Author Archives: Marshall Gooch

The Jazz Butcher • The Highest in the Land [CD, LP]

The Highest in the Land – knowing Pat Fish, probably some kind of an in-joke – is the latest album from the late musician/singer/ songwriter who dubbed himself THE JAZZ BUTCHER. Recorded last year as Fish was in his last few months on dry land (it seems he knew he was, errr, shipping out soon), it’s a fitting endpiece to a discography of some of the greatest recordings to ever be called “alternative,” “new wave,” “college rock” (here in the States) or whatever else the rock scribes of the day came up with. “Dazzling,” “clever,” “catchy” and many other adjectives can be applied to most everything he ever put out, and this one’s definitely all of that.

The Jazz Butcher (as in, “I want to see the man in charge!”) had been recording his hooky, peculiar tunes since his debut LP, Bath of Bacon, and 45, “Southern Mark Smith” were released in 1983. I caught on to him the next year with his absolute classic, A Scandal in Bohemia, an album I still listen to on a regular (as in, “at least once a month”) basis. Over the years and albums Fish/The Butcher’s writing smoothed out; the man matured from writing songs describing birthday presents “made entirely from the skins of dead Jim Morrisons” (“Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present”) to (on this release) things like “Melanie Hargreaves’ Father’s Jaguar.” The sense of humor is much more refined today. And, actually, so is the sound. In fact, it’s been awhile since The Jazz Butcher used distorted guitar and tons of reverb to tell his tales, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Highest in the Land, like pretty much everything after the mid ’90s, is less in your face and more about space. There’s more breathing room. More space for your brain to fill in.

In reviewing The Jazz Butcher’s previous work, all of which were reissues at the time I was writing about them, I had the time – as in years or decades – to let them steep in my imagination and overall being. With this one, I’ve been listening to an album of all new material on short trips to town, in short spurts here and there at home, and when I have featured it on the radio show I do.* I featured The Highest in the Land’s lead single, “Time,” frequently during the last few months of the year (it had been released as a download just after Fish passed away) as it was not only a superb track but a very, errrr, timely tune with allusions to its author’s impending demise. That he himself wrote “My hair’s all wrong, my time ain’t long / Fishy go to heaven, get along, get along” to start off the track lets us know he was writing with some specific intent – to get a few things off of his chest, maybe, or a few thoughts out of his mind, before he left this mortal coil. The tune’s light hip hop lilt and droll, rappy delivery are perfect for some of Fish’s final (public) thoughts. Other tracks contain more of what our man was thinking in his final months, including “Never Give Up” and “Running on Fumes,” and the sweet, beautiful closer, “Goodnight Sweetheart.”

It’s rare that an artist gets to jot down and record songs about his own final days – what would we do if we knew we were dying? – let alone actually does so. And so, with The Highest in the Land, we are privy to The Jazz Butcher’s last testament. (As far as I know, I am not in his will.) Acting as the final chapter in an acclaimed yet (un)fairly unsung career, this album announces that, if you haven’t yet welcomed The Jazz Butcher into your soul, it’s about time that you did. – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Tapete TR492, 2022)

* (You can catch my show on Mondays from 3-5pm at KPTZ.org.)

 

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Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave • Bill Kopp [Book]

Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave is BILL KOPP’s new book on just that: How the San Francisco indie record label was at the forefront of the late ’70s/ early ’80s new wave and punk movement. This lengthy (but just the right amount!) book is an exciting, truthful, rarely over-enthusiastic telling of the label that spawned bands such as Romeo Void, Translator, Red Rockers and many more. My days as a college radio DJ at Seattle’s KCMU and writer for that town’s The Rocket were more than touched by 415.

It started out almost by accident. Chris Knab, who owned a local San Francisco record store, was doing a radio show at San Fran’s KSAN, invited friend/customer Howie Klein to join him on the show, playing recordings (vinyl and cassettes) by local, undiscovered musicians. The two were eventually asked to put out a record by The Nuns (they “were basically talked into it”), despite having no previous experience with such an undertaking, and 415 Records was born. From there, Knab, Klein & Co. put out records by The Offs (not to be confused with Off!), Pearl Harbor & The Explosions (the first single version of “Drivin’”), SVT and even Roky Erickson (The Evil One LP), as well as personal favorites by The Pop-O-Pies (reviewed here), Red Rockers, New Math and Romeo Void. Eventually 415 Records was bought by Columbia/ CBS, who kept Knab & Klein on (ostensibly for A&R), and the label released bigger records by Romeo Void, Red Rockers, Translator and Wire Train. The major label folks really had no idea of how to work with the kinds of bands 415 cultivated nor how to work within the culture of indie music and college radio; Knab left in 1985, dismayed over the mistreatment of 415’s bands. Eventually the train lost its steam and stalled out, Klein leaving the label to go to a new position at Warner Bros., CBS then selling the label to someone who effectively let it die a quiet death. In summary, kind of a typical story, but in its details a highly interesting and arresting one.

Bill Kopp does an excellent job of telling the story – or stories, really – behind 415 Records without ending up in superfan territory, over-enthusing about minor anecdotes or under-reporting big stories just because they don’t appeal to him as a fan or fit a preconceived narrative. That being said, it is clear that he must actually be a fan, if only because he did – after all – write this book. But Disturbing the Peace, published by Hozac Books, doesn’t seem to miss anything of even medium consequence, touching on everything from bands zealously reaching for the brass ring (Red Rockers’ obvious 180° turn from punk to commercial new wave, for instance) to the shady business practices of CBS/Columbia and other major labels of the time. My only complaint is that, being broken up primarily into chapters that discuss a particular band and its releases (or in the case of bigger bands, each of their releases), the author will refer to someone already referred to in a previous chapter as if we are just now being introduced to them. Rock critic Joel Selvin, for instance (who wrote the foreword), gets intro’d as a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle numerous times. Even 415 co-founders Klein and Knab are seemingly reintroduced here and there. But – great googly moogly! – Kopp has written a book that treats its subject as important but not overly important, exciting without having to work real hard to prove it, etc. I wish every book written about independent record labels, bands, scenes or movements was written with this much of an even-tempered hand.

And, man!, I have read a lot of these kinds of books. (For example, here are just the ones I’ve written about on this site.) Kudos to Bill Kopp for Disturbing the Peace! It would be criminal if he didn’t have the time, energy and will to work up further books on such subjects. – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (Hozac Books HZB-014, 2022) (Order the book directly here.)

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Pretenders • Pretenders II [CD]

[Review originally published 1/18/2011 on Skratchdisc]

The holidays and a little bit of travel kept me busy for the last month, and though there are some new releases I’d like to get to, I listened to this gem on the plane and I can’t help but want to give Pretenders II its due.

Now I know most of you, if you’re a PRETENDERS fan, like the first album better. And what’s not to like about that album? Every song’s a winner; it’s hard to beat “Mystery Achievement,” “The Wait” or their cover of “Stop Your Sobbing,” let alone the truly sublime “Brass in Pocket.” But Pretenders II is just as brilliant, just as rockin’, and in my book, a better collection of songs. From the opening beats of “The Adultress,” all the way through “Louie Louie” (not the Kingsmen’s hit), II is a rock ’n’ roll coup.

Can you beat “Message of Love” for a song that is so sensually poetic, and yet still kicks you in the nuts? Chrissie Hynde’s lyrics are so good, even when she lifts others’ lines like “Now look at the people, in the streets, in the bars / We are all of us in the gutter, (but) some of us are looking at the stars,” she’s an original. “Talk of the Town”? Brill. “I Go to Sleep?” Hynde & Co. pick another sleeper of a Ray Davies tune and make it their own. “Bad Boys Get Spanked?” Oh my, how I wished I was getting a spankin’ from Chrissie back then. Yes ma’m, no ma’m… whatever you say, Ms. Hynde!

And what about “Birds of Paradise”: “I wrote a letter to you my friend, so many letters that I never send / I think about you at day’s end, the time that we had / I laughed in my bed, the stupid things you said / We were two birds of paradise.” What a gorgeous song. The band at that time, Chrissie, James Honeyman Scott, Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers, were probably the best unit going at the time. Their intertwining guitar and bass lines on this song, with Chambers’ tasteful percussion, are a showcase for how they could tone it down and still pack a wallop. So, with II, we now had a pair of absolutely stunning albums and then, boom, two of the four [original band members] are gone. It’s sad to say that Pretenders II was the last page in that unmatched opening chapter, but it was, it is, and life goes on.

Chrissie, of course, continued on with Learning to Crawl, also a nice piece of work, but the band from that point on became a bit of a revolving door with its members. Whatever… She still does great work. But if you haven’t given II a spin in awhile, please do. It really is amazing. – Marsh Gooch
5/5 (Sire/Real SRK 3572, 1981)

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Big Star • Keep an Eye on the Sky [Box Set]

[Review originally published 12/10/2009 on Skratchdisc]

It’s about time they dedicated a box set to BIG STAR. Keep an Eye on the Sky is a 4 disc set featuring most of their two classicos supremos, #1 Record and Radio City, plus a good helping of Sister Lovers and a ton of demos, live tracks, and more. In fact, disc 4 is solely dedicated to a show recorded in Memphis in January of ’73, and it’s both captivating and sad. There’s hardly anyone there, from what you can detect, though the band is in great form. Luckily some cat with a tape recorder got it down for us to enjoy thirty something years later!

If you’re not already indoctrinated you may want to buy the single CD/double LP reissue of the aforementioned albums, but to those of us who already know of the power pop perfection that Alex Chilton & Co. delivered to almost no one at the time, this box—which comes in a deceiving 7″ form factor—must be opened and enjoyed. Sound quality is ace and there’s enough delectable rarities to make it well worth getting your wife pissed that you “blew 60 bucks on a fricking box set!” – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Ardent/Rhino R2 519760)

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The Jazz Butcher • Dr Cholmondley Repents: A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides [4CD Boxset]

R.I.P. Pat Fish (1957-2021)

No, I didn’t actually know THE JAZZ BUTCHER – neither the man nor the band that shared his nom de rock – but I kinda felt like I did. There’s definitely an empty spot in my music-lovin’ soul now that he is gone. Dr Cholmondley Repents, a hefty box set compilation of his band’s singles and rarities, was just about to be released when Fish passed away in early October. It is the third in a series of tasty 4-disc compilations (the other two comprising four albums each of his Glass Records and Creation Records releases), and now that “Butchy” has left our midst, takes on a much larger responsibility than it was originally charged with. In many ways Dr Cholmondley does a better job of summing up what The Jazz Butcher was about than any single album or other box set could.

Much has been written – at least by me – on The Jazz Butcher (see my various posts here) and its/his humor and cleverness, let alone the sheer variety of styles the band/man took on in their/his day. And nowhere is that more in evidence than on this multi-disc set. Subtitled
“A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides,” Dr Cholmondley neatly covers everything (but the original albums) that made The Jazz Butcher so important to those who appreciated the breadth of their work. Disc A, the A-sides, is just that: A collection of singles, many of which did not originally appear on non-compilation albums. (As the group’s output has been compiled many times in the last near 40 years, much of what is here has appeared on CD before now.) You’ve got the cutesy, silly early things like “Marnie (Miaow Mix),” “Southern Mark Smith” (the original, faster version), and their rollicking cover of The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” as well as the later, more mature sides like “Angels” and “Girl Go.” Funny, sad, poignant – no angle is left uncovered. Move on to Disc B, the B-sides, and you’ll discover much of what first caught my ear. By way of a 1986 North American and Australian compilation called Bloody Nonsense, songs like “Death Dentist,” “The Devil Is My Friend,” “Grooving in the Bus Lane” and the liquid doubleheader “D.R.I.N.K.” and “Rain” became earworms in Jazz Butcher fans’ collective ears some time ago, but since that particular comp never made it to CD, their appearance here is much appreciated.Disc C – what you could call “C-Sides” (actually a second disc of B-Sides) – continues down my own memory lane but also takes in many even more obscure tracks only found on various artists compilations or European 12″ singles that rarely made it across the water back then. “Lost in France,” “The Hairbrush and the Tank” and the homage to “Peter Lorre” are here, though the super-duper-difficult-to-find “Christmas With the Pygmies” is unaccounted for.* And yet, the covers “May I?” (Kevin Ayers), “Speedy Gonzalez” (from the American cartoon), and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” are – thankfully! Move along to the fourth disc (“Seasides”) and you get a super cool live concert (though recorded in the studio) broadcast over KCRW radio in Santa Monica, California (which is, ahem, seaside). The dozen songs here were recorded there in 1989 and sound like they were dubbed from a cassette of the presentation. It’s not the greatest sounding concert, but it IS a dynamite collection of the wide variety of styles The Jazz Butcher nimbly made their own. Despite its sound quality, this disc may be the one that you end up playing the most.

Very rarely in the world of rock ’n’ roll does someone come along with such a unique, three dimensional way of putting his songs – his vision – across. It’s no wonder that Patrick Huntrods (aka Pat Fish aka The Jazz Butcher) remained relatively unknown his entire life; not many music fans want their “pop star” so un-pigeonhole-able. For those of us who do – like me, maybe like you – The Jazz Butcher was at the center of a conspiracy designed so we could keep one fantastic little treasure to ourselves. Now that he’s gone, I think we can let others in on the secret. – Marshall Gooch

* In a Facebook post a few months ago I asked Pat if that song would be on the upcoming box set, and he informed me – and whoever else read the post – that that mega rare 7″ was meant to be a special something for the earliest Jazz Butcher fans and was, therefore, not being included here. I was bummed. Luckily, another of Pat’s social media friends provided me with an MP3 of “Christmas With the Pygmies” so I could, at least, hear it. Thanks, Kevin C.!

5/5 (Fire Records FIRECD565, 2021)

Below is the very latest thing The Jazz Butcher released, within a few days of Pat’s death, and so far only on the internet. Let’s hope a final album (or at least a 12″) is forthcoming.

 

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions • Spanish Model [CD, LP]

This stupid pandemic has brought to market all kinds of stuff we never thought we would need. (I’m not going to go into detail on any of it except this…) ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS’ Spanish Model is a semi-remake of EC’s classic second album – the first he did with The Attractions – This Year’s Model. I don’t really know where to start with this, a remodel of a record that needed no overhaul in the first place. Put on the original today and it still blasts out of your speakers, all splash, brash and flash: insistent and consistent. Click on the link to this new one and it comes out of your little white earbuds or 1/2″ x 3″ wide laptop speakers as perhaps the most incongruent release in Elvis’s discography. What Spanish Model is is This Year’s Model with most of EC’s vocals replaced by vocals recorded by “singing stars from Latin America, Spain & the U.S.A.” That, on paper, doesn’t sound like a bad idea, exactly. On compact disc, though, it’s like time travel gone awry. Take that young English upstart and his cohorts and plop them, 40+ years later, into a world that they never made – or probably envisioned – and you’ve got trouble. What I’m getting at is these modern, smooth vocalists, as good as they can be (though there are some that just aren’t!), just don’t suit the music. I am left wondering just what in the world Costello and his business advisors were thinking when they cooked this one up.

I wish I could say I had high hopes for this one. I did not. In fact, I was going to skip this one entirely until one day, browsing the very meager selection of CDs and vinyl at my local Target, I saw Spanish Model on the shelf with a sticker noting “three bonus songs” and decided to give it a shot. Well, my aim’s never been very true and so I missed the target with this one. I can say, though, that producer Sebastian Krys’ mix – though very close to Nick Lowe’s original – does bring out some interesting bits that weren’t in evidence on that year’s model. Krys, being both a celebrated producer and person of Latin heritage, was clearly instrumental in this project’s birth and may have even been the instigator. And maybe, just maybe, the idea was judged to be a good one once it was obvious that Elvis Costello & The Imposters’ next album would hearken back to the sound of This Year’s Model (if pre-release track “Magnificent Hurt” is a trustworthy indicator). As much as many of us Costello fans have been wishing for a return to the glory days of EC & The Attractions, I don’t think any of us expected it to happen. At least, not this way. – Marshall Gooch

2/5 (UMe B0034233-02, 2021)

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Supergrass • In It for the Money [3CD]; Super Furry Animals • Rings Around the World [3CD]

Two British bands, both with “super” in their names, and both celebrating the more-or-less 20th or 25th anniversaries of one of their best releases. For SUPERGRASS, In It for the Money is nearly a quarter century old and comes in a remastered version bolstered by B-sides, demos and a live disc featuring most of the album’s tracks. SUPER FURRY ANIMALSRings Around the World is twenty and also comes in remastered form with B-sides and demos, but instead of a live set we get an entire disc of remixes. Both releases are excellent, and at least on the CD versions, overflowing with Britpop goodness.

Supergrass’ sophomore effort was light years ahead of their debut, I Should Coco, which suffered from a clumsy name and a narrow breadth of music (loosely then-considered “punk” but not quite). In It for the Money was a blast when it came out, and I have to admit – though it pains me to do so – I didn’t like it at first. It was my first experience with ’Grass and I thought it sounded either a) derivative [of what, I don’t remember!] or b) everywhere at once. After repeated listenings, though, I came around. I guess I figured out what they were going for and its power/Brit pop vibe was both focused and all over the place… in a good way. Harder rockers like the title track, “Richard III,” “Tonight” and others sat alongside “Late in the Day” and “It’s Not Me” and altogether obliterated the probably derogatory punk designation that Supergrass initially earned. They could have collectively choked with such a hold around their necks, but the band cockily flipped off the critics and delivered a downright classic alternative rock record.

For Super Furry Animals, their first major label outing benefited from a much larger budget and near unlimited time in a big league studio. Rings Around the World was more expansive than anything they’d done before, a little more electronic and a little more pop simultaneously. The lengthy album came with power-poppy tunes like the title track, nu-pop/soul like “Juxtaposed With U,” and the ballad pop of “It’s Not the End of the World.” It may now seem like a pretty lengthy album (it was released when vinyl was nearly dead) but it’s all very good so it’s really a moot point. The major label budget gave the band a chance to not only record nearly three single LPs’ worth of material, but to actually produce a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album and videos to go with it. (Sadly, you don’t get a disc with that material in this set but they can be had via the internet.) They also had a host of remixes done and most of those are here. I wouldn’t say those remixes are must-haves but they do give a good idea of what kinds of ideas and sounds the Furries’ heads were swimming in at the time.

Both Supergrass and Super Furry Animals’ deluxe CD sets are loaded with great material, and both are also available on vinyl – and in various configurations including colored vinyl variants, versions with bonus discs, etc. I opted for the compact disc versions of these in order to get all the goodies (and I already have one of them on vinyl anyway) and maximize my expenditure, but you may want to go the wax route if you’re in it for the vinyl. Whichever way you go, you’ll be investing in releases that represent absolutely the best stuff both bands ever did.
– Marshall Gooch

4/5 (Supergrass, BMG/Echo BMGCAT506CDX; Super Furry Animals, BMG BMGCAT510DCD; 2021)

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Rollin Binzer (Director) • Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones [Blu-ray]

[Review originally published 11/16/2010 on Skratchdisc. RIP Charlie Watts!]

What makes a great concert film? Terrific music, for one. Great sound? Definitely. Interesting cinematography? Yeah. An historic event? Sure. And what makes a great concert film director? Someone who knows how to present the band, their music, and what it looks like on stage in a way that makes you want to see it more than once.

So who is this guy, ROLLIN BINZER? Well, he’s the guy who directed Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones. But I’m not sure he was the right guy for the assignment. This movie, now repackaged, remastered and remixed for 5.1 surround sound, has been out many times since the home video era began, and this time they even put it out on Blu-ray. A concert film about the Stones’ classic Exile on Main St., it’s certainly got great music. The performance of that music? About what you’d expect of Mick & Keefco in that era. The sound? It’s alright – nothing to write home about. (Not that my parents would give a shit.) The cinematography is just okay. Not only would I decline to write home about it, I might even have bypassed the movie entirely if I’d heard that it was just a basic multi-camera shoot with nothing really special about it.

All of these gripes go a long way to answer the question: If it’s such a dull, cookie-cutter concert film, why are they re-releasing it now? Well, duh. They just executed the marketing campaign for the reissue of Exile, so naturally they had to reissue the movie that went along with it. Can’t miss an opportunity to milk the golden cow, now, can we? And what’s more, as you’d expect, there’s an insert inside the case hawking official Rolling Stones t-shirts and the documentary DVD Stones in Exile, which tells the story of how this magnificent, brilliant rock ’n’ roll record was rendered. Well, I’ll stand by the album as being a great one (though I like Sticky Fingers better), but I’m not a fan of this Blu-ray showcase for Rollin Binzer’s vision of what made the Stones great. I’ll bet my stepmom could’ve made a better concert film. – Marshall Gooch

2.5/5 (Eagle Vision; DVD & Blu-ray)

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The Gun Club • Fire of Love [CD, LP]

When Blixa Sounds reissued Miami late last year, I thought to myself, “Now if they could just put out THE GUN CLUB’s Fire of Love, that would kick ass.” Well, they have and it does. Despite being very won over by their sophomore release upon re-release (my review is here), it was and is their 1981 debut that really cemented Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s place in the L.A. punk rock hall of fame – and on my own Desert Island Discs list. First released on Slash Records’ Ruby label, Fire of Love was a psychobilly/blues/punk hybrid that fit equally into all three of those subgenres and yet practically requires a category of its own. (Apparently some purists don’t think it belongs in “punk” at all, but I don’t know where else you’d put it.)

If there’s anything that demotes this album to less-than-essential (and that’s barely), it would probably be Pierce’s sometimes racist lyrics. I don’t think recounting the contexts in which he uses the “n word” would get him off the hook. And I’m not even sure you can make an argument like “it’s not Pierce, it’s the narrator who is racist,” since the singer/lyricist inhabits that role so solidly and uniquely that you can’t really separate him from him. So, forty years later, Fire of Love is still so goddamned good that I just try not to cringe too much when JLP goes down that road. Most of the time the lyrics and music are so good, so evocative of something very outside of and different from what you’d expect a middle class guy from Southern California to come up with, that it’s not hard to do. “Sex Beat,” “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” “For the Love of Ivy” – their punky gothic vibe comes through loud and clear. The band’s guitar, bass and drums form an incinerator that just burns, pushing Pierce’s vocals up into the air like a brushfire out of control. Whether you like your indie rock on the bluesy side, on the Cramps-y side, or sunny side down, The Gun Club’s Fire of Love does not disappoint.

Blixa Sounds’ new reissue is a 2CD or 2LP set that gives you the original 11-track album on one disc and an unreleased live show (recorded in ’81 at L.A.’s Club 88) on the other. There are also a dozen demos and alternate takes (which appear on disc one of the CD version and as downloads in the vinyl set), and they’re nearly as good as the album itself. In fact, you get the title track as an alternate take, since it didn’t actually make the album and was held over (in a different recording) for Miami in 1982. Sound-wise, this CD reissue sounds quite good, perhaps a bit meatier than Slash’s CD version. My vinyl copy is not an original on Ruby/Slash but Porterhouse’s 2014 “prime” cut (which is better than the previous copy I had on Spain’s Munster Records) (and may be better than the original Ruby vinyl I had once upon a time) – I don’t have the new vinyl to give you that score. But I can tell you this: you should own this album, whether on vinyl or CD (and why not both?!), so you oughta give Fire of Love a spin while it’s still fresh on your mind. Not that it will ever go stale, mind you… – Marshall Gooch

5/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 874, 2021)

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The Rubinoos • The CBS Tapes [CD, LP]

Every once in awhile a release comes along that makes me yearn for the “carefree” days of my youth… When Mike C. and I decided to start our own band, aged 14, hardly knowing how to play our instruments – let alone knowing, for instance, that you needed a separate amplifier for the microphones. You know, just because bass player Jerry P.’s old Ampeg bass amp had 4 inputs on it didn’t mean that you could plug his bass, my guitar, and two high impedance mics (thank you, Radio Shack) into it and get anything decent-sounding. Before the internet – youngsters, listen up! – you either had to have older brothers who could show you the ropes, or you had to hope to catch enough of your favorite band’s one song on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert to see what their set-up looked like. And that didn’t mean you were gonna understand just what was going on up there onstage. There were no websites where you could find the information, let alone any old fashioned books that had it. You just had to figure it out yourself.

THE RUBINOOS’ The CBS Tapes is a 1976 warts ’n’ all set that the very young band ran through one afternoon while getting ready to record their debut, eponymous album (released in ’77 on Beserkely). It wasn’t exactly their first band (for most of ’em) but they were very young, and the enthusiasm – as well as their advanced chops – really shows. Clearly not expecting that this recording was ever going to be anything except “hey boys, why don’t you run through a bunch of songs and get a feel for playing together in the studio,” the Rubinoos are hamming it up, playing goofy covers, some of their own tunes, and generally just having a great time, making goofy announcements “to the crowd” between songs and just making each other laugh. Just like band practice used to be before we decided we ought to try and get a bit serious.

Recorded at CBS Studios in San Francisco by producer/engineer Glen Kolotkin, it was basically a “let the tape roll” affair, with no overdubs, second takes or anything like that. Like the way we’d stuff a blank cassette into the Realistic tape recorder (thanks again, Radio Shack!) and just run through everything we thought we could get all the way through. Here, The Rubinoos – later to be exalted as princes of power pop – open with their own “All Excited” and then plow straight on into The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” a definite guilty pleasure for many of us and an obvious but great choice in ironic covers. But don’t think that’s it, ’cause later in the set we get treated to a real sarcastic but sincere version of The DeFranco Family’s big one, “Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat.” Yes, and I will admit to having bought this 7″ as an eleven year old. This version certainly rocks WAY harder than that, as do their two Beatles covers, “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Despite the guys’ lighthearted jokes and youthful cursing, the band really do like the “corny” covers they’re doing. You can tell because they deliver the same exuberance when doing their own songs, like the punky “I Want Her So Bad” and the unclear-what-its-title-means “Nooshna Kavolta.” Before the tape ends you get treated to King Curtis, The Ventures, The Meters and Jonathan Richman (“Government Center”). None of the songs are played perfect. But all of them are delivered so well and with so much glee that you just wish you’d been there sitting on the studio’s overstuffed, over-used sofa sucking on a Pepsi and just diggin’ what The Rubinoos were puttin’ down.

And to think this is the first record by them I’ve ever owned! Man, I gotta get to work on building up my Rubinoos collection. – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (YepRoc YEP-2788, 2021)

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