The challenge of reviewing an ambient album like Kenneth James Gibson’s soon-to-be-released Ssih Mountain is that it isn’t music you review. It’s music you write poetry to, or paint ethereal landscapes to. It’s music you close your eyes to and let wash over you while you daydream or meditate or play out imaginary film scenes in your mind. It’s a collection of songless songs that use droning tonalities and slowly changing washes of chords to play with your emotions; sometimes uplifting, sometimes menacing, sometimes peaceful, sometimes pensive. Ssih Mountain is the countryside of dreams and the wind that blows across the distant hills of insomnia.
Probably the best-known similar works are Brian Eno’s most ambient albums. Neroli, New Space Music, and Thursday Afternoon come to mind. I don’t doubt that Kenneth is influenced by Steve Reich’s minimalist works, and Ssih Mountain also reminds me of the Incandescent Cinema album my friends in Trio Nine recorded. Ssih Mountain is one of those albums I like to play on repeat for a few hours to cleanse the musical palette and chill the heck out. It’s like sonic incense to calm the senses.
After listening to the complete album that was sent privately to me for review, I bought Kenneth’s 2016 album, The Evening Falls. It uses more recognizable melodies than Ssih Mountain, usually minimalist piano or slide-guitar melodies played over drones and washes like those found on Mountain. Imagine someone took the first couple of minutes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond and made an entire album with that vibe. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Maybe Human’s soon-to-be-released album Ape Law is a hard-rockin’ tribute to the original Planet of the Apes movies. Each song contains samples of iconic lines of film dialogue which are sure to please longtime fans, and they even work artistically if you lack that context.
But don’t expect the eerie atonality of the first film’s original soundtrack. Instead, you’ll be treated to a combination of post-rock melodies and prog-metal riffs that bring to mind bands I like such as Tool, If These Trees Could Talk, Tuber, and Cambrian Explosion. Maybe Human even throws in a few electronica vibes and some industrial riffage in the vein of vintage Ministry albums. Ape Law is an ambitious combination of sounds and genres, but somehow it all works and feels cohesive thanks to the unifying theme and outstanding bass and guitar performances.
In case you haven’t seen the original films, Ape Law is based on the idea that the apes had two fundamental laws concerning social relationships. One: Ape shall never kill ape. Two: Humans shall never say no to an ape. Clearly, these are a comment on racism, fascism, slavery, and the subjugation of an “out group” by an “in group”, but this instrumental album is not in any way a political manifesto. It’s an affectionate tribute to a beloved series, and the only axe Maybe Human has to grind is an axe with six strings.
The full album will not be released to the public until November 25, 2022, but Maybe Human has made the first track available for your listening pleasure. (See the video at the top of this post.) As a reviewer, I had private access to the entire album, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
You will be able to purchase the complete album on Bandcamp once it’s released, at https://maybehuman.bandcamp.com/. There will be both digital download and vinyl versions available. Maybe Human’s Bandcamp page has many other tracks you can rock right now while you wait for Ape Law, so check them out.
Now take your stinking paws off my blog, you damn dirty apes!
Country Hate Machine began as a solo acoustic side-project to record hillbilly versions of songs by Nine Inch Nails, whose first album was called Pretty Hate Machine. Eventually, CHM evolved into a punk-influenced hybrid mixing rage with humor. I recorded a bunch of demos in informal settings, but life got in the way of doing formal studio sessions. So, I’ve collected twenty of my favorite acoustic demo and concert recordings from twenty years of musical madness for your listening pleasure. They contain strong language and adult subject matter, and they might be inappropriate for children or any other form of mammalian life. Consider yourself warned.
Country Hate Machine: The Lost Years is now available as a free mp3 album including twenty songs, the album art, and a mini-booklet in PDF with credits for all those who contributed lyrical and musical ideas or were kind enough to share their recordings.
I have also added several other out-of-print projects as free downloads on my Music Albums Page.
Reunions and shared laughter. The band greets them all.
Then in unison: a chord. Not just any chord.
It’s a harmony of light, shining in the dark.
This poem is a variation on Japanese poetic forms that often use groupings of five and seven syllables. It is named after my favorite local band in Ann Arbor in the mid-1990s. Bassist Geoff Streadwick was previously a member of the locally legendary Morsel, created 40 oz. Sound studio to record local talent, and sadly passed away many years ago while still a young, creatively brilliant man.
You can still find Gondolier’s music online thanks to their drummer, Jayson, on his Soundcloud page. Although those recordings remain amongst my favorite things, they pale in comparison to the jaw-dropping majesty of experiencing Gondolier in concert in a friend’s basement or Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig or the bar formerly known as Ypsilanti’s Cross Street Station.
For many years, I had a Gondolier t-shirt silkscreen-printed with the first single’s cover art by the company founded by Morsel’s bassist Brian Hussey. I wore it through seven kinds of hell until the damn thing nearly fell off my body. I still miss it.
Gondolier was three young men from Michigan who made music that inspired me and continues to inspire me to this day. I had the pleasure of interviewing them once, for a music review in a local publication. But nothing has ever compared to being right against the stage when they belted out the greatest sounds I’d ever heard.
My high-school buddy Brian turned me on to Screaming Trees. I didn’t get them at first. They sounded unlike any of the hair-metal, teeny-bopper bands I was into in the mid-1980s, or the more straight-forward punk bands I was beginning to appreciate, such as Minor Threat. In hindsight, I realize that opening my ears to the Trees was the beginning of my love for genres such as garage, psychedelia, and a lot of what gets called shoegaze or stoner rock these days, and maybe even jazz, jazz-rock fusion, and music from around the world.
I caught the Trees in concert twice. On the Buzz Factory tour, they played the club Mississippi Nights on the waterfront in downtown St. Louis. I loved that album and still do, but hearing songs from it in-person blew me away. The sound quality of Trees albums was pretty bad in the early years, like they had been recorded on a wax cylinder or something. The songs were energetic, fun, and brilliant, but something got lost in the low-budget recordings. In concert, the Trees sounded MASSIVE.
At Mississippi Nights, guitarist and main songwriter Gary Lee Conner launched into one of his wah-pedal-drenched solos then apparently lost his mind. He rolled around on the stage with his SG, then tumbled off the elevated stage to land on the floor. He writhed on the floor and kept shredding. The guy was like a force of nature that fell into the crowd.
This venue was all-ages, with a rule that underage kids like me could be in the general area right in front of the stage, but not in the areas that served alcohol. It’s the same place I caught Nirvana and lots of other great acts when the so-called Seattle sound was on the cusp of becoming a nationwide phenomenon.
The all-ages venue meant my buddies Dan, Brian, Dave, Chris, Amy, and many more could rock the hell out and be right up in the action. I stood in a circle of teenagers who were absolutely stunned by Gary’s electric performance on the floor in front of us.
A few years later, when singer Mark Lanegan released his first solo album, The Winding Sheet, I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever heard. By that point, I’d been learning to play guitar for a few years and was attempting to write and sing my own songs. To say The Winding Sheet influenced me is an understatement. It was everything I aspired to.
So in 2020, when I read Mark’s brutal memoir Sing Backwards and Weep, it came as a shock to me that he basically hated the Screaming Trees and hated his first album. That’s an oversimplification, so let me expand that thought.
Mark’s version of his life with the Trees begins with being blown away by the young Gary Lee Conner’s songwriting and demo recordings. It wasn’t until later that he came to feel the lyrics of the composer’s neo-psychedelic songs were hippy-dippy nonsense Mark just couldn’t feel. I think more mature adults would have realized they simply had creative differences and went their separate ways. But I say that now at age forty-nine, and I remember what my twenties were like.
In Mark’s recollections of early Trees tours, personality conflicts replaced their initial camaraderie. We’re talking about a bunch of kids here. If you pack a van with any group of guys barely into their twenties, you’ll get conflict. Hell, I’m sure anyone who knew me when I was that age would tell you I was an abrasive jerk. Creative? Absolutely. Easy to get along with? Fuck no. It’s just part of being young, artistic, broke, and stupid.
Mark was right about one thing about the early records: The sound quality was crap. It’s easy to understand his frustration with albums that changed the way I heard music, such as Even If and Especially When, Invisible Lantern, and Buzz Factory. (You can hear twenty-one of their best songs from this era in the collection, SST Years.) The Change Has Come EP is awesome—one of my all-time musical favorites—and almost captured the live intensity of the Trees’ sound. But it wasn’t until Sweet Oblivion that the recordings started to sound as killer as the concerts.
The second time I caught the Trees in concert was at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit around the time Sweet Oblivion came out and the single Shadow of the Season was getting airplay on corporate alt-rock stations across the nation. They opened with Before We Arise from Uncle Anesthesia, an album produced by another of my musical heroes, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, with a better recording budget and sound quality than previous albums.
But from the first dark, droning notes of the tune at St. Andrew’s, it was once again clear that no album had quite captured how HUGE the Trees sounded in concert. If I were to rank the top-ten sonic experiences of my life, that concert undoubtedly would be on the list. And I’ve been at shows from Swans, Crash Worship, and Kodo. The album version of Before We Arise is a pale shadow of what I experienced in Detroit. In that brilliant set, they also performed Julie Paradise, an awesome song that came close to capturing in the studio just how stellar the Trees sounded in concert.
In Mark’s memoir, he was notably happier with how Sweet Oblivion turned out, and also its successor, Dust. Besides improved sound quality, Mark felt the songs were more of something he could believe in—songs that more closely matched his personal vision of the music he wanted to create. Dust sounds amazing, and the first thing I did after buying it on cassette the day it came out and listening to it was listen to it three more times in a row. The raw, noisy solos of Gary Lee Conner’s youthful recordings had become melodic masterpieces, and the entire band sounded tighter, more focused, and more in control of the same youthful energy that made them one of my favorite bands in the first place.
But I warn you to proceed into Marks’ memoir with caution. Sing Backwards and Weep is one of the most crushing stories of misery I have ever read, only equaled perhaps byAngela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, a tale of growing up in starvation, neglect, and dehumanizing poverty in twentieth-century Ireland. Sing Backwards and Weep includes graphic scenes of drug abuse and self-abuse, such as when Mark is simultaneously shooting heroin, choking himself, and smoking crack. It’s clear that he went way beyond partying and “getting high” for fun or inspiration. He had devolved into an extremely dark state of self-loathing where no one should ever venture.
Reading that book broke my heart. There was one of my rock’n’roll heroes who had made so much music that was meaningful to me and influenced my musical development, but he spent those decades miserable and, by his own admission, being a horrible person.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that Courtney Love, wife of one of Mark’s best friends, Kurt Cobain, helped get him into rehab. Mark maintained his sobriety until his death this year in 2022. Along the way, he recorded brilliant solo albums and contributed to great recordings by his friends in Queens of the Stone Age. My favorite Lanegan solo albums are Blues Funeral and Bubblegum, but they are all worth a listen.
I don’t think a cause of his death has yet been released, but Mark almost died of COVID-19 a couple years ago and published a book about it, and the disease is known to cause lasting health problems even if you are lucky enough to survive.
Recently, Gary Lee Conner released a video of a solo performance of his song Low Life, which never appeared on a Trees album until Last Words: The Final Recordings, after the band had broken up. It is basically the Trees’ next full album, and I enjoy hearing Gary belt this one out. It reminds me of the rebellious joy I found in early Trees recordings and their concerts, and that despite whatever internal conflicts the band struggled though, their music has been rocking my world for more than three decades.
Gary Lee Conner has released several albums under his own name. They hearken back to the psychedelic garage vibe of early Trees, and I love them. Ether Trippers, The Microdot Gnome, and Unicorn Curry are like what early Trees albums would have been if they had a bigger recording budget.
Another member of the Screaming Trees, drummer Barrett Martin, has released a number of albums that go beyond rock into a more jazz-influenced and world-music vein. Trading with the Enemy by Tuatara showcases his drumming in a band whose influences span cultures across the globe.
More recently, The Barrett Martin Group has expanded this global influence on albums such as Scattered Diamonds.
The many musical guests on Scattered Diamonds include an amazing Iraqi oud player named Rahim Al Haj, who I had the pleasure of meeting in person at a solo concert in Phoenix about a decade ago. My saxophone player and I chatted with him at length after the incredible performance.
Rahim was a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, and he has since released many incredible albums of oud music. My favorite is When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq, a collection of taqsims based on Arabic musical modes, sort of like Indian raga where soloists perform within a limited collection of notes and basic melodic ideas, but have the freedom to improvise.
So much of my love for music can be traced back to Screaming Trees and related projects. From garage rock to jazz fusion, from psychedelia to musical cultures around the world, the Trees are at the nexus of many things I love.
I don’t think those kids from Washington were on a mission to change the world. But they sure as hell rocked mine.
Last year I sent copy of the Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition to a band whose albums I listened to approximately one million times while writing the story Voyage of the Calico Tigress. Mags and her crew, including space monkeys and telepathic octopuses, do an impromptu performance of one of Snail’s songs. In return, I received a note saying, “This is the coolest thing ever,” which made me smile. I’m glad the guys got a kick out of it. Here are some other albums in heavy rotation in the writing lab.
Unida: El Coyote.
If the Internet is to be believed, Unida’s final album was never released by their record label, but was eventually made available directly to fans at concerts. It is often found on the web with different titles, but I like El Coyote. Singer John Garcia, formerly of the legendary Kyuss, is Mags’ favorite vocalist, and references to his various projects pepper her stories like buckshot.
Hell Camino: Hell Camino.
I usually listen to this album back-to-back with its follow-up,Orange Lily.
Wo Fat: Noche del Chupacabra.
Wo Fat convinced me that C minor is the heaviest key of all time. They are the reason I got a baritone electric guitar to tune to Drop C. My favorite songs on this album are Common Ground and Descent into the Maelstrom, the latter of which shares a title with a totally different yet amazingly ass-kicking song by Australia’s Radio Birdman. You really can’t go wrong with any Wo Fat album. Psychedelonaut slays with tunes like Analog Man, and The Black Code is a masterpiece withHurt at Gone and Sleepof the Black Lotus, a title I believe to be inspired by my favorite Conan story Queen of the Black Coast, about a female pirate.
Orange Goblin: Time Travelling Blues.
I never heard an album I didn’t like from Orange Goblin, but this is the one that stays in heavy rotation. From the rumbling drum riff that opens to album to the closing song that shares the album’s title, it’s such a hefty slab of rock and roll that I usually listen to it twice in a row. The title song’s declaration “We own the sky” has become a recurring motif in Mags’ stories, and her band covers it in their concert in Blind Alley Blues.
Black Angels: Passover.
I attended a Black Angels concert last October in downtown Phoenix, and the music was so simultaneously heavy and beautiful. These cats annihilate me. The band hails from Austin, Texas, but I first heard them courtesy of the Europeans who run my other favorite Internet radio station, GRRR Radio. GRRR Radio’s streaming URL is: http://pstnet5.shoutcastnet.com:50390 This album doesn’t have what is perhaps my favorite Black Angels song, Currency, but it’s damned amazing all the way through. Black Grease and Bloodhounds on My Trail are my faves on this one.
My father died two years ago today, after a long bout with cancer that spread from his spleen to eventually his brain and his whole body. Dad and I did not agree on most things, and my teens were times of conflict, to put it mildly. But in my twenties, we were able to put most of that behind us and just hang out.
Dad never understood my love for playing guitar until I was in my thirties. Then one day, he started sending me emails asking about mandolins—and I’m an easy target for anyone and everyone who has questions about music theory and stringed instruments. I don’t know exactly what turned him on to the mandolin, but soon he got into guitar. Our relationship reached a turning point after he got his first guitar and told me, “Now I get why you were into this.”
All I could say was, “It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”
By then, we were separated by great geographical distance. But when I would visit, Dad stocked the refrigerator with beer and tuned up his growing collection of guitars, and we would play together for hours. I would show him a few techniques and answer his theory questions, and we played from charts he had for country and worship music he liked.
By the time I got into my forties, Dad’s arthritis made it increasingly difficult for him to play. But he still loved buying guitars, and trading them in later for other models, and getting on Internet forums to discuss gear, and trying new types of strings. He often performed at his church, accompanying his impressively deep bass voice with his ever-growing arsenal of acoustic guitars.
It was a massive about-face from his discouraging attitude toward my love of something which, for twenty years, had basically defined my entire life: playing the guitar. He eventually told me why he was so antagonistic toward my interest, and the reason is probably too personal to blog about. The important point is this: he eventually changed his tune.
Perhaps my fondest memories of Dad are the ones we created over a 12-pack of beer and 12 vibrating strings, jamming in unison. He never got to the level he wanted to with the instrument, but he kept trying and learning and improving. At the age of 44, I can tell you that journey never ends. One day, you pick up the axe, and something changes inside you. You’re never the same afterwards.
2016 was, among other things, a year of musical discovery. And few songs I found in that time make me as happy every time I listen to them as Galaxies Lament by Snail. Snail’s album Blood has become one of my all-time favorites, but this one comes from Terminus.
Long live the glorious island republic of Scandinavia. They make some awesome music there. What’s that you say? You can’t find it on a map? Then try this one.
I started to get a clue about what a Scandinavia is right about the time I first heard Hoven Droven’s tune SlentBjenn. Taking the energy of a rock band, adding fiddle and saxophone, and drawing on folk material, Hoven Droven lays down some seriously heavy grooves with beautiful melodies.
This post includes scans of their album Groove, which you can score on Amazon, and the first Nordic Roots sampler that features one of their tunes. If you want to get totally Scandinavian, Nordic Roots put out a second and third sampler of awesome bands from the region.
In 1962, Art Blakey recorded The African Beat not with his quintessentially swinging Jazz Messengers but a percussion ensemble. Yusef Lateef, who also recorded modern jazz albums using Asian and African ideas, joins the ensemble. The result is a sumptuously rhythmic album that often gets overlooked, perhaps due to its defiance of easy categorization.
Nat Hentoff’s liner notes give a brief but enlightening explanation of the music’s sources and the musicians’ cultural backgrounds. I recommend The African Beat for fans of jazz, percussion, “world” music, and African music. Fans of jazz/rock fusions and prog rock might also like this album, if they want to expand their listening into some other types of musical fusion.
While patiently waiting for our 1-in-2500 limited edition album The Gate to arrive this week from the sonic headquarters of Swans, we went looking for other extended psychedelic monster jams.
And that’s how we ended up with a massive musical marathon courtesy of Germany’s Electric Moon. This guitar-bass-drums trio, formed in 2009, has been playing festivals all over Europe and releasing many mind-blowing albums in the process. Here are three of our favorites so far.
This is the first one we listened to, and we were hooked.
This one incorporates synth sounds, and has a more driving, upbeat vibe.
This video has some cool space imagery to go with the jams.
P.S. Yes, The Gate did finally arrive on Saturday. With three of its songs clocking in around 30 minutes each, it is a supremely awesome sonic experience of pure Swans power.
After listening approximately a gazillion times to the Motor Dolls album we posted twelve days ago, we had to pick up this one, too. Burning Memories is the second and final solid slab of Detroit rock and roll from this trio, the stand-out cuts being “You Want It” and “Nailed to the Cross”. Several people have told us to include “Power” in that list, too, though the whole album is a veritable non-stop blaze of straight-up rock fury. You can find it on Amazon as Motor Dolls: Burning Memories, and it is usually selling for about half the price of Motor Dolls: All Fired Up.
One of the songs on this 1996 album, “Hangover”, appeared two years later on a compilation called Motor City’s Burnin’ 1: 1968-1998. That disc places the Motor Dolls right alongside legendary acts like the MC5 and The Stooges, and other hard-rocking southeast Michigan bands of the mid-90s like Big Chief. We think after hearing this album you will agree that placement was well-deserved.
Once upon a time, I lived in Michigan and held a copy of this awesome album in my hands as a volunteer DJ at the college radio station WCBN. But that was 20 years ago, and the album has been out of print for some time. So, this month I got a copy from Germany. Yeah, Germany! eBay is an amazing thing.
At WCBN, we had a section of the massive CD and vinyl library dedicated to local music. You could find on that shelf so many great bands from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, and all over Michigan. But, it was not that special shelf that introduced me to Motor Dolls, though I would often pull this disc from the shelf to play on the air.
No, I had a friend who was into this band, and we went to Detroit together many times to catch their shows. Motor Dolls could seriously throw down in concert, and we always had fun. So you know what? Instead of recouping my cost by putting it back into the eBay market, I’ll just send him this disc in today’s outgoing mail. He’ll get a kick out of it.
The Motor Dolls t-shirt I bought at one of their shows was one of my favorite pieces of clothing ever, and I wore it until the damn thing practically disintegrated and fell off my body. I haven’t loved a shirt like that in a long time. And you know what? This album sounds even better to me than it did 20 years ago. It would go well in a set with L7, Mensen, and Bikini Kill, for starters, along with Ann Arbor/Detroit legends Big Chief, Easy Action, Speedball, and Wig.
If you want to hear this great little slab of mid-90s Detroit rock, you can buy it on Amazon. Currently, the lowest price is around $20. Feel free to hate me for picking up the only available copy on eBay for less than $10, even including shipping from Germany.
And, don’t forget to pick up the Motor Dolls: Burning Memories album, too! (That one, you can currently obtain for less than $10 including shipping to the USA.) These two albums have never, to my knowledge, been made available as “official” downloads.
Here’s a Motor Dolls video from singer/guitarist Paula Messner’s YouTube channel. The jam is “You Want It” and appears on the Burning Memories album. Paula was a bad-ass frontwoman, and her rhythm section (Monic on drums and Dana on bass) was a powerhouse. Where are they now? I honestly don’t know. But their rock lives on.
This album is available on Amazon as Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Soup. Though you can currently find CD or even cassette versions, Amazon does not yet have it available as an MP3 download. Numerous Amazon customers have rated it four and five stars and written reams of praise. So let us simply say, we concur. It is truly awesome.
When Voodoo Soup came out in the mid 1990s, Hendrix fans had fewer posthumous releases of quality than we do now. This and Rykodisc’s stellar album of Radio One BBC recordings, later released in expanded form as the BBC Sessions two-CD set, were among the finest. Few if any of the recordings released since then can match these two recordings for sound quality, energetic performance, song selection, and production choices. Even songs released on The Cry of Love receive superior post-production on Voodoo Soup, and in our opinion sound more like what Hendrix would have aimed for in final mixes than most other “posthumously completed” compilations.
We scanned the CD booklet, including the complete 19-page essay on the context and production of the songs, for our archives, and share it with you now. As our CD copy had a cut out on the front cover, we did not scan the artwork by Moebius, but you can easily find that in any product listing for this album.
Sonic’s Rendezvous issued this live recording from 1978 twenty years later in 1998. It features the late Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5, Scott Asheton of The Stooges, Gary Rasmussen of The Up, and Scott Morgan of The Rationals. It’s a bit of a who’s who of Ann Arbor rock and roll legends.
Though we can’t recall exactly when and where we purchased this disc in Ann Arbor in 1998, it might have been at one of Scott Morgan’s live shows. We caught him once at a basement party in the house of a friend from the radio station (WCBN), and perhaps once or twice at Club Heidelberg. If there is any doubt as to whether or not Scott Morgan’s blues-driven rock guitar impressed us, the not-so-subtle handwriting on the last page of the booklet should clear that up. It looks like we added our own graphics to Fred’s guitar on the cover, too.
Despite our enthusiastic vandalism, this album remains a favorite memento of Ann Arbor’s rocking musical history. Check it out. You can find it on Amazon in CD, MP3 (only $8.99), or vinyl as Sonic’s Rendezvous Sweet Nothing.
Note: Since the release of this album, more material from Sonic’s Rendezvous has come out of the archives. They are not all filed in the same place as this album on Amazon, but under “Sonic’s Rendezvous Band.”
Although you can now download these two albums in mp3 versions which sound better than my old cassettes, I’ve held on to them sentimentally. They are among my favorite hard rock albums of the 1980s, along with 13 Songs by Fugazi, Bleach by Nirvana, and Louder than Love by Soundgarden.
I don’t have any certification or evidence that Henry Rollins really did sign this copy of Do It. I can’t prove its authenticity. But I can tell you that in the mid-to-late 1990s in the rock-and-roll blur that was my twenties, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I heard Rollins come and speak at the amazing Michigan Theatre several times. On one of his tours, he did a book signing right across the street at the Borders bookstore. I went to that signing and asked him to sign my copy of Do It, which was and still is my favorite Rollins Band album.
The inlay to the Screaming Trees tape has obvious wear. You can see the dirt and what appears to be moisture damage to the paper. That’s exactly what it is, and the same goes for the Do It inlay. I never spilled anything on these but they did endure some humid and inclement weather in my old truck when I was travelling back and forth across the country for fifteen years as if there was actually something out there worth driving to. Now I am a cynical old bastard who doesn’t even have a cassette player.
The last time I played these tapes was 2009. I played them on a dual cassette deck with a USB output and digitized them into glorious mp3 files. Yeah, it was kind of a waste of time since I could download them now from Amazon or something, but it verified they play. Since then, for six years, they have been stored indoors, free from inclement weather, on my bookshelves with the rest of my pirate treasure. ARRGH! You can see there is a little wear to the text on the cassettes, but you can easily read all the song titles and stuff, and the tapes themselves are in amazingly clean and solid shape for being more than twenty or thrity years old now.
“It’s a one way ride to the end of the universe.” — Mark Lanegan
Sub Pop put out a limited edition EP from the Screaming Trees — at gas stations, as one reviewer recalls, and perhaps through their subscription-based mail-order service of the late 1980s. The songs on Change has Come are five of the Trees’ best. But somehow they missed making it onto either of the Screaming Trees collections: Anthology the SST Years 1985-1989 and Ocean of Confusion 89-96. At the time of this writing, no one has seen fit to issue official mp3 downloads for them! The compact disk retains its status as a rarity.
For many years, no one wanted to sell their copy. But, the global Internet marketplace has expanded greatly since this album came out. In the last ten years, it has become regularly available in the $20 to $40 range: Screaming Trees Change Has Come EP.
Amazon claims a date of 1994 on this, but we remember listening to it many years before that. Perhaps a German release came out in 1989 on vinyl, with a CD pressing for the USA in 1991. Our best friend’s brother had a copy we never saw, but we heard our friend’s cassette copy dubbed from that unidentified source.
Do you think you have the definitive proof of the correct release date? We’d love to hear from you then! Comment, please! And now, archival photos & scans, including the original shrink wrap!
Ry Cooder & the Moula Banda Rhythm Aces; The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA; March 24, 1987. Made in Japan. Copyright 2004. Wrong Note.
Although fragments of video from this 1987 concert made it to YouTube recently, buyers in America still have a very hard time finding this CD. For example, if you look on Amazon’s U.S. site, you will not find it at all — no listing, not even an ‘out of stock’ or a blank picture. Just nothing.
Why? Our research suggests Ry Cooder blocked the release of this album in the States, refusing to even allow it to be sold, but we haven’t spoken with him to verify that. We got ours from overseas, from a seller in the UK with an eBay account.
The concert itself mostly sticks to rootsy, straight-ahead blues mixed with an all-male vocal chorus. Keys, horns, accordion, and of course Ry Cooder’s understated but soulful slide guitar spice up the mix. The a capella song Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb takes an unexpected lyrical turn before settling down into the slow burn of Down in Mississippi, an extended jam.
We sold ours back to the global eBay marketplace, but not before ripping some high quality mp3s and taking a few archival photos. It’s a good disc, if you can find it. Not a desert island top ten disc, but a solid blues performance somewhat hard to find here in the states.
Listening to vocal music in languages you don’t speak means you lose the narrative, but it can draw your focus to the purely musical aspects of a piece. We enjoy the hypnotic minor-key drones and plaintive singing of The River, but if you download the album you miss out on some deeper meanings. Fortunately, Ali Farka Toure kindly provided us with stories, culture, and context in his liner notes.
We snagged these scans of The River before selling it on Amazon.
We ran these biographical jazz comics from 1948’s Jukebox by Famous Funnies as a series in our first year here on Mars, but you might have missed them. Now you can read them all in one post! Retailers don’t often carry these in stock, although you can find a few issues on eBay every now and then. We are so grateful to the Digital Comic Museum for these scans!
The liner notes to Cecil Taylor’s solo piano album Indent include the poem pictured above. Cecil Taylor’s early bebop work includes recordings with John Coltrane released eventually in album form. But even the ground-breaking context of bebop would prove too restrictive for Taylor. Works like the Great Paris Concert take the instrumentation of a bebop quartet to perform what sounds like almost completely free and unstructured music.
But, one suspects that Taylor has his own ideas of structure, and that jazz merely served as a starting point. The lack of any recognizable song forms and the energetic chaos erupting in waves from Cecil’s piano will most likely appeal only to the most adventurous listeners. We recommend listening without preconceptions or expectations, letting the sound wash over you like a symphony.
Cecil Taylor recorded this performance in March, 1973, at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio according to the liner notes. If we recall correctly, he had a teaching or fellowship position there, though we can’t find much information on that now.
When we discovered this album in the early 1990s as jazz DJs at a college radio station, this amused us. Our grandmother had taken us to Yellow Springs during summers in the mid 1980s when we would visit her. It had many new age bookstores and art, a kind of hippie haven in an otherwise conservative midwestern state. You could buy crystals and meditation music in mom-and-pop shops. But what was it like when Taylor was there in 1973, recording this concert, less than two months after we were born? We can only imagine.
Nine to Five:
Country Music and American Women in the Workforce
Dolly Parton’s 1980 composition 9 to 5 rose to number one on Billboard’s Country Chart in January, 1981. A month later, it reached number one on the Adult Contemporary Chart and Billboard’s Hot 100. This crossover hit, bolstered by the film of the same name, addresses the concerns of the American working class. Its success illustrates both the increased involvement of women in the workforce and their greater presence in country music.
By 1980, more than half of the women in America had roles in the workforce. The percent of women in the US labor force increased to 51.5% from 43.3% in 1970 (BLS, Labor Force Participation Rates by Country). The five industries that employed the most women in 1980 had not changed since 1964, and as of 2010 had still not changed: education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; local government; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality (See Appendix 2). However, women’s employment in these areas had increased greatly not only from simple population growth but from civil rights and progressive laws that brought a far greater percentage of women into the workforce.
As women gained more employment, they also gained more income, and therefore more say as consumers in the market for goods and services. The increasing success of female country music artists undoubtedly relates to the increased purchasing power they had to consume luxury goods like pop music albums and singles. Though female country artists enjoyed little more than a place on the fringes of commercial success in the first half of the twentieth century, their potential female fan base became more economically powerful in the latter half.
However, understanding 9 to 5’s success purely in terms of a female audience oversimplifies the widespread appeal of the song across genders. Parton sang not only for women, but for all workers. 9 to 5 addresses the “daily grind” of millions of Americans, both then and now: traffic, broken dreams, failure to get ahead, promotions that never come, lack of credit for one’s work, and a suspicion that one’s labor only serves to make others rich.
Male artists had addressed similar concerns in earlier songs about labor. Sixteen Tons, for example, describes the despair of working one’s hands to the bone only to see debts pile up in staggering, unconquerable amounts. In the folk tradition that contributed to country music’s development, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie took decidedly pro-labor and pro-union stances. But not since Aunt Molly Jackson had a female artist tapped into the national zeitgeist of labor.
9 to 5, then, embodies the populist leanings of country music, addressing concerns of regular people in a down-to-earth language. But, it also represents a culmination of the economic and social conditions that contributed to women’s attainment of a larger role in country music. Like Loretta Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, also released in 1980, 9 to 5 dealt with labor, but in a more modern context. Dolly Parton did more than give a voice to women’s concerns. She spoke for everyone, both male and female, who felt trapped in a soul-crushing forty-hour work week.
Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawnin’, stretchin’, try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5
Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’
They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I would deserve a fair promotion
Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is out to get me
They let your dream, just watch ’em shatter
You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder
But you got dreams he’ll never take away
In the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in
And the tide’s gonna turn an’ it’s all gonna roll you away
Workin’ 9 to 5 what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’
They just use your mind and you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
9 to 5, yeah, they got you where they want you
There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you?
It’s a rich man’s game, no matter what they call it
And you spend your life putting money in his wallet
Employment of Women in America, by industry, 1964-2010
From the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics