Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicago Blues: A Bonanza All Star Blues LP

Chicago Blues: A Bonanza All-Star Blues LP

Recorded on Location in CHICAGO ILLINOIS
Spivey LP 1003, 1964

(Editor's note: between the time I digitized this LP and typed up the entry, and was able to click the "publish post" button, I learned that the Spivey label is being revived later this year. Therefore I cannot, in good conscience, post the LP in its entirety as originally planned. Instead, enjoy Ms. Spivey's lively liner notes and treat the two links at the bottom of the post as samples of the legitimately reissued CDs to come. The bicycle-powered time machine supports the original artists whenever possible -- Festus)

Side A
01. Sunnyland Slim - Won't Do That No More
02. John Henry Barbee - Early In The Morning
03. St. Louis Jimmy - Goody, Goody, Goody
04. Willie Dixon - Weak Brain! Narrow Mind!
05. Homesick James - Can't Hold Out
06. Cocoa Taylor - What Kind Of Man Is This?

Side B
01. Homesick James - Queen's Rock
02. John Henry Barbee - No Pickin', No Pullin'
03. Sunnyland Slim - Drinking
04. St. Louis Jimmy - Going Down Slow
05. Cocoa Taylor - Which'a Way To Go
06. Willie Dixon - So Long!

All these blues sounds you will hear were luckily captured at a reunion in honor of QUEEN VICTORIA SPIVEY by many of her old blues buddies at a real down-to-earth romping blues party with all the clamor of merriment, clinking glasses, shuffling feet, knocks at every door, entering and exiting visitors from near midnight until???!! on the southside of that great Blues-city, CHICAGO, Illinois. Victoria Spivey sums it up.

"Chicago Blues that's what I had and that's what I brought back East with me. I went to Chicago for a few days vacation, my first visit to the windy city in nearly 25 years, and when I left Chicago a week later I had myself a sack of fine blues from some 'real' blues artists, thanks to blues maestro, Willie Dixon. Willie told all the singers by telephone, 'Get your axe, man! come on over. We're going to have a ball tonight with the queen.' And they came. Wailin' SUNNYLAND SLIM arrived without his 'axe' (smiles) but with a fabulous organ which he really masters. And he can sing! HOMESICK JAMES came with his bottleneck guitar which just cries when he plays it. Tears came from his eyes when he sang those blues. ST. LOUIS JIMMY who I have admired for many years arrived happily looking and talking like a county squire. I insisted that he would sing his great hit, Going Down Slow, and he certainly obliged. JOHN HENRY BARBEE, Here's a fabulous chap out of the past. He's been out of circulation for a quarter of century due to an unfortunate misunderstanding but thank goodness, he's back again. He sings the great old time traditional down home blues like back in the days of my daddy. WASHBOARD SAM, my old musical standby from back in the early 30s, arrived immaculately dressed like a deacon from the church with his forty year old washboard under his arm. No washing machine will ever put him out of business. Listen to him really rub that washboard on the Queens Rock. I also had the honor of seeing and recording COCOA TAYLOR. She has really made a name for herself in the blues field in Chicago and I predict that she will soon be in the class of the great Memphis Minnie. EVANS SPENCER is a charming and talented young man and a fine guitarist. Listen to his sensitive lead blues and accompaniment on Which'a Way To Go. And then there is WILLIE DIXON who I call Papa Dixon due to the fact that he most certainly looks after and takes care of his musicians in Chicago. Dig Willie playing his own guitar on Weak Brain! Narrow Mind! Willie loves and really understands the blues. And as for me, I can tell you that I really had a ball." - Victoria Spivey

Supervised by Willie Dixon
Produced by Len Kunstadt and Victoria Spivey
Cover & photos by Len Kunstadt
Cover photos identification (top on down):
left column: Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim, St. Louis Jimmy and Cocoa Taylor
right column: Washboard Sam, John Henry Barbee, Homesick James and Evans Spencer

Sunnyland Slim: Won't Do That No More

Willie Dixon: Weak Brain! Narrow Mind!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Henry Badowski: Life Is A Grand...

Henry Badowski: Life Is A Grand...

How this absolutely delightful pop confection has managed to stay virtually unknown for the last 25 years is a complete mystery to me. I first heard it in the summer of 1984, via a guy I worked with in a gas station who was a rabid collector of obscure records. His father was a senior VP at the major oil corporation that owned the station, and provided him with the company stock that he would cash in regularly to feed his habit, typically spending upwards of $300 a week on new vinyl. He was so deeply obsessed with industrial music that even his "supplier," the owner of the record store where spent most of money, said "I don't know why he doesn't just hang a microphone in his refrigerator." But I digress...

On a planet more just than ours, this near-perfectly-crafted album would have raced to the top of whatever charts, um, chart that sort of thing. The melodies are indelible, the lyrics droll and often surreal, the vocals charismatic in a wry, low-key way. Not a lot is known about the modest creator -- Jim Greer's entry at Trouser Press is typical:
Badowski — who's played with Wreckless Eric, Chelsea, the Doomed and the Good Missionaries — has a deep, pleasant, near-conversational voice that's almost always on key plus a dry and/or whimsical sense of humor. Except for guitar and violin, Henry plays every note here (even drums and sax), often with simple eloquence, on songs about getting married and swimming with fish in the sea.
Henry's discography page at IRS Corner is rather more extensive, but still not exactly voluminous. The album seems to have come into being as a result of his involvement with the aforementioned punk/new wave luminaries, but surprisingly, was apparently indifferently received commercially despite it's ability to charm virtually everyone who ever heard it. (Given that IRS Records released it in 1981, they might have considered much below Police-level sales to be unacceptable.) It certainly made an impression on me; though I sold my original copy years ago during one of my frequent material purges, I was somehow unable to get those songs out of my head, and a couple years ago became obsessed with finding another copy.

While I was desperately trying to re-acquire the album, I emailed Henry himself inquiring after buying a CD, and about his current creative endeavors. He replied:
Always happy to hear that people liked what I did.

Universal own the rights to LIAG so I really don't
know what to recommend.

I'm still working on new stuff, but I'm a bit slow.
I set up in case I actually finished
anything, but I'm afraid I haven't been professionally
involved in music for a long time and bills need to be

It will happen, though. Sooner rather than later I hope.

Best regards
So that's that... another brilliant creative enterprise consigned to the scrap heap of history. Well, not if I can help it. Eventually I located a copy, which I present here for your pleasure. Should Universal ever come to their senses and properly reissue this, I'll pull this page down immediately and personally buy ten copies of the CD. Until then, check out the equally endearing single Making Love With My Wife which now appears on the new wave obscurity compilation 7" UP, download the long out-of-print LP here, send Henry some positive reinforcement in the hopes that he shares his music with the world again, and enjoy the sweet taste of life's grandeur....

Henry's In Love:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stuart Margolin: And The Angel Sings

Stuart Margolin: And The Angel Sings

Here's one guaranteed to appeal to all you country music-lovin' Rockford Files fans, and... well, I'm not sure who else. But if ya'll qualify, you're in for a treat.

I don't know the story behind this one, but somehow I reckon it involves a poker game, a bottle of Tennessee mash and/or some secret saucy Polaroids. Sometime around 1980, character actor Margolin managed to parlay his minor celebrity from countless TV shows such as M*A*S*H*, Rhoda and most notably six years as Evelyn 'Angel' Martin on the Rockford Files (hence the title) into a full-blown Texas hoedown featuring Sonny Terry, Jim Messina, and members of the Texas Playboys. The record is an even mix of upbeat Margolin originals and reliable chestnuts like Waltz Across Texas, and goes down as easy as a pitcher of magaritas after a long week of clock-punchin'.

It may not be one of the great lost classics -- Margolin's voice has all the range of the guy down the line at the factory who sings along with the radio -- but he's clearly having the time of his life, and the whole modest enterprise holds a sentimental place in your host Festus' tender little heart. Some people take their moment in the spotlight to pave a highway to oblivion; others, like Margolin, use it to realize their dreams. Here's to you, Angel.

Huntsville Home:

Download the album here

John Cassavetes: Faces - Music From The Sound Track

John Cassavetes: Faces

As impossible as it is to overestimate the importance of John Cassavetes's work in the realm of independent film, it's equally daunting to even know where to start discussing it. Fortunately we don't need to, as on the web alone there is this introductory overview from the Chicago Reader, a extensive tribute at Senses of Cinema, a particularly insightful 40th anniversary examination of Faces at Bright Lights Film Journal, various writings by tireless/obsessive Cassavetes torch-bearer Ray Carney, and undoubtedly dozens of other sites/articles/tributes/etc. For now we're just interested in the music, and as such this release is a real curiosity.

This LP was presumably rushed out to capitalize on the surprising critical success of Faces, though I've never come across a single mention of it in any Cassavetes bio. As the title says, the album (produced by Miles Davis' producer/arranger/editor/collaborator Teo Macero) is comprised of "music from the soundtrack, plus music inspired by the film;" what this means is that only a few tracks were actually featured in the film (Love Is All You Really Want, Love Has Conquered Man, and Charlie Smalls' stark and soulful Never Felt Like This Before), while the rest are either extrapolations of musical themes from the minimal score (i.e. two additional renditions of Love Is All You Really Want), or are pieces with loose thematic or practical ties to scenes in the film (I Dream of Jeannie, Deck The Halls[?]).

It's impossible to say who's "inspiration" was responsible for this collection, as three of the four people who would presumably know -- Macero, Smalls (a composer and songwriter later known for writing the music for the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz), and Cassavetes himself -- are no longer with us (anyone have a phone number for Jack Ackerman?). Personally, I'm just glad that an officially-produced soundtrack to any Cassavetes film exists; the only other one I know of is Bill Conti's Gloria score, issued in a limited edition by Varese Sarabane's limited-edition and now out of print. Now, if only someone would put together a nice collection of Bo Harwood's music for John's other films (hint hint)...

Charlie Smalls: Never Felt Like This Before:

Download the album here

---> Plus! Bonus! ---> ---> --->

Check out this newly-discovered interview with Seymour Cassell, conducted on Pacifica Radio with Claire Clouzot just days after the first public screening of Faces (courtesy the indispensable

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

William S. Burroughs: Uncommon Quotes

William S. Burrough: Uncommon Quotes

As deeply as William Burroughs' words lacerated my consciousness from exposure on the printed page, it wasn't until I finally heard him read that the tumblers all fell into place for me. The implacable rhythms, the dry-as-parchment humor, the impeccable timing, the flat Midwestern drawl as familiar as the lines in my farmer relatives' faces.

Many of Burroughs routines and audio experiments were released over the years on John Giorno's Giorno Poetry Systems label (many of which are now available as free downloads courtesy, or on this boxed set), but this is, as far as I know, the only full-length recording of a complete single reading ever commercially released. (A brief, edited excerpt from this performance appeared on the Giorno compilation Smack My Crack.)

The performance was dedicated to the recently-deceased Brion Gysin, a frequent collaborator of Burroughs', and the occasion finds ol' Bull Lee at his most mordant, insightful and heartfelt, his routines burnished like a well-worn cane.

This reading, nearly an hour in length, was recorded September 11, 1986 at Fort Worth, Texas' now-defunct Caravan of Dreams, a one-time haven for experimental music and performance that had hosted numerous events featuring Burroughs, Gysin, and Ornette Coleman, and originally released this recording on its own label.

Many of Burroughs' recordings have been reissued over the years, but this one has been out of print for decades. If there's a demand I might make other rare recordings available, such as the abridged books-on-tape recording of Naked Lunch; leave a comment if you want to see it here.

Download Uncommon Quotes here; scans of accompanying booklet (with essay by Robert Palmer) here.