Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee

15
Feb
19

The Bon Aires “La Versatile”

Rams Head Inn, Milwaukee

I’m not exactly sure what the name of this record is. It’s by The Bon Aires (or Bon-Aires) on a label called “Pro-Gress Records.” Besides the band name, the cover also says, “La Versatile”—what’s that all about? And also, “Rams Head Inn, Milwaukee”—apparently where the band had their tenure. The most advanced date I see anywhere in print on the cover is 1968, and the song, Evil Ways! (recorded by Santana) came out in 1969, so I’m just going to go with 1969 as a date for this record.

If you saw the cover of this record you’d have bought it, too—it looks like it’s pasted up by someone’s insane aunt, including “framed” photos of the band members, and a cartoon graphic of a naked woman with ram’s horns grappling with a cocktail glass as big as she is (fortunately only a couple of inches tall, or it might have never cleared the myopic decency mafia). On back is a little feature about The Rams Head Inn where The Bon Aires were the house band, and it sounds like a great place—I’d be there right now if it had survived. It even gives the address: 2023 S. Kinnickinnic, Milwaukee—is it still there? A quick look at the internet map—oh. That’s the corner of Kinnickinnic and Becher where now there’s that hideous BP station, “Go” Mart, and Laser Touchless Carwash. That’s just tragic. I can’t find anything on the internet about this record, so I’m not going to try that hard—I’ll just go by what’s here. There’s an extensive bio for each band member—this was a regular supergroup. Their names are: Dennis Jurkowski, Fred Haldemann, Gary Chaney, and Frederick Stadler. Also on the back of the cover is their band press release. You could probably spend a day or a lifetime, if you wanted, tracking down everyone and everything here, and why not? But I’m just going to move on to the music.

This is one of those records that (short of doing some heavy-duty research, which I’m not going to do because I’m too lazy) the best way to approach it is on a track by track basis, and just give my impressions, or what each song made me think of or feel. “A Man and a Woman” is my favorite track on the record, with some really bizarre organ—I could listen to a whole side of this—it sounds like the soundtrack for one of my sci-fi noir nightmares. A really atmospheric version of “Summertime,” with sax coming down a block-long tunnel and a nice vocal. This would be the last song of side one of a collection of the most extreme versions of this standard. “Rain Rain Polka” takes the jauntiness to “10,” including some tortured “yee-ha’s.” Kind of back to the movie the first track evokes, is a corny yet evocative version of “Laura’s Theme (from Dr. Zhivago).” I guess “La Bamba” is always going to sound like “La Bamba,” whether it be Latin, Polka, or Space Alien. The insane classic “Five-Foot-Two” reminds me that Iggy Pop did “Five Foot One” AND a version of “Summertime” on the same record, and why am I not listening to that right now? “Yellow Bird” whisks us off to, naturally, Hawaii, even though it’s snowing outside. “Vienna, My City of Dreams” sounds like you think it might, with a vocal by Edwin Wasilewski, the man, apparently, behind The Rams Head Inn! “Quando Quando” is another of those familiar songs from decades of corniness exposure—this version on speed (prob. coffee?)—organist, drummer, and flautist are OFF THE HOOK. “Whipout” is a cross between the surfer standard, “Wipeout,” and the DEVO classic “Whip It”—which didn’t come out until TEN YEARS AFTER—Time Machine! “Stranger on the Shore” is another blast of nostalgia that takes me back to no doubt a sleazier time, esp. with that evocative licorice stick wailing. And finally, “Evil Ways!” had to be the song of the day when this was recorded, and they actually do a pretty hip version of it—I mean, very very cool, laid back and still edgy, with both sax and guitar solo. These guys could probably have pulled off “Stayin’ Alive,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had they still been playing—but then, maybe they were, maybe they did, and maybe they are!

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19
Jan
19

Audiophile “Echoes of the Storm”

This 33 1/3 RPM long playing 12 inch record is a collection of high fidelity recordings of various oddities, pressed into beautiful, translucent, ruby-red vinyl grooves, as heavy as the records the kids are making these days, though this came out in 1956. I’m considering “Audiophile” to be both the artist and the label (from Saukville, Wisconsin!), and “Echoes of the Storm” the title, though that recording comprises Side A of this disc—Side B is titled: “Crazy Quilt” and consists of several tracks: Rotary Saw, Hammer Driving Nails, Water Dripping into Bucket,” “Drums,” and “Music Box.” The last two tracks are undeniably “music”—though I’ll wager they didn’t crack the Billboard charts—and I find the Rotary Saw track not unlike being subjected to the sound of a rotary saw. In fact, if ever I put this side on again, on purpose, it would be justifiable for friends to express concern. Side A, however, is another matter. I love thunderstorms, and this sounds exactly like a thunderstorm, and it’s framed by birds and frogs, and a train rolls through somewhere around the halfway point! There are some pretty good liner notes about serious techie audiophiliac issues, but also composed with a lot of dry humor. It also reveals that the storm was recorded in Milwaukee in June, 1952—and I find it kind of thrilling to know that. The cover looks pretty homemade and it is beautiful. It includes an 8 x 8 inch, what looks like a woodcut, rendering of a storm, with racing clouds, a bent tree, and some really frightening, hairy lightning—all in silver and blue on black. I found myself staring at it while listening to the storm track, and I have to say, I’ll take this over drugs any day. I got a real evening’s entertainment out of the dollar or so this record cost me.

20
Aug
17

Ramal LaMarr “Omens, Oracles & Mysticisms of Dance”

It’s not easy to find anything about Ramal LaMarr on the internet, and though, of course, I could dig deeper, I’m not sure if I want to, because I’m looking while listening to this record and starting to get the heebie-jeebies, because it sounds a lot like the music one would listen to while performing human sacrifices. I don’t know why I think that, really—I must have seen too many human sacrifice movies, though I can’t recall ever having seeing any. That level of creepiness is not my thing, really, though it’s kind of fun thinking about in relation to this record. The cover looks creepily homemade, with cut-out images of a belly dancer and a guy (Ramal?) who is wearing what looks like some kind of Satanic garb. The images seem to have been cut out with a very sharp knife (sharp enough to cut out a human heart?) and placed on a background that looks like a wall mural for a Middle-Eastern restaurant. There’s a feeling of finality to it, like the name of the album sounds like it could be his first, second, and final record all in one. Also, it’s very long, like nearly an hour in length, which… I guess if you’re in the middle of a human sacrifice you don’t want to have to stop and turn over the record.

Though maybe I’m overthinking things—the internet says he put out a couple of records after this one, and they all do have “dance” in the title; maybe this is essentially belly dance music. Which is what it sounds like, though on the sinister end of that spectrum. It’s from 1983, and the label is “Lotus”—out of Milwaukee. It’s instrumental, consisting mostly of synthesizer and percussion. Credits indicate that Ramal LaMarr plays everything except “Zills”—which are credited to “Chandrani”—who I’m guessing might be the belly dancer on the cover. Besides synth and bass, there are Arabian Drums, Kanoon, and Mbira listed. A few songs end with a really kind of creepy and ominous gong. As I listen to the whole record again while typing this, it’s actually starting to grow on me; it’s somewhat soothing on one hand, and kind of trance-inducing on another, and kind of anxiety producing on another. I know that’s three hands—thus the anxiety, I guess. But really, I could see this as really good music for writing, making love, or preparing an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner while the in-laws sit nervously in the next room sipping Brandy Alexanders, wondering just who their daughter got herself mixed up with this time.

25
Jul
17

Archie Ulm “Archie Ulm at the Yamaha EX-42”

This is apparently a private pressing record from around 1975 of this organ wizard from Milwaukee, Archie Ulm, playing some supper club standards on the Yamaha EX-42, accompanied by percussionist Paul Hergert and guitarist Ar Kriegel. I don’t know anything about the Yamaha EX-42—“an electronic marvel” without looking it up, and I’m not going to (it’s an early 70s big-ass electric organ) which he plays, as well as an ARP Odyssey and a Carnaval electric piano. (The cover photo, of Archie sitting behind a bank of keyboards, is pretty great.) This whole record is a pleasure to listen to, just because he’s taking the organ a little (and sometimes a lot) beyond what you’ve heard anyone do (I think… well, I haven’t heard everyone… but then everyone hasn’t heard this). It’s kind of unfortunate that a lot of songs here are popular numbers (“The Hustle,” “Pink Panther”) that I kind of wish I’d never have to hear again, under any circumstances. (Though I don’t mind so much the “Rockford Files” and “NBC Mystery Movie” Themes.) When he goes off from the familiar parts of the songs, though, it’s pretty amazing and makes you think it’d be great if we could just hear his own compositions, or better quality, less cheesy standards. (“The Cat” is a standout; and he doesn’t hold back.) But you’ve got to make the people happy, I guess, and for some reason the people get nervous when they’re not hearing something they recognize. The cool thing is, because he is apparently satisfying the popular familiarity button, he sneaks in quite a lot of playing that should be making people nervous—because it’s completely insane.




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