Monthly Archives: February 2020

Hank Williams • Pictures from Life’s Other Side [Book/6CD Set]

Hey friend, did you say there’s a HANK WILLIAMS revival going on? Did I miss the memo? Well, there’s no need to print one out because Pictures from Life’s Other Side has just hit the stores and it’s the second big release in half a year celebrating ol’ Hank’s legacy. That’s close enough to a memo to me.

“The Man and His Music in Rare Photos and Recordings” is the tagline of this behemoth, which consists of a 272 page hardcover book (inside a nice slipcase) loaded with great photos and housing six CDs of the music Hank made for yet another syndicated radio program, this one sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour. There is a bountiful dozen dozen (144) songs here, many that Hank & His Drifting Cowboys or alter ego Luke The Drifter never recorded for MGM Records in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Before we get to the music, let’s talk about the book. It’s beautiful, with an exhaustive and exhilarating selection of photos – many never published – in both black and white and (a handful in) color. Some are staged, studio shots, some are fans’ photos of the star and those very fans. Even the familiar pictures are reproduced clearer than ever before. The book itself is so fancy that it’s even got a red ribbon attached so you can mark your place; I mean, there’s no way you’re gonna get through this tabletop book in one go! It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the book is worth the price alone.

As for the music on Pictures from Life’s Other Side, the songs were cut throughout 1951 in a recording studio, “live” with Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys current lineup. One of the things that makes this collection so cool is that, unlike on last year’s Health & Happiness Shows release (reviewed here), Hank and his band mates sound natural and off-the-cuff between songs. It’s a bit jarring when the banter is snipped off or quickly faded, but it does cut down on the hokey dialog that sometimes makes that other radio show release kinda corny. Many of Williams’s greatest hits are here, of course, but there are loads of not so obvious cuts, such as one version of “Dear Brother,” which Hank sings with his then-wife Audrey (I’ve noted how bad a singer she is before, most recently in that aforementioned review). On this particular take it’s like you’re listening to Hank & Audrey channeling thirty years into the future to John Doe & Exene Cervenka of punk band, X. I gotta say, though, that I’d much rather hear John & Exene sing “Los Angeles” than Hank & Audrey singing anything at all. (Maybe one day John & Exene will cut an album of Hank & Audrey hits! It’d be sorta like a second volume of X alter ego band The Knitters’ Poor Little Critter on the Road.)

Considering the hugeness of this Hank volume, you could likely find yourself on a lost highway going through Pictures from Life’s Other Side – I’ve only made it through the first three CDs and two quick runs through the book – and that means that the true fan will find lots to like about this massive book and music set. Cheryl Pawelski of Omnivore Recordings fame can again be thanked for producing yet another Hank Williams treat, and it’s Michael Graves who did the big job of restoring and remastering the music. (A host of others also should be thanked, including Hank historian Colin Escott, who assembled the book [and who wrote the definitive biography on our subject a few decades ago].) Three cheers for Hank Williams, his Drifting Cowboys, and the fans-in-high-places who keep the man’s fire stoked year after year. — Marsh Gooch

5/5 (BMG, 2020)

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Blue Cheer • Vincebus Eruptum [LP, CD]

[Review originally published 2/2/2010 on my old blog, Skratchdisc]

“BLUE CHEER were an American psychedelic blues-rock band that initially performed and recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and were sporadically active from that point on until 2009. Based in San Francisco, Blue Cheer played in a psychedelic blues-rock style, and are also credited as being pioneers of heavy metal (their cover of “Summertime Blues” is sometimes cited as the first in the genre[3]), punk rock[4], stoner rock[5][6], doom metal[6][7], experimental rock[8], and grunge[9]. According to Tim Hills in his book, The Many Lives of the Crystal Ballroom,[10] ‘Blue Cheer was the epitome of San Francisco psychedelia. The band is named after a street brand of LSD and promoted by renowned LSD chemist and former Grateful Dead patron, Owsley Stanley.’ [11] Jim Morrison of The Doors called the group, ‘The single most powerful band I’ve ever seen’[12].”

Well, that’s what Wikipedia says. Indeed, the progenitor of heavy metal but so much more, Blue Cheer is being served well by Sundazed. Who better to release the band’s first two albums again on vinyl? In fact, Vincebus Eruptum is out in MONO and the grandiose power of the trio’s debut is right there in your face… not meant to spread around either side of your head, but to smack you right in the noggin like you deserve! How a major label record company decided to put this out in early 1968 is beyond me – hell, I was only 5 at the time – except that they must have all been on some form of blue cheer themselves. It’s like the Beatles did Sgt. Pepper and then all of the sudden EVERY LABEL HAD TO HAVE PSYCHEDELIC BANDS ON IT. And so Verve signed the Velvet Underground and The Mothers, and Philips (now linked with Verve but not at the time) got them some Blue Cheer. These guys couldn’t have been that accepted in San Francisco, at least not if you trust the revisionist rock history we’re used to reading… I mean, if CCR was pop and Jefferson Airplane was psychedelic, what was this band? OUT OF THIS WORLD. And they are still. Today. In 2010. [Also released by Sundazed is the band’s second album, Outsideinside. And RIP Dickie Peterson, Blue Cheer bassist, who passed away very recently.]  — Marsh Gooch
4/5 (Sundazed LP 5297, 2010)

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Marshall Crenshaw • Miracle of Science [CD]

What do many MARSHALL CRENSHAW fans dream of? Reissues! Apparently MC got the memo, and here’s the first in a series, Miracle of Science. Originally released in 1996 on Razor & Tie Records (on CD only, though), it was the first studio album of Crenshaw’s brand of power pop after his contracts with Warner Bros. and Paradox/MCA ended. At the time it probably made sense for Marshall to move to the environs of the indie world, and he ended up making all of the rest of his albums that way. Major fame and fortune eluded him despite his ability to craft tunes that you’d be humming for days and weeks.

I instantly fell in love with Crenshaw’s music when I first heard his self-titled debut, Marshall Crenshaw, in 1982. Sure, I dug the fact that he has the same name as me (not too many of us Marshalls in the world, then or now), but it was more about the mix of pop, rockabilly and girl group rock that he played. That mix of genres continued through all of his albums, and here on Miracle of Science you get a good dose of his kind of rock ’n’ roll. From his practically patented power pop style, epitomized on “What Do You Dream Of” and “Only an Hour Ago,” full of melody and Stratocaster guitar tone, to the rockabilly of “Who Stole That Train?” and his instinct for interesting covers (“The ‘In’ Crowd”), this album is packed with a punch that is seldomly witnessed. Marshall’s added some interesting bonus tracks to this reissue on Shiny-Tone, (I believe) his own label and a guarantee he’ll get to keep doing it his way. An interesting track, “Seven Miles an Hour,” is featured in both forward and backward versions, and MC decided to include the backward version first (as a standard track) and the forward version (which was the one originally released in ’96) as a bonus track. Curious.

Anyway, let’s keep the Crenshaw reissues coming! The severe lack of tune in today’s “tunes” means we need Marshall’s tunes more than ever. — Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Shiny-Tone 020286-23000, 2020)

 

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