Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Review: Blossom Toes' 'We Are Ever So Clean' Vinyl Reissue

Blossom Toes began as a trio of apprentices at a scientific (not musical) instrument company, which will seem oddly logical when you listen to their first album. We Are Ever So Clean doesn't sound played; it sounds wired, more the product of mad scientists than a band. Of that original trio, only guitarist Alan Kensley played an instrument. Brian Godding had to figure out how to mess with a guitar a bit and Brian Belshaw learned to pluck a bass well enough that the guys could start gigging (and ultimately back the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and Chuck Berry!). 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Review: 'Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination'

From this past October 4 through May the 4th of 2023, The Science Museum in London is running an exhibition called Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination. Those who might cry "blasphemy!" at the idea of a serious science museum paying tribute to a world of made-up monoliths and wookiees hasn't been paying very close attention to sci-fi for the past two-hundred years. Ever since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, the genre has been raising serious questions about the role science plays in our lives, using fantastical scenarios as a means to discuss touchy topics, and inspiring the next generation of astrophysicists, paleontologists, and biologists. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Review: 'The Jimi Hendrix Experience- Los Angeles Forum- April 26, 1969 '

Although The Beatles blew the ceiling off concert possibilities when they played the first rock show at a sports arena in 1965, it took a few years for such venues to play home to longhairs with any regularity. The sports stadium rock show was still somewhat novel by April 26, 1969, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Los Angeles Forum, then home of the Lakers. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Review: The 23rd Turnoff's 'Michael Angelo: The Complete 1967 Recordings'

The 23rd Turnoff were one of those other Liverpudlian artists of the sixties. And unlike Gerry and the Pacemakers or Cilla Black or You-Know-Who, they never managed to rack up a satchel of hits. Unlike even less successful locals like The Koobas, The Mojos, or Wimple Winch, The 23rd Turnoff didn't even manage anything more than one single. But what a single it was! Released on Deram in that most fragrant of years, 1967, "Michael Angelo" b/w "Leave Me Here" was a two-headed tab of atmospheric, tuneful acid folk-pop. These were the best songs band leader and future solo artist Jimmy Campbell managed, but the Turnoff had some pretty good other songs in a similarly psychedelic mode ready to go. Sadly, Joe Meek and George Martin passed on producing the group, leaving The 23rd Turnoff to shuffle off into cult-rock history with nothing more than that one single and a handful of demos. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Review: 'Kurt Cobain: The Last Interview'

There's something exploitative and ghoulish about naming your anthologies of interviews with dead celebrities The Last Interview, especially when the last interview with Kurt Cobain in Kurt Cobain: The Last Interview is a pretty insubstantial four-page talk with a guitar mag. Yet even when doing his press obligations with something like Fender Frontline, Cobain couldn't help but move beyond the superficial to discuss his family, coming to terms with his audience, and his desire to move beyond grunge cliches. When he ends it by imagining himself fronting Nirvana as an old man opening for the Temps and Tops, you don't know whether to laugh because the image is so absurd or cry because he was clearly expressing his frustration with the limitations of fame that may have contributed to his fatal depression. Either way, that is a bill I would have paid good money to see.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Review: 'The Best of the Trashmen'

In 1962, four Minneapolis kids decided to cash in on the surf craze, and a year later, they bashed out one of the genre's defining records. "Surfin Bird" has that wet, wild sound surfers craved more than the clean-cut harmonies of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. It is two and a half minutes of pure rock and roll insanity with its squawked chant, jackhammer pounding, and cheek-wobbling gibbering. It is punk fifteen years early, and a disc that drives my crazy in the best, best, best way.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Review: Prince's 'The Hits 1' and 'The Hits 2' Vinyl Reissues

In 1993, Prince's relationship with Warner Brothers Records began to sour, he changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph, and frankly, began nearing the end of his most artistically and commercially vital era. To commemorate the transition, WB put out two compilations simply and accurately titled The Hits. After sixteen years of record making, Prince certainly had enough hits to pack two CDs. There wasn't even room for his number one smash "Batdance", possibly because of rights issues tied to the Batman movie or possibly because it's the weirdest song ever to hit Billboard's number one spot (contrary to popular opinion, it's also awesome).

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Review: 'Jimi'

Whenever I write a review, I keep a notepad by my side, and my first note after picking up Jimi was "How much does this book weigh?" The answer is: about four and a half pounds. Not the heaviest book I've reviewed recently; Prince: All the Songs is six pounds, but Prince's career lasted about ten times longer than Hendrix's. Like All the Songs, Jimi is a big hardback with text and lots and lots of pictures. Originally published in 2007, the 80th Birthday edition of Jimi puts a lot more emphasis on the pictures than the text (both are equally important in the Prince book), but I was surprised by how satisfying Janie Hendrix (Jimi's sister) and John McDermot's text was despite the fact that it accounts for maybe fifty pages on the 300-page book. While there are certainly more in-depth biographies of the guy I think we can all agree was the most innovative, imaginative, and influential rock guitarist who ever lived, Jimi still provides a pretty good compact bio, and there are so many quotes from him that it almost feels like a proper autobiography in spots. It's nice to get so much of Hendrix's own perspective.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Review: 'Chuck Berry: An American Life'

I don't envy RJ Smith, who took on a very tricky project when he decided to write Chuck Berry's autobiography in the current era. How do you write about a black man who faced racism his whole life--even after he became celebrated by all races as the man who invented rock and roll--a guy who created a metric ton of amazing music and inspired a gigaton more, a creep who did some truly horrible things, leaving a lot of fans confused about how to regard his life, work, and death?
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