Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sick American

Harry D. Cup Sick American b/w Love Letter 45 (Silver Pelican, 1980)

Harry D. Cup! Nah this isn't a sick joke about a well endowed hirsute. Whatever humor that is in these grooves is certainly not intended. Recorded in (I assume) anticipation for the 1980 presidential elections, Sick American is both a condemnation of America's "ills," one of those ills being those who run Our Nation down! Cup's complaints are the same canard that conservatives have been rattling off for the last hundred or so years: Crime is unrelenting, taxes are too high, queers are overrunning the place, and sex is everywhere. In the future I will post some tracks from other conservative complaint records recorded in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and then direct you to tune into Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh and hear exactly the same spiel. Sure, the words are different and the style of delivery has evolved. but the message is exactly the same. Since we don't have a sense of history we tend not to see/hear that conservatives have been on point for the last hundred years. We look at all their complaints as crisis and when they get power act hastily to address these ills. Ten years later, the country is still "sick." What has changed though is that conservatives have expanded the power of the state by stripping away individual & constitutional rights and concentrated economic power to a few by skewing taxes downward and privatizing public services. The country becomes "sick" in different ways, ways that spawn more "sickness" and the complaints get louder. Of course liberals are also to blame for this mess. They stand by frightened that countering the claims of "sickness" is going to lose them elections, elections they lose time and time again because they are viewed as timid and ineffective. Only when conservatives fuck up big time by doing things like say privatize a goddamn war and health care for soldiers, do liberals sack up. And the media? It takes a comedian like Steve Colbert to nail the Washington Press Corps for being lapdogs unwilling to get to the truth of how wrong things have went and a free fall in the president's poll numbers for them to get a wee bit critical of the powers that be and messages like Mr. Cup's...and a little too late, don't you think? Nothing new here, folks. The cycle plays itself out over and over and recordings like this keep getting turned out (though now stuff like Harry D. Cup is the three squares of talk radio). The frustrating thing to me isn't the conservative/liberal struggle, but the dishonesty in which it is carried out and the lack of historical insight anyone engaged in the fight allows in the debate. Sick American occurs in a vacuum and thus we remain sick americans. My observations are certainly not new. I'll dig up some Mark Twain complaining about the human race and you'll hear that I merely echo his condemnations. Flip the record over and you really won't be surprised of what you hear next.

Sick American
Love Letter

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Manthing: Night of the Laughing Dead

Herb Davidson & Charlotte Sanders Manthing: Night of the Laughing Dead EP (Power, 1974)

The moment I graduated from Richie Rich to Marvel, the Fantastic Four, The Inhumans, the X-Men, and Manthing were THE comics on my adolescent shopping list. The Thing made the F4 a must buy. The Wolverine was the X-Men's hook. The Inhumans as a whole were just too damn cool (apparently too cool to exist longer than a year). But nothing this side of the Silver Surfer really was as strange and freakish and totally fun as the Manthing. So imagine the twinge of joy I felt when I stumbled on a Power Records issue of the Manthing!

I've come across Power Records comic/records for years: some I pick up, some I leave behind. Usually I listen to them once and swap them for something else. They are great inventions but there are others who need them more than I [like The Power Records Pages and Scar Stuff). This one though is a keeper. It has everything: a clown suicide, sideshow freaks, a ghost, and the Manthing! Enjoy.

Manthing Pt 1

Manthing Pt 2

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Dialect of The Black American

Paul Weston & Jeffrey Berman The Dialect of the Black American LP
(Western Electric, 1970)

One of my favorite spoken word records is this 1970 public service disc produced by Western Electric for libraries and schools. Essentially a long essay on how American society deals with Ebonics, The Dialect of the Black American is fairly radical in its message...and very entertaining in its presentation. That one of America's biggest companies produced such a document is testament to how liberal the country had become. Decades of agitation from Labor, the Civil Rights Movement, and the New Left had brought the country to its most enlightened state since anarchists, socialists, Wobblies, and labor forced FDR into the New Deal. Two years after this record's release, the Conservative Rollback, ushered in by the election of Richard Nixon, had begun, bringing us to the mess we are in today. The thought of Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, or Walmart-Stores producing anything like The Dialect... - either in style or content - is nothing less than absurd.

Message aside, The Dialect of the Black American would be just another spoken word record if not for the presentation. Narrator (I assume) Paul K. Winston has the right voice for this record. His rich tone dashes from Standard American English to Ebonics without pause. The writing is good. And the record is funny. Some of the humor is unintended, I'm sure; however, listen to the end of the last track and you know that the writers were laughing as they came up with it. Top a great record off with a fantastic sleeve and here is one of the best spoken word records ever released.

Each side of the record can be listened to as one piece and I've chosen side one for you to hear. There are separate tracks on the record so I sectioned this off where there were natural pauses. The flow is okay, but you get what you get.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Man with the Mike

Eric Robinson Man with the Mike EP (Trafco, 1965)

Here is a little gem recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area. At first listen, this appears to be a bit of urban sociology cum investigative reportage. However, at the end of each segment, the announcer informs us that the record is produced by "local Methodists." In my experience, Methodists tend to go for the soft sell; thus, even though this was produced by the National Council of Churches, the record is essentially a "reporter" on the streets, showing us the gritty side of America.

Eric Robinson has the stereotypical 60s Brit BBC man voice. He asks his subjects probing questions and seems to like it when the conversation turns "edgy" (at least as edgy as local Methodists will allow). His interview subjects are good talkers as well, especially his matter of fact man in the halfway house.

Found this one for a buck in a used store's clearance bin.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Poesie d'Amore di F. Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca / Arnoldo Foa Poesie d'Amore di... EP
(Cetra, 1969)

My Spanish is pretty much what you would expect from someone who learned most of the language off of Taco Bell's old wall menu. So it should come as know surprise that I have no idea what the hell is going on with this record other than it sounds really beautiful. I've read Lorca in translation - in fact, most of what has been published - however, none of it compares to the original language. I'm not sure whether this constitutes a great, good, or merely passable recording of Lorca, but it sounds good to me. The understated guitar works really well with the words. It has the same kind of duende (or raw fire in the belly) that Lorca writes about in the most important of his essays, On Duende (see Poetics of the New American Poetry). No need to prattle on any longer. Give these a listen.

Monday, March 5, 2007

In the Face of Coldness

Superstar Dan Theman In the Face of Coldness 45 (Scat, 1991)

Mostly known as a "crazy" pal of Guided by Voices, Superstar Dan Theman (AKA Supie T) is one of the more listenable outsider musicians. His fusion of scat singing, rock & roll, and poetry seems to have evolved more as an expression of his personality than some conscious attempt to be different. Theman's history (Vietnam vet with trouble adapting to a post-war world) certainly suggests this to be true. Like many an outsider, his work circulated on cassette among his friends, cassette culture fanatics, and those dedicated enough to outsider art that they actively pursued small run and homemade releases. Even then, stuff like this tends to remain a secret until someone pushes it to the surface. In 1991, Scat pressed 300 of this one, bringing it to the attention of the indie label crowd, those outside of Columbus, and me. If you haven't heard Supie T before, you are in for a treat.