Requiem for an almost gentleman

Lee Hazlewood died over the weekend in Henderson, NV, of cancer. His was one of the most extraordinary voices in pop, both for its literal gravelly depths and its psychological nuances. He was subversive and playful and an extraordinarily hard worker, and we’re somewhat less today for having lost him.

Recommended listening: Trouble Is a Lonesome Town, Lee Hazlewoodism Its Cause and Cure, Nancy and Lee, Requiem for an Almost Lady.

17 Pygmies Rare LA showcase

You are hereby advised under threat of grave regret to come out and see 17 Pygmies in a rare live appearance as part of the International Pop Overthrow West Coast festival. Also on the bill, the delightful Prix!

August, 7 2007 at Spaceland
1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
Cost : $8.00

IPO Los Angeles 323-661-4380
8:30 Io Perry
9:00 The Unbearables
9:30 17 Pygmies
10:00 The Red Button
10:30 Astra Heights
11:00 The Prix

Anne Briggs – “The Time Has Come” CD (Water)

Richard Thompson has said that “Beeswing,” his plaint of love for an untamable woman, is loosely based on Briggs, the elusive singer-songwriter from the British Midlands who drifted from public view not long after this 1971 release. The album’s a gentle suite of Celtic folk rounds, evoking country folk and stone-walled paths, ancient rites and carnival days. Briggs has an appealing yodel that she uses when trilling over wide-spaced notes, and a husky, longing vocal quality that suits her spare and haunting tunes. Despite being largely lovely, there are couple of clunkers that keep the album from reaching its full potential, but the good stuff is so good you can forgive ’em, and wish she’d stuck around and collaborated with some of the British folk-rock royals who adored her. Her version of “Beeswing,” for instance, would be astonishing.

Colin Blunstone – “One Year” CD (Water)

Just out of the Zombies and uncertain what to do next, lead singer Blunstone experimented with recording pseudonyms and a return to the business world, but on the side he continued to work with Rod Argent and Chris White on a series of stray tracks that in time would become this astonishing record. And a record is very much what it is, a year's recording, a year's stories, and at the end the certainty that this wonderfully warm and husky voice would not be satisfied fielding calls from accounting clients but would remain in the public sphere. Chris Gunning's blithe string arrangements on confections like Denny Laine's "Say You Don't Mind" and the exquisite "Smokey Day" encircle Blunstone with as precise and elegant a frame as any artist could want, with the result one of the most perfect Sunday Morning Albums ever laid on tape. Essential.

Paula Frazer & Tarnation – Now It’s Time CD (Birdman)

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Paula Frazer’s voice has this warm, effortless quality that makes me think of old fashioned things like melted sugar candy being pulled in a hand-cranked roller. Adopting the loosely defined Tarnation name after nearly a decade, with longtime collaborators Patrick Main and Jasmyn Wong plus various Moore Bros and Orangers in tow, Frazer evokes a throatier Sandy Denny as she trips and skitters about a suite of moody country-psych tunes loosely inspired by one heartbroken summer. Frazer’s songs tend to grow on you, and if these come off a bit abstract and under-narrated on early listens, past experience suggests the facets will click into place with time, and be worth the effort.

Bubblegum documentary screening in Venice, CA

7 DUDLEY CINEMA at SPONTO Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave, Venice, 310-306-7330, Free!

Come early – seating is limited

WED., March 14, 7pm preshow: Author Domenic Priore, DJ Becky Ebenkamp and anthology editor Kim Cooper screen LA's rare back-door hit Shrimpenstein! Ostensibly a children's puppet show (adult satire in disguise), this '66 KHJ-Channel 9 warper featured booze & LSD jokes. Local fans included the Rat Pack & Rod Serling.

8pm. BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH! ('05, 93min) Based on Kim Cooper and David Smay's book, Kier-La Janisse's compilation of prepubescent pop from '67 to '72 features rare footage of the 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Archies, Ohio Express, The Sweet, The Bay City Rollers, the Banana Splits, the Wombles & the Jackson 5 Cartoon. It dismantles the worst myths about how bubblegum is produced and identifies the gum tendencies of artists as varied as the Sex Pistols, Abba, the Monkees and the Ramones.

“Pranks 2” by V. Vale (RE/Search)

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The first Pranks book (1987) is a potential world shaker; if approached at the right time by a suitably open mind, its tales of imaginative tweaking of perceived reality—through elaborate ruses, pointless stunts, pre-caller-ID phone shenanigans, etc.—present a truly alternative way of living in which play is as highly valued as work, and a person can negotiate their universe on their own terms. I don't think I've ever felt laughter build so organically than when reading Boyd Rice's tales of suburban malfeasance, which I consider classics of American humor. The range of interviews in the 1987 volume nipped neatly between political agitators, performance artists, terrorists and troublemakers, offering innumerable worm holes through which one could approach prank nirvana. Inevitably, when reviewing the sequel to a beloved book, the original looms large. Pranks 2 is a bit smaller and more structured, with the interviews filed under Culture Hacking (Jihad Jerry, Jello Biafra), Groups (Suicide Club, Billboard Liberation Front), On-Line Satire (Frank Discussion), Comedy (Paul Krassner, Margaret Cho), and Art As Prank (John Waters, Ron English, SRL). Vale seems disinclined to edit the conversations, which sometimes wind dangerously far from the book's supposed subject. (Does Julia Solis' urban adventuring league really belong here? Or Margaret Cho, who flatly admits she's no prankster, despite her support of Reverend Al's delightful Art of Bleeding activities?) Nonetheless, most of the featured subjects and organizations do serious and provocative work, and it's instructive to learn more about their aims and activities, legal battles and triumphs. Who knew that Lydia Lunch's hobby is getting cops to pose for photos? As a longtime member of the apostate L.A. branch of the Cacophony Society, I was fascinated to learn more about its origins in the S.F. Suicide Club, yet found that Rev. Al's interview about Cacophony itself scarcely reflected my own experiences (not surprising, since Al organized/attended hundreds more events than I did). One thing this sequel makes very clear is how much the world and communication has changed in twenty years, and how pranksters have had to shift with the times to continue their activities. The personal stakes in the US and UK are so much higher now, it's hardly surprising that political and idealistic pranksters have taken the fore, but I find I miss the surrealism of phantom raccoons in grocery stores and dayglo guns tossed into Disneyland tableaux very much. That world is gone now, or if not gone, much harder to visit—except in imagination, which both volumes of Pranks feed. (That's an Amazon link below, but consider buying direct from the RE/Search website, as they were among the small publishers hit by the Publishers Group West bankruptcy.)

33 1/3: The Notorious Byrd Brothers by Ric Menck (Continuum Books)

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I’ve been particularly looking forward to reading this long-promised contribution to the series of little books about great albums. I adore the record—in fact, it was on my own shortlist of potential subjects, usurped when series editor David Barker encouraged me to poke a nose out of the comfortable sixties psych basement and write about Neutral Milk Hotel instead. If you’ve read more than a couple of 33 1/3 books, you know that they’re all very different, with each writer taking their own path to revealing the mysteries of their chosen favorite LP. As a working musician who once had his creative heart broken when a band on the way up suddenly crashed and burned, Velvet Crush drummer Menck has a rare capacity to recognize the emotional state likely effecting the individual Byrds in the years leading up to Notorious, arguably their best album, and also the most volatile. Coop-flown Byrd Gene Clark was hanging around the studio again, David Crosby left the band before it was completed, and increasingly inadequate drummer Michael Clarke was subject to terrible verbal abuse during the sessions (a brutal excerpt is on the CD reissue). The first half of the book is a mini-Byrds bio, so by the time the members are reaching around producer Gary Usher to rip each others’ bangs off, the reader has an intimate understanding of the tensions in the room, and can marvel all the more at the sonic beauties unfurled in so toxic an environment. The second half of the book is a track-by-track accounting of the album (and related outtakes), with all the geeky session notes a geeky fan could want. But with the biographical material and Menck’s interesting perspective, this one would be enjoyable for Byrds fans or neophytes alike. And drummers will especially appreciate Menck’s observations on this oft neglected part of the rock and roll sound.

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre – “Soundtrack” CD (Cherry Red)

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The third release on John Peel’s Dandelion imprint was this ambitious art-rock outing from a collective of one-time Exeter University students whose classical instrumentation, archaic literary themes and erratic time signatures rendered them too weird for mainstream notice, despite light shows and pretty stage dancers. Their debut heavily features Vivienne McAuliffe’s precise operatic vocals enveloped by staccato Indian-tinged arrangements. The hard rock Shakespeare adaptation is an amusing, if overwrought, novelty, with some lovely medieval vocal passages, but like the rest of the disk, gears shift before one can get comfortable. Live, with the visual treats of twirling girls, swirling oils and psychedelic costumes, these elaborate set pieces might have held the audience’s interest, but on record, something’s missing.