Part 4 by Angela Sawyer
"Weirdo was a record shop that I started in my bedroom in 2006. It moved into a storefront for a while in Cambridge Mass., and closed after I got tired of never ever sleeping. While it was around, I wrote reviews of every new title that I sold, and by the end there were more than eighteen thousand reviews. There's only so many times you can call a guitar tone 'crunchy’ or say something disparaging about a singer's hair. So I repeated things, a lot. When compiling this best of, I looked for records that stuck with me, and also for reviews where I thought the writing stood out."
Here we present Weirdo selections from letter J to L.
The Wide Weird World of Henry Jacobs CD + dvd
I think of Henry Jacobs as the man who first invented the bullshit detector for hipsterism. Might not sound like much of an accomplishment, until the day you're surrounded by a room full of patchouli/skinny black jeans/corpsepaint/sweater boys/whatevs who're all oogling some shit band that can barely keep its own socks pulled up. That's when you need the lessons served by a man who was an ethnomusicologist, jazz buff, zen devotee, cruel/surreal comedian, psychedelic movie maker, tape composer, radio innovator, Mexican TV broadcaster, surround sound pioneer, and on & on. Jacobs made up his own cultural education in the late ‘50’s & early 60s, long before there was even an 'Anarchist Cookbook', much less an internet. Here's some snippets of his various audio adventures, as well as an animated/stop motion movie made for a public tv station.
Jaguars First Album CD
Group sounds are go! Candycoated & fuzzy Japanese band that was led by their drummer & based their closets full of 6 matching outfits on Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich (along with covering “Zabadak”). Their frontman used a whip onstage when they played at American air bases, and they starred in their own movie (called Hey You Go) that had pie throwing and hot girls eating lollipops in it. Could not be yummier.
Jandek Ready for the House LP
American spirituality meets total existential discomfort, and it wails like a recently de-furred polar bear lost in a blizzard. Claustrophobic, lonely-hearted, supremely isolated, and black-key-tuned, there's no record quite as nicely frayed as the 1st Jandek (originally released under the anonymizing name 'The Units'). Sometimes schizoid and sometimes gently wandering (but always spidery), Jandek's guitar playing seems to have been learned from watching people play on TV and then trying to imitate the visuals in a mirror. As a rule Jandek's Thomas Mannish Boy blues combine horribly self-conscious romanticism with Texas desolation & flat out surreal fun. But those beatific English-class poem endings aren't quite fully in play here. All the longtime themes are all certainly around though: cloistered & empty suburban houses, the song European Jewel, etc.
Jason Crest The Collected Works LP
Perfect moody popsike dripping with organ. Vaguely in the much-copied style of “Whiter Shade of Pale,” but with effervescent baroque filigrees & heavenly phased harmony vocals on the earlier cuts, then great wailing screams over backwards guitar a little later. Even their Beatles-y music hall number is bouncier than the usual fare. Band was from Kent & was signed to Philips on the recommendation of the Four Pennies' bass player. All their singles flopped though. With an additional 6 demos that weren't on the previous version of this disc.
Jeritree House of Many Colors CDR
Lesbian free folk issued on private press. Jeriann Hilderley plays long crescendos of soft, wavy, post-Coltrane marimba abetted by cello & Afghan drum. Willowy vocal wails over the top that aren't all too far from outsider records, or even Leon Thomas. Goofy new age lyrics about seeds sprouting & moon mothers are mostly stretched into incomprehensibility, but they're printed on the back cover so you won't miss them. Originally distributed via Kay Gardner's separatist-feminism mail order company Wise Women Enterprises (Gardner was also the flute player in the first all lesbian band Lavender Jane). Also produced by avant-lesbian sound engineer Marilyn Ries. Jeri's background before this record was in 'women's ritual drama,’ & she is still around, having recently published a book called BabyShadow: a Quest.
Joe Jones In Performance LP
Zero-info boot featuring this Fluxus automatic music machine maker. Joe started out as a jazz drummer in late ‘50’s NYC. It didn't go well, most likely because there was already a jazz drummer named (Philly) Joe Jones who played great, always had pot, and even did cool Dracula impressions. In the early ‘60’s, this Jones studied under Cage & Earle Brown, went on a trip to Europe with Dick Higgins, & started making machines. He returned to NYC for a brief spate in '69 to rent a little store/gallery where his machines sat in a window & you could press a button on the outside wall to make them run for a few minutes. He appeared on Yoko Ono's Fly & basically did intermittent gallery installations until his death in 1993. Jones' machines were mostly constructed with rubber bands & tinfoil, & included musical boats, solar powered musical umbrellas, pedal cars that pulled trails of handmade instruments on wheels, etc.
JT IV Cosmic Lightning LP + DVD
Cripes, Chicago must be a fucked up town. JT's musical territory is similar to Mike Rep/Jim Shepard/Todd Tamanend Clark (and of course Lou Reed), but it seems possible at this juncture that John Timmis (who died of mastoiditis/alcoholism in 2002) might be the MOST gonzofried of them all. And that's a total feat of cathartic rock/drug glory, even if that icarus trip did send Mr Timmis himself headfirst into the dirt. Glam, zombie/stooge/proto-trash worship, & all buried under miles of lonliness & general creepiness. Lyrics about getting arrested, living in the gutter, schizophrenia, etc. were clearly earned through hard experience. Comes with a DVD of home movies & cable access style live performances, now with more of his movie Cannibal Orgy.
Baroque UK pop-psych bubbling with fuzz, swirling organ, tamborine shimmer & high harmony dolefulness. Their two albums are basically alternate takes of the same set of songs. The group was managed by Spencer Davis, and for no known reason, spent most of 1966 hanging out in Spain.
Melvin Jackson Funky Skull LP
Bass player for Eddie Harris lights up his lava lamp by putting his bass through a bunch of ridiculous electric guitar pedals. Guests on this one include Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie & Leo Smith, but you'd never know it. Instead, the ensemble plays frothy & moogy easy listening with low end groove that's perfect for doing the psychedelic wiggle on the dance floor. Man, how great is the Limelight label?
Del Jones Positive Vibes LP
Philly black power funk from Del, aka Nana Kwesi Abakah Kuntu II (or as he liked to sign his tracts, 'The War Correspondent'). He worked out of his brother's bookstore in Philly until his death in 2006. Smouldering psych guitar, horns, congas & flute & Del angrily screaming 'we must cut off your power!' Helluva moment when he uses the patented Leon Thomas jazz yodel to mimic the pains of heroin withdrawal. The vibes here are anything but positive, but that's just how I like 'em. Two versions exist, this one has the horns & it's an improvement.
Bharat Karki & Party International Music LP
Super sick electric funk that could've been straight out of some Bollywood nightclub scene with Helen shaking her hips faster than your eyes can follow them. Not many vocals, except of course on the song “International Peace,” where they blatantly rip off both the well known Vaishnava mantra & RD Burman's “Dum Maro Dum” (from the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna). Flickering flames of organ, wah-fried electric guitar over endless rolls of battling tablas that're overdriven & buried in short-echo.
Christina Kubisch Licht Himmel CD
A big gas tank built in the late 20s when a small town in West Germany used to have several interconnected factories that used each other's byproducts. It's now mostly used for art installations. Kubisch put lights all over the inside and speakers at the top & bottom, creating a big rippling echo effect because the building is basically a gigantic tube. Trautonium (which I would've thought was too big to move to a place like the inside of a gas tank), metal bowls, tuning forks, & field recordings all get sent up the smooth sides.
El Kinto Circa 1968 LP
El Kinto were a late '60's band from Uruguay related to both Limo Nada & Eduardo Mateo. They began, like most local bands did, with a mix of candombe and bossa nova. But immediately upon discovering UK & US pop, they went into a beat 'n' baroque psychedelic freefall that's most reminiscent of the Zombies or early Bee Gees. The entire Uruguay scene spent about ten years taking the airy, breezy underpinnings of bossa nova & exploring a musical compatriot in the equally breezy harmony singing of guys like yer old pal Paul McCartney. At times, this convergence brings on on the intimacy & mesmerizing quality of Skip Spence's Oar. No hype talking, it can be that good. So don't miss.
Erkin Koray Tutkusu LP
Heavy psych mixed with snake-charming melodies. Although this is Koray's 4th album, & was recorded about ten years too late, it has all the fuzz & acid damage of any prime era psych album. The track "Blond Men" is one of the only Koray songs with English lyrics, and they're completely mindblowing. By my analysis anyway, the song seems to be about dividing a discotheque audience up by how white they are, and then getting various male segments of the audience to take a run at Koray's girlfriend. Koray is also the inventor of the electric baglama, a souped up guitar/lute that he plays throughout his career. Finally, even in his old age, Koray retains the unique ability to look like a child molester in most photos taken of him. However the shot snapped for the cover of this album is obviously the template by which all else must be judged.
Kali Bahlu Cosmic Remembrance CD
One of the great definitive delights of dippiedom. A California bimbette who would've made amazing cartoon voice talent squeaks out barely-meaningful half-sentence mysticism about how she's waiting on hold while buddha drinks coffee. She sounds like she's reading cold, missing emphasis or cutting off sentences in odd places. And every time she pauses, someone kicks a heavily reverbed electric guitar that's leaning up against an amp. Studio sitar-sploitation ticks along in the background, mostly oblivous to Kali's batty floundering. She made a single before this record came out & joined an LA band called Lite Storm afterwards, but this record is the one where she really jumps over the moon. I would also like to say that someone (who shall remain nameless), back in the days of answering machines, once left me over 100 messages just repeating 'collieballoo collieballoo collieballoo', merely because he thought I might have a copy of the record to sell him. So I can unjokingly say that it's an inspirational record.
Kain The Blue Guerrilla LP
Great fired-up kill-whitey record by this onetime member of the Last Poets. Free funk bordering on psych with electric violins, organ, monster beats/multiple drummers & a whole lotta pissed-off ranting. Excellent liners contain such gems as: "the Blue Guerrilla is Jesus Christ" and "Fuck those who define existentialism."
Kathy & Carol Kathy & Carol CD
Snowstorm pure vocal harmonies accompanied by bare acoustic guitar & autoharp. A decidedly UK urge for simplicity & nary a touch of strident righteousness gives these 20 year olds a sound older than oaks and innocent as green grass. Just my funny ideas of course, but I think this one record is worth more ear time than the entire Dylan & Fred Neil catalogs combined.
Krokodil An Invisible World Revealed LP
One of the sweatiest slabs of hot fried boogie, with a heavy penchant for kraut throb (so much so that most people think the band is German instead of Swiss). Fans of Cactus, Leafhound, & other such nonsense should neither pass go nor collect 200. The rest of the Krok albums are a little too jammy, but this one is diamond hard & sports flanged vocals, distorted organ, plus fat & nasty haromonica/mellotron matchups that you can't help but nod to.
Kuhn Brothers & the Mad Rockers LP
Stuttering, spilling, spitting, and beautifully excessive electric clarinet, Indian oboe, Hammond & silly phasing. The same year that he released his 1st Actuel record with a pair of free jazz percussionists, Joachim Kuhn also played this effulgently cheesy prog-funk with his older brother. Joachim was a child prodigy, won a college piano competition, and used it to defect to West Germany. Rolf got out a bit earlier playing the clarinet, spending the late 50s in the US. Together, they went to Paris and, from the evidence here, had one good fuck of a time. No idea who's doing all the acid-damage yelling at the end of side A, but that's Volker Kriege on guitar.
Rodd Keith I Died Today CD
There's almost no such thing as improvisatory pop. The goals of crafted clarity and spontaneous texture blending are just too different. Except in the world of song-poems, where necessity became the mother of the impossible. And one of the only musicians who was up/down to the task was the man with the extra 'd' on his name, Rodd Keith. Song poems were essentially a scam that ran at the bottom rung of the music industry for decades. Unsuspecting folks would be asked to send in their lyrics, and for a fee, their songs would be recorded. Promotional placement was implied, and in some cases the songs were actually aired somewhere that nobody'd ever hear 'em. But mostly, the recorded material would then just be sold right back to the lyricists who had already paid for it to be recorded in the first place. Overhead costs were kept to a minimum by having fast studio musicians churn out ten or twelve songs an hour, often with little or no actual writing beforehand. Keith not only transcended the situation, but several of his songs shoot straight past irony into the clouds of undeniably sublime beauty. The best compilation of his songs, chosen by son Ellery Eskelin from private reels Keith took home from work.
Frank Lowe Black Beings CD
Think you're cool, do you? Then why isn't the violinist in your band nicknamed 'the Wizard'? Lowe's piercing tenor screams as high as a bikini girl running from a monster. His first as leader, with Joseph Jarman & William Parker ripping open the sky behind him. Now with an additional 15 minutes or so that was dug up last January.
Frankie Laine On the Trail CD
If they hadn't already invented the phrase 'over the top' I would've had to coin it myself to talk to you about the testosterone genius of Frankie Laine. Singer of the perennial "Rawhide," Laine was a Mitch Miller slave of mid-fifties pop. Spawned by the popularity of "Tennessee Waltz," there was a short-lived fad for cowboy songs that had been sweetened-up- made for suburbanites who couldn't listen to low class dirt like Hank Williams. Mitch knew enough to be all over this- and so frequently assigned Laine to sing songs like "Mule Train" and "Cry of the Wild Goose". Laine, raised from diapers to belt 'em into the rafters (his nickname? 'Ol' Leather Lungs'), simply did what he always did. The result was intense, campy, driving and darkly atmospheric with bombastic & spacious productions that make crime jazz or big band seem like solo banjo in comparison. Laine had such a long & varied career that the great Bear Family has 2 CD’s devoted sheerly to his Western-tinged recordings. I firmly believe this music to be more aggressive than anything Black Flag ever recorded. Try it & be knocked over.
Graham Lambkin Softly Softly Copy Copy CD
Beguiling new bits of wagging & groaning as you get dragged like the owner of a new mastiff puppy through Mr. Shad Ring's incredibly dour mental estuaries. Field recordings of wet, waving thrushes are suddenly overtaken by gulping electronics. Ducks in a pond grapple with a large latex bubble that mysteriously grows in their midst. A large, heavy breathing wallabe chases you through an industrial wasteland, and then the scene is swallowed by jungle vines. Bells toll impossibly inside an aviary. Samara Lubelski guests but is mostly invisible. Simply great.
Gyorgy Ligeti Mechanical Music CD
Ligeti escaped Nazi-ruled vampire country (aka rural Hungary/Romania) in his mid-‘30’s & landed in Cologne, where he dove headlong into the latest fads in electronic equipment & buzzy scores by hanging out with Stockhausen & GM Koenig. He's probably best remembered for the chromatic cloud pieces (aka everybody plays a slightly different microtone & you get a sound like a beehive) nabbed for Kubrick's 2001. This is a fascinating recording of music he wrote for non-human performers like metronomes, player pianos, and squeaky barrel organs. The metronome piece alone is is scored for 100 of them, and with all those tick tocks tick tocking at not quite the same time, you can imagine the result.
J.J. Light Heya 2LP
People sometimes ask me whether I like any country rock or West coast psych records, and when I respond by telling 'em how much I like J.J. Light, they often take it to mean that the answer is no. J.J. sometimes played bass in the Sir Douglas Quintet (as Jim Stallings). He recorded this with the help of several Los Angeles hustlers & Liberty studio stalwarts, including Kim Fowley, Bob Markley (who put up all the money), Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel & Gary Rowles of Love. Nicely covers the ground between Byrdsy country rock & Airplane psych, with just enough trashy Fowley-style moves thrown in to keep things from getting pretentious. The lyrics are really the main star of the show though, and they're only a hairsbreadth away from the illiteracy common to song poem or outsider records. Ludicrously stupid diary entries (that don't rhyme- very West Coast Pop Art) about being an American Indian & going off to California to make it big. Wrenching sorrowful moments for dogs, fatherless barefoot kids, & pregnant girls left behind. Twelve bonus tracks from an unreleased 2nd album, including a cover of late 50s native cash-in, Johnny Preston's “Running Bear”!
Leafhound Growers of Mushroom CD
The sick & staggering be-all end-all of boogiefried UK heavy rock. Get your cowbell and assless chaps outta the closet & light up the nite with this one. Ties to Atomic Rooster, Free, Foghat & Cactus. 3 bonus tracks.
Legendary Stardust Cowboy Paralyzed CD
The unhinged caterwauling of a man so genius, they just call him "The Ledge". As he says himself, he's as unfettered as a free range chicken and walks a hot wind. Space country rockabilly songs that are way, way, way gone. His "novelty" single from 1968 got him an appearance on Laugh-In. He also inspired David Bowie to steal his middle name for a character named Ziggy. Go ahead, listen and then try to count to ten while it's on. Don't fear the ‘80’s recordings here, as they are also quite wacky. 36 page booklet, and though the text is Japanese, there are lots of photos.
Liquorball Hauls the Sky CDR
Now here is a quick-witted idea. Most bands, if you played two of their records at the same time, they'd sound awful. But for a special band like this one, more is always better. “Fucks the Sky” and “Hauls Ass” joined like they never were. Duane and Dickey? Verlaine & Lloyd? Who cares? Grady Runyan now solos in tandem.
The Love Depression The Love Depression CD
Alvaro Falcon's guitar has one of the most devastating tones you'll find anywhere, and when he takes on Hendrix covers the blistering destruction is supreme. Venezuelan beat teans that were considered a local supergroup, with the bass player of Los Darts & a few lesser acts. Heavy Hammond crops up for “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and the band veers wildly between heavy psych & R&B. Singer Jesus Toro is clearly a huge fan of Otis Redding & stretches every vowel he can (through the prism of his thick Spanish accent) in an attempt to be cooler than the Big O. Their only album before everyone moved on to other projects.
Luie Luie Touchy CD
There are lots of outsider performers, but only Luie Luie lives up to his explosive billing: 'the single greatest act in the world.' Flaming flamenco-ist & oozing music matador who takes the one man band format to incredible metric & harmonic extremes. This musical miracle worker writes peculiarly intense lyrics about dancing (and all the places you could touch your partner, even if he is your grandpa), tortillas, trumpet playing, etc, which he delivers in a Cheech Marin accent that is as thick as his incredible moustache. Luie's climatic trumpet overdubs (14 of them, if I remember correctly) are by all listener accounts trippier than having Jesus himself lay hands on you. Luie continues to play around southern California to this very day, and the liner notes to his record (rumored to be owned as an original by nobody except Don Bolles) are an art form unto themselves. Endorsed reish that comes with new notes, pix, & an a current essay by Luie himself, as well as two touchy buttons. May your armpit and your partner's neck be touching soon.
See Angela's other entries of Weirdo assortments, including letters A to C and letters D to F and letters G to I and letters M to O and letters P to R and the letter S and letters T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 1 and compilations part 2
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