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Be Bop Deluxe “Axe Victim”

I listened to this record with great anticipation, not having any recollection of what this band sounded like, even though I remember the name well, from my youth. To my surprise it sounds more like David Bowie than anything, though not quite, kind of like that parallel universe Bowie created for the movie “Velvet Goldmine” by a lot of musicians, but most notably Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry. And I suppose you could say this sounds a lot like Roxy Music, but I never listened to that much Roxy Music, it was Bowie for me. I never listened to ANY Be Bop Deluxe– how did that happen? I would have loved this record had I bought it when it came out in 1974 when I was a huge glam rock fan and really into the whole androgynous sci-fi thing, and still a little afraid of the Rolling Stones. I pretty much know for a fact that guitar excess didn’t bother me as much then as it does now– and there is plenty of excess here! This is pretty much Bill Nelson’s band– not the Bill Nelson who is the Florida Senator who flew on the Space Shuttle– though this Bill Nelson has just as effectively seen the heavens firsthand on his six-string rocketship. The title “Axe Victim” could very well refer to the ears of the listener who is not somehow immune to this sort of thing. I mean, if you removed about two fingers on one hand and three on another, this guy could be a great guitar player. This record could be convincing argument for religious leaders not to condemn masturbation, just so young boys will have something to do with their hands besides practice, practice, practice. I’ve just got to say, if you really want to play with the London Philharmonic, get a fucking violin!

But for all that, somehow, perhaps against my better judgment, I really like this record! Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as it comes out of my favorite era of rock, the early seventies. And that should surprise no one– just look at my hair! Okay, I admit, I’m stuck a little in that time period, forever trying to relive the weird trippy sensation I had when I brought home that “Diamond Dogs” album from the Ontario store. Anyway, I’ve been listening to this thing over and over, and the more I listen to it the more I like it. The guitar still sounds tremendously overdone, like 300 notes where you could get by more effectively with one, but the singing is quite compelling, and most of the songs are great. Actually, the songs are all over the place, some much better than others, but together as a whole, and specifically as a record album with two sides, they really work together as a whole. The album cover is better not mentioned– I won’t describe it, and if you don’t remember it, believe me– don’t go searching it out. The back cover, however, is classic– a picture of the band– looking more goth than glam, almost– and there is every indication that if you were Bill Nelson’s lover, you’d always be in second place.

But really– I love this record– this is just the kind of thing that finding in some dingy basement could really make you have faith in the idea that there are still great things out there that you have somehow overlooked. I am going to go so far as to go out and buy myself a cassette tape device and record this in a lovely analogue fashion. I might ever go a little further and look up Bill Nelson on the internet. Well, actually I already did, a little bit. It kind of makes me happy, for once, that he’s still out there, maybe in space, making music.


Average White Band “Soul Searching”

It’s hard to figure out why I like this record so much, because for one thing, it’s AWB, after all, a band I never liked. But this turned out to be my summer record this year—that happens sometimes—a single record becomes the soundtrack for an entire season. It’s usually summer, when you’re lazier, slower moving, and the right thing just settles into your heat-compromised brain. My notes on this record are as follows, starting with July 8, 2008: “Overture” is my favorite. It’s not bad. Good. Too hot to really think soundtrack. Lot’s of band-in-the-studio pics. Good basketball music. I’m obsessed with it. Best: “Overture,” “I’m the One” (15-60-75), “Sunny Days”—great soul song. (End of notes.)

I’m not totally convinced that they sound much like 15-60-75 (The Numbers Band) but that one song always makes me think of them. The odd thing about liking this record so much is I am well aware of being at aesthetic odds with a lot of musical choices they make: in chord changes and progressions, in instrumentation, and in production. I like some songs way more than others. And still, I really like the record as a whole. It works really well as a record, from beginning to end. It goes from nostalgic to corny to boring to exciting and emotional, but it all works together.

“A Love of Your Own” is a really nice song. “Goin’ Home” has some really excellent repetition—to the extent that I had to check, the first couple of times I heard it, to see if the record was skipping. “I’m the One” and “Sunny Days” are my favorites. The song “Soul Searching” sounds like the title song for a 70s TV show about three guys (a hot headed handsome Italian-American, a freckly, goofy Irish-American with a huge afro, and a calm, articulate African-American) who travel the California coast in a flower-power dune buggy searching for the perfect wave, but finding trouble everywhere they go. They end up solving a lot of people’s life crisis’s, while teaching them not to be racist, to be open-minded and spiritual, and to generally chill out and laugh at things while still being serious inside. They break a few ladies’ hearts, as well.

I can only think that I must have heard this record while I was in high school. After all there was an intramural basketball team called AWB (for “Average White Basketball Team”). (It pains me to admit that I was on a team called “Utopia.”) All I knew was that it was baffling to me that a band would call themselves “average” and/or “white”—though they played “black” music. I was aware of their logo, scripty lettering with the W depicting a woman’s (or shapely guy’s) ass. Little did I know they were from Scotland! I was making the transition between prog rock and punk rock, and I had no time for the subtle charms of this record. But I really think I must have heard it. I think I must have been in somebody’s basement, a party going on, 1976, and I’m steadily drinking a 12 pack of Stroh’s. In spite of not being able to commandeer the sound system with Elvis Costello, and hating the smooth, commercial sounding crap that was on, there was something about the music, I guess—and maybe liking a girl that was there, and the magical process of intoxication—that remains.


Herb Alpert y su Tijuana Brass

This record is in a “South of the Border” album cover, which, though put out by A&M (his own label!) is a Venezuelan pressing. The actual record here, completely different, is on the Fermata label from Venezuela, which I’ve never seen before– it has a huge seven pointed blue star in the middle. The amazing thing is:  if there’s going to be one Herb Alpert record in any given random pile, it’s supposed to be “Whipped Cream…” This record promises to be an “other delight”– but unfortunately it’s unplayable. I did put it on, but got worried at the difficulty the needle was having making its way through the grooves. I sent the disk to the lab for analysis and got back the disturbing results that the record indeed contains whipped cream– but actual whipped cream, dried, of course. There are also traces of melted cheese, refried beans, Hostess cupcakes (?), dried beer, some kind of tequila, lime juice, and sugar concoction, salsa (the food not the dance), various varieties of hot sauce, bong water, and remnants of “The Lonely Bull.”


Alcatrazz “No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll”

The extra “z” is for HARD rock– and you can’t beat that album title. The cover lives up to it, too, with an almost abstract photo of Alcatraz Island and a huge ROCK floating above the water, and in the side of the rock is a barred prison cell window with a hand reaching out! I don’t really remember Alcatrazz, from 1983, but their timeless band logo sure looks familiar. What is weird is I had a really disturbing nightmare last night that we (the USA) were bombing Tokyo, of all places. One of the “hits” from this record is “Hiroshima Mon Amour” which isn’t about the Duras, or the Resnais, but the Bomb, at least as far as I can tell by listening to it. The sleeve in this record has lyrics, but it’s to a different record! (and I don’t have a clue to what, though I’m kind of intrigued).

The other thing about this record is there’s a big CHUNK out of the edge, so I’m only able to listen to the last three songs on each side. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is more than enough. The singer has an incredibly powerful voice, too powerful, if that’s possible. So powerful, in fact, that the guitar player, in order to compete, is playing WAY too much, by, like, a million. Too loud, too often, too many notes– really, everyone should listen to this– it’s like one of those driver’s ed accident horror films for guitar players. If any one of these guys was in an inescapable prison, it should be the guitar player, for crimes against humanity.

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July 2020