Frank Gutch Jr: 50 Albums Which Impacted My Life— Scratch That. Plus Notes…..
My original plan was to list fifty albums which totally bowled me over and, in a way, took me in directions I never would have gone— until drummer/writer Bobby Gottesman derailed that idea for what will inevitably be another romp through who knows what to an end which could as easily be a train wreck as a party. Gottesman published a short piece about the old farts in music these days and the blanket idolatry they are afforded in spite of arthritic hands and the need to step behind the stack of amps to hit the oxygen mask, not to mention the voices which on the whole are maybe one-tenth the strength and accuracy of what they were in their prime.
While Gottesman’s rant is somewhere between a whisper and a scream (because God knows that listening to people rave about bands you thought were long past their buy-by dates is like getting poked incessantly by your three year old whose finger has just exited his nose dripping with brain excrement), it loosed maniacal screams trapped within my psyche— screams which need to be released for mental health purposes but which will remain trapped because with no one to listen, they are not screams, are they? Think bear shits in the woods.
I myself have become an image on a movie screen, a parody of Johnny in Johnny Got His Gun, a ghost of a man with ghosts of opinion because we all know, of course, that Paul McCartney is a god and the Stones are the best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. When I hear opinions like that I think those people’s lives are done because whether you believe it or not, music is a microcosm of the world in which we live and when the cache is full, the computer crashes (or something like that). Gottesman gets it (read his rant here). Bob Segarini gets it and so does Jaimie Vernon, Darrell Vickers and everyone else writing for DBAWIS. Maybe we all get it to differing degrees, but there is a common thread which runs through us all: To stop listening is to live in the past.
I’m not saying there aren’t some musicians almost as old as myself who can trip the stage fantastic. Mark Lindsay (with able help from Gar Francis) just put out an album which I think rates right up there with most Paul Revere & The Raiders albums. Titled Life Out Loud, it rocks and rolls and Lindsay helps it along with a surprisingly strong voice. Ian Hunter totally caught me with knickers down with last year’s When I’m President album and since hearing it, I have an urge to backtrack to see what I’ve missed from Hunter’s vaults. The Strawberry Alarm Clock reformed and picked up where they left off, their “reunion” album (Wake Up Where You Are) gaining a piece of my Top Ten last year.
See? I’m not all about the present and the future. I just want substance, that’s all. Most of you want, what? Security? Not to be bothered? Another bowl of buds? I’m sorry, but you just seem to have stopped living. At least, you don’t care about my world. So I ask you the question— why should I care about yours? The truth is, I plain hate to see people die before their time, that’s all. And please keep in mind that we’re talking music here.
Well, I’m certainly not dead (though I could very well be and just not know it). Every day I receive files and CDs from musicians who are crying to be heard, most cries falling on deaf ears, and my world of music is as vibrant and creative as it has ever been. Most people ignore those cries, though, and I have to ask, what is the difference between them and myself? Basically, we’re the same people (with the exception of the extreme conservatives who have no conception of reality, as far as I can tell, but even those asshats started out basically the same). So where did we part ways? What went wrong?
For myself, nothing. Were it not for a world falling down around my ears (thanks to neo-con assholes), I am happy with where I am. I live in my man-cave listening to music and ignoring as much of the world as I possibly can. My computer and CD player are working overtime to keep me mellow, not unlike Hilarium in Michael Frayn’s A Very Private Life. When the oxygen runs low, I can open all windows and drive to the coast, CDs stacked on the seat next to me, in proper order until I start listening, then a jumbled mess until I return home. Like you, I listen to what I want when I want (except when I have deadlines for reviews or, in this case, a column). The difference is, you seem to want to hear that seventeenth remastering of Rubber Soul or the alternate versions from Dark Side of the Moon or the various guitar snarks and recorded farts from the Led Zeppelin III sessions (which amazingly did not make it onto the album— gasp!). I want a new Picture The Ocean or Alcoholic Faith Mission album or something from someone I’ve never heard before which catches my ear and maybe wrenches my gut. Assuming that I have you nailed down, let us take a little walk through albums which have had an impact on me and see where we may have parted ways along the line.
Richard Rodgers/Victory at Sea (Scored by Robert Russell Bennett) (1953)— While it was rock ‘n’ roll when I was young, it wasn’t all rock ‘n’ roll. I, like many others of my generation, was fascinated by this newfangled thing called television and for my money there wasn’t any better TV than the likes of Omnibus, Leonard Bernstein‘s Young People’s Concerts and, of course, Victory at Sea. Sure, in retrospect the show was as much propaganda as documentary, but we didn’t know that at the time. The magic was in the coupling of documentary (a fairly new media format) and music and Richard Rodgers knocked the music out of the park. In my mind’s eye, I can still see sailors aboard destroyers and cruisers loading artillery shells into ships’ cannons, the orchestra blaring music which kept me on the edge of my seat. The music blew me away enough that Mom and Dad went out and bought me the double album when it was released and I played it until the vinyl was so thin it played the other side too. Through Bernstein, Rodgers and the few classical albums I had, I learned to love the orchestra with every bit of passion I came to love rock ‘n’ roll. An interesting aside: Whereas Rodgers is listed as composer, what he actually composed were twelve “themes”, from one to two minutes in length, which he submitted to the Victory at Sea conglomeration, composed and recorded on piano. Robert Russell Bennett is the “arranger”, taking those themes into recorded history. Another argument for my arrangers-are-as-important-as-anyone stance when it comes to music.
Paul Revere & The Raiders/Here They Come! (1965)— While the rest of the world was soaking up early R&B and everything from The Beach Boys to The Beatles, I was buying every Raiders single I could find, upon release. I was a senior in high school by the time this album was released and listened to it incessantly. The summer of ’65, I would come home for lunch (I worked at the IGA grocery store), eat and put on one side of this album (didn’t matter which one) while I dozed. I knew it was time to go back to work when the side ended. Did I love this album? Like you can’t believe! This was the Raiders which conquered the Pac NW. By the time the rest of the world discovered them, they were a watered down (yet immensely richer) version of this band, tied to Dick Clark’s train which seemingly had no end. This has rockin’ R&B, Lindsay’s classic voice and a whole lotta sax! Learn more by clicking here.
The Grass Roots/Where Were You When I Needed You (1966)— Once again, I check the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits and have to headslap myself. Yep, once again the national arbiter of supposedly important music ignored a song that was solid Top Ten material in Oregon, this time The Grass Roots‘ Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man). The winter of 1966, Mr. Jones was a solid fixture on radio in my home state and was a favorite of a string of disc jockeys, not the least of whom were ensconced at Eugene’s KASH (1600 on your radio dial). I can still hear the jocks bellowing over the intro to Mr. Jones, claiming it as the “superhit” it was— in Eugene, at least. I bought the album which contained that song and found a world of what would follow me through my musical life— folk rock. Little did I realize that it was a studio band more than a real one, comprised of P.F. Sloan, Steve Barri and “Bones” Howe. I have held those names in reverence ever since. While there is no space to go into this in detail at this time, suffice it to say that the next album, Let’s Live For Today, found a real band behind the grooves which vaulted them to fame and fortune. Some bands evidently are put together to fit the music rather than the other way around. You can read the fascinating story of the band here. You’re welcome.
Motown/Everything (1961-?)— Jesus, how do you point to one group or album when it comes to Motown Records? The truth is, when Motown hit radio in Oregon, they hit it en masse. From early Miracles and Temptations to later Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, the label steamrolled the charts. No one was exempt from the label’s influence. Watching the empire as it was being built was akin to watching The Beatles from beginning to end. It was magical!
Glass Harp/Glass Harp (1970)— Fresh out of the Army in the summer of 1971, I discovered The House of Records, a Eugene, Oregon institution of musical learning which is still there today. For months, I spent every spare moment I had there digging through records, reading liner notes and picking the brains of people who worked and shopped there. Sometime during those first months, I grabbed and took home what would be one of my real treasures, a self-titled album by a band known as Glass Harp. Upon bringing it home, I put it on and was surprised by the strings which seemed to dominate. I wanted guitar, drums and bass! The more I listened the more I began to hear the band and what a band it was! Three guys not at all like Cream or Jimi Hendrix Experience. More sedate. More fluid, relying on flowing rhythms and subtle guitar, they for a short time took over my playlist. Phil Keaggy, the band’s guitarist, had a command of the instrument I had never really heard before and took it in directions I had not even imagined up till then. Glass Harp became and obsession and, later, when Keaggy went solo, so did he. The band had such an impact on me that I mentioned them wherever I went just to see if anyone had ever heard or heard of them. I made some of my best friends through Glass Harp‘s music. They are back together, in a way. When the three of them are not involved in other projects, that is.
Cowboy/Reach For the Sky/5’ll Getcha Ten (1970 and 1971)— If there was any band which had major impact on who I was in the very early 70s, it would have to be Cowboy. I was finally able to look toward the future without war hovering over me and was in the midst of what turned out to be a growing back to the land movement in Eugene, a return to simpler and more honest times. I had dreams of finding a lady who could share a life without what would turn into corporations (ie, the military-industrial complex) and with a love for truth and land and everything else which made up my own convoluted view of a hippie lifestyle. The first time I put side one of Reach For the Sky on the turntable, I knew these guys were for me. The lyrics washed over me like a soft Spring rain— “I need time to find out where I’m going/I need people to show me where I’ve been/I know the answer and it feels good just knowin’/It’s my friends who show me who I am.” After almost two years incarcerated in a lifestyle I not only did not embrace (the Army) but hated, they were words I needed to hear. There are only a handful or records I packed extra-special-careful whenever I moved and this was one of them. I love the album and the music, but more than anything, I loved the truth which emanated from the grooves. I will one day soon write the band’s story and post it online. Soon. They mean that much to me. Oh, and before I move on, they are one of the quintet of the bands which to me defined Country Rock, along with Pure Prairie League, Uncle Jim’s Music, Dillard & Clark, and Heartsfield. Fuck the Eagles. They never even registered on my radar (except for maybe Desperado).
Gabrielle/Wide (2005)— Her full name is Gabrielle Gewurtz and she is one of New York’s best kept secrets, for some reason. I stumbled upon her album when I joined the handful of music writers and critics who write for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange, a site set up to promote acoustic music in all shapes and sizes. If I remember correctly, Wide was among my first requests for review and I gave her a damn good one (to find out why, click here). I think I listened to nothing but this album for a couple of weeks, it impressed me so much. From that time, I have waited for that followup album which would prove that Gabrielle is no fluke. I am still waiting (take that as a hint, Gabrielle, wherever you are). This, sports fans, was my gateway album to the true indies. This is one of only a handful of reasons why I am here doing what I do. I love this album. You can check out her website here. Check out her music too. It’s that good.
Lisa Parade/Out of the Funbox/Finding Flora (2008 and 2009)— People who know Lisa know that she fronts a three-man (ern, woman) band now called No Small Children and while I could use this time to promote them (they are as good a rock ‘n’ roll band as I’ve heard recently— click here to listen), Lisa has a past which has convinced me that her talent should have trumped all with her past bands— Heidi and the Lisa Parade. There is a pop sensibility in everything she’s done but not the sensibility you hear as Pop these days. She pushes envelopes at every turn, has an incredible knock for finding a way around the boring and refuses to stop pushing musical boundaries. While the Lisa Parade was a band, to my knowledge it was a loosely formed band with a revolving door to fit the time and place of recording/performance. She scored what could have been her big break when her song Beautiful Possibility was picked up by the producers of a network sitcom (Miss Guided) but, alas, the network dropped the show quickly (the bastards!) and that break became, shall we say, broken. I picked up on Lisa’s depth of talent immediately, Out of the Funbox and Finding Flora pumping Pop (like drugs) into my system. It has not diminished. I am proud to say that I am not the only one pulling for Lisa and the Children to be given their just musical due. Many friends whom I trust explicitly when it comes to music agree. No Small Children is the real deal. Trust me when I say that the Lisa Parade was no warmup. Here are two videos for comparison’s sake:
Van der Graaf Generator/Pawn Hearts (1972)— I never thought of myself as a progrocker until I heard this album full-bore. I had heard a few bands you could have called prog, I guess, but only snippets. The music, to me, was on the whole heavy and lacking melody. Then my friend Darryl who hung out at the House of Records invited me over to his house for a listening party. Listening parties in those days usually consisted of a handful of guys with albums in hand trying to convince others that their chosen music was worthy. Turns out, I was the only one who showed. Afterward, I was glad because I got a lesson in progrock I would have paid for, if I’d known. When I walked through the door, Genesis was blasting through Darryl’s speakers— Foxtrot. I was immediately entranced. I put my records in a corner where they would not be disturbed, picked up the Foxtrot album jacket and started flipping it over and over while I listened. (Album jackets are a wonderful thing, by the way) Next came Nursery Cryme, Amon Duul, and some oddities he had sitting around. We finished off the day with both sides of VDGG‘s Pawn Hearts. When the album was over, Darryl, thinking I was under-impressed, mentioned that I should pick up the American release because it contained Theme One, a fairly short instrumental that VDGG had recorded specifically for the UK’s BBC1, BBC’s flagship radio channel. I assured him that what I heard was plenty good, but when I went to the House of Records the next day all they had was the American pressing. I bought it and have never looked back. Soon, I had every VDGG album in existence (I think there were four at the time) and would buy the future releases as well. I often wonder what happened to Darryl. I hope he understood that he was responsible for my delving into progrock well into the 70’s. Without his influence, I would have more than likely missed groups like Popol Vuh, Ash Ra Tempel, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Maxophone.
The Merry-Go-Round/Emitt Rhodes/Everything (1967-1973)— There was a ton of good Pop Rock in the sixties but there was none better than The Merry-Go-Round. Sure, The Millennium put out one hell of an album (Begin) and there were The Bee Gees and The Left Banke, but none had the staying power of MGR’s Emitt Rhodes after the original bands imploded. Wait. I take that back. Michael Fennelly (The Millennium and Crabby Appleton) had a good run too. While Fennelly was going on to other things (and other bands), though, Rhodes turned inward. He became a recording recluse, recording in a vacuum. What came out of that vacuum was some of the sweetest and best Pop music I’ve ever heard. You would have to live under a rock these days to avoid mention of Rhodes, his legend every bit as important as that of Big Star and Alex Chilton. My heart sinks every time I listen to Rhodes’ solo albums. He could have been a contender. He could have been huge. I carry his music around with me all the time, hoping still to turn another person on to the music he recorded. That. My friends, is impact.
Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys/Singing All Day and Dinner On the Ground (1973)— You can talk all you want about Bill Monroe, but the only Monroe I want is that he recorded with Jimmy Martin before Martin split off and formed his own group. Martin, to me, was the voice of bluegrass and, yes, I know I’m among a small group, but when it comes to music I calls ’em as I sees ’em. I grew up with a father who loved church music of all kinds, heathen that he was. He always said that if they would sing more and preach less, he would be a regular church-goer but I knew that was tongue-in-cheek at the least. Dad could never have gotten along with the hypocrites of modern religion. He was his own man. So, though we did not attend church much, the family heard hymns more than many of the supposed Saved and out of that came a love I’ve held to this day for vocal bluegrass harmonies. Martin’s Singing All Day contains nothing but hymns and it reminds me of so many things, not the least of which was my Norman Rockwell-like childhood. This, alongside The Seldom Scene‘s Baptizing and the religious songs of The Blue Sky Boys anchors the bluegrass portion of my record collection. No, I’m not a Christian, but excellent music is excellent music and when it comes to vocal bluegrass, to me it doesn’t get any better than this.
Jess Pillmore/Reveal (2005)— Jess Pillmore is the firstborn of one Bill Pillmore who my friends will recognize as an original member of Cowboy. I found Jess through Bill, in fact, when I contacted him about his own solo album titled Look In Look Out. During our talks, he casually, mentioned that Jess recorded and I asked if I could hear what she had available and Jess kindly sent me her latest album titled Slightly Skewed with a note that she would send a copy of her new album, Reveal, when it was pressed. After hearing Skewed, I was anxious to hear the newer songs and when Reveal arrived, it was a real treat. For one thing, the songs on Reveal were in a completely different ballpark than Skewed. They were more mature, more solid, more… uh, more. Pillmore had moved from writing about things and situations to writing about things and situations and anyone who has tried to write a song or who has heard a song which stands far above most songs knows what I’m saying. A very young Dan Phelps went way beyond the pale in not only producing the album but in supplying most of the instrumental backing as well (drummers Craig Barnette and Matt Chamberlain supplied percussive riffs and soon-to-be-legend Viktor Krauss added bass, some of it downright stunning in its simple complexity). Is this album excellent? Let me put it this way— it was my pick for best album of that year. You can stream the album here. If you would rather not, at least do me the favor of listening to Atlanta. It is quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard (keep in mind that I have yet to hear everything).
Gypsy/Everything (1970-1973)— I walk into this mall record store in the Westminster section of Denver one day back in the summer of 1971 and I hear “Warning…. Warning….” It is the very beginning of the first track on Gypsy‘s self-titled double album and it took just that much time for me to fall madly in love with a band I’d never heard. The vocals and vocal harmonies were unique, yes, but the band was a juggernaut of rock filled with jazzy rhythms and flowing sounds and I knew I was in love. I headed to the counter, asked who was playing and the guy behind the counter handed me the album to look at while I listened. I immediately found the album in the racks and handed it to him to hold while I looked around. I did little looking, preferring instead to just flip the album over and over, opening the gatefold sleeve to look at the picture of the band in classy pose, outdoors of course. When the side ended, I payed for the album and walked out the door, a brand new diehard fan of one of the best bands I would ever hear. I cannot tell you how much I have loved this band over the years. Suffice it to say that when I was buying cutouts for a store in Seattle back in the mid-80s, I came across the album on a list for $1.25 apiece. I priced them at $4.99. No copy was getting out of the store unless people appreciated it. The price guaranteed that. A couple of decades later, while putting together a long piece about Fort Worth’s Space Opera, a friend introduced me to Randy Cates who played bass with the band for the last two albums. I begged for an interview and spent a few hours going over his life with the band. It is one of the columns about which I am most proud. People should know who Gypsy was. They should hear them. They were something else. (Read that column here)
Gigi/Gold & Wax (2006)— I’m driving home and the rain is coming down in sheets and it’s late at night and dark and I’m tired as hell and I have the OPB station on the radio (that is Oregon’s connection to NPR) and I hear this music slowly snaking its way through the sounds of the wipers and the rain and the sound of the wheels splashing through the sheet of water on the road and before I know it, I’m on a spaceship navigating my way through the universe, hunched over the wheel watching the roads to avoid whatever the universe has in store. I heard horns— If horns— Dick Morrissey and Dave Quincy, to be exact, except it could not have been them unless… Had someone found a lost album? And who was that female vocalist? I didn’t know— only that I was quickly falling in love. Turns out, it was Gigi Shibawbaw, and Ethiopean who had found her way to the States and teamed up with (and actually married) bassist Bill Laswell. The song was Salam and all I could think was, if the other songs on the album are half as good as this, it’s a killer. I ordered the record from Music Millenium in Portland, received it a few days later and not only relived my struggle through the rain but found so much outstanding music, I could have cried (I think I did). Besides Laswell, there were only two names which were at all familiar, Bernie Worrell and good ol’ Buckethead, but I read and reread the other names every time I played the CD, which was quite often. What an album! I was reminded of just how great this album was recently when both Dirtmusic and Tamikrest released albums which seem to be urging me to pay more attention to African music than I have been.
Colosseum/Live (1971)— I smile at myself while typing this. I have loved Colosseum (and Colosseum II) for years but have never looked at the lineup beyond noting the names. These guys were an early British supergroup, it turns out! Check out who’s on it— Jon Hiseman, drums: Hiseman is one of only two drummers who have been the core songwriter in bands in which they played (not on this one, though Hiseman did co-write one song with guitarist Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson). The other is Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond, Armageddon); and yes, Dave Clempson is the guitarist here; bass player is Mark Clarke, who would go on to record the first Tempest album with Alan Holldsworth, Paul Williams and the aforementioned Hiseman; Dick Heckstall-Smith, who played with Alexis Korner‘s Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organization, and later John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers; Dave Greenslade, who later fronted his own band, Greenslade; and Chris Farlowe, who in England is a freakin’ legend as vocalist. This album prepared me for not only If and the bands noted above, but for every Brit prog band to come down the pike in the next few years.
Steve Young/Honky Tonk Man (1975)— I could have chosen any Steve Young album, actually, or all of them for Young is one of the most overlooked musicians this country has ever had. Not that he didn’t gain a certain amount of success, but not the fame he so richly deserves. His career ranged from the early 60s and his days with folksingers Richard & Jim and band Stone Country to the present day. Young still has the chops and plays whenever the opportunity arises, living off of short solo tours as well as playing with son Jubal Lee Young who has also claimed music as career. His story is fascinating (and I’m not just saying that because I co-wrote Steve’s story which you can read by clicking here) and his musical life is downright amazing. The man has country roots (one listen to Honky Tonk Man will show it) but rankles when called country. I chose this album because of the pedal steel of one Cal Hand and the understated and beautifully performed harmonies of Betsy Kaske on Utah Phillips‘ Rock Salt & Nails, not to mention Young’s stellar vocal performance on The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down which I prefer to that of The Band. Young’s fans may be more sparse than they should be, but they are tenacious in their support of Young’s music.
Tom House/Winding Down the Road (2012)— If I didn’t know better, I would think that Tom House lived on the other side of the mountain in an old shack built by bootleggers and ne’er-do-wells. He sings a kind of music seemingly long-forgotten in these days of computers and the media blitz, a music which reeks of alcohol (more than likely moonshine) and the smell of of backwoods. There is a bit of the old folk troubadour in his soul which you can hear in his songs, a bit of rasp in his voice which could easily have been the result of smoking corn silk. When I hear his music, I think of Li’l Abner, the comic strip, only more modern. As for his songs, they are pure poetry. Winding Down the Road was released just last year but sometimes you know a classic when you hear it. You know what? I hear a sound like someone digging in the underground. You can read about Tom here. You will be better for it.
Wishbone Ash/Wishbone Ash (1970)— God, but I love dual lead guitar and there was no band which did it as much or as well as the UK’s Wishbone Ash. The first time I heard Blind Eye, I was sold. I followed the band’s progression from the first album to New England, which harvested the excellent guitar of Home‘s former guitarist Laurie Wisefield and then suddenly lost interest. Not in the older music, understand. I just had no idea where they went from there. A few people have tried to call them headbangers. Headbanging came quite a few years later, sports fans, and there were few of those bands which could hold a candle to WA. Gather ’round kids and learn something by clicking here.
Pure Prairie League/Bustin’ Out (1972)— I found Pure Prairie League directly after I discovered Cowboy. You can’t imagine the impact two bands with country roots but straight rock sound had on me. I took everything they sang about and sounded like personal and would have gone back to the earth if I could have found someone to do it with. Bustin’ Out got a few million airplays in the days when I would get so down I couldn’t get up. I would lay on the floor by the stereo and play it one side after another, ad infinitum, until I gained enough strength to face the world. This is the music which allowed me to absorb the injustices in this world where truth is supposedly honored so much but ignored at will. When I felt so alone I thought I would break, I relied on Craig Fuller (and Scott Boyer of Cowboy) to show me the way.
Brian Cullman/All Fires the Fire (2007)— Brian Cullman and I met through Nick Holmes— in a convoluted kind of way. I mentioned Nick in one of my pieces about music and Brian, through some wizardry known only to him and Johnny Carson, found it. He sent a message which said simply, “Email me,” which I did and we have since become friends in music if not in actuality. See, we both have a love for Nick and his music and as we got to know one another found that it was not just Nick’s music we mutually admired. It was much more. The past few years have found us passing information back and forth, sometimes frantically because music comes in spurts (just ask Richard Hell) and God forbid either of us finds something beyond the pale and not tell the other. Brian has turned me on to a mountain of music and numerous artists who struggle to get that music into the hands of listeners and I would be quite different today without his input. He has an Internet radio show he calls “Songs on Toast” I listen to, two hour blocks of mostly themed walks through the world. You never know what he will play, but you can bet it will be intriguing. He plays everything from deep, deep African music to 20s and 30s jazz to Power Pop (he has even bent to my boasting of the Boys from Lake Charles, Research Turtles) to just about any genre you could name. You should search “Songs on Toast” and stop by for a listen.
Anyway, it turns out Brian knows Nick. Personally. He contacts Nick, Nick contacts me and I’m thrilled as hell because Nick’s Soulful Crooner album is a freaking gem of an album (I’ll explain right after I’m done with Brian) and if nothing else, I wanted to tell him I thought so. I did and he, in turn, told me things I never knew. That would never have happened without a message saying “Send me your email address”.
Here’s the point, though. Brian himself is a musician and in fact had released a handful of albums. It took him a good month or longer to even mention it, the humility crushing him like a wine press, but when he did, I asked if I could hear them. He sent them to me. I listened and found one of the real treasures of my collection. The album is titled All Fires the Fire and is one of those majestic projects you come across only very occasionally, the music and lyrics and overall feel taking you everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It is packed with beautifully produced compositions I might have heard somewhere but I think not. I would have remembered. The key to the album for me was a track titled No God But God and the only way I can describe it is humbling. It is a vast savannah of a song and if Brian had composed and recorded only this, it would be a worthy legacy.
Impact? When I need to touch base with the world as I wish it was, I listen to No God But God. When I need to be lifted up by my bootstraps, I listen to All Fires the Fire. Had I not written that piece about Nick, I might never have even known of the albums, or Brian Cullman‘s, existence. Like I’m always saying. Some things happen for a reason.
Here is something I wrote about Cullman and Holmes before they confiscated my computer and placed me in this noce rest home where I now reside. Click here.
Nick Holmes/Soulful Crooner (1973)— Sigh. If you don’t know the story of Nick Holmes by now….. I’ve written about him numerous times and there is a reason. His Soulful Crooner album made it into my special box back in 1974 when I left Eugene for L.A. That box contained albums I was afraid to ship for fear of losing them so I carried it with me— on trains and buses (I was afraid to fly). There is a whole story behind Nick and White Elephant and, now, Brian Cullman I’ve told so many times I’m afraid to retell for fear of not getting it right (dead brain cells, don’t you know). Lucky for you, I wrote it down and now just have to supply a link. You want to read the interesting story of Nick Holmes, click here.
Amelia Jay/Like a Kite (2009)— And they only released one album! I start with that because I fell completely in love with this when it first came out and thought they had a good chance to gain a following nationwide, but alas, it was not to be. I did everything I could— told friends and other writers, wrote about them, talked to disc jockeys, etc. No one responded. A few friends, of course. The music is too good to go completely unnoticed. But not long after this release, the band changed personnel and changed their name (to Seafare) and then were no more. The core of the band— Mitch Dalton and Jeanette Beswick— are still working together, supposedly with yet another lineup but they couldn’t get new music out fast enough for me. This is a beautiful album, people! Bee-yoo-tee-full! I think, anyway. If you like floating melodies and pretty tunes. If you like voices (Mitch’s is good, but Jeanette’s is perfect, especially when you match it to the song). Cool thing is, this is available through CDBaby. Yup. They still have copies. Here’s your chance to pick up something I guarantee no one in your neighborhood has. Unless you live in mine. Or Mr. Rogers’. I’ll bet he had a copy.
The Dixie Bee-Liners/Susanville (2009)— I am beginning to wonder if I am the only person who hears The Dixie Bee-Liners. Everyone classifies them bluegrass and it frustrates me because while I hear bluegrass roots and know that much of their repertoire is bluegrass or bluegrass-rooted, they are not bluegrass in either the modern nor traditional sense, on the whole. They in fact encompass so many styles of music that unless I am strapped for and in need of a description, I call what they do music. Their magic is in their songs and the way they present them, twisting folk and bluegrass and rock and Pop and even jazz into little pretzels of musical worth. When Susanville hit my desk a few years ago, I could hardly contain myself. A concept album, it is a road map of wondrous songs starting with Enter Highway and ending with Destination. Nineteen songs and segues and visions of a road trip. Fueled by the excellent songwriting of Brandi Hart and Buddy Woodward, they drive us throughout the country and even provide a map so we know where we are at every stop. I don’t know how many copies of this have sold, but if it is not at least in the tens of thousands, it is not enough. Bands like this don’t come around except once in a long while. They have a new album pretty much done (Brandi is being quite close-lipped about it) and they are, I believe, shopping labels. I wish I had one. I would release it ear-unheard. To let you hear what I mean by not-bluegrass, I submit for your approval this video, which I visit regularly to post on the Net for people who wouldn’t know good music if it bit them on the ass (and for those who would, too).
And now I’m really down. I just noticed that when I opened the liner notes/map provided in the package that the album was dedicated to Tom Brumley, the Stone Canyon Band‘s longtime pedal steel player. He evidently died sometime in 2009. How did I miss it? Brumley hasd always been one of my favorites. I talked with him for a short while in the mid-80s when Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band played the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. We were driving up from San Diego (in the stone age, before credit cards) and wanted to make sure we could get in. They had tickets but would not hold them, saying it was first-come, first-served. We decided to drive up early the day of the show. We got there about 2 PM or so and the band was doing a soundcheck. My good friend Dave the Breadman had brought up a stack of 45s, EPs and LPs that he hoped to get Rick to autograph for him, so when they finished the soundcheck and the band came to the bar for a quick drink, we asked if they thought Rick would mind. Brumley and Dennis Larden (who had played with Every Mother’s Son and was then in the Stone Canyon Band) told Dave to go get what he had and they would make sure Rick saw them. Turns out, Rick asked Dave over to the stage where he was talking with the soundman, asking Dave if he had any more. He was at that time trying to put three complete collections of everything he had released so he could give one to each of his kids. He offered to buy some of Dave’s records. Dave wouldn’t sell the ones he had only one copy of (there were a few) but told Rick that if he gave him an address, he would send him his extras (he had many). While Dave talked with Rick, we sat at the bar with the band and told them of our drive from San Diego and how the club would not hold tickets for us. Brumley put his hand on my shoulder and said, Hell, man, next time call us! We’ll put you on the list! I remember that moment like it was yesterday. What a magnanimous gesture! A little over a year later, I would be heading to Seattle so I never got that chance, but I always thought the offer was a class thing from a class guy. I have a stack of Stone Canyon Band albums. I will listen to them very closely from now on, just to hear that sweet pedal steel sound Brumley gave to those recordings.
10CC/Bloody Tourists (1978)— 10CC were bloody gods to most of the people I worked with in the mid-70s and while I heard the hits and thought they were okay, I did not bother digging deeper. Until Bloody Tourists hit the streets, anyway. That album caught me by surprise and in fact, steamrolled me and talking with my friends, most of whom were big 10CC fans, I decided to check out their previous albums, one at a time. It didn’t take me long before I had every album they had recorded in my collection and asked questions at every turn, to the point that a few of my friends flat out said they were tired of answering my questions about the band and find out for myself. I did some research and found a story which blew my mind. Those four guys had been involved in some of my favorite music over the years (individually and in various combinations) and I had no clue! They even have connections to Kazenetz-Katz (the people behind The Ohio Express)! You think you know 10CC? You might. But if you don’t have the information provided on their Wiki page (click here), you will find it fascinating.
Maggi, Pierce & EJ/Silver (2005)— MPEband, as they used to call themselves, were part of my baptism of fire when I started writing for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange. We worked off of “The List”. The list was just that— a chronological list (in order of request for reviews received) of albums available for review as screened through FAME‘s co-ordinator, Dave Pyles. Dave would give us thumbnail reviews and we would pick what we wanted and if it had not already been snatched up, he would request a copy be sent to whoever requested it. I had a habit during those days to go to the bottom of the list for my choices because they had been listed for awhile and would soon be dropped. I hated to see any worthy album go by the wayside and other writers seemed to have already picked what they wanted at that point, so I asked for those. I found Maggi, Pierce & EJ there at the bottom of that list. An album titled Silver. Dave had given them a thumbs up because of their creativity and wide range of styles so I requested it. When I finally heard it, I became obsessed.
I am sure that Maggi thought I was, at first. I sent messages to them asking questions and giving what I thought were helpful hints toward spreading the word and Maggi was busy arranging a Restraining Order should I show up anywhere in their vicinity. But I couldn’t help it. They were amazing! Maybe not all of the tracks were as good as others (of course, we all know that The Beatles never ever recorded anything but hits), but when they peaked out, they blew me away. I ended up working my way back through their catalogue, even begging a copy of their “greatest hits” album (Maggi, Pierce and EJ Play Their Landlady’s Favorites) which was no longer available. Maggi sent me a copy of what I believe is their only 45. I bought everything they recorded from that point on, received a DVD of the trailer for what they had hoped would be a documentary of the band’s walk from Philadelphia to Washington DC to protest gas prices, and followed Maggi and Pierce into their new band, Hymn For Her, which has been wowing crowds for a good three or four years now (their latest album, Smokin’ Flames, is hot, hot, hot!). Meanwhile, EJ (click here) has stepped into his own little world of music having released Heart Like a Tiny Jewel under the name You Purple Virgin. EJ’s album comes complete with his hand in the cookie jar cover. That sneak!
I could go on and on. At one time, I was a bit like Darrell Vickers, another writer here at DBAWIS, who owns at least three houses, two to stores his record collection. At one time, I had between ten and fifteen thousand record albums, then woke up one day and realized that if I started listening right then to the albums one at a time, I would more than likely die before I reached the end. Since then, it has been a slow process of finding the important albums good homes because, hey, I’m not getting any younger and I have very little time to listen beyond the stacks of albums I receive each week. What can I say? It’s been fun, but I don’t need you anymore? Luckily, I have photographic memory when it comes to music. I can hear them any time I want by just thinking about them. The problem is when something pops into my head and I can’t figure out who it is. Lost a few nights of sleep over those.
If you made it this far, I would love to hear what you think in terms of our separate music lives. Am I crazy? Are you, assuming that the soundtrack of your lives contain nothing but hits, boring and done discovering? We’re going down, you know. Global warming, wars, fracking. We’re going to kill ourselves. Perhaps it’s for the best. Like you say, there’s no good music out there anymore. Nothing new, anyway. Asshat!
Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich Clock Spotify on the Chin— Spotify Responds With a Prepared (gak!) Statement—–
The argument for and against the digital distribution streaming has heated up, Thom Yorke of Radiohead pulling their product from Spotify with a statement pointing out the pittance artists are paid through this system which is making non-musicians rich. (click here) Spotify CEO Daniel Ek responded with a prepared statement laying out Spotify‘s goals (click here). Nowhere in that statement did he state their actual goals which are to piggyback on the backs of talented artists so they can get rich and buy yachts. Here we go, folks! Looks like the fight is not as far off as I thought. Kick Ek’s ass, Yorke! Guys like him make “entrepreneur” a dirty word.
Notes….. No matter what I do, important things fall through the cracks. Like Seattle’s Norrish Reaction putting together a short video plugging their album and placing it on Youtube July 14th of last year! I can’t even begin to tell you how good these guys are and I thought I had all bases covered, but no one even mentioned this to me. So in a better-late-than-never fashion, I give you the link now (click here) and if it strikes you in any positive way whatever (and how can it not?), head on over to their Reverbnation page and listen to some of the best modern psych on the market (and we’re clicking… and we’re clicking…)***** I hope some of the shitstorm against Pandora sticks to those asshats. Article after article have dissected the arguments. Here is a short to-the-point piece printed on the hypebot.com website which pretty much sums up some of the main points. If members of Congress is not reading this, they are not doing their jobs. To read, click here***** The Curtis Mayflower is giving us all a sneak preview of their upcoming album. Click here to hear some outstanding white soul music. I dig these guys! A lot!***** Sometimes it’s very cool to be a Pac Northwesterner and not just for the weather. August 7th through the 10th will see the first annual Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival take place in Portland, Oregon and it is going to be a memorable one. Billed as Jim PepperFest 2013, it will bring a slew of jazz artists from all over the NW as tribute to Pepper and his musical influence. It will also be an historic reunion of The Free Spirits, the band NW legend Larry Coryell fremed with Pepper, Bob Moses, Chris Hills, and Columbus ‘Chip’ Baker back in 1965. Coryell, most Pac Northwesterners know, was a cornerstone of Seattle band The Dynamics in its early years and would go on to success as a solo artist. I remember buying their only album through The Record Club of America, picking the name out of a then brand new Schwann Catalogue and being a bit disturbed that they weren’t straight on rock. When I saw Coryell’s name on the jacket, though, I toughed it out and though I didn’t realize it at the time, was given an early dose of what would be ultimately called jazz/rock fusion. There could be no bigger tribute to Jim Pepper than his bandmates reforming in his honor. Information about the fest can be obtained through Music Millennium, a record store with a history almost as large as that of The Free Spirits. For more info about the band, click here.***** If you’ve not heard of Jay Pun (of Charlottesville duo and band Lasko & Pun), you’re missing something. Not only do they put out a unique recipe of music, but Jay has branched out to fill a dream of highlighting and hopefully helping musicians and music fans alike with what he calls Pun Picks. It works like this: Jay finds musicians he feels bring something special to the music they play, talks them into performing in some off the cuff setting, records them and then posts the videos on his site. His latest video is of Dan Bechdolt, sax player with Mingo Fishtrap, playing an a cappella (if a single instrument could be called that) rendition of Thelonious Monk‘s Round Midnight (click here). Click here to watch the video and while you’re there, check out his other video offerings. They are exceptional. If you would like to help him keep going with this, there is a donate button somewhere on the page. Consider it. This is very cool stuff.***** A couple of years ago, I came across a band from British Columbia calling themselves The Beige. I wrote a review of an album (El Angel Exterminador) I thought at the time was a stretching-the-boundaries example of the first water (I still think it— click here to read). Well, the mad genius behind the band’s sound has been working on an experimental opera he has titled The Meal, I think based upon The Last Supper. Here is the first I have heard of this project which has been in progress for some months now. I would love to see this on stage. Maybe in the future? Click here.***** Washington DC’s Drew Gibson just sent me a rough incomplete mix of a track on his upcoming album titled When the Vinyl Scrapes. He wrote it about his father who passed away last July and I confess to tearing up more than a little. It is a floating and beautiful song, one of the best I’ve heard from him. Backing vocals by the always welcome voice of Devon Sproule. Gibson has been working on the album with C-ville’s Bobby Read, another top-flight musician who is co-producing. Another notch in both Chartlottesville’s and DC’s caps. More info when it becomes available. Gibson, by the way, has two albums available: Letter Box and a personal favorite (produced by Paul Curreri), Southern Draw (available from cdBaby)*****
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”