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3. Various artists, The Big Monster Bash (Sci Fi Western Records). If monsters personify vague fears (Freud told me so in a séance), it makes sense that bogeymen of all variety would fall not far behind cars and surfboards as theme material in early rockabilly. Who's got more to worry about than teenagers, then or now? Ergo, this collection of contemporary ducktailers who have written an impressive collection of warnings regarding Frankensurfer, Gabrielle The Giant Mosquito and other threats to humanity.
4. Various artists, Porn to Rock (Callner Music). Evidently, it gets boring just screwing pretty people all day, which accounts for this roster of name porn stars (Ginger Lynn, Johnny Toxic, Suzi Suzuki and others) trying their hand at recording rock and dance music. Like porn, most of it falls short of what seems to be a good idea. "Asshole Man," "Screw My Head" and "Drink Beer and Fuck" could have been written by the bar band at yer local chicken-wing hangout. Nonetheless, it's comforting to know that having a perfect ass and a fan club doesn't mean they've got it together any more than we do.
5. The Bobs, I Brow Club (Rounder Records). This San Francisco-based a cappella quartet is so cynical that its 1996 Christmas album features a song about spending the holiday in jail. While their latest offers similarly sentimental fare like "There's a Nose Ring in My Soup" and "Hey Coach Don't Call Me a Queer," the killer tune, so to speak, is a truly touching insider's view on the Heaven's Gate cult.
6. Mutantes, Mutantes (Omplatten). Brazil's Los Mutantes (The Mutants) were the country's first respectable rock band back in 1966, forever flipping midsong from one style to another, and implementing nearly as much studio technology as was found on Sgt. Pepper.Most Brazilians hated them, though, for landing American rock on their bossa nova beaches. This reissue of their second album from 1968 translates the Portuguese hippie lyrics that would soon get them into big trouble with the dictatorship soon to take over the country. Nirvana was a big fan of this strange group.
7. John Fahey, Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes (Takoma Records). A really scratchy copy of this CD reissue by guitarist Fahey would leave the listener believing that the music came from a beat-up 78 from the '20s. The eccentric folkster (his first guitar was made from a baby coffin) has for decades cranked out plodding solo guitar instrumentals grieving the loss of riverboats, plantations and, here, "The Downfall of the Adelphi Rolling Grist Mill." Four years later, he rerecorded all but two of the Delta-heavy songs on this album and sold it again under the same title.
8. Arto Lindsay, Noon Chill (Bar None Records). There's something unsettling about NYC composer Lindsay's understated music, those obtuse love lyrics sung in a thin voice and nearly drowned out by banks of Brazilian drums. Could be he'll be a public menace someday, given his questionable profile: pale, nerdy look, a schizo history of bouncing between albums of pretty bossa nova and chain-saw guitar savagery, wire-rimmed glasses, the son of Baptist missionaries.
9. Kip Hanrahan, A Thousand Nights and a Night (Shadow Nights - 2) (Justin Time/American Clave). Not hard to imagine the ancient Arabian Nights legend being relived right now in a corner of Manhattan, some sultry woo-woo type stringing along a rich, vulnerable mensch. Hanrahan conjures up a few pretty twisted scenes in his most recent installment in this 10-album tale of jazz-fueled erotica, supported by some serious names in Cuban percussion.
10. Various artists, Pool Party! and Jungle Jive! (Del-Fi Records). We'll never be given a collection titled Library Beat!because rock 'n' roll's all-important oblongata has nothing to do with the medulla. Unfortunately, the teenaged hormone huns and hootchies in the early '60s couldn't blatantly praise doing the nasty-nasty, instead having to couch their lusts on 45s where rather bleached R&B honkers praised these two Environments That Encouraged Nakedness. Thumping to this music today would be a bit too much like screwing in a roller rink, but, hey, they worked with what they had back then.
Top 10 Albums That I Should Have Bought a Long Time Ago
Basically, this list reflects how slow I tend to be about purchasing music that I like. To this day, I own only five Rolling Stones albums, although I know every song in their catalogue and admire many of them. But in 1999, thanks to the evil coaxing of Amazon.com, I finally put my hands on some records that I'd previously known only as background music at friends' houses or as distant AM-radio memories. With the exception of two bootlegs that I ordered from black-market catalogues, all of the following selections are items that I'd often thought of buying, but never got around to -- until last year.
1. Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear (Motown). Maybe it was this double-record's rep as the "alimony album" that kept me away from it all these years. Or maybe it was the way Marvin occasionally got a little creepy when he started exposing his neuroses (e.g., the posthumously released "Sanctified Pussy"). In any event, this year -- 21 years after its release -- I got over my hang-ups and discovered that what friends had long told me was true: This is Gaye's masterpiece. A record that began life as a bitter diatribe against ex-wife Anna Gordy (who got a piece of the record's royalties in the divorce settlement) evolved into a yearning, doo-wop-inflected meditation on the way love changes shape over time. And breakup laments don't come any rawer than this: "I can't understand/Since you loved me/How could you turn me in to the police?"
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