Four CD reviews for you, this time around, spanning a range of musical genres and labels
Title: Year Zero: An Anthology
Label: Jezus Factory
USA – https://amzn.to/3NfAKma
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3tBd6c6
An Anthology you say? So then, that means that albums have been combed, hit singles collected, tours have had their live gems picked and prodded and a gamut of rarities have been found amongst the dust bunnies under that speaker stack…the one in the corner. Over there by the bucket of water and Dettol.
Well no, not really. This band only ever released five tracks. And they were scatted like Dandelion seeds in the wind, as it was, over singles and compilations.
London based and ‘alive’ from 1996 to 2004, this rock, 4-piece band reminds me of Lou Reed in some ways. Lou Reed’s brain, that is. So not necessarily in sound terms but in terms of mind set. Reed and the Brazen Hussies shared a similar playful disrespect for the song form, a fascination with discordance and a city sound that smacks of too much traffic, too many people, bright lights, broken lights, dim alleyways, threat, danger and edge. Whether that be the mugger’s knife or the decaying urbanity.
There’s also a fresh and playful element here that mixes rock with an appealing harmonic integration so you end up with a sort of punk rock meets soul meets disco effect. The aggressive with the gentle. The melodic with the jarring. The tuneful with the chaotic.
I see this album for sale on the Internet and I see it under tags like punk and hair rock and prog and I don’t recognise any of these things. This music is serious. Really. It’s experimental. It reflects deep thought. Meticulous preparation. Don’t dismiss it. Give it the respect it deserves.
Oh, incidentally, the CD and LP versions have a different track order. So, if the music doesn’t confuse you, the sleeves will.
THE PRETTY THINGS
Title: Live At The BBC
USA – https://amzn.to/36uLfkX
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/37R2LQM
Emerging from the beat era and then the R&B and psychedelic scenes, the British-based Pretty Things were never the stars they probably should have been. Then again though, I’m not sure their music or even demeanour would have suited that status. Their rather shabby appearance sign-posted their ‘don’t care’ attitude and a sense of the dangerous and the brutal that just wouldn’t have washed in the finer halls of stardom.
Even fans of The Rolling Stones who delighted in that band’s dark and roughish presentation would have thought twice about meeting a Pretty Thing down a dark alley.
Saying that, guitarist Dick Taylor was part of the early Stones line up before he and Phil May started the Pretty Things as a going concern. Their work moved through the core rock structures yet they found time to experiment producing what is arguably the first rock opera in S.F. Sorrow (1968) with Parachute (1970) their rock/psyche/pop masterpiece.
The band would split and fracture but always return, finding creditable come-back LPs in the 90s, noughties and beyond with reissues rekindling their oeuvre.
The band have become rock fixtures. Famous for not being famous. Oozing street cred by the plastic cup full.
This six-disc compilation tracks their rocking progress from 1964 to 2018 within three gatefold sleeves plus a packed, 43 page book that sits within a slipcase outer.
Shows featured include the Saturday Club in 1964, Top Gear in 1968, Sounds of the 70s in 1970, Radio 1 Session in 1972, John Peel’s Show in 1974, In Concert in 1975, Mark Riley’s show in 2018 and a whole lot more besides.
Title: Adventure With Charlie
USA – https://amzn.to/3tGVxaK
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3usjsK6
Ventura was active during the 40s and 50s as an alto saxophone player and then, later on the tenor sax on which he settled upon for the duration. His entry into music came one day while working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard when he received an invitation to join the Gene Krupa band. An event that was just a little uncommon. Because he valued his regular weekly pay cheque he – and let this one sink in – turned them down. Krupa, to his credit, didn’t mutter obscenities and move on but actually called him again for another go. This time Ventura accepted and became a soloist, along with Roy Eldridge and singer Anita O’Day.
I find Ventura an enigma because this was a guy who tried to deliver bop to a wider audience. He even ultimately ran a band called Bop for the People.
But surely Ventura was a swing artist? Was the notion of bop a jazz style that he could merely capitalise upon? Realising that maybe swing had has its day as a mass consumer music medium? Perhaps and the move would certainly bring him into contact with some of the greats including Bennie Green, Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich.
Ventura’s work was down to earth but never shoddy. His solos were clean. You can hear that on Adventure With Charlie, initially produced by King in 1957 with John Coates, Jr. on keys, Billy Bean on guitar, Gus Nemeth on bass and Tony DeNicola on drums. The players contrast but also compliment, the music blends ballads with mid tempo movers.
On this CD, you also get Gene Krupa: Jazz Trio Live at the Band Box from January 1953, recorded live at New York’s old Birdland which is a useful bonus for fans.
Titles: Voices in My Head/10 Chords
Label: Pink Dolphin/1i2c
The first of two newly released albums, Voices in my Head is a new double album gatefold, limited to just 100 copies, and exclusive to CD! That put a smile on my face. I’m happy to see a bit of love come CD’s way. Vocals are included via Ditsea Yella, Eirēnē Musique and Lara Dennis. Apparently, included with this CD is a download of 1i2c’s previous album, Special X. Although I didn’t see that extra within my review sample.
This album is 1i2c’s determination to do a vocal-orientated album and, well, I have to say that I disliked it intensely. I was actually annoyed. I felt the lyrics and vocals – shipped in by 1i2c’s collaborators – diluted the power of 1i2c’s music which I normally find affecting, moving and powerful on its own. The voices and lyric work on this release moved this 1i2c album to the Me Too pile or, worse, the ‘Yoof’ circuit. I found them superfluous.
Yes, there are instrumental versions of a lot of the vocal version on Disc 2 but I feel that these are compromised because they are made with vocals in mind which skews their inherent structure in the first place. There are spotted highlights here but not enough.
10 Chords is intriguing because I feel this notes a progression of the 1i2c direction from a largely Tangerine Dream-esque signature style to one that is infused with anger. A more industrial feeling speaking more of angles, resistance, energy, force and a sense of the harsh, the unyielding and the fractious. Whether this reflects commercial considerations or reactions to personal events I’m not sure. It’s an intriguing move, however and one to keep an eye on.