Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Two Cents: The Chicago Haul

Most of this stuff came from Reckless Records in Chicago while Sandi and I went to see Rammstein last May, I believe. Same deal as the Hastings visit, everything dirt cheap as nobody gives a fuck about CDs anymore. If you've never been to Reckless, it's totally frustrating browsing their CDs. Everything is removed from the jewel case and you're left flipping through thousands of CD inserts in plastic sleeves. Every sleeve must be fingered to see them all. I'm sure there was loads of great stuff I missed as a result. There are three locations in Chicago, but we always end up going to the same store whenever we're in town.  A couple of my wife's friends went to the Rammstein show, too, and during the time they met us at the record store, I had to go put more money in the parking meter. I gave my stack of CD sleeves to Sandi to hold on to with the FAGGOT - CD on top. One of her friends asked to see what I was buying and they got an eyeful, haha! There's a few other CDs mixed in here that I got in the mail and from eBay, but most of this stuff came from Reckless.

ALPERT, HERB AND THE TIJUANA BRASS - "Whipped Cream and Other Delights Re-Whipped" CD (I bought this thinking it was the "Lost Treasures" album. I didn't even look at it, really, just snatched it up and added it to my growing stack of CDs I was buying. I realized my mistake as soon as it started playing. This is fucking terrible. Herb's music doesn't need updating, not one fucking bit. These remixes with dub and hip-hop drum tracks and vocals added really miss the spirit of his music and the original versions are now mangled, trip-hop disasters. I cant believe Herb sanctioned this release. I'm going to pretend it falls under the "fair use" clause, he was against it happening but his hands were tied legally. Yep, that's what I'll do. I won't be listening to this CD again, ever. Fuck this shit.)

BAD BRAINS - "Black Dots" CD (These demos and their s/t titled album are the only Bad Brains recordings I've ever liked.This was recorded by Don whatshisname at Inner Ear, the same guy that did all those great Dischord records. The playing is slower, but still really tight. The recording is clean, but the mix is unbalanced. The bass and vocals are really loud, but its sounds really aggressive because of the weird mix. There are lots of songs here that don't appear on their first album and some of the between song banter is left intact. The version of "Regulator" on here is great. "Redbone in the City" sounds exactly like "God Save the Queen", there's no way that was an accident. This is an interesting glimpse of the early days of a seminal hardcore band. If you're a fan, this is well worth checking out.)

BUZZCOCKS - s/t CD (This was cheap used, so I picked it up not knowing what it was. Turns out it's their reunion album from 2003 on Merge Records. They're old records were some of the best pop punk recorded. I only have a couple of them on cassette and burns of the "Product" 3CD set, but they're all great. This one is okay, surprisingly. Pete's vocals have this weird, unnatural pinched sound like it's difficult for him to sing these days, but his pitch is still spot on. He only seems to be singing about half the time, though, someone else doing the other half. The songs are catchy and memorable, but nowhere near as good as in their heyday. The recording is a little maxed out and fuzzy, but everything is clear in the mix. This is pretty good, but I doubt I'll reach for it before their old records and I rarely want to hear more than 3 CDs of Buzzcocks at once. This purchase was a gamble that ended up okay.)

BUZZCOCKS - "Spiral Scratch" CD (First time this is on CD, their debut EP on Rough Trade with 4 songs and the original singer who at times sounds like Johnny Rotten. Pete Shelly is playing guitar on this, just hasn't taken over vocal duties at this point. This is great, way too short, though. I've played this thing at least 20 times already. I love what the Buzzcocks turned into, but it would have been cool to have more recordings from this era. Quality stuff!)

CARCASS - "Reek of Putrefaction" CD (This is the fourth time Ive bought this album. I have it on cassette, LP, as bonus tracks on my "Symphonies of Sickness" CD and now this remastered version with the demo and a bonus DVD. A lot of people (including the band themselves) consider this to be unlistenable because of the lousy production, but after years of listening to bands it inspired with even worse production, this sounds pretty good in comparison. I'll admit the sound was off-putting as a teenager, but I wouldn't change a thing about it now. This kind of music is supposed to sound terrible, a filthy recording for a filthy album. Reading that the band hated the production ruined this for me, slightly. As a teenager I just assumed they wanted this to sound as insane as possible. The demo tracks are good, with their first vocalist, Sanjiv. On the bonus DVD they claim to not even know his last name and said they haven't spoken to him since the demo was recorded. Jeff Walker came off as an annoying cunt on the DVD. I probably won't watch it again.)

CHANCE, JAMES - "Irresistible Impulse" CD1 (I owe my love of James Chance to my friend Greg who moved from Iowa to NY and dove even deeper to noisy and obscure music as a result. He came back to visit one day and we started talking about "no wave" over a game of pool. I had never heard of it up to that point. When he returned to NY he burned me a copy of his "No New York" CD and I immediately took to the Contortions tracks. The rest, to this day, I could take or leave. Shortly after this I was visiting a friend in Minneapolis and saw this set at Treehouse Records but passed on it because I had already spent too much and figured I could find it later. Turns out it was out of print and fetching $100+ on Amazon and eBay. I downloaded it instead and kept an eye out for the set from time to time hoping it would eventually drop in price. I ended up finding a beat up copy for $36.00 in Chicago, but the CDs themselves were in pretty good condition. The set is arranged in chronological order and this first CD has the "Buy the Contortions" LP and "Theme From Grutzi Elvis". Sadly, the "No New York" songs weren't included, presumably because they couldn't get clearance. So, what does it sound like? It sounds like James Brown being played by angry punk rockers. White, able musicians pulling off really aggressive funk with jangly guitars, skronking saxophone and vocals that are often screamed. The only other band that comes close to this sound is Black Randy and the Metrosquad. The live tracks near the end of this disc are great. The guitar is completely out of control and super noisy. This first CD is the best of the set. Things slow down quite a bit on the second disc.)

CHANCE, JAMES - "Irresistible Impulse" CD2 (A lot of the songs on this CD are instrumental. The musicianship, while already quite good, has improved a lot on this disc. I was especially impressed by the bass playing on the live tracks towards the end of this disc. There are some great songs on this, but overall it's less enjoyable than the first disc.)

CHANCE, JAMES - "Irresistible Impulse" CD3 (Pat Place's wonderfully sharp, jangly guitar playing is missing from here on out, but the new guy does an adequate job and the rest of the band is as tight as ever. Those funny, bratty female vocals are more prevalent here. The whole sound is ridiculous, completely over the top. When Chance's sax buries everything else you can't help but to laugh. This shit is awesome.)

CHANCE, JAMES - "Irresistible Impulse" CD4 (The last disc in this set takes on sort of a jazz feel. It's still really funky, but there's some jazz in the mix, too. This is probably my least favorite in the set, maybe because the songs are so long, but it's still great. "It Don't Mean a Thing" jumps out at me as one of the highlights and it's as good or better than most of the songs on the other three discs. There are a few copies of this set on Amazon now for less than $40. You people reading this should pick it up before it disappears again. It gets my highest recommendation.)

CHAOS UK - s/t CD (I had no idea what that was when I bought it, but it ended up being a collection of the Riot City years material. My favorite Chaos UK material has always been the period after this ("Earslaughter" split, "Short, Sharp Shock", "Chipping Sodbury Bonfire Tapes", etc). This is okay, I guess. It's a bit slower than I prefer and sounds an awful lot like those Japcore bands I generally don't care about. I guess you had to be there to appreciate it.)

FAGGOT - "Faggot Has Your Disease" CD (Trashy scumbag punk rock from Minneapolis from annoyingly garish sleazebags who, luckily, are capable of writing and playing memorable songs. So often this sort of thing falls flat because they spend more energy on looking ridiculous than on writing songs, but that's not the case with Faggot. Nice metal riffing mixed with KBD punk songs that occasionally crossover into spacey psychedelic rock ala Hawkwind. Those longer spacey jams are the highlight of this CD, but the whole thing is decent. Nice and noisy lo-fi recording and lovely cover art that would offend most people. I'm pretty sure these guys have broken up already. I'm bummed I never got to see them play live. Their guitarist, Jason, is making noise with Cock E.S.P. now.)

FUDGE TUNNEL - "Creep Diets" CD (I bought this CD when it was released years ago, but sold it because I didn't like it. "Hate Songs in E Minor" is fantastic and has held up great over the years. I found "Creep Diets" used for $3.00, so I decided to give it another shot. I liked it a lot more than I remembered. The songs themselves are fine. The problem lies in it's clean production, way too clean for this kind of music. It sounds weak and sterile and doesn't do these songs justice. I wish it all sounded like the last song, "Always", with it's wonderfully blown-out and distorted recording. Too bad...)

HAZEL, EDDIE - "Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs" CD (Famous for being Funkadelic's guitarist, Eddie played on their best albums. I rank him right up there with the greatest players of all time. This album was one of the many P.Funk off-shoots released in the late 70s and it's scarcity made the LP the holy grail of P.Funk collectibles. It's been reissued on CD a couple of times with different names and track orders, the copy I picked up is a digipack. Sadly, it doesn't live up to expectations. Some of these songs I knew already from Funkadelic albums with different arrangements, and in those cases I prefer the original version. There isn't a single thing wrong with this album, but it fails to "wow" in any way. There's a lot of great guitar playing over music that's mostly laid-back, but it doesn't do a very good job of holding my interest. I was hoping for something more along the lines of a lost Funkadelic album, but it's nowhere near that good. Too bad...)

JACKSON, JOE - "I'm the Man" CD (Joe's second album is nearly as great as his first. The same quirky, hook-filled pop music populates this release and his lyrics are as personal and emotive as ever. I love his vocals, they're passionate, vulnerable and fun all at once, but he makes some ugly fucking faces when he does it. The bass is thunderous sounding and really high in the mix. Most of the time the bass is the main focal point. It's a shame he moved away from this style of music after this release. The other albums I have are good, too, but he was terrific at writing pop rock songs.)

MAYFIELD, CURTIS - "Curtis" CD (I love Curtis Mayfield, have since watching "Superfly" as a teenager. I've had a download of this one for a long time, but I never see his music in stores anywhere. "Move On Up" I knew from the opening of "The Groove Tube", but had no idea who it was until I downloaded this decades later. Upon hearing it again it took me forever to remember where I heard it before. This and the opening track are the two best songs on the album, and they're the two funkiest and fastest songs. Curtis' voice is high, fragile and unique sounding. The instrumentation is full and lush with nice string and horn arrangements, and the fuzz bass on the opening track never fails to give me goosebumps. I wish Curtis recorded more funky songs, but this is all really great. There are some demo recordings on here as bonus tracks that are nice, too.)

METERS - "Struttin" CD (This is their third album and it's mostly instrumental. It's the second album of theirs I heard, but the first one I purchased. I've probably listened to this this 20+ times since buying it. The Meters were a 70s funk band from Louisiana with really tight instrumentals with somewhat minimal arrangements. Kind of a less is more approach; clean and articulate. At times it reminds me of the JBs, but mostly it sounds like this great current band from Iowa City called The Diplomats of Solid Sound. No doubt The Meters were an influence on their sound. This CD is great fun and an excellent lesson in economy in music. Their cover of "Witchita Lineman" is haunting and really stands out from the rest of the songs on here.)

MÖTLEY CRÜE - "Too Fast for Love" CD (I didn't hear this album until the 90s when I was in high school. I bought it on cassette at a pawn shop then, but never got around to picking it up on CD until now. I don't really have anything to say about it, though. It's another one of those albums everyone's heard, so there's no point in describing it. This CD is the recent reissue with 5 bonus tracks. As with most bonus tracks, they're not very good. If they were, they would have been on the original release. Years ago Brian and I worked up a cover of "Piece of Your Action", but we never recorded it. It's probably for the best it wasn't.)

POISON IDEA - "Feel the Darkness" CD (I'm not sure why I keep buying Poison Idea releases.  I haven't really liked any of them other than "Pick Your King", which I consider to be the greatest American hardcore record ever. The rest of it has been at varying levels of "this is okay, I guess." I don't dislike any of it, but none of it grabs me. There are moments of greatness on all of their albums, but not enough to warrant repeat listens. Classic case of a band peaking too early. Can't blame them for sticking it out, I guess. They haven't done anything embarrassing to tarnish their legacy, but nothing since has lived up to their glory days.)

PRÄPARATION-H - "8 Hits From Hell" 3" CDR (Doug sent this to me earlier this year with a pile of old H-Records tapes he loaned me to make digital transfers from. It was very kind of him to trust me with his tapes, even nicer of him to toss in this gem as a gift. This is the harshest and noisiest Präparation-H material I've heard, bordering on noisecore. 5 minutes of straight blasting with a deliciously filthy recording broken up with samples of the great "Zebraman" from Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Short and sweet leaving you wanting more, just as it should be. Great stuff.)

RUPTURE - "Jubilee: 49 Greatest Hates" CD (Not only would this make a nice starting point for those curious to check them out, it's wholly satisfying as a career retrospective for people who are already fans. Each period is represented here with terrific sound (not just ripped from vinyl), nice track selection and flow. Stumblefuck put the master together and, unlike a lot of others in the HC scene, he's not only taken great care of the master tapes, but he's done a nice job of remastering everything. I picked this up for my collection thinking it would sit here and collect dust, but I've already listened to this way more than I thought I would. This was co-released by a few labels and might already be scarce, but I'm sure it's out there if you wanted a copy.)

TRACY, GENE - "69 Miles to Gene Tracy" CD
TRACY, GENE - "Sweet Sixteen" CD
TRACY, GENE - "Talks Trash" CD
TRACY, GENE - "Gene Tracy Serves You" CD (There's no reason I can't talk about all of these at once seeing as they're so similar. Gene "Mr. Truckstop" Tracy is the king of trucker comedy. My stepfather drove a semi truck when I was in elementary school and I was introduced to Gene by way of stealing his tapes and listening to them while my parents were out of the house. I'm sure most of the jokes didn't make sense to me at the time, but they were funny anyway. I had forgotten all about those tapes until my wife and I went to visit her aunt and uncle in Florida. While we were there, Uncle Mike and I hit it off and talked non-stop. Before we left for home he gave me a stack of comedy cassettes he had to take with me because his wife's church friends didn't approve of them being in the house. Within this stack of mostly garbage were two Gene Tracy tapes that rekindled my love for his craft. The "Truckstop" tapes are great, filled with stories and anecdotes about truck driving, whorehouses, drinking, Pollocks, hair-lips, and just about every filthy and inappropriate subject you can think of. All of this greatness delivered by a southern drunk who yells at the top of his lungs for the duration of the recording. Hearing those tapes again sent me on a search for more of his releases, and after much digging online for a download I came up completely empty handed. I decided later that I enjoyed them enough to buy them and turned to eBay where I found these all for less than $5.00 each. The booklets are bare bones with no information at all and the sound on most of them is abysmal, but I can't complain for the price I paid. Gene Tracy was one of the best, I can't wait to pick up more of his releases.)

TWISTED SISTER - "Live at the Marquee" CD (This great sounding live CD was released by Rhino Handmade in a giant gatefold die-cut Twisted Sister logo cardboard sleeve. Neat packaging, but it forced me to store it with my LPs because of it's size. It was pretty expensive, but essential for fans. A few of these songs showed up as B-sides of their early EPs. This CD has the entire show with excellent sound. The setlist is 90% "Under the Blade" material with a couple of songs from their second album mixed in. We're treated to all of Dee's great between song banter and it shows how great of a frontman he is and his ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy. At one point he calls someone in the audience out for throwing a bottle at A.J. calling him a "wimp pussy motherfucking bastard" which sends the crowd over the edge. Since buying this I've listened to it more than any of their studio albums. It's fantastic.)

TWISTED SISTER - "Under the Blade" CD (I believe this 2011 reissue is the first time this classic has been on CD. I was watching clips of their performance at the Reading Festival on YouTube and saw that they came from the DVD that accompanies this release. Before that, I had no idea a CD even existed. I grew up listening to the remixed Atlantic Records version, so listening to the original Secret Records mix was a real treat. It's rougher sounding than the remix, but no better or worse. It would have been nice to have the remix on here as bonus tracks, but instead we get the "Ruff Cutts" EP and a single live song. The real gem of this reissue is the DVD. Their spectacular Reading performance is here in it's entirety with as good of picture and sound quality as one could hope for and there's some nice interview footage where they talk about roughing it in the UK while recording this album in a barn using hay bales as sound walls. I love Twisted Sister and this is their best album. I was really looking forward to seeing them live for the first time a couple of months ago, but I threw my back out the day of the show and had to miss it. I'm still really upset about it, it was their first time playing Iowa since 1985.)

U.S. MUSIC WITH FUNKADELIC - s/t CD (The first planned P.Funk side project, apparently, but the LP was shelved and only a single was released from the recording. The band, United Soul, was discovered by George Clinton who recorded this album in the early 70s. Soon after, the group was absorbed into the Funkadelic machine and became part of the group. Two of these songs were re-recorded for "Cosmic Slop" and "Let's Take it to the Stage". In fact, I'm not too sure "This Broken Heart" isn't the same recording, just an extended mix. This shit is fantastic, even better than I expected it to be. I can't believe they sat on this recording all that time. It really makes you wonder what else is sitting in the vault. Best song on the disc: "Be What You Is", a dirty sounding romp with great echo effect on the drums. If you're a fan of those great early Funkadelic albums, you want to make sure you grab this one. It's just as good as those, better than most of the other side albums and shits all over the post-Westbound Funkadelic albums.)

V/A - "Cottage Cheese From the Lips of Death" CD (I'm pretty sure this is a bootleg, but I don't care. I never got to hear the LP when it was still in circulation, so I'm happy someone made it available again. Originally released in 1983, this LP showcased the thriving punk rock scene in Texas. There are loads of great bands on here: Really Red, D.R.I., The Offenders, Big Boys, Stick Men With Rayguns, Hugh Beaumont Experience, Butthole Surfers, The Dicks and a few other bands I wasn't familiar with before hearing this including Watchtower, an aggressive and technical metal band that doesn't really belong here, but are excellent nonetheless. The vinyl transfer is clean and sounds great, but the insert leaves a lot to be desired. This is only my second time listening to it since buying it, but I really enjoyed it both times.)

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