hi Rhythm Section or Booker T. & The MGs. Maybe it's not so surprising to find a ska record in North Alabama.

Dave and Ansell Collins weren't brothers. Dave's real surname is Barker, he had previously sung for the Techniques and worked with Lee "Scratch" Perry, recording a solo LP and performing on some Wailers tracks. He's a pretty good singer. Ansell Collins played keyboards in many bands including backing Sugar Minott & Jimmy Cliff.

This record was also the recording debut of Sly Dunbar, the drum playing half of Sly & Robbie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To be alone is to be free

Sunday, November 16, 2008

There is no evil

ever been done

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ride with me on my last trip

sail with me on my death ship

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stereo from outer space

More science! This time it's a recording of the first stereo transmission to be beamed from a satellite. We have to take them at their word about the transmission part, there's no audible evidence that these sounds were sent 12,000 miles through space, it's all mid-sixties lounge music. The narration explains the whole process if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

- Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Monday, November 10, 2008

She says it's essential to be existential

when she's out with a boy like me

Sunday, November 09, 2008

He turned the water

into wine

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Belly of the beast

There's a snazzy new yellow vinyl Thomas Function single out now on Fat Possum Records. The band is recording a new LP some time in the next few months.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I know you're mine, all right

so come to me

(The Royal Purple have a new CD out. Get one from here)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Earthquakes for home use

Back in 1952, somebody at Cook Laboratories decided to release an LP of recordings of earthquakes. Not the sounds of collapsing buildings and screaming people but the sound of tectonic plates sliding along fault lines. Since the earth doesn't move very often, the recordings are sped up to 750 times the normal speed so that a day's worth of earthquakes and aftershocks can fit on one side of an LP.

I like the notes from the back of the record:

It is understood as a condition of sale that Cook Laboratories, Inc. will in no way be responsible for damage this phonograph record may cause to equipment directly or indirectly. For users with wide-range woofers, this disclaimer shall be construed to include neighbors as well as dishware and pottery

Cook Laboratories, Inc will not permit the return of any record for the reason of skipping grooves , or of any record on which there is evidence of needles having skipped grooves whatever the reason given for return

The record will play on most good equipment without becoming damaged in any way, and failure to track is the fault of the playback equipment. Skipping is intentional and indigenous to the nature of this subject matter.

It's true - the needle will not stay in the groove on several bands of this record.

Side two of the record is recordings of electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere.

Why was the record made? Emory Cook - the guy that released the record - specialized in high-end audiophile recordings of just about anything he liked. Cook recorded steam trains, jet planes, steel drum bands and bawdy jazz for his Cook Recordings label in the fifties and early sixties. A lot of the recordings are still available from the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, OUT OF THIS WORLD is not in the catalog. "Sounds of the Ionosphere" is though. You can buy a non-scratchy mp3 here.

UPDATE: It took two days but somebody finally downloaded the these two mp3s. In the 3 years I've been doing this, that's the longest time that something has been posted but not downloaded.

We just changed

got a brand new funky president

Monday, November 03, 2008

More sad news

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Yma Sumac

More here.

It's been a long time coming

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