Scott Walker pretty much always did whatever he wanted. Since his beginnings with the Walker Brothers he took creative control. His work was always very introspective and avant-garde, not only in his lyrics but also in the arrangements which he helped create. Scott surrounded himself with his ideas and always pushed harder and harder to express his deepest thoughts, destroying his popstar image in the process. Scott’s latest work is an ongoing continuation of his art: complex, dark, and abrasive but slightly restrained. The work is minimal by both contributing artists’ standards.
“Brando” opens with Scott’s deep commanding voice, and beneath it a shimmering string synth and a nice clean guitar lick that gives you the illusion that you can get comfortable and enjoy a nice operatic ballad. But before you even finish that thought, the strings fade and you’re left with only guitar feedback and suddenly you are slammed with Sunn’s massive guitar tone and a pulsing low end synth beat. Bull whip cracks holds you down throughout the track.
would do me
a world of good.
Unless you’re a psychopath this music will make you feel a certain way. Scott and Sunn’s music may be disturbing to most but it’s not completely about that. These sounds are more of a mirror of sorts that forces you to look at yourself, and that’s what makes this music so powerful. Your own mind is your best friend and worst enemy. This could either be an enjoyable listen or an unpleasant reminder of your problems. It’s all up to your past experiences to decide.
The 48 minute album slowly drags you through a minimal, industrial beating that is startling at first. Your first reaction is to skip the tracks but it eventually takes hold of you and after a while you start to enjoy it. You tune into it and start to understand it in some way. You become unafraid, because you realize that you were controlling the guitars, synths and whips all along.
Grave Babies – Crusher (2013 Hardly Art)
If you think that this grotesque album cover belongs in the metal section, or even black metal, you wouldn’t be entirely incorrect. The music contained in this album is by no means metal but it is just as dark. Instead we get cleverly-crafted pop through a lo-fi, goth, druggy, fuzzed, distorted filter.
A heavily distorted guitar slash opens the album which leads to a creepy reversed babbling right before the first song begins. “Over and Under Ground” is a soaring goth pop anthem with a great bass line and effectively simple pounding drums under pleading, reverberated vocals. The following track does not let up with its heavily distorted bass line. The next track “Slaughter” slows down to a fuzzy mellow tune with a nice 80s style warped synth line.
The best song on the album is “Pain Cycle.” A devastatingly-distorted drum machine beat drags this drugged out, blissfully goth slow dance. The synth wash and keyboard tickling are perfect. This album is as crushing as it is catchy. There’s a sense that the band is well aware of how ridiculous this dark aesthetic is and they have fun with it, which makes the album even more enjoyable. Don’t be put off by the yucky cover – this is great pop music.
Highly recommended for fans of bleak garage, post-punk, synth pop. You will be hooked.
Erkin Koray – Elektronik Türküler (1974)
The first full length of non-single material from the legendary Anatolian rock god, Erkin Koray, Elektronik Türküler is a perfect mix of traditional Turkish music and western rock. Spooky organ, moody guitar, Koray’s brooding voice, and electric saz.
With song titles that translate to “Lonely Pier” and “Horror Dream,” you get an idea of what he’s singing about. Dark stuff but done in a rockin’, stoned Turkish manner. The standout track is definitely “Cemalim.” An infectious guitar groove plays throughout while Koray shreds and sings with feeling.
Traditional Turkish instruments and musical styles meld so perfectly with psychedelia; they were made for each other. This is the landmark Anatolian Rock album from the living legend. Koray risked his life to play rock n roll in Turkey. He was once stabbed on the street for his long hair! Get weird with Erkin Baba (Father Erkin).
David Morales, the man behind Out There with Morales, the ongoing series on this blog, rounds up his picks for Record Store Day 2013.
Dust – S/T and Hard Attack
Absolutely devastating hard rock from this Brooklyn group, featuring Richie Wise on guitar/vocals, Kenny Aaronson on bass and Mark Bell on drums. The band released two albums on the Kama Sutra lable in 1971 and 1972, both of which are packaged together in this special set. Wise went on to produce the first two Kiss albums; Aaronson played bass for many other groups and Bob Dylan; and Mark Bell drummed for another killer hard rock band called Estus, then moving on to Richard Hell and the Ramones. If you even remotely consider yourself a fan of rock, you have to buy this!
Roky Erickson – Mine, Mine, Mind/Bloody Hammer (Light in the Attic)
The first release in the Roky Erickson catalogue from Light In The Attic. If you are not familiar with Roky’s solo work, this is the best place to start. Two killer sides of demented rock n roll from the man who actually lived it.
Adrian Lloyd – Lorna/Got A Little Woman (Sundazed)
From 1966 Los Angeles. Listen to this!
The Seeds – EP: Bad Part of Town, Wish Me Up, Love in a Summer Basket, Did He Die (Sundazed)
Double seven inch set of rare Seeds from 1970. Essential garage.
Sir Douglas Quintet – Interpreta en Español (Sundazed)
Two seven inches from Texas rock n blues legends, in español. That’s spanish for spanish! Including their hit, “Mendocino.”
Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle (Rhino)
After being kicked out of the Beach Boys’ Smile Sessions, Parks began work on his debut solo album in 1968. A nice mix of classical, pop and Americana. Rhino reissues this album for the first time in mono in an old style tip on sleeve.
The Zombies – S/T (Varese Sarabande)
American version of their fine 1965 debut album that includes two of their biggest hits, but it does not end there. This is pop at its most cleverly crafted, although it was never quite successful as those other four. Who knows why.
A group that will forever remain in my heart. Kenny Jones’s thick and wild but on point drums, Ian McLagan’s expressive keyboard play, Ronnie Lane’s funky heavy bass lines and joyously playful vocals, and Steve Marriot’s heavy blues guitar and soulful wailing vocals. Arguably the greatest British rock vocalist. They did not record a bad song In their short career. Everything this band touched turned to gold.
There Are But Four Small Faces (Varese Sarabande)
American compilation of sorts pulling songs from their 1967 Immediate Records self-titled album and recent singles around the time of the release.
Here Come The Nice / Talk To You (Charly)
A killer pop tune that was a substantial hit for the band. Buying drugs from your dealer never sounded this good.
Green Circles (stereo) / Green Circles (mono) (Charly)
Pretty psych tune totally not about a certain drug of the green variety.
Pink Floyd – See Emily Play/Scarecrow (Capitol)
Classic british psych single with fold out poster. Pink Floyd’s second single written by original frontman Syd Barret, released in 1967. The cover was also drawn by Syd.
Trouble In Mind Four Way Covers Split 2013
Featuring: Jacco Gardner – Always on My Mind (Billy Nicholls), The Resonars – It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Witchcraft (Fairpoint Convention), MMOSS – Cathy’s Clown (Everly Brothers) and Maston – I Go to Sleep (The Kinks)
Rolling Stones – Five by Five (ABKCO)
Second EP released in 1964, recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago while on their first American tour. They were practically ignored as they didn’t yet have their first big hit. A few months later their manager would release a throw away track, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
In the States there were only two producers that Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys looked up to: Phil Spector and Curt Boettcher. An album titled Begin by the band Millennium is one of the better known works from legendary producer Boettcher’s career.
Millennium was a supergroup of top California musicians and producers including legendary producer Gary Usher and Music Machine members Doug Rhodes and Ron Edgar. Begin turned out to be one of the most expensive albums in history for Columbia, and it shows. It’s an ambitious collection of solid baroque-pop psych, with beautiful harmonies, lush orchestral arrangements, catchy melodies and lyrics of love and heartbreak under the California sun, though it never falls into cheesy territory.
Begin should have been a hit, but like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds it laid dormant, only to be hailed as a masterpiece decades later. Standout tracks include “There is Nothing More To Say” and “I Just Want To Be Your Friend.” Beautiful!
If you missed part one of the Norman Haines story, you can read it here.
Norman pushed on with his new sound, delving deeper into the darkness while a little more pop-friendly at the same time, almost completely ditching the horns and incorporating more prominent guitar work and adding folk influences. Haines got another contract with Parlophone and returned to Abbey Road Studios to record what would become Den of Iniquity.
A couple singles were released around the release of Den Of Iniquity which only solidified Norman’s ingeniousness. Released before the album, “Daffodil,” which Haines dedicated to his wife, is an extremely catchy, Latin-tinged pop song with lovely horns and percussion. Norman’s emotional vocals couldn’t be better. The way the song takes off at 1:20 is one of the greatest moments of Norman’s career. Pure genius.
As for the album itself, the opening track to Den Of Iniquity is a hard rock classic. Forgetting the classical intros previously used, this song bursts in with an organ riff and drums pounding in the background. The guitar comes in following the organ before taking over with some thick, wah riffing. The solo kills and I love the wah bends in the background. This song is the perfect sequel to Mr. Armageddon. This hard rocker kills.
The countrified “Finding my Way Home” is the perfect jam to play on a warm summer night while pounding brews with your pals. The vocals and twangy guitar are perfect. The following track, a reworked version of Mr. Armageddon, replaces horns with guitar. This version has a slow start but guitarist Neil Clarke totally redeems himself in the second half. He pretty much solos until the end and every second is great; the last 50 are astounding. I imagine Clarke jumping out of his chair and kicking it over before jumping into this amazing chord progression.
“When I Come Down” is another wah-laden hard rocker with some distorted organ noodling. This song was used as a demo by old manager Jim Simpsons’ other band, Earth, which by that time had changed its name to Black Sabbath.
The mood takes a mellow turn with the A-side closer “Bourgeois,” performed and sung by Clarke. It proudly displays his folk roots. The flip side of the record is made up of two songs. The thirteen-minute “Rabbits” is a solid extended jam. The final track eight-minute “Life Is So Unkind” is a moody instrumental led by organ, electric piano and some guitar, that brings the album to a menacing end.
When the band presented the finished product, including the grotesque album cover to the label, they outright refused to release it and most record shops even refused to carry it. The label delayed the release of the album for almost a year before finally releasing in August 1971 under The Norman Haines Band.
The original LP is now extremely rare and goes for upwards of $700. As with his previous album, it wasn’t successful and the band disbanded. At the time of release Norman was deep in debt and hit the road as Locomotive to pay some of it off. He even included the ska singles that brought him that brief moment of success just a few years prior. Disillusioned by the music business, he declined a chance to join Black Sabbath, disappearing from the music scene all together in 1971.
The last piece of music that Norman released is a single from 1972 called “Give It To You Girl,” a killer pop tune led by his brilliant voice and electric piano. It shows Norman’s growing fondness for Latin percussion, and gives us a taste of what could have come next.
Haines got into he construction business and put together a small band that played weddings and local dances, which he still does to this day. I doubt that most people he plays for these days realize what a brilliant musician Norman really is. It took decades for only a few to finally realize the genius of Norman Haines.
Norman Haines is responsible for two of the most sought-after albums of British progressive rock. Like many other brilliant artists, it took the world decades to recognize the brilliance of Haines’ work. He took soul, jazz, psych, and classical music to a place it had not been before, with lyrics based in reality during a time of social and political unrest.
Norman mixed all these influences into several brilliant singles and two lyrically and musically powerful albums. His career began in Birmingham in 1963 with the beat group The Van Dels, who changed their name a year later to The Brumbeats. By day he ran a small record shop taking in all the latest musical crazes and at night he put his knowledge to use in his band as they played clubs around Birmingham. The Brumbeats often played support for local heroes The Locomotive. By the end of ’66 Haines was asked to join the group on keys.
Before Haines joined the group, The Locomotive played mostly popular Tamla, and Motown soul. Haines brought in ska music to their set. They gigged all over and in 1967 they got a deal with the label Direction to record their first single, Haines’ original “Broken Heart” and the B-side “Rudy – A Message To You.” The single was not a hit but it got them a deal with Parlophone to record another Haines ska original “Rudi’s In Love,” which became a top 25 hit in 1968.
The band had done what most groups had hoped to achieve: they got a hit. They were now known as a ska group but this would end up to be their downfall as the group was starting to get into more ‘progressive’ styles of music. Around this time, founding member Jim Simpson leaves the band to become full time manager of The Locomotive and his other project, local band, Earth. Norman takes over as band leader and writes new material for their debut full length. In late 1968 they begin recording at Abbey Road Studios.
We Are Everything You See is an amazing piece of work from start to finish. Heavily influenced by classical music, the album begins with an overture, a short summary of the album’s main themes through beautiful strings, and a little interplay with clarinet before the strings raise the pressure and fade into one of the crowning achievements of British progressive rock. “Mr. Armageddon” has been included in countless compilations and for good reason. This song is a monster. Pounding drums, wah guitar, piercing organ and Norman’s unsympathetic lyrical delivery. Picture him as ‘the man,’ ten feet tall: “I am everything you see / and what is more / I am father of a thousand children / Mother… / Of a thousand million more!” The main horn riff is what makes this song. The ending takes it even higher as it drives to the end of the song and the drums and even the vocals just trying to keep up. This ending pretty much made me a believer in progressive rock music.
The next track, “Now Is The End – The End Is When,” solidifies the doomed mood of the album; the jazzy bassline and phased-out drums are brilliant. Then comes “Lay Me Down Gently,” another killer with back and forth time signatures, and the harmonizing is a nice touch. There is not a bad track on this album. The pounding drums on “You Must Be Joking,” and the screeching organ get along like a cat and dog. I love it. “Rain” is the perfect title for the ninth track, a mellow slow burner that the horns help to pick up during the end. The final song starts off simply enough, then it gets jazzy and the pace quickly picks up and pounds into the dizzying finale. The album also features reworked versions of two songs from the band United States of America.
Before the album was even completed the band had already fallen apart. Some members complained that the album was getting too progressive. Haines disagreed and quit the band before mixing was completed in mid 1969. With no band to support it the album was quietly released six months later in February 1970. The album went completely unnoticed and was soon deleted. Some of the members formed a new group called The Dog That Bit People. Haines started his own group called Sacrifice.
Stay tuned for further installments of the Norman Haines story.