Monday, April 30, 2012

Lightning Baltimore
"Squiggles, Loose in the World"

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Lightning Baltimore
Unsolicited Material
(unreleased, 1998)

Yep, this is me, playing Fred (the Höfner guitar in picture), through my Marshall (model 5210, 50 watts), also pictured. Fred was a gift from my friend Charlie. Unlike Charlie, Fred is covered in naugahyde and used to belong to Charlie Pastorfield of the defunct Skip Castro Band, who used to play often where Charlie Not Pastorfield and I lived in the '80s.

I recorded this stuff in the late '90s but only just now took a pic of the equipment used for this track and made this cheesy album cover. Not pictured are the guitars I played on other tracks: a Gibson SG and a much-maligned-but-I-love-mine Gretsch TK300.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Teen Wheat
"Le Monte de Christo"

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Teen Wheat
Teen Wheat vs. Old Wheat
(Dead Medium Records, 2004)

Not much I can tell you about Teen Wheat, sadly. Well, I can tell you one of the members worked at the local club The E.A.R.L. back then (and still does today, as he was working the door at the Jucifer show I attended recently). I saw them a couple of times last decade, and they were a relentless bulldozer of punk rock goodness.

Teen Wheat vs. Old Wheat was their only release.

I love it.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brass Castle
"And the City"

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Brass Castle
Get on Fire
(Drazzig Records, 2003)

Please forgive the long delay since my last post; I've just started a new job, and my time for the blog has been a bit compromised, as a result.

So . . .

There have been a lot of great bands from the Atlanta area over the decades both that I've lived here and the time before. Some have gained international stardom, like The Black Crowes, some have been regarded with undeserved scorn, such as the Hampton Grease Band*, but scads more have flown under the radar.

For this Local to Me Theme Week, I've been primarily, OK almost entirely, covering that last category; Brass Castle, sadly, fits there.

I first saw them when they played with Axehandle at The Star Bar. I knew nothing about them other than they were recent-ish transplants from Florida, and I'd been told they rocked. I forget who it was that told me, but he was right.

Now, admittedly, I have a thing for two-piece bands, or duos, to use the vernacular. I also have a thing for loud guitars, as regular listeners may have noticed. Chaos is also almost always a plus. Brass Castle's setup is basic: a guitar, an amp, a drum kit, two guys, three legs. Chris (Strawn) owns two thirds of that last item, while Christian (Gordy) has one third of them plus the prosthetic to the right. Lest you think I'm being limbist for mentioning it, the picture is from the booklet for their eponymous album on Velocette Records.

Where does the chaos enter? Well, their song structures are anything but conventional, and things often veer off in completely unexpected directions. Added to that are vocals that are often shouted, yelped, and incomprehensible. Then there's the performance. Chris is the rock'n'roll showman: windmilling his guitar, jumping and landing in splits while soloing, skidding across the stage on his knees, etc. Christian, on the other hand, is the loose cannon: drunk, screaming, nearly falling over constantly. Amazingly, I can think of only one show I ever saw where he keeled over while trying to kick one of his stomp boxes with his good leg while balancing precariously on the prosthetic.

A couple of things really stuck out at that first show mentioned above. Other than the fact that they rocked like an Oedipus Complex, of course. At some point, Chris sat at the drums and started to kick the bass drum (I think it was the bass drum) slowly, while encouraging the audience to clap along. When I say slowly, I mean so slowly as to make it impossible for the average listener to catch the beat well enough to accompany it. Along with that, at some point a couple of young women entered the bar and headed for the back, a feat which requires pretty much passing in full view of the stage when the crowd is sparse. Christian was tuning his guitar when he saw them, stopped and addressed them from the stage: Hello, ladies! He was rather sweaty and drunk at this point, it being partway through their set, and the poor women looked as though they were certain Christian's mere gaze could infect them with all manner of horrific ailments. Why is this even funny to me? Come on! They were in a dive bar with loud, sweaty rock 'n' roll bands playing, not at the gosh darn cotillion!

Today's song is from Brass Castle's formal debut album, Get on Fire. In addition to it, there are three other full-length albums, or four, if you count the other one, which I will explain in due course.

Their first release was actually a 7" EP, John Derek, which they recorded as a trio.

Their first duo release was their demo CDR Doing the Best They Can. It's actually longer than all of their other releases, and features a number of songs that never got redone for their later albums.

Following the release of Get on Fire, Brass Castle got signed by Velocette Records, the new label started by Capricorn Records co-founder Phil Walden, when Capricorn got killed in the dreaded Major Label Wars of the early 21st Century. Their first, and last, album for the label, which was sadly short-lived, was the aforementioned eponymous one.

Their final album, Cancer Daze, was recorded way back in 2007, but sat in the can until they finally released it themselves as a digital download in late 2010. I believe it was due to be released by Hoss Records, as there was mention on their old website of a forthcoming Brass Castle release.

So what's that other one, you ask?

Remember back in 2003 when fellow duodenal ATLiens OutKast released their dbl-CD Speakerboxxx/The Love Below? You know, the one where each guy got one disc all to hisself? In 2005, Chris and Christian did the same thing with the release of their dbl-CDR Chris Castle/Brass Gordy. There's a couple of differences, of course. For one, the latter was fairly limited; my copy is hand-numbered #7. The more important difference, however, is Chris Castle/Brass Gordy is a solid release from start to finish, as opposed to a bloated release with a handful of killer singles fleshed out with inane skits and copious amounts of filler. Four of Chris's songs were re-released on his 2008 debut solo album I Left My Hat in Hades, an amazing album that was one of my Top Ten favorites of that year.

NOTA BENE: Drazzig Records is an odd name for a label, huh? Well, turn it around and it spells Gizzard, the name of Chris's former band down in FLA. At that same time, Christian was a member of Dampading, whom I've also featured here.

*The lone album by the Hampton Grease Band, Music to Eat, was long claimed to be the second worst selling album in Columbia Records history. I cannot comment on the veracity of this claim, but I can tell you the album rules, and it was eventually given the swell-deserved deluxe reissue treatment. After the death of guitarist Harold Kelling, whom I featured in the early days of this blog, they did a reunion concert here in town. It was hands down the best show I attended that year.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hope for Agoldensummer

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In these troubling economic times, a lot of bands and record companies now give fans the option of purchasing new releases in advance, in order to raise the funds to make said release. Actually, it's not that new of an idea; Recommended Records was doing it back in the late 1970s, and others may have done so before them.

When Athens, GA folky rockers Hope for Agoldensummer (HFags, for short) came to record their second album, Ariadne Thread, they did one of these pre-order dealies. I and the other participants ponyed up $15 and, as a thank you, got a CDR of outtakes, live songs, etc. along with the album proper. Today's absolutely gorgeous song comes from it, and does not appear on any of their other releases. Well, they have a new album, Life Inside The Body, coming out on May 1st, and I cannot guarantee it does not appear there. As always, please, no lawsuits.

NOTA BENE: Though she doesn't play it on this tune, co-leader/founder Claire Campbell is a master of one of my absolute favorite musical instruments, the singing saw. She's in good company, as quite possibly the sexiest woman to ever walk the face of the Earth*, Marlene Dietrich, was also a practitioner.

*Of course, me being a gay man, my idea of a sexy woman might not be in sync with that of most people.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Barrett's Privateers"

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Crescent Fire Co.
(Sister Ruby, 1994)

There used to be this club in town where bands played. The first time I went there, I believe it was to see a couple of fine local combos: Magic Bone and the Go-Devils. My friend James's band, who are not local, played there several times, and he just loved the place. If you ever happen to see him (a relatively easy thing to do when his band Yo La Tengo are playing), ask him how much he enjoyed playing at The Point. Wear a raincoat, if you do, though, 'cause his head will likely 'splode into a million bloody chunks of brain and bone. Then, you can make sausage.

James's musical boss, of sorts, Gerard Cosloy, had a band for a while in the early '90s called Envelope. A band sporting that name was announced as playing at The Point, so I went to check them out, Gerard being a nice guy with good taste in music. Well, it was a different band with the same name. I don't think I ever did hear the real thing.

The other band on the bill that fateful night, however, was a local group called Engine. I ended up digging their set quite a bit, in fact. Several years later, me not being all that up on local music at the time, I discovered they had released two CDs, so I bought 'em, and today's tune is from the first one. For this particular number, they wrote the music, but the words are by Canadian folkster Stan Rogers.

Their second album, A Good End to Memory, featured an almost completely different line-up, but the sound is pretty much the same, albeit a bit more expansive, with horns 'n' such.

Aside from the two albums, they also had three cuts on a compilation of local bands. You might notice one of them is Babyfat. They later changed their name to Ultrababyfat, due to there being another Babyfat already extant. They also later gained bassist Britta Phillips, who went on to join Luna and is now half of Dean & Britta, who are kinda like Luna if you killed two of them.

NOTA BENE: Years after The Point closed, I happened to see their weekly ad in an ancient-ish copy of Creative Loafing, a local free rag that covers music, among other things. Whaddya know, KoЯn and Limp Bizkit played together at The Point. Golly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Asa Nisi Masa
"Hand of Glory"

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Asa Nisi Masa
Asa Nisi Masa
(self-released, 1995)

Not much I can tell you about these folk, sadly. I remember hearing the name years ago, but I never saw them live. They were from Athens, which is about an hour away from me, and this was their sole release. I didn't even know they had released anything until I found this in a dollar bin at a local store on Record Store Day a few years back.

What I can tell you is they sported an unconventional line-up of vocals, bass, violin, and drums, and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. was a fan; he co-produced a couple of songs on this.

I suppose I could also tell you I love dollar bins, but that wouldn't likely be a big shock or anything.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Warren Steele Stylee w/ the Strung-out Orchestra and the Crackhead Circus

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II - songs for Lost Soul,s

And welcome to day two of what I decided this morning will be a new Theme Week: Local to Me Week!

Warren Steele Stylee w/ the Strung-out Orchestra and the Crackhead Circus is quite a mouthful, eh? I came across a three-song sampler CDR of tracks from this album at my favorite local store back in 2006. The music therein was definitely on the . . . odd side, but I liked it. Shocking, eh? There was a little flyer for an upcoming show at the Star Bar, so I decided to check 'em out.

From the credits, it would appear that Warren did everything himself on the album, but he assembled a small ensemble for the live show. I know I enjoyed it, but all I can remember now is they were a bit more conventional in the live setting than on this utterly bizarre and wonderful CD. Also, Warren obviously got a haircut sometime between the taking of the photograph from the back cover and their show.

I reviewed this one on Amazon, by the way, something I don't do all that often. Here's what I had to say back in the early months of 2007:

Different . . .

File this somewhere between The 13th Floor Elevators, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Amon Düül (I not II) and the Godz (the ESP band, not the metal one(s)). Droning music, unintelligible vocals and a general sense of otherness make this one of my favorite releases of 2006.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Artimus Pyledriver
"High Life"

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Artimus Pyledriver
Southern Fried E.P.
(self-released, 2004)

If you're gonna pick a band name based on a silly pun*, you better have the goods to back it up. Luckily for Artimus Pyledriver, they had 'em in spades.

For the few years they were around, Artimus Pyledriver were the ruling kings of the Atlanta metal scene . . . in my opinion, at least. They sported a sound that mixed a rooting in classic southern and hard rock with influences like hardcore punk and metals of the stoner and thrash variety. Their first release was this snazzy lil' self-released CDR EP, and it's the source of today's jukebox selection.

Sometime after the release of this EP, they got picked up by Belgium's Buzzville Records, who released their eponymous debut CD. All the songs from the initial EP appeared, but not in the same versions. As to how a band from Atlanta got signed by a label on the other side of the planet, Buzzville had previously released the debut album by their fellow Atlantans Gonzalez.

I must confess to not knowing a lot about the band members, but at least one was a scene veteran; bassist Mike Faulkner had played with Din, with whom my band Meat played a show back in the early/mid '90s. Sometime after that show, they changed their name to Big Twin Din and appeared on the Metal Massacre XII compilation.

After touring a bit, Artimus Pyledriver got picked up by DRT Entertainment in the States, and their album got issued on my and their side of the pond, sporting new cover art, a new mix, and an additional cut. Interestingly, the version of today's song had gotten an acoustic, country blues intro for the Belgian release, but it was removed for their countrymen. The world is, indeed, a strange place.

Sadly, after the album hit these shores, the band began to fall apart. They announced some upcoming split releases with Hank III, but they never materialized, to the best of my knowledge. Vocalist Dave Slocum temporarily took over the mic for another local metal combo, Doomsayer, and that was the last I heard of any of them.

They did shoot one official video, for the song Swamp Devil and I've included it below. You'll notice Dave does a lot of jumping. He did that at shows all the time. I used to wonder when he was gonna land wrong and snap off an ankle.

*Artimus Pyle was the drummer for the classic line-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the piledriver is, of course, a professional wrasslin' move.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grateful Dead
"The Same Thing"

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Man, I used to hate the Grateful Dead. I just despised them, you know? I thought the song Deadhead by The Teen Idles was hilarious:

Riding that train
High on cocaine
The music's really lousy
The fans are a pain

Trouble behind
Trouble ahead
Only good Deadhead
Is one that's dead

I've often wondered how they felt when Grateful Dead co-founder/leader Jerry Garcia died fifteen years or so later.

Sorry . . . tangent complete . . .

A number of years back, for some reason unknown to me despite the fact that the idea came from my own brain unit, I decided to buy a used copy I found of the reissue of their third album, Aoxomoxoa, replete with beaucoup bonus traxoa. I ended up really diggin' the long, drawn out, pyschedelic jams therein, and, naturally, started buying whatever I could snag from that period. My collection now sports twenty Grateful Dead albums (!). I should add, however, that they are almost all live recordings and nearly entirely from 1970 and earlier.

There are three exceptions to the above, two of which are sonic cut-up experiments: 1991's Infrared Roses, which features live recordings from the late 80s/early 90s mucked about with by soundman Bob Bralove, and 1996's massive Grayfolded, an amazing double-CD featuring recordings of Dark Star, spanning November 14, 1967 through September 13, 1993, that have been chopped, folded, contracted, expanded, etc. by John Oswald into two epic Plunderphonic versions of said piece: Transitive Axis (59:59) and Mirror Ashes (46:46). The third exception is Dick's Picks, Volume Two: Columbus, Ohio 10/31/71.

Today's song, however, comes from a legally released, but long unavailable, album from 1971 that featured live recordings made at the Avalon Ballroom in 1966. The Same Thing is a Willie Dixon song, and, to the best of my knowledge, this is one of only three versions of it by the Dead that have been released. In addition to this particular recording, there's one from 1967 in the So Many Roads boxset, plus a much later recording on Dick's Picks Volume 27: Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA, December 16, 1992.

There's another album of Avalon Ballroom recordings, also on the Sunflower label, called Vintage Dead. Anyone have a spare copy?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Holy Moses"

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(Epic Records, 1970)

Sing me a song, you're the piano man . . .

When I worked as a parking lot attendent, lo these many moons ago, there was a bar at the end of the lot that featured live, acoustic music on their back porch. In addition to future members of the Dave Matthews Band (oh, joy), there was a guy who used to do solo sets with his guitar. Invariably, he'd play Piano Man every time. Pedant that I can be, this drove me up the wall! DUDE! You are not the piano man! You are playing a . . . GUITAR!


Anyhow, long before Piano Man was a hit, before his live album kept getting listed in print as Konuept, before he didn't start the fire, before I understood long division, Billy Joel was half of the hard rockin' Long Island duo Attila. They released this lone album before splitting. Billy went on to eventual mega crapitudinous stardom. Jon, well, I have no idea, other than he apparently did not kill Billy for having an affair with his wife.

For the record, I love this album. Ignore what the linked article says about Attila being embarrassingly discordant.

One of my favorite things about albums of this period is the over-the-top liner notes they often sport. The ones for this record are so great, I've decided to share them in their entirety. You are welcome.

In the fifth century, a scourge rolled across Eastern Europe, destroying all that stood in its path. A screaming, invincible wave of destruction, it left in its wake half the civilized world in shock and bleeding submission. It was a sword and a flame. It was a name that became synonymous with an unstemmable tide of conquest.


The name meant more. To Attila's followers, it meant glory, conquest and riches; an empire that extended to the gates of the holy city of Rome.


Is the most remarkable group on the scene since the Huns sacked Europe. There are only two men in the group, an unlikely number for a conquering horde. But in numbers, the smallness ends. Their sound is their size, so are their ideas.

The music you will hear on this album has no studio gimmicks, no multiple-track recordings. No extra musicians were called in for the recording session. The sounds you will hear are the same as you would hear live. (And how many of us have paid to hear groups live, only to find that their real sound was on records, with extra musicians added?)

How it is done will be covered later. Who does it is more important.

BILLY JOEL: (vocals, keyboard player, arranger-composer, Taurus) Is a native New Yorker. He is twenty-one, single, and only sweats two things: perfecting his sound and South East Asia. He began with piano, at age four. He began playing professionally at fourteen. He worked for almost four years in a now-defunct rock group (Forget the name, man.) with:

JON SMALL: (composer-arranger, drums, Capricorn) Jon is also a native New Yorker and boyhood friend of Billy. He is twenty-three, married, and talks best through his work. He has been a drummer forever.

Although they were successful and accepted with their previous, larger group, Jon and Billy were dissatisfied with the sound. They had a dream of a two-man group, with a new and different attack. They wanted the sound to be full-sized, heavy, and have no middle-of-the-road compromises. No one believed in it at first but them.

For ten months, they rehearsed at night in the basement of a wallpaper store owned by Jon's family. Sometimes they would rehearse upstairs, near the window, in the closed, almost darkened store.

We bent the heads of a few passing cops, says Billy, so we decided that the basement would be better. No scenes, no hassles. There was no heat in the basement. Stacked all around were rolls of wallpaper. A smell of dust and paper hung in the air. There were only walls and crates to play to. They practiced on through the nights.

As they worked, a new feeling crept into their music. There was resentment and hostility at a world that locks new music away in the basement. Hostility toward all the people who say no to new sounds before they hear them.

During this phase, Revenge Is Sweet was written. In a way, says Jon, Revenge is what the album is all about.

To make it clear, Jon and Billy are not mad at the world. They find the world too beautiful a place, and life too good a thing to waste it hating. There is joy in their music, too. Listen to Wonder Woman and Rollin' Home.

There's joy of life too, in Brain Invasion, a kind of stereo look at the insides of minds and things.

What they are mad at is complacency, and all those without imagination. They are mad at all those who have eyes and won't see; ears, but won't hear. They see ATTILA as marching over these people, crushing, bruising, making them look and listen. (You can hear this on Side One: March of the Huns.)

Here is the result: their first album.

Wake up people!

ATTILA is at the gates. . . .


Billy Joel plays a Hammond organ, model #B-3. He rewired it to bypass the Leslie tone cabinet, and it feeds directly into the amplifiers. He calls the result pure raunch. Further effects are obtained with foot-controlled wah-wah, and volume. He uses a keyboard bass of his own design, plus unconventional couplings of standard organ stops.

Jon Small plays a normal set of drums, pretty much the same way any two other drummers would.

—Tom Paisley

NOTA BENE: The title of that live album is Концерт, which is Russian for Concert. Clever, huh? Yeah, I agree; not really. By the way, depending on what fonts you have loaded, you might see the last letter of the Cyrillic title appearing as what looks like an m; that's just a typographic variation; it's still pronounced like a Latin alphabet t.

NOTA TWOE: Did you notice that bit from Billy in the liner notes, we decided that the basement would be better. No scenes, no hassles? The band Billy and Jon had been in previously was The Hassles. I've got their second album, Hour of the Wolf, and it's some pretty spankin' late 6T's hard rock.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sorten Muld

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Another Wayside Music discovery! I assure you that posting two in a row was not intentional, however.

Denmark's Sorten Muld are one of a number of Scandinavian groups to mix traditional folk melodies with elements of electronica, dance music, etc. They were not the first, as the two others I know, Garmarna and Hedningarna (both Swedish), had releases out earlier. Regardless, though, they are my favorite of the tiny genre.

Their first release, the eponymous Sorten Muld, was pretty much entirely re-recorded as Mark II, their second release. Why? Perhaps because Sorten Muld was released in an edition of only 1,500 copies? Maybe they thought they could do better if they redid the songs? Maybe they were held at gunpoint by an insane person who made them redo it? I have no idea.

Today's jukebox selection is the Sorten Muld version of Ravnen. It was the lead-off track on the CD, yet was relegated to track six status on Mark II.

The Mark II version was also released as a CD single with three different mixes:

  1. Ravnen 444 4:44
  2. Ravnen nat mix 9:27
  3. Ravnen album version 6:48

Nat is Danish for night, in case you were wondering. The nat mix is pretty cool, and I almost used it for today's song, but it's not as immediate as this version. You'll note the song time is 6:48 on the album version, but the album lists the track is being 6:50. Curiouser and curiouser . . . or not.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Events at KOP (Mother Spider)"

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Yet another cool discovery thanks to the excellent folks at Wayside Music, who stocked the first Sarax album, 1997's Fécula Bicorpórea, many years ago.

570.Kythera was the third Sarax album, and also the third part of a prog metal, sci-fi trilogy. I suppose you could think of them as Chile's answer to Canada's Voïvod, if you like. I certainly can't stop you. Nor would I try, really.

Anyhow, 570.Kythera is an asteroid inhabited by the Makronas, who were journeying to Iarkos. I think. The KOP is the Kytheras Organic Pentagram. Two Earthlings, Juan Pirrón and Zirok, have somehow ended up on 570.Kythera and, in this piece, try to jam the controls of the KOP to prevent attaining Iarkos. I think. It's all rather confusing. Regardless, the music is great, and that's what matters, in my opinion.

Per the inside back page of the booklet, the three Sarax albums tell the story as follows:

  • Fécula Bicorpórea
    • Ancient Makronas chants recopilation
  • Ejecución
    • Juan Pirrón's last night on Earth before taking off to Kythera
  • 570.Kythera
    • The story in the asteroid where the Makronas lived by the time Pirrón y Zirok arrived