Thursday, January 21, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Music

Worst forgotten band's name: The Four Plaid Throats. According to r&b and doo-wop historian Lynn McCutcheon, at least as late as the mid-1980s, no one knew who they were and and what, exactly, the deeply coded name meant.

Best reunion albums of the early 2000s: Well, two of them have to be the 2001 release God Bless the Go-Go's and the 2002 album (delayed in US release till 2003) Doll Revolution by the Bangles. The first two all-women bands to make serious dents on the US pop charts (and that that should take till the 1980s is remarkable in itself, despite the long history of women instrumentalists as well as singers stretching back through such notable performers as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and with such rock-band progenitors as Goldie and the Gingerbreads and Fanny, and of course the Runaways [if you note a somewhat less than self-promoting tendency in the band nomenclature there, you won't be the first]). The Go-Go's came, as anyone who cares almost certainly knows, out of the ferment of the Los Angeles punk rock scene in the latest '70s and early '80s, which would also contribute such bands as X and Fear to the larger world, but the Go-Go's had a much greater pop sensibility than most, being as they were as much the heirs of the Beach Boys in every way as those of the Velvet Underground or the Stooges. The Bangles were playing the same clubs at nearly the same time, but were more of the not-quite punk scene that drew on similar sources...more the garage band tradition than the punk scene that grew out of that (as one fan-historical site notes, former Runaways member Ms. Michael Steele was recruited to replace the departing Annette Zilinskas in the Bangles after the following exchange: 'She won the audition through answering Vicki Peterson's question, "Describe your dream band" with "The Yardbirds with Fairport Convention vocals"'); if the Go-Go's were new-style Beach Boys, the Bangles were the Byrds' chicks, even to exploring country influences in their later work.

After careers met with plenty of "hoo boy, these girls play their own instruments!" and "look at their clothes and hair!" and three major commercial albums each in the in early to mid 1980s, both bands broke up, in part from the pressures of their best and most personal work being their least popular in both cases, yet neither band was forgotten by core fans nor the popular culture, and they both sporadically would reform to record or tour, sometimes borrowing members from each other, throughout the 1990s...till the turn of the 2000s, when in the wake of the flourishing and normalization of women in rock and pop it seemed like time for both to make another full-bore collective effort. With these two albums, they brought thoroughly adult and post-superstar perspective to their work, demonstrated that their chops as songwriters, singers, instrumentalists and producers had if anything deepened with the years (and enlisted members of the next generation of pop-punks as collaborators), and both records were met with enthusiastic reviews from the knowledgeable and at best indifferent sales...the label that released God Bless quickly folded, and the US release of Doll Revolution was delayed nearly a year till the adventurous mostly-classical label Koch took up the option.

Best (and worst) theremin and orchestra albums of the late 1940s: Music Out of the Moon and Music for Peace of Mind by Samuel Hoffmann and Billy May's Orchestra, reissued together on LP by Capitol in the late 1950s. In digging through the stranger items in my parents' record collection in the 1970s, this hellbeaten reissue was certainly among them...over a syrupy proto-Muzak orchestration, "semi-classical" theremin stylings by podiatrist Hoffmann, most famous probably for the Spellbound soundtrack, played for the ages with the early electronic instrument. "This Room is My Castle of Quiet" (lead off for Peace of Mind) is probably the best recording from either album.

Best Brussells World's Fair LP to feature both Edgard Varese and Congolese ceremonial music:
Memories Aux Bruxelles assembled by Alexander Lazlo, assembled for Charlton Records, which was briefly Anita Bryant and Merv Griffin's label. It was through this record's presence among my father's classical recordings (he picked it up after attending the fair) that I was able to "sing" long segments of Edgard Varese's "Poeme Electronique" as presented there. Still can.

Best CBS release from George Russell's orchestra, misattributed to the featured soloist much as CBS would misattribute Gil Evans's records to Miles Davis: 
Living Time, featuring Bill Evans (1971, who had the CBS contract and presumably knew how good this album-length composition from his old boss was)...Russell's Living Time Orchestra of the '80s was named for it. The suite suggests the stages of any human life, and it's brilliant (the first Living Time Orchestra release, The African Game, didn't quite trump it except in concept...phylogeny recapitulating ontogeny, a suite about the evolution of humanity).

Best two-hour radio documentary about the Byrds from PRX, the Public Radio Exchange:
There Is a Season/Farther Along
A few fat-headed comments from time to time, but a decent look at this ridiculously seminal band.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I think something is missing.

Todd Mason said...

Always. Time to do it right, usually.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Big list here so I am just going to reference your site again. Especially since they are not books this week.

Evan Lewis said...

I remember Frank Zappa (one of my boyhood idols) singing the praises of Edgar Varese. Always meant to check him out. Still do.

Todd Mason said...

Hit that link.

Todd Mason said...

Zappa in his symphonic mode was drawn to the movers and shakers of our time, very much including Varese with his percussion work such as "Ionisation" and electronic work such as the "Poeme"...among others.

K. A. Laity said...

Any LP with the Atomium on the cover has to rock.

I saw the GoGos during their reunion tour in the most uncomfortable concert ever. They were playing Foxwoods resort, but there was a special "employees only" show in the late afternoon. Well, that's what it said on the tickets. When they came out to do their sound check, they were quite obviously surprised to find a full audience waiting expectantly. Seems they had only been told that "a few employees" might drop by. Apart from Carlisle, they eventually short of shrugged and just joked around and played. She made sure everyone knew how displeased she was. On the one hand, can't blame her -- what a lousy thing to do. On the other hand, once you're stuck in an unpleasant situation, why not make the best of it?

Todd Mason said...

OK...I've managed to forget...what were you doing for Foxwoods? (The buried lede: This has been a very busy Laity decade.)

Turf protection within each rock band also has also been the source of some trouble.