CAMERA OBSCURA #10
by Mark S. Tucker
"This PSF column is named after my 50-issue samizdat from the '80's (some of which were issued as cassettes), titled for the actual camera obscura precursor to photography. I merely twisted the parlance to mean "focus on the obscure." At any rate, I'm starting with LP's that not much of anyone would argue are obscure (and if you're one of the those who would, write yer mother instead; she needs to hear from you, bubbaleh, and I could care less about your objections to my selections, yo)."
SHERIFF - Sheriff (1979)
Arising on quivering shanks from the ashes of the obscure but intriguing progheaded band Sensation's Fix, Sheriff was a half-xlnt and half-half-ass nu-Fix well worth checking out, as this hypnotic cut demonstrates:
That, however, is actually rooted in Sensation's Fix's “Strange About Your Hands”:
Few progficionados know the Sheriff LP even exists, and who can blame ‘em? I mean, a cover showing a friggin' train in desert hills as signatory of riveting psych music???? What the hell??? Who'd buy what seemed to be a puzzling goatroper disc?... and thus the LP's doom. What the heck was in guitarist Franco Falsini's mind? Even Wiki hasn't a clue about the disc, which isn't unusual, since Wiki usually can't find its ass with a map, a compass, and both hands.
If you're tempted to listen further, ignore all the YouTube crap from the well-past-their prime Sensation's Fix later in the 2000's; it's just incessant noodling from a bunch of old fogies who forgot the thematiics and are riding the prog fests for whatever they can wring from them (not much). But DO check out their early output, which is superlative and leads right into Sheriff.
CITY BOY - City Boy (1976), Dinner at the Ritz (1976), Young Men Gone West (1977), Book Early (1978), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1979)
A spectacular satire-rock outfit that began incandescently but ended up in pop-disco hell, City Boy boasted the unbelievable two-pronged guitar attack of Mike Slamer and Steve Broughton... as well as the band's smart-arsed lyrics, very 10cc-esque. Also, let's not ignore the xlnt vocal work, harmony and otherwise. “Cigarettes,” for instance, is a great ass-kicker:
...as is “Hapkido Kids”:
...and the gorgeous lamentively romantic “Haymaking Time”:
The next 3 or 4 LP's followed much in delicious suit with a near hit or two – “18.104.22.168.,” etc. - but niggling little indications became increasingly apparent, and the tiresome onus of putting out top-notch music and pretty much getting shat upon for it led to the inevitable – commerciality – and, by the time “Heads are Rolling” rolled around, the group was in the grave. A few more very moribund slabs followed, and the group sprinted for the morgue, a shame given their pristine debut and first few follow-ups. Still, that seems to be the way of all musical flesh and so idyllic reminiscence can be our only refuge!
CHARLIE - Fantasy Girls (1976), No Second Chance (1977), Lines (1978), Fight Dirty (1979), Good Morning America (1981)
Much more a rockin' romantic and social commentary combo than City Boy, Charlie nonetheless held strong affinities with CB in terms of superb vocals and great arrangements. With my addiction to Capability Brown and similar units, it was inevitable I'd fall like a ton of bricks for ‘em... but not for all that long, as their eclipse was not so much a matter of decay as a jump off a cliff. Though the group managed to nab some lower U.S. chart positions along the way, little came of it, and it wasn't long before the wolf was at the door, slavering. Nonetheless, with tracks like “Killer Cut”:
...there was much to like, as was the case with “Johnny Hold Back”:
...and “Guitar Hero (False Messiah)”:
But, by the time Good Morning America emerged, they'd bitten the big one and turned to cardboard. I put the brakes on and quit buying their LP's, all too aware of the funeral home signs blinking and blaring, shouting like klaxons. The group lasted a few more releases but it was a matter of zombies mailing it in. Their plight was too kindred to so many great groups that it was just another heartbreak for fans and crits, of which we'd already had far too many.
Also see Camera Obscura 1
Camera Obscura 2
Camera Obscura 3
Camera Obscura 4
Camera Obscura 5
Camera Obscura 6
Camera Obscura 7
Camera Obscura 8
Camera Obscura 9
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