Saturday, August 26, 2006

Magic Carpet: A Tasty Trip

For the listener who craves the deep, warm, dark green and forest brown, fog-drenched Indian influenced psychedelia that chartered its way out of San Francisco in the late sixties/early seventies, this reissue of the Magic Carpet’s debut record (on Magic Carpet Records) will ring a true chord. The band hailed from the UK…no where near the flower children of the Haight, but their brand of “Eastern Psych Folk” is close kin to After Bathing At Baxter’s era Jefferson Airplane and calls to order the Bay Area folk revival scene going on today: in a time of Devendra Banhart’s elfin freakiness, Joanna Newsom’s evil-angel resurrections, and the resurgence of interest in Vashti Bunyan, the Magic Carpet’s 1972 lost classic could not sound fresher. Alisha Sufit is a charmed chanteuse whose dark voice is crystal clear and mesmerizing; Clem Alford’s sitar playing is top notch and truly psychedelic. The songs come as old friends (favorite: “Father Time”) and hang in the air as mysteries leading to the sweet 20+ minute instrumental raga not found on the original issue of the record. Top notch rainy day fun, a perfect bong stuffer for the holidays.
(this post originally appeared on The Aquarius Records List)


Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Last Of The West Side Groovers

On August 2nd, Texas tenor great Rocky Morales lost his long battle with cancer. He was 65. I was first introduced to Rocky by longtime friend and band mate Doug Sahm when recording the Texas Tornados record FOUR ACES. Rocky entered the control room with his famous stagger-but-not-fall stride, looked up through his beat-era specs and smiled a mouth of teeth bent into a welcoming matt for his sax's mouthpiece.

Rocky was a driving force of the San Antonio R&B sound, which was a mixture of classic 50's R&B/Doo-Wap with a tejano twist (becoming more prominent with his band The Westside Horn Section, also featuring Al Gomez, Louie Bustos and Spot Barnet). He was fronting the Markays in 1959, when he first played with genre-defying Sahm, recording the song "Why Why Why" for Harlem records. For the rest of Sahm's life the two would collaborate, and much of what I know about Rocky came from Doug. Doug credited his tenor sax man for being the secret weapon between his genius style meshings, and talked of Rocky as a modern day hard-living beatnic who would quietly iterate deep philosophical musings of music and survival in between sips of his ever present can of beer.

Rocky played with a sweet, cascading style: part Lester Young, part Herb Hardesty (Imperial R&B king blower), part nameless troubadour in a nameless club in New York in the mid-seventies. The band would be chorusing a number by T-Bone Walker or Johnny Ace and Sahm would shout the famous call to arms: "ROCCCKKKKYYYYYYYY" signaling Morales to step up and show his wings.

He was one of those people who treated you like a trusted brother, and I will miss him I will also miss the signature tejano-R&B fused sound that he helped create that will never be heard again. Truly one of the great contributors to American music. Great places to hear Rocky's art: FOUR ACES by the Texas Tornados, EL MOLINO--the debut record by Joe King Carrasco, and THE BEST OF DOUG SAHM AND THE SIR DOUGLASS QUINTET. Thank you Bill Bentley for introducing me to all of this.

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You Tube, Classic TV, and Music

Ah, Television...or as the Touch Me Not's yell: HEY, brother calls it the idiot box and I have all but wiped it out of my life since getting back to SF a few years ago. Props to free TV that I get from my little bnw: KMTP (Ch. 32) with the greatest news programming around, and Ch. 2 with Dennis Richmond and Giants Baseball.

But ain't it just grand when a fad gets big enough to be represented on a big time comedy or drama? How about Mike Patton's name check on a recent soap? Nice. Or how about Dragnet's LSD episode in the 60s? Too bad the tripper had to die...too bad for us all.

I started geeking out on You Tube recently, trying to find some of my favorite music genre infusions into big time television. Here are 5 fun ones for your viewing pleasure:

1. Quincy Punk Rock Episode : My former WB A&R associate Barry Squire plays the drums in this obnoxious punk outfit. Oh, if the scene was ever this scene-ish.
2. SCUM on WKRP in Cincinatti (band plays 18 minutes into it): Act punk, play like Styx. WKRP never really got the punk thing, but managed to put together a humorous if not painful salute.
3. CHIPS Punk Rock Episode (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2): I DIG PAIN. Probably the classic amongst classic of punk-goes-to-television (besides the Donahue Punk episode with real punk rockers talking about real punk problems)
4. Flatt & Scruggs on Beverly Hillbillies : They wrote the theme, and they perform wonderfully on the show...
5. JAZZ on Kung Fu: The favorite piece that I found. Grasshopper on flute, accompanied by Cannonball Adderly and Jose Feliciano. Unbelievable.

More to come, and feel free to post with your own findings.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Lovely Baths Of Baxter

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in the Outer Richmond…a gentle translucent fog sunbathes on the pacific ocean...the breeze plays kind in the afternoon shine. The turntable revolves and “my head is feeling fine.” And as hippie as it all might sound, I give you a resounding PEACE, listening to the day-perfect classic-bit-of-psychedelia recorded by long-lived Outer Richmond residents: The Jefferson Airplane.

I was not a Jefferson Airplane fan when Steve Turner of Mudhoney turned me on to AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S, telling me it was one of the great treasures of all psychedelia. Many of their records had either been overplayed or did not have the right edge for me (and Slick’s vocals often annoyed). But this third record, released in 1967—a mere ten months after the
huge hit Surrealistic Pillow-- and produced by longtime movie-music-maven Henri Mancini engineer Al Schmitt, is itself a soundtrack—this time of the psychedelic generation. The record is un-commercial and definitely dated paisley; but the strong songs and musical arrangements dictate it’s relevance, and empower it over musical neighbors such as "Her Majesty’s Satanic Request" and "Revolver" because it is spoken by the San Francisco acid literate themselves. Amen.

As it was known, the Airplane’s sound much depended on who Slick was sleeping with. This was her Paul Kantner period (I’ve seen the photos), who co-wrote and sang most of the album’s tracks. But this record ultimately is a band experience, which is obvious from the album’s opener, “The Ballad Of You and Me and Pooneil” where the wonderful blues-riffing melodies degenerate into a dark instrumental bridge, forecasting the royal green and brown raga-ish meditations to come.

The true San Francisco electric groove (also see Moby Grape’s “Hey Grandma”) on “Young Girl Sunday Blues” saddles one of my favorite Airplane canters, with the epic chorus screaming “TODAY IS FILLED WITH YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW!!!!!” Leave your body behind?! Later track “Wild Tyme” is another acid test sing-along, always skipping twice for some reason on my copy, right where Slick, Kantner and Balin sing, “IT’S A WILLLLLLLD TIME!!!” Comparable to THE COMMON PEOPLE’s debut, the musical arrangements give an ethereal depth to side 1, concluding with“Rejoice” where Slick’s voice, understatedly showcased, purrs haunting and beautiful .

Side two features “Spare Change Shizoforest Love Suite” (see FLAMING LIPS for equally crazed song titles) with its opening trance percussions littered with fuzzy pickings and electronics--the ultimate time travel back sound of the LSD generation: mysterious, cozy, and on the sentimental side of a nightmare. Side two flows together dreamily from song to song, connected by slow and meandering guitar jams, reverberations and other 60s studio trickery closing with the song that brings me back to today “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon.” It is a mellow anti-climactic ending that resolves the listener to continue the kick-back after the needle picks up…maybe by throwing on The Sir Douglass Quintet or Easter Everywhere…any catalyst that continues the musical voyage through the day.

AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S definitely took a few warming listens. It is not what you would expect, and comes in clothes that are already well warn (not the cover, which is classic Ron Cobb artwork). The patient ear is rewarded with a wonderfully executed musical idea from a band that had newfound success and an amazing amount of musical confidence and daring.

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