Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

June 27, 2020

the contemporary BURRITO BROTHERS perform “Gilded Palace of Sin” live in Nashville, 11/9/19

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Since 1968, some combination of musicians has been representing The Flying Burrito Brothers ethos, under one or the other variation on the name, and the talent involved in these diverse bands over the decades is jaw-dropping. The Cosmic Cowboy stance is timeless, and IMHO it’s needed now more than ever (see my piece on Skip Battin, here on the KSE blog within the last week).

The Gram Parsons International organization has been involved with annual celebrations of Parsons’ and the Burritos’ legacies for a number of years, and November 2019 saw a Nashville-based tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ A&M label album GILDED PALACE OF SIN, an album still winning over new listeners today.

A strong line-up of Cosmic American Music artists, young and not-so-young, was assembled for the event, the cornerstone of which was a performance of the entire GILDED PALACE OF SIN album by the contemporary band THE BURRITO BROTHERS, featuring Chris P. James (brother of the amazing blues guitarist-producer Fred James, who was actually in the Burritos himself in the 2010’s, though not presently). They are a first-rate band who bring, like every different Burritos lineup over the years, a unique mix of elements to the music. I can’t even describe what category to put the present Burritos in (put a gun to my head and force me to choose, and I’d put them in the “Americana” bin at the record store, but that’s not really accurate, and some would argue for “Southern Rock” or “Country Rock” or whatever), but then, wasn’t that always the case with the Burritos of ANY era. Their new album THE NOTORIOUS BURRITO BROTHERS (and isn’t that title going to anger some people without a sense of humor!) is a fine piece of work that would get regular airplay if I had an Americana/Country Rock/Cosmic American Music radio station or podcast.

Of course, performing the songs from a fifty-year-old 1969 album, the Burritos are not going to sound like either their most recent 2020 album or the 1969 Hillman/Parsons band, and that third corner of the triangle turns out to be a quite enjoyable place to be. This would have been a great show to be at live (I’ve been wanting to see Kai Clark for some time, and also Ronnie Guilbeau), but at least you can catch the entire Burrito Brothers set doing the GILDED PALACE OF SIN album in excellent sound.

Might I suggest waiting until after sundown, pouring yourself a microbrew (and having a back-up ready), putting the computer on a nearby table (listening is what’s important), finding a comfortable chair, and gazing out the window….let the Cosmic American Music take you away….

The You Tube link to the Burrito Brothers performance is below, along with a few other related items…..

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An easy to follow video history of the Flying Burrito Brothers, from late 1967 (pre-Gram, pre-Chris) through today….

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History of Burrito-related bands, 2002-present:

http://www.burritobrother.com/fbb12.htm

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Here’s the GILDED PALACE OF SIN show, running 53 minutes:

and for an encore, here’s the 1976 lineup of the Burritos, with Joel Scott Hill v/guitar, Chris Etheridge bass, Gene Parsons Drums . Gib Guilbeau Fiddle, Sneaky Pete Kleinow Pedal Steel, live in 1976 on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert:

June 26, 2020

In Praise of Studebaker

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:19 am
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Ahhhh, Studebaker.
I was born into a Studebaker family, a blue 1952 Champion (prior to that, when my father came back from WWII, he got a used 1939 Stude). My father took me on some road trips in it, just the two of us. Later we got a used 1959 Ford wagon, and I remember my father always kept a 5 quart jug of oil on the rear passenger floor because this car burned so much oil you always needed to pull over and add a quart. The Studebaker then became the secondary car, but my father was nice enough to use it when he and I would go out to do something, as he knew how attached I was to it.
Finally, in 1968, my father decided to get the family’s first-ever NEW car, a Chevy Impala. Since we did not have room for three cars, something had to go, and it was the Studebaker. Not wanting to hurt my feelings too much, my parents junked it one day while I was at school. I came home, and it was no longer there. I cried the way you’d do if you’d lost your dog.
About a week later, a maroon Impala arrived in the driveway.
Things were never the same. No other car had that special combination of style and functionality of Studebaker. The GM Saturn subsidiary later tried to do something bold and original the way Studebaker had (I owned a Saturn wagon, and it was a mixed blessing—-smart engineering mixed with obvious functionality flaws, as if the cutesy  innovations blinded them to the more mundane workaday features anyone would expect in any basic car), but the world wasn’t ready, and eventually Saturn became just another GM subsidiary, making cars based off of European GM models not sold in the US because the “originality” angle did not make adequate profit.

Many years later, in the late 1980’s, my wife and I were living in SW Virginia, and I saw a small used car lot on the outskirts of town. It had a rusting once-white 1963 Lark 4 door that had written in soap on the front window in large letters “DO NOT DRIVE—-NO BRAKES!” I have always had a policy of pulling off the road to look at any Studebaker I see–I still do today and will chat with the owner if they are around—-Stude owners are ALWAYS happy to talk about their cars. The guy at the car lot could see that I was a Studebaker lover, not someone who was going to be buying anything immediately, so he just waved at me and left me to look at the car, which was unlocked. I sat in that front bench seat, smelled the old car smell, put my hand on the gear shift (on the wheel, of course), and dreamed. Of course, there was no parts distribution system for Studebakers anymore—-you had to get any parts on the secondary market, often through Studebaker owners groups. Most shops could not work on them. Many Stude owners who worked on their cars had a second car, a junker of the same year and model, that they would cannibalize for parts, and I imagined doing that, finding another Lark. Of course, my auto mechanics skills consisted of being able to change the oil, change the spark plugs, change the air filter, and change a tire, but I did not let that get in the way of the fantasy.

As I sat on that stiff but lumpy front bench seat fantasizing about being a proud Studebaker owner and tooling along the tree-lined thoroughfares of Roanoke and Salem, Virginia, in my 1963 Lark, my wife peered in the window, smiled, and said, “don’t even think about it. It would be a money pit.” I opened my eyes, saw the DO NOT DRIVE–NO BRAKES message three-feet wide in soap in front of my face, and agreed. People who love you do you a favor when they politely bring you back down to reality….

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1952 Studebaker Champion 

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1963 Studebaker Lark

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Thanks to CS for inspiring this reminiscence….

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June 25, 2020

more than six hours of interviews with pioneering jazz trumpeter ARTHUR BRIGGS

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Trumpeter ARTHUR BRIGGS is a legendary name to lovers of pre-WWII jazz….although he is not as well-known as Louis Armstrong or King Oliver or Bix Beiderbecke because he did most of his recording in Europe, and I don’t believe there has ever been a North American compilation of his European recordings. He was a virtuoso player with a wide range (often praised in the European press for hitting those high C’s!), great technical facility, great harmonic invention (he was given an intense classical training), and a rawness and drive to his playing that justifies the Armstrong and Oliver references.

He was the toast of many European capitals in the 1920’s (for many Europeans, he was THE face of Jazz, the man they could see in person, regularly if they wished, a first-rate player and personality who chose to live and work in Europe!) and had a long career as a performer and later as a teacher, interrupted by a few years in a German concentration camp (I wonder if his experience had anything to do with John A. Williams’ novel CLIFFORD’S BLUES, which I have not re-read since it came out in 1997….although a number of the specifics in that book do not match Briggs, I am assuming the Clifford character is a composite with a large dose of fictional invention added).

The experience of jazz musicians (and especially African-American jazz musicians, such as Briggs) who worked primarily overseas as expatriates has always fascinated me, especially those pre-WWII figures like Briggs or Sam Wooding or Danny Polo who recorded extensively overseas. Even figures we don’t think of as expatriates (Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, for instance) spent a good bit of time in Europe and recorded a good amount there. How exciting it must have been to see Arthur Briggs Savoy Syncops Band at some Paris dance-hall in 1925, or Lud Gluskin’s orchestra at some swanky Swiss resort in 1928 (and let’s not forget those farther afield, such as Buck Clayton’s years in Shanghai, China, in the mid-1930’s). What stories these Americans in Europe must have had to tell…. Well, imagine my surprise when I recently stumbled across more than SIX hours of tape-recorded interviews with Briggs posted online at the Rutgers University Institute for Jazz Studies website. This is a man who worked with such legendary Black pre-jazz figures as Will Marion Cook (whom he knew well), who was in the post-James Reese Europe version of the 369th Regiment Marching Band, who describes in detail the playing of Freddie Keppard in the 1919-1921 period not documented on record, who knew and remembered as if it was yesterday legendary-but-obscure African-American music figures such as Cricket Smith, who knew and worked with Sidney Bechet before Bechet ever recorded, and who has a life and work experience more interesting than any movie or book could contain. Fortunately, you can hear him tell his story, in interview with the very knowledgeable James Lincoln Collier (who did a fine book on Duke Ellington, among many other things). It had me on the edge of my chair! Put it on while you are homebound during the quarantine….you’ll have to re-start the player every 45 minutes as each side of the interview cassette-tapes are presented separately. You’ll be a richer human-being after listening to this!

1982 interview in Paris of ARTHUR BRIGGS by Jazz historian James Lincoln Collier, archived by Rutgers University, Institute of Jazz Studies:

https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/56679/

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Arthur Briggs And His Savoy Syncop’s Orchestra – I’m Coming Virginia (vocal by Al Bowlly), recorded in Berlin, Germany, 1927 (video incorporates footage from an Austrian 1925 silent film in which Briggs and band appeared, Das Spielzeug von Paris, directed by  Miháli Kertész, the man who later emigrated to the US, changed his name, and became the Michael Curtiz who directed CASABLANCA and JAILHOUSE ROCK):

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An amazingly thorough survey of Arthur Briggs career (“correcting” some of the statements he made in the audio interview above–I’ll let this research speak for itself–everyone to some extent fictionalizes their personal narrative to make it more interesting or to fit some personal agenda….he’s not the first or the last), from the Black Music Research Journal, University of Illinois Press:

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/397646

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If you want to see the entire 1925 Austrian silent film Das Spielzeug von Paris, with an English translation of the inter-titles, here it is (Briggs is only in a small section of it, in a club scene, but it’s quite interesting otherwise):

June 24, 2020

Balcones “Rumble” (Balcones Distilling, Waco, TX)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:21 am

BALCONES “RUMBLE” , distilled spirits specialty

750 ML, 47% alcohol

made from Texas Wildflower Honey, Turbinado Sugar, and Mission Figs

twice distilled in traditional copper pots, then matured in oak casks

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Balcones Distilling began in Waco, Texas, in 2008. I met one of the two founders, Chip Tate, here in San Antonio back then when he was on the road promoting the product. He talked to me at length about the philosophy of the company, which was a pioneer micro-distillery, one of the first in Texas since the depression. As a long-time lover of New Mexico blue corn in all its forms and uses, I was blown away by the fact that Balcones’ primary product, and the one being promoted, was a blue corn whisky. They’ve done many variations on the blue corn product since, but I remember my original impression of it, like it’s yesterday, having a mellow nuttiness and a mellow sweetness, nothing at all like the harsh corn whiskeys most would think of. Barrel-aging helped deepen that mellow but rich flavor. It was also a spirit that one could savor simply for its flavor. I would NEVER use it in a mixed drink.

Like a record label or an art gallery, Balcones has always represented a certain distinctive aesthetic, a uniquely Texas aesthetic, and their entire product line grows out of that vision. I’m very happy for their success (it’s available internationally—-someone once told me about Balcones products being featured at an upscale Hong Kong bar!), which proves that continued devotion to a unique vision and an emphasis on the small details that brought the business its initial acclaim can continue on a larger scale. Unfortunately, that financial success came at a steep price, with the founder eventually  removed from the company he founded. I’ll just suggest you Google the terms Balcones and Chip Tate and read the journalistic coverage of the situation yourself. It’s not pretty. Fortunately, Chip Tate has started a new distillery, Tate & Co. Distillery, outside Waco, and you should check out their website:

http://tatedistillery.com/

I’m looking forward to the upcoming offerings from Tate & Co. Success is the best revenge.

Getting back to Balcones, whoever owns it presently, another unique product they’ve offered (my wonderful son Eric bought me a bottle of this last Christmas) is BRIMSTONE, a corn whisky that is smoked with Texas Shrub Oak (aka chaparral), which grows wild all over Central Texas and is well-known to anyone who spends any time outdoors (see pic).

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This was a bold spirit that tasted like campfire smoke, but elegant and with the blue corn foundation. It was like nothing else and, based on the online reviews, was a bit polarizing, but it was true to the Balcones vision and I found it quite satisfying (though I did not buy a second bottle–after all, you don’t need to see the Grand Canyon twice!).

balcones building

I’ve of course skipped dozens and dozens of unique Balcones products over the years, as a bottle of spirits lasts a long time at our house (except tequila, as we are regular drinkers of Mexican Mules), and generally at any one time we’ll have three bottles we alternate between, a bottle of Islay Scotch, a bottle of some kind of small-distillery Rye, and some craft-distillery oddity we’re trying on a lark, and they’ll last for a year.

The present lark we are trying is Balcones’ RUMBLE. It’s available in a regular and a Cask Reserve. We’re drinking the regular (see pic above), bottled in 2018.

First of all, though this can be found in the whisky or bourbon section of your local liquor store, it actually has no grain in it. No, it’s made from honey, figs, and sugar. On a blind-tasting, I’d guess many people would be debating whether it’s a unique kind of rum or perhaps a rye that’s been aged in a distinctive kind of barrel, maybe a sherry cask.

Its base is an understated sweetness, but very understated and not cloying in any way. On top of that is a very-slight hint of spiciness, almost headed toward cinnamon, but earthier. However, RUMBLE isn’t really like anything else….it would appeal to people who do not like whisky or rye, yet it has a complexity that one does not associate with most rums.

I’ve visited a few Texas rum distilleries—-Railean, down in Galveston County, and Hye, up on Rt. 290, east of Fredericksburg, as well as the wonderful Bayou Rum, between Lake Charles and Lafayette, Louisiana—-and I’ve seen the huge plastic barrels of molasses and had the process explained, and have also smelled it being bottled, close-up. However, starting with honey and figs does not produce a rum-like product, and RUMBLE is certainly not like any whiskey or bourbon or rye I’ve ever tasted (I don’t do “flavored” whiskeys, by the way), although it has many of the qualities I savor in a fine rye. It’s in a category of its own. Some have even compared it to Armagnac, the exquisite cousin of Cognac.

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The micro-distillery movement (I live right down the road from the maverick Ranger Creek brewery and distillery, where I’ve volunteered a few times with bottling, in return for payment in bottles of Ranger Creek product and a meal and liquid refreshment) has been an inspiring thing to watch. Eric and I visited Railean Distillery back when Ms. Railean was starting up, working out of a portable building next to her garage, in a residential neighborhood in San Leon (there were no “tours” yet—-you would call her personally and she would come out in the driveway to meet you and show you the operation—it wasn’t legal at that time for her to even sell you a bottle—-you had to go to the liquor store in San Leon!), and I’ve watched Garrison Brothers rise from modest beginnings to its present stature as one of the handful of most-acclaimed distilleries in North America.

Although there is A LOT of science involved with distilling (there’d better be!), as well as a necessity for at least one of the partners to have some business background (an MBA and/or previous experience in another business area helps), it’s very much an art too, with an aesthetic, as mentioned above, and the final products are creations that belong to a body of work as much as the works of a composer or a poet or a visual artist.

Balcones Rumble is a beautiful creation, as rich and flavorful and mellow and unique and captivating as an alto saxophone solo by Johnny Hodges, but born and raised in Texas.

June 23, 2020

I CANNOT, YET I MUST by Anders Runestad (Radiosonde Books)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:37 am
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I CANNOT, YET I MUST: THE STORY OF…ROBOT MONSTER

by ANDERS  RUNESTAD

published by Radiosonde Books, 683 pages

available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-cannot-yet-i-must-anders-runestad/1123330634?ean=9780692576625

visit the author’s website at https://runestadwrites.com/

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THE SURVIVING FEATURE FILMS DIRECTED BY PHIL TUCKER:

ROBOT MONSTER (1953)

DANCE HALL RACKET (circa 1954)

DREAM FOLLIES (circa 1954)

BAGDAD AFTER MIDNIGHT (circa 1955)

TIJUANA AFTER MIDNIGHT (circa 1955)

BROADWAY JUNGLE (circa 1955)

THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS (circa 1960)

(PRESENTLY) LOST FEATURE FILMS DIRECTED BY PHIL TUCKER:

SPACE JOCKEY (circa 1953)

PACHUCO (circa 1957)

A book about maverick independent film-maker PHIL TUCKER is long overdue. Rob Craig, author of excellent analytical books on the films of Larry Buchanan, Andy Milligan, and Ed Wood—-and a fellow Phil Tucker fan—-told me a few years ago he would love to someday do a similar book on Tucker’s films, but now seemingly out of the blue a massive and massively-researched book on Tucker’s works and career came in 2015 from Anders Runestad, and until one of Tucker’s lost films surfaces, it’s surely the last word on Mr. Tucker and his body of work and the milieu in which he labored. The author spent a decade researching the subject, and does it show! He’s combed through local newspapers from areas where Tucker lived and worked, he’s talked to the surviving people who worked with or knew (or knew people who knew!) Tucker, he found interviews with people who knew Tucker but have passed away, he gained access to Tucker’s personal notes and some tape-recorded interviews, he worked with Tucker’s son to get his memories and details, and he even got access to the script from Robot Monster, and a huge chunk of the book is devoted to an analysis of the script and how it differs from the finished film. This is how a film book should be researched and written.

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Lenny Bruce (center) and Timothy Farrell (R) in DANCE HALL RACKET

In my earliest days with VHS home video, say the mid 1980’s, I had only a handful of films, many of them so-called “cult films” that weren’t yet in general circulation, and the one I watched perhaps more than any other was Phil Tucker’s DANCE HALL RACKET. I would guess I watched it 30-40 times (by the way, I see from this book that there are THREE distinct versions of the film—-mine was the one without the repeated footage and without the copyright notice in the credits). Not only do I have the film’s many lines memorized, my family members do. Even today, decades later, I will raise an eyebrow to my wife, and suggest we take “a trip to Hawaii.” Out of the blue, I may say in a scratchy, whiny voice, “hey, Mr. Scali,” and I’m fortunate to have friends who will catch an “Icepick” reference, if I make one.

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What impressed me most about DANCE HALL RACKET was not only its entertainment value, the jazzy library music score, and the quirky characters who seem to exist in some kind of alternate universe that I very much want to be part of….but especially the fact that a feature film that’s a crime film could be made so cheaply, yet still put a smile on my face and have me consider it an hour well-spent (multiple times).

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It’s nice to learn that Phil Tucker did not come to a sad end, the way some other cult-film figures did, but he was able to work his way into the larger (legitimate) film industry…and also to learn that  he was an affable, good-natured kind of fellow. His sense of humor comes through in his work.

There’s also a long and detailed analysis of what is in many ways Phil Tucker’s most fascinating work, BROADWAY JUNGLE (see pic below).

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BROADWAY JUNGLE is a true piece of outsider cinema, which is interesting because clearly Phil Tucker COULD make a competent micro-budget exploitation film within the traditional parameters of the z-grade grindhouse and drive-in market. BROADWAY JUNGLE almost resembles something by Andy Warhol from 8-10 years later. Even today, the film gives off an uncomfortable vibe, as if you shouldn’t be watching it, while at the same time being full of broad humor….and a lot of slaps in the face of pretentiousness  in the film industry in all its forms.

And speaking of drive-ins, the author’s research has  uncovered how much long-term drive-in action even the most obscure 50’s exploitation films got in backwater towns across the nation. I was never aware how many tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, paid to see something like GIRL GANG or DANCE HALL RACKET or the AFTER MIDNIGHT series, even well into the early 60’s.

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I haven’t even mentioned ROBOT MONSTER, Tucker’s first film (actually, it was an ambitious start—- a 3-D movie that dealt in its own way with very serious themes and got some industry attention in its day, also an early credit for one of my favorite actors, George Nader, who ALWAYS knew exactly what level to pitch his performance on, when he was working in genre-films), which is the book’s main focus. Not only do you get the script, but a deep analysis of how it was shot, scene by scene, what was cut, what was adapted for the final version, etc.

Let’s hope someone someday does a restoration of CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS, although that’s not that likely as it’s in a kind of rights limbo. Perhaps some filmmaker or video company owner with money can make it a passion project….it would be great to see that film in an acceptable form, not the murky, dupe-y version presently floating around.

Anyone who has enjoyed ANY of  Phil Tucker’s films—-and pretty much EVERYONE who has an interest in vintage exploitation films or cult films has enjoyed more than one, I’m sure—will be amazed that this book exists and how much first-hand reportage it contains. You’ll also learn a lot about Tucker-related figures such as Wyott Ordung and Al Zimbalist, both of whom are colorful and fascinating figures. I never thought I’d have my long-time questions about the 1954 film SERPENT ISLAND starring Sonny Tufts answered….and answered in a book about Phil Tucker, who had nothing to do with the film! Phil Tucker has always been in a class of his own, IMHO. This book is a worthy document to his memory.

In case you’ve never seen Tucker’s DANCE HALL RACKET, it’s available below, via You Tube. Who cares if the credits fonts don’t match and the director often lets the master shot provide primary coverage of the scene played out in front of the camera. This is pure entertainment: Lenny Bruce was clearly a big fan of the Bowery Boys’ Leo Gorcey and performs his role accordingly, while the great Timothy Farrell (see pick of the two of them below), who is ALWAYS worth watching, shows once again why he is the Brian Donlevy of low-budget exploitation films. Phil Tucker and the actors here knew exactly what they were doing and what their audience expected….give the film a few laughs and a few cheap thrills, and a grimy overall feel (it’s supposed to be a crime film, after all), and people will go home (or drive home from the rural drive-in) satisfied. Viewers intuitively knew that this was a grungy exploitation film and did not expect it to, or want it to, resemble some studio film. It’s kind of aiming at the level of, say, a Lippert or Monogram or PRC crime film, but with 1/8 the resources those poverty row outfits had.

If it helps, just imagine you are watching each scene performed in five feet in front of you on a tattered small stage in a basement somewhere by some local fringe theater group.

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I CANNOT, YET I MUST: THE STORY OF…ROBOT MONSTER is the most interesting and best-researched book on exploitation films I’ve read in the last few years (and no, I do not own and have not read the massive Andy Milligan tome that came out recently, though I have that author’s earlier book on Milligan). It has my highest recommendation!

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June 22, 2020

SKIP BATTIN, “Skip Battin’s Italian Dream” (Appaloosa Records, Italy, 2-cd set)

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SKIP BATTIN’S ITALIAN DREAM (Appaloosa Records, Italy, 2-cd set)

Includes Skip’s 2 Italian-only solo LP’s on Appaloosa, NAVIGATOR and DON’T GO CRAZY, and a wonderful Italian live concert with Skip and the man he replaced in the Byrds, John York, previously released only on an obscure CDR (see pic below).

The Skip Battin and John York line-ups of THE BYRDS are much under-rated, and in many ways are my favorite Byrds line-ups: ROGER McGUINN, CLARENCE WHITE, JOHN YORK or SKIP BATTIN, and GENE PARSONS.

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Skip Battin must be ranked among the most essential of the American musicians who flew the freak-flag of cosmic country-rock for decades, pretty much until his passing. He may not have been a “founder” a la Rick Nelson, Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds, Michael Nesmith, Gram Parsons, etc., but he was there soon after and was a member of three of the greatest bands of the genre: The Byrds, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Skip paid his dues for decades in support of the cosmic-cowboy ethos, and fortunately, in Italy he WAS viewed as an important figure and given the opportunity to tour and record. Which leads us to this special and fascinating 2-CD set. I reviewed this in Ugly Things a few years ago (the album came out in 2017), so here is that review, which I was tempted to dig up after playing both CD’s again tonight, in June 2020 on a hot and humid evening in South Texas….Skip Battin and Kim Fowley and John York are still working their magic through these 80’s recordings, decades later (and thankfully, Mr. York is still with us and making fine music!).

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SKIP BATTIN—Skip Battin’s Italian Dream (Appaloosa, Italy) 2-cd

     Skip Battin was the oldest member of the Byrds, the only Byrd to have had a significant hit prior to his becoming a Byrd (with Skip and Flip, Gary Paxton being Flip, from 1959), and the only Byrd to issue a solo album while still a member of the band (his 1972 SKIP album on Signpost Records). During his period as a Byrd, the band became a powerful and popular live unit, and people still talk with awe about the 20 minute live versions of “Eight Miles High” with a long duo section between bassist Skip and drummer Gene Parsons. Skip’s songwriting partnership with Kim Fowley found its way onto the final three Byrds albums and certainly brought a new angle to the late-Byrds sound and attitude.

     Post-Byrds, Skip played in the New Riders Of The Purple Sage (check out their Brujo album) and the Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as the later Byrds-related bands that included a grab bag of people involved in various Byrds line-ups.

     In the 1980’s, Skip found a new career for himself in Italy, playing in various bands that included a sampling of American country-rock pioneers (Sneaky Pete Kleinow, John York, Chris Darrow, etc.), learning Italian, and working extensively with Italian steel guitarist and guitarist Ricky Mantoan. The late-Byrds/Burritos/New Riders sound never lost its audience in Italy, and Skip was highly valued with his impressive pedigree in great bands. This led to two original Italian-only albums on the Appaloosa label, which never got much exposure in North America at the time (I remember seeing the blues LP’s on Appaloosa, but not the Battins).

     The two albums, “Navigator” (1981) and “Don’t Go Crazy” (1984), are included on the first disc of this package, and the second disc features a complete Skip Battin/John York concert, live in Bolzano, Italy, in 1988. The two studio albums were recorded in Los Angeles, feature a small group including Sneaky Pete, and offer many Fowley-Battin compositions, some new, some new versions of Byrds and solo Skip recordings (“Citizen Kane” sounds much better without the faux-Dixieland horns on the Byrds version). They sound a lot like modest demos, but Skip’s enthusiasm and the always-interesting material (Fowley lyrics are full of entertaining wordplay) help make the albums a joy to hear. Side two of the second album includes some songs partly in Italian (those are NOT Fowley co-writes!) and the second album has more of a country orientation. Anyone who enjoyed Skip’s 1972 solo album or his featured material with the Byrds (or the New Riders) should welcome these sides.

     However, the real surprise here is the complete Skip Battin/John York Italian concert (with Ricky Mantoan, as “Family Tree”). Playing for a small crowd (surely under 100, if not under 50), these two Byrds (ironically, Skip replaced John York, so they were never Byrds together!) sound completely relaxed and at home, doing a wide variety of Byrds/Burritos/Dylan material along with 50’s and country tunes. We should be thankful to Italian country-rock fans for caring enough to bring these two great artists to Italy and just letting them be themselves. Battin and York were probably not having people break down their doors in 1987 clamoring for duo concerts, so this beautiful show is quite special. York has always been fine in any band (his 2010 duo album with Kim Fowley “West Coast Confidential” is a masterpiece, among the best-ever work of either artist) or solo, and the two blend wonderfully. It must have been satisfying to be at that show.

     Those of us who value the late-period Byrds will treasure this two-CD set. Skip was a unique talent with a long and diverse career. Other than the Evergreen Blueshoes album on Amos, his post Skip and Flip, pre-Byrds career is not very well known (there were a number of still records issued on small labels). Let’s hope this Italian set is just the first step in a thorough Skip Battin reassessment. He deserves it.

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L-R, Gene Vincent, Kim Fowley, Rodney Bingenheimer, Skip Battin

The only photo of Skip and Kim together I could find online, and what a wonderful photo it is, taken during the sessions for Gene’s Fowley-produced LP for the Dandelion label, I’M BACK AND I’M PROUD, on which Skip played. This would have been immediately before Skip joined the Byrds, I’m guessing….

June 21, 2020

Henry Aldrich, Volume 1: Readers Collection (Gwandanaland Comics #534-A)

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henry aldrich 1

THE ALDRICH FAMILY began in the late 1930’s as a stage play and then a radio show (1939-1953), and by the late 1940’s, it had expanded to television (1949-1953). There was also a hit series of feature films—-11 of them built around Henry, the trouble-prone teenaged son, with Henry played initially by Jackie Cooper and then by James/Jimmy Lydon (star of Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 Hamlet-rewrite STRANGE ILLUSION). Henry became the breakout star and featured character in the radio show. With the amazing success of ARCHIE COMICS beginning in 1942 (interestingly, Archie publisher John Goldwater observed that he was trying to appeal to fans of the Mickey Rooney “Andy Hardy” films, which are not that different from the Aldrich Family, so Archie taps into Andy Hardy, and Henry Aldrich taps into Archie….makes sense to me), it would seem inevitable that at the height of his TV and radio fame in 1950, Henry Aldrich would get his own comic book and that it would be echo Archie comics to some extent, although Aldrich (who, technically, pre-dates Archie) is a unique character with a unique family (much more emphasis here on the immediately family than in Archie) and unique quirky qualities, all of which are on display in the Dell HENRY ALDRICH comic books.

Dell published 22 issues of HENRY ALDRICH between 1950 and 1954, and all are in the public domain and available for free reading online at Comic Book Plus.

However, for those who want to hold a print copy in your hand, Gwandanaland Comics is reprinting the series in book form, and the first volume is out, containing issues #1-5. I purchased the “readers collection,” which is a euphemism for black and white transfer. These “Readers” collection are 1/3 or 1/4 the price of the color collections, and getting an 8″ x 11″ book of 250 pages, containing five 52-page comic books, for only $14.99 is too great a buy to pass up, especially since these are comedy and joke oriented stories. Just imagine watching Henry Aldrich on B&W television in the early 50’s while reading these B&W transfers.

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I published a review online of Henry Aldrich #21 (the next to last copy issued, from 1954) a few years ago at BTC, so let me reprint that write-up here to give you a better idea of what this appealing comic book series is like.

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HENRY ALDRICH #21 (Dell Comics, June 1954)

Among my recently acquired batch of fifty-cent comics was a cut-cover copy of the second-to-last issue of the HENRY ALDRICH series. THE ALDRICH FAMILY was a massive hit on radio (running from 1939-1953) and then in movies and in television, and the inevitable comic book adaptation came from Dell in 1950 and ran for four years and 22 issues.

I’ve heard about the radio show and the films, though I’ve never heard a show or watched a film, but fortunately, you do not need any background or backstory whatsoever to enjoy this comic book. The franchise is built around the character of quirky and bumbling but lovable Henry Aldrich, who is in his late teens, his parents and extended family and neighbors, and his best friend and neighbor Homer.

The best way for me to describe this comic book is to ask you to imagine a character who is like a cross between Archie and an older Dennis The Menace placed in a more slapstick-oriented version of the OZZIE AND HARRIET or LEAVE IT TO BEAVER family. In fact, I’ve never thought of this connection before, not being really familiar with the Aldriches, but Ozzie Nelson definitely was influenced by THE ALDRICH FAMILY in his creation of the OZZIE AND HARRIET universe.

It’s hard to do sit-com style comedy well in the comic book format —-the real thing relies so much upon timing, set-ups for jokes, tight back-and-forth editing, established personas of the regular characters which have to be understandable to first-time watchers while not repeating what the regular viewers already know, etc., and it can’t be TOO wordy though it relies on jokes–it’s EXTREMELY hard to do well and in a way that’s timeless and holds up 50 years after the fact….just look at the many un-funny shows of the 50’s-60’s era, some of which are still aired on nostalgia channels today), but HENRY ALDRICH #22 hits a home run in that department–it’s as entertaining and funny in the quirky-family-humor vein as an Edgar Kennedy comedy short or a Columbia BLONDIE movie, but etched on the comic-book page. The first story (the stories are not titled) deals with a family picnic to which various free-loading extended family members and neighbors (and their pets) invite themselves—the humor here has more of the sarcastic “bite” of an Edgar Kennedy short than the gentler feel of OZZIE AND HARRIET. The second (which could have been a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER or DENNIS THE MENACE episode) has Henry’s father having to get a client to sign an important contract he’s been reluctant to sign–Dad goes to the person’s office to find him, while the man comes to the Aldrich office and meets up with Henry, who is filling in for someone who is taking the day off, and whose quirkiness totally wins the man over and gets him to sign the contract. Next, Henry loans a two-dollar bill to his friend Homer, who offers to change it for him, but it blows out of Homer’s hand and in between two buildings with just an inch-or-so clearance and he has to fish it out somehow without admitting that that’s what he’s doing–the problem is that Henry needs that money in a few hours for an important date he’s got lined up for that evening. The final story features Henry’s pal HOMER in his own story. Homer overhears his girlfriend ordering a bunch of food items and party supplies for someone named “Bobby,” and of course he’s jealous and bumbles his way through figuring out what it is going on.

As stated earlier, this comic does a great job of doing 50’s family-sitcom style comedy–it’s as successful as a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode or Archie Comics at their finest. After all, doesn’t EVERYONE want a comic book as satisfying as an Edgar Kennedy comedy short or a DENNIS THE MENACE TV episode?

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All 22 of the Henry Aldrich comic books are all available online at Comic Book Plus

https://comicbookplus.com/?cid=1414

The Gwandanaland book version under review (containing the first five issues) is available at Amazon.

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June 20, 2020

Conversations With Auden, by Howard Griffin

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W. H. AUDEN

CONVERSATIONS WITH AUDEN, by Howard Griffin

Edited by Donald Allen

Grey Fox Press, San Francisco, 1981

conversations with auden

CONVERSATIONS WITH AUDEN is the perfect complement to the book TABLE TALK OF W.H. AUDEN, discussed here in a post dated 8 June 2020.

Both books were created by young poets and Auden admirers from remembered conversations with the poet, not from direct recordings (presumably after they got home that evening and from some kind of rudimentary shorthand that would not call attention to itself—-I did a similar thing after my conversation with John Cage in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1989), and both were based on conversations from the same general period, 1946-47, when Auden was doing a series of lectures on the complete plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare at the New School For Social Research, in NYC. Alan Ansen, who assembled the TABLE TALK book, also took detailed notes on those Shakespeare lectures, which were later assembled, with other people’s notes and memories, into a book (pictured below).

The TABLE TALK book and the CONVERSATIONS WITH AUDEN book are an excellent example of how to different people with different tastes and different agendas can take similar source materials and create very different end products. With the TABLE TALK book, we can imagine Auden after a drink or two, making bitchy comments and self-consciously outrageous pronouncements (you can imagine him savoring the response to these comments), the kind of things that produce a laugh and shaking one’s head, thinking “that Auden–what a character!”

Howard Griffin’s CONVERSATIONS WITH AUDEN is quite different (Griffin was Auden’s secretary in this period). It could be transcriptions of answers Auden provided in a Q&A after the Shakespeare lectures. While Auden has original takes on many literary areas and he’s not averse to pronouncements about life and then-contemporary society and sexuality, the tone of the conversations is quite professorial. At least half of the book deals with Shakespeare, and it’s refreshing to be around someone who knows chapter and verse of The Bard and can apply his work to any situation in any period, as well as have insights into Shakespeare’s working methods. I have known people in the past with those skills, but most have passed away and the one remaining is now retired and in a kind of diminished form, alas. Another quarter of the book is devoted to discussions of the Greeks, and Auden can apply that thought to seemingly any situation also

. CONVERSATIONS is Auden in his professorial mode, something he did quite well, as he often turned to academic gigs to pay the rent.

Interestingly, while Howard Griffin was able to place sections of these Conversations in literary magazines, he was not able to get the entire thing published as a book during either Auden’s lifetime or his own. Auden passed away in 1973, Griffin in 1975. This Grey Fox edition came out in 1981.

In section six of the book, devoted to Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Auden states, “I have always found it remarkable that in poetry…there is so much about sex and very little about food, which is just as pleasurable and never lets you down.” A shame Auden did not live long enough to read any of my poems!

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auden lectures on shakespeare

June 19, 2020

Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra’s Online Music Festival Livestream, Tonight at 6 pm Central Time!

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peacherine

Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra’s Online Music Festival Livestream Tonight!

FRIDAY 19 JUNE 2020, 6 PM Central Time

Just a quick reminder that tonight, June 19th at 7:00 PM EDT is Peacherine’s 2nd Online Music Festival, featuring performers from all over the United States!

This 90 minute music spectacular, hosted by PRSO’s director Andrew Greene, includes virtual performances by Dalton Ridenhour, Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan, Matt Tolentino, Martin Spitznagel, and of course, the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra! You’ll hear everything from ragtime to jazz standards, stride piano favorites, blues tunes, and even Disney classics!

This free concert will be streaming concurrently on Facebook and Youtube:
Link to Youtube stream: https://youtu.be/RLXk085Hi4U
Link To Facebook stream: https://www.facebook.com/peacherineragtime/live/
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/581862752446094/

Don’t worry if you miss the stream, they’ll be left online afterwards for you to view anytime!

Nothing gets the listener revived and animated and provides a tonic for the spirit like ragtime music and music from the ragtime era. Peacherine’s first online festival a month or so ago was a wonderful event, with ragtimers from all over performing from their homes, sharing that infectious and toe-tapping syncopated music. Be sure to check out this 2nd online event….either live or later, as the You Tube stream will continue to be available anytime.

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You can visit Peacherine at  https://peacherineragtime.com/

June 18, 2020

Grief Street (1931)

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GRIEF STREET (Chesterfield Pictures, 1931)

directed by Richard Thorpe (a regular at Chesterfield in the early 30’s, Thorpe directed 187 films between 1923 and 1967, including the Elvis films JAILHOUSE ROCK and FUN IN ACUPULCO)

Chesterfield Pictures released 120 films between 1925 and 1936. They started out in the mid-20’s with low-budget westerns, some directed by Horace Carpenter, best known today for his acting turn as the mad doctor in Dwain Esper’s MANIAC (1934). By the late silent and early sound days, Chesterfield had a distinctive house-style, specializing in murder mysteries, often of a “drawing-room” nature. The early sound features were often made on existing sets on the Universal lot, which gave the films an elegant look, certainly by B-programmer standards, and the films were also well-cast, full of talent from the silent era, who retained name appeal and facial recognition. Contrary to the stereotype of silent actors not adapting to sound (though there are certainly examples of that), the majority made the transition, although major players in the silent era sometimes became supporting players in sound….or even uncredited day players by the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Many of them did bring a kind of old-fashioned stage-y acting style to sound films (think of leading men turned supporting players such as Robert Frazer), but that suggested old-school elegance to early 30’s Depression-era audiences and was appreciated, at least according to my parents, who were teenagers at the time and told me about that perception, and according to write-ups in the trade magazines of the day. If Chesterfield was going for an “elegant” moderately budgeted product, then shooting on Universal soundstages and using old-school silent-era actors helped achieve that feel.

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All of the principals in GRIEF STREET have excellent credentials…. the murder victim, a conceited ham actor, is played by Crauford Kent, who was Silas Marner in the 1920’s adaptation of the George Eliot classic, and also appeared in the same role in both the silent and sound versions of George M. Cohan’s SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE… the leading lady, who is a kind of mysterious character, an former understudy, is played by Barbara Kent, star of the 1928 expressionist masterpiece, Paul Fejos’s LONESOME, who retired from the screen not long after this feature…. the leading man, John Holland, who plays an investigative reporter who helps solve the murder case, had co-starred the year before with Lupe Velez in HELL HARBOR…. the unhappy wife of the murder victim is played by Lillian Rich, born in England, who’d starred in Cecil B. DeMille’s THE GOLDEN BED in 1925 and had many featured roles throughout the 20’s, but by 1932 was leading lady in a Bob Custer indie western….Lafe McKee, a face and voice instantly recognized by western fans, had 450 acting credits going back to 1912, and here he plays the one-time actor, down on his luck, who has stayed with the theater life as a kind of building supervisor for this house who pretty much does every unglamorous job that’s needed, along with delivering some crusty and weather-beaten soliloquies about the nature of life. Then there are the players who would go on to greater things…. the murdered actor’s unhappy wife is played by Dorothy Christy, later known to millions as Leon Errol’s wife in many of Errol’s RKO comedy short….and as a stuttering fellow reporter at the newspaper, the young Walter Brennan, future three-time Academy Award winner and a man whose acting style (not too much in evidence here, with the stuttering routine imposed upon him) and speech patterns are a genre unto himself.

As someone who is a regular watcher and reader of murder mysteries, I must give this one credit for being well-constructed, with every piece of evidence right there in front of the viewer. In fact, it’s a LOCKED ROOM mystery, and those are always hard to pull off successfully. After the final scene of his present play (which we see performed onstage at the film’s start), the lead actor goes to his dressing room after the show. The entire time his dressing room door is within view of McKee, the house manager who is at his desk, and then fifteen minutes later he is dead, with the cord of his dressing gown around his neck. There are no other entrances or exits to the dressing room—-the door was never out of McKee’s sight. How could that happen? Well, there are no cheats here, no last minute revelations the viewer could never had anticipated, the way there are in some lesser B-murder mysteries (some of the lesser Monogram Charlie Chans, for instance). As with a magic trick, you see everything that’s relevant—-it’s just the magician’s sleight-of-hand that has you perceive what you see in such a way that parts of what you see don’t register as being significant.

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With the old-school formal acting style of the leads, with the limited number of sets, and with the dialogue-heavy, early-sound script, GRIEF STREET plays a lot like a stage drama.

With the Covid lockdown, Mary Anne and I have been watching a number of  “staged readings” of plays online, via Zoom, so perhaps we are getting used to this kind of mannered, stage-bound presentation, but GRIEF STREET is a great way to spend 63 minutes for the murder mystery fan.

Actually, virtually any of the early to mid 30’s Chesterfields I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few dozen) are worth watching. Some are better than others, but they rarely disappoint….unless you judge them by 2020 standards. In the 1933-35 period, a number of them starred upcoming actor CHARLES STARRETT, before his western stardom at Columbia Pictures. A Dartmouth football star before going onto the stage, the lanky Starrett often played a kind of Ivy League type in these films, quite a bit different from his 131 western feature films, many in his “Durango Kid” persona.

The Chesterfield films are in the Public Domain, and many are on You Tube. Sinister Cinema also offers at least SIX multi-film sets of Chesterfield productions in very good transfers. However, there’s no need to delay. GRIEF STREET is waiting below for you…

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BARBARA KENT

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JOHN HOLLAND

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Watch the 1931 Chesterfield film GRIEF STREET (63 minutes):

 

June 17, 2020

The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot (November 1965)

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THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT, Episode 19 of Season 2 of the SHINDIG TV show, aired Wednesday 8:30 PM Nov 18, 1965 on ABC

Starring Vincent Price and Susan Hart, with Aron Kincaid, Tommy Kirk, and Harvey Lembeck. B&W, running time 29 minutes

For many years, this odd Television special made to promote American International Pictures’ film DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (starring Vincent Price as Dr. Goldfoot), which aired 2 weeks after the initial release of the film (AIP drive-in films  had a LONG shelf-life, playing here and there for years after their initial run, as second and third features with other AIP product), was much-more talked about than seen. I’m not sure it’s ever received a legitimate video release on VHS or DVD–surprisingly, it’s NOT on the Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray of the film from 2015 (which some of the customer reviews on Amazon angrily note!). I first saw it on a blurry home-made VHS someone loaned me back in the 90’s.

Fortunately, an adequate quality copy of the show IS available on You Tube, and if you’ve got 29 minutes to kill (see bottom of page), it’s a fascinating window into sixties trash culture at its most unashamed, and it sits nicely beside features like the spy parody OUT OF SIGHT, or Jerry Warren’s THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN, or Al Adamson’s PSYCHO A GO-GO, or Ray Dennis Steckler’s RAT FINK-A-BOO-BOO.

Most importantly, it’s 30 prime-time minutes of Vincent Price at his most campy, which you may not have seen before. Who wouldn’t want that?

Whereas the actual DR. GOLDFOOT feature film was in color and had a relatively good budget by AIP standards, this show is in black-and-white and clearly shot on a few modest stages. Also, the film’s wonderful theme song, which AIP spent the money to get The Supremes to sing, is still wonderful on the TV show, but sung by someone else.

Price and Hart return from the original film, but instead of Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman as co-stars, the TV special offers us other AIP contract stars, Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk, both true professionals who are quick studies and get some laughs out of their no-doubt quickly written dialogue. Harvey Lembeck, though a staple of AIP’s Beach Party movies (remember Eric Von Zipper?), did not have a huge role in the Goldfoot feature film, but he’s the in-your-face comic relief here, and his shtick is played so broadly that even someone with a 9″ TV screen would not miss anything. He even gets a “song” here! I’ve always enjoyed Lembeck (who also had a great career in animation voice work), but his Jerry Lewis meets Buddy Hackett persona is not universally loved, and his dynamic presence is too dynamic for some. Try this clip from HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI and you’ll instantly know whether Lembeck is to your taste:

The TV special features a few musical numbers which were cut from the feature film, and the characters played by Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk were not in the original film in any way, and here they’re given their own subplot, which probably allowed for Vincent Price not having to do as much. Price had a 10-year run with AIP in the sixties and was by far the studio’s biggest and most long-term star, although he always worked elsewhere too. I had the privilege of seeing him on the stage and meeting him once, in the late 70’s or early 80’s, when he was doing his one-man show as Oscar Wilde at Elitch Gardens in Denver (I went with my father). Price was charming, friendly, witty, made YOU feel important, and stayed around after the show until everyone who wanted to talk with him or get an autograph had time to do so. I’d guess he was happy to help promote the Goldfoot film with this inexpensive TV musical knockoff, considering his longterm employment with AIP. If they did well, he did well, and he had more money to spend on art!

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As a fan of maverick Texas director LARRY BUCHANAN, I can’t help but point out that in the three years after this TV special, Aron Kincaid and Tommy Kirk both worked for Buchanan in Texas (no doubt as part of their AIP contracts, since AIP financed and distributed via TV packages Buchanan’s Azalea Productions features), Kincaid in CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION, alongside Les Tremayne, and Kirk in both MARS NEEDS WOMEN and IT’S ALIVE.

There was a second DR. GOLDFOOT feature film, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS, made in Italy the next year, with Price returning in the role, for director Mario Bava, and with Fabian and comedy duo Franco & Ciccio added to the mix. It was quite a bit different from the first entry, with more of a slapstick Eurospy feel (no surprise, as it was Italian-made!) and a healthy dose of the Adam West BATMAN TV series. Here’s the trailer…decide for yourself….if you’re in the right mood after a long day, it might be just what you need:

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Now, to get back to the original subject here…. the original, once-rare November 1965 THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT TV special, just a click away….enjoy!

June 16, 2020

Dean Reed in “Buckaroo: The Winchester Does Not Forgive” (Italy, 1967)

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BUCKAROO: THE WINCHESTER DOES NOT FORGIVE (Italy, 1967)

starring DEAN REED with Livio Lorenzon

directed by Adelchi Bianchi (his last film, of only 4 directorial efforts, the previous being LOST SOULS from 1959, with Jacques Sernas and Virna Lisa, which did get a US release)

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BUCKAROO was Dean Reed’s first European film and his first Euro-western (right before GOD MADE THEM, I KILL THEM! and a few years before ADIOS SABATA, the only one of his Euro-westerns to get a US theatrical release), and the role of Hal/Buckaroo was a great breakout role for him in European genre films. He enters the film gradually as the main plot gets locked into gear (although his bravado performance of the theme song during the credits certainly makes it clear whose film this is!) and gradually takes control, with Reed never losing his inimitable laid-back charm. The villain is played with gusto by Livio Lorenzon, well-known from many roles in sword and sandal and costumed-adventure films earlier in the 60’s (some of which have been reviewed here), there’s a secondary villain working for his own purposes, the sheriff is corrupt, and near the end of the film an ironic twist from the past is divulged, to add even more satisfaction to the climax.

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I had not seen any of the four films directed by Adelchi Bianchi prior to this, but he’s quite impressive, keeps the camera moving, frames shots in a way to imply more than what’s being depicted on-screen (one wonders if he has any background in still photography, with his gift for framing), and gives Reed a good bit of space as a performer.

Also, the film is set in the world of mining (as is the great 1968 THE RUTHLESS FOUR, with Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland, George Hilton, and Klaus Kinski, one of my top-five Eurowesterns), which gives it a distinctive feel.

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The film builds tension masterfully, and it’s easy to see why Reed went on to star in a number of westerns while in Europe (though not as many as I would have liked) after making such a strong introduction here. Undoubtedly, films such as this also played well in Latin America, where he had a large fan base.

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We need to remember that for all intents and purposes this was Dean Reed’s first starring role of any significance….from what I’ve seen of his two Latin American features made in 1965, he’s not having to carry the film. In BUCKAROO, from his early scenes, when he decides to stay and help a down-on-his-luck miner and then stands down the corrupt sheriff who suggests he leave the area, it’s clear that Reed was remembering the advice of his acting coach and mentor Paton Price, back in Hollywood six or seven years previously, who’d emphasized how film acting was about totally being present in the moment in the scene, losing oneself in that filmic moment and bringing everything one had to it….Reed understood that this was his one chance to establish himself as an actor and film personality on a new continent, and you can feel that self-discovery here in BUCKAROO.

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Presently, there are NO reviews of Buckaroo on the IMDB! It’s nice to know that in 2020 one can still discover gems such as this….and in a first-rate print.

If you’re not already a fan of Reed, I’d hope you would be after watching BUCKAROO, and there is a link to the film below. It runs 88 minutes, so settle back and let it take you away….

For more reading, here are two reviews on the KSE blog of other Dean Reed films:

my review of Reed’s 1969 film DEATH KNOCKS TWICE

my review of Reed’s 1970 film THE CORSAIRS

In the coming months, I hope to have a write-up on his 1968 turn as Zorro (!!!!) in a Franco & Ciccio vehicle, though I’m watching it in untranslated Italian, so I’m taking my time and watching it more than once….VERY entertaining, and Reed is a great Zorro, though this blond from Colorado does not look the way one usually expects Zorro to.

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single from 1976 on the East German “Amiga” label

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Dean Reed’s 1959 Capitol single “I Ain’t Got You” (b-side of A Summer Romance):

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Dean Reed guest stars on a 1961 episode of the BACHELOR FATHER  TV show….and sings….in fact, he sings the same song four times (!!!) and introduces the competitors at a majorette competition! Between the second and third time he sings the song, there is a lounge-y version of the soundtrack from the man who did the show’s music, John(ny) Williams—-that’s right, film composer John Williams, back in his TV days. A shame that “Twirly, Twirly” is not one of Dean Reed’s better Capitol records, but it fits the plot, which is no doubt why he was brought in to sing it.

Note: start watching at about 17:50 for Dean, singing “his latest hit” (as it’s announced)… otherwise, the show has not dated well and I’d not recommend watching it….although John Forsythe is a joy to watch in anything, and you might want to catch him in either of his two films for Alfred Hitchcock, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY or TOPAZ, neither of which are typical Hitchcock.

 

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Dean Reed sings “Wandering Girl” in the 1965 Argentinian film “Mi Primera Novia” 

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Hear Dean Reed sing the theme song from BUCKAROO, in Italian, from a 1970 Soviet TV broadcast:

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Watch the classic 1967 Dean Reed Euro-western, in a beautiful print:

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And for a little context on who Dean Reed was, here is the acclaimed documentary AMERICAN REBEL: THE DEAN REED story. Reed grew up in the 1950’s just a few miles down the road in Colorado from where I grew up  many years later….

June 15, 2020

Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records, 1971-1973 (Light In The Attic), CD/LP

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:36 am
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V.A., Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records, 1971-1973 (Light In The Attic), CD/LP, issued in 2017

Growing up in Golden, Colorado, I was able to listen to the “underground” radio stations in both Denver and Boulder in the early 70’s, so I heard tracks from many of the Tumbleweed albums and singles when they were new. Also, as Tumbleweed was backed with the corporate money of Gulf & Western, many promo copies of their albums were sent out, which found their way into the junk stores and used record stores of the area (with promo sheets enclosed, probably unread), so at one time or another I’ve owned every Tumbleweed album.

The label was started by Bill Szymczyk (fresh off great success with the James Gang and B.B. King) and Larry Ray as an artist-oriented, album-oriented concern that would be a kind of creative collective, but unlike the many others who had similar post-60’s dreams, Tumbleweed had millions of dollars of seed money provided by the Gulf & Western conglomerate (which also owned Paramount Pictures), so truly, this was the ultimate dream-come-true situation for a boutique label….and with a setting in the beautiful and off-the-beaten-path location of Denver, Tumbleweed Records had a unique identity, issuing nine albums and about a dozen singles between 1971 and 1973. Seven of those albums are represented here on this sampler compilation of the Tumbleweed catalogue (strangely, nothing from the Rudy Romero or Albert Collins albums, which I consider among the label’s best efforts).

For a label which had a stoner reputation, the tracks here lean toward singer-songwriter material. Danny Holien’s “Colorado” was one of the label’s few hit singles, so it had to be represented here, but it’s too slight and repetitive to work well as the compilation’s opening track. It would best be heard in a 30-second excerpt in a tourism video. The other hit, Michael Stanley’s “Rosewood Bitters,” holds up well (Stanley got his start with Tumbleweed before finding mainstream success with The Michael Stanley Band elsewhere) and is certainly the most rocking track here.

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(the cover of LITA’s wonderful Tumbleweed Records compilation CD/LP)

Robb Kunkel’s solo album contains interesting lyrics and intriguing production and would appeal to fans of the early 70’s output of Elton John or Jake Holmes. Pete McCabe’s album is full of quirky and intelligent songs with unexpected points-of-view and imagery–imagine Syd Barrett and Tom Lehrer in one body. Dewey Terry, perhaps the best-known artist to sign with Tumbleweed (other than bluesman Albert Collins, who is not represented on the compilation), was famous as half of the Don & Dewey R&B combo, and his album Chief (with an vintage school tablet-book pictured on its cover–it was a staple in used record stores of the 1970’s) was widely reviewed, and I remember it getting good airplay in Denver and Boulder. The two tracks here are split between one which treads near singer-songwriter territory and one that’s a funk workout. For many, the most interesting music on Tumbleweed was from Arthur Gee, the only artist to record two albums for the label. Gee, who usually gets tagged with the “acid-folk” label, wrote seemingly simple but dizzyingly fascinating songs which get deeper and quirkier with each listen. The drug use at Tumbleweed is often mentioned in accounts of the label, though few would describe these tracks (other than Arthur Gee) as psychedelic in any way; however, one way the “stoner” tag is earned by Tumbleweed is that everything on this compilation is better appreciated on headphones rather than through speakers….the albums are beautifully recorded with many small and intriguing bits of business subtly integrated into the mix.

It’s a shame that the albums by Robb Kunkel and Arthur Gee and Pete McCabe were not fully appreciated in their day, but they hold up well today, and they certainly represent the pure vision of those unique artists, which was what Tumbleweed was all about.

This is not the Tumbleweed Records compilation I would have assembled, but it’s interesting enough to get those so inclined to search out the original albums—-and I hope that Light In The Attic will be reissuing those albums, in the same way they’ve done such a fine job on Lee Hazlewood’s album catalogue—-and it documents an admirable but quixotic label which set the stage for the artist-oriented small boutique labels of today.

(originally published in a slightly different form in Ugly Things #45)

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(note: I walked past the “Tumbleweed House” on Gilpin St. in Denver many a time as a teenager in the early 70’s)

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If you are not familiar with Tumbleweed’s music and story, here is a fascinating podcast from Light In The Attic, to complement the release of the LITA Tumbleweed comp. It’s about 26 minutes and quite interesting….put it on while you are doing something!

June 14, 2020

COMPLETE PICTURE NEWS, Volume 1 (Gwandanaland Comics #243)

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picture news

The 1940’s were a rich  period for comic books, the pre-television period when comic books were at their deepest saturation point in popular culture and when there was the widest variety of comics from a wide variety of publishers. Truly, it was a kind of Wild West period in comics history, when the rules were not yet established and publishers could try anything to see if it would stick.

It also featured many small, independent publishers, or ventures into comic publishing by businesses whose focus (and profit) was elsewhere, but who saw comics as a business possibility. One of those was Lafayette Street Corporation, who issued a total of fifteen issues of two magazines in 1946-47. The Grand Comics Database describes LSC as “an attempted new line initiated by the printer which printed DC (National)’s comics, The Bridgeport Herald.” They released 10 issues of PICTURE NEWS between January 1946 and February 1947, and then 5 issues of THE GUMPS (based on a long-running—–1912-1959!—- newspaper comic strip, see pic) between March and December 1947 (GCD), and that was it.

gumps

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PICTURE NEWS IN COLOR AND ACTION (an exciting title!) is a fascinating non-fiction comic book covering a wide variety of topics, describing itself as a comics version of a newsreel….kind of like a Sunday newspaper supplement come to life in comic form!

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Consider what’s in the first issue: playwright George Bernard Shaw on the atomic bomb; the story of much-married heiress Barbara Hutton; a look at the post-WWII economic revival, as filtered through the US Secretary of Commerce; the story of a dog who followed its owners from Tennessee to California; a science-based narrative of an invasion of black ants in Michigan; the story of composer-pianist Hoagy Carmichael; a presentation of why WWII service nurses should get first crack at nylon stockings when they are available; a rat trap as designed by eccentric inventor Rube Goldberg; the inspirational example of boxer-turned-Hollywood supporting actor Freddie Steele, who is discovered by director Preston Sturges (!!!), who is depicted in comic form in the story; a love story between a trans-Atlantic blind couple who communicate by braille; and each issue also offers 3 or 4 pages of cartoons from the legendary Milt Gross.

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That’s typical of the wide variety of material found in each issue. The art is full of action and character, and the stories are both informative and breezy. Also, the ones in the areas I’m knowledgeable about (Benny Goodman’s life and career, for instance) are surprisingly accurate and full of well-chosen details. A number of pieces are of educational value in different areas (agriculture, economics), and the celebrity coverage ranges from beauty secrets from actress June Allyson to the life story of Cardinal Spellman!

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While there is nothing here offensive or of an adult nature, the magazine is probably not aimed primarily at children, though they could read it easily and would find some of the pieces entertaining. As with the newspaper Sunday supplement or a newsreel, PICTURE NEWS could be left sitting on a table in the living room and could be enjoyed by all the members of the family. It could also be used as an example of how comics could be used in an educational and uplifting manner, as evidence against the moralists who came down on comics as a corrupting medium.

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Most importantly, it’s very entertaining reading….that is, if you’re the kind of person who would be fascinated by a 1946 newsreel!

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Gwandanaland Comics has compiled the first five issues of PICTURE NEWS into this attractive softcover book, and they promise to finish the series later with a Volume 2. Check Amazon for ordering information.

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Unfortunately, the “newsreel comic” never really took off after PICTURE NEWS, though one can still find some “educational comics” in pamphlet form, especially about health issues (look around the next time you’re at a health clinic or pediatrician or dentist), although the advent of universal cell phones and the proliferation of You Tube videos on every imaginable subject has made hard-copies of informational comic pamphlets much less common in the last ten years.

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You can read ALL TEN issues of PICTURE NEWS for free at Comic Book Plus:

https://comicbookplus.com/?cid=331

June 13, 2020

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 1: The Tracy & Sawyer Military Comedies (Classic Flix DVD)

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stream 1

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 1: The Tracy & Sawyer Military Comedies (Classic Flix DVD)

contains the following  six 5-reel feature films

TANKS A MILLION (1941)

HAY FOOT (1942)

ABOUT FACE (1942)

FALL IN (1943)

YANKS AHOY (1943)

HERE COMES TROUBLE (1948, in Cinecolor)

starring WILLIAM TRACY (“Terry”‘ in the serial version of the comic strip TERRY AND THE PIRATES) and JOE SAWYER

supporting players in the films (some more than once) include Noah Beery, Jr., Margaret Dumont, James Gleason, Douglas Fowley, and Frank Faylen

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The short feature running around 35-45 minutes—-longer than a short subject but shorter than a one-hour programmer—-has always been an appealing phenomenon to me. They were also appealing to exhibitors, in that they allowed for more showings of a double-bill per day, meaning more money in the till. Also, they did not wear out their welcome. In the 30’s we had films such as the Bud’n’Ben western shorts (pairing western comic and perennial sidekick Ben Corbett with a leading-man cowboy such as Wally Wales or Jack Perrin…. titles include Potluck Pards, Nevada Cyclone, Romance Revier, Pals of the Prairie, Arizona Nights, Rainbow Riders, Ridin’ Gents, West on Parade, and Girl Trouble….I had 3 or 4 of them on VHS back in the 80’s, and some of them are presently available from Sinister Cinema…none are on You Tube, unfortunately) which ran around the half-hour mark, and short features running under 50 minutes such as the 1934 INSIDE INFORMATION (see end of post for a link to that).

Even the 1929 crime short-feature THE LINE-UP, which I posted a link to here a few weeks ago, would qualify, as would some of the extremely short western features of Victor Adamson or Robert J. Horner.

In the early 40’s, after Laurel and Hardy had moved on, producer/studio head Hal Roach created the term “Streamliner” for feature films made on the Roach lot and distributed by United Artists, which ran between 40 and 50 minutes. Roach made 22 of these, and all 22 are going to be reissued on DVD, from Roach studio archival materials, by Classic Flix, a company known to me previously for their wonderful collection of the five PRC “Michael Shayne, Detective” films starring Hugh Beaumont as Shayne.

The first set from Classic Flix is now out and features the six military comedies starring William Tracy as the lovable and bumbling bookworm Sgt. Doubleday and Joe Sawyer as the always-mad and flustered Sgt. Ames (think of Tracy as a Harry Langdon with a photographic memory, and Sawyer as a slow-burn exasperated character like Edgar Kennedy in his comedy shorts, but more angry).

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Although their 20’s and 30’s glory days were just a memory by 1941, Roach’s “lot of fun” was still firing on all cylinders as a comedy factory when they made the Tracy-Sawyer films. They move as quickly as Roach comedy shorts but allow for more of a plot and more comic set-ups, even though they are over before you know it. The supporting players such as Noah Berry, Jr. and James Gleason are first-rate comedy talents themselves (Berry had a 40+ year career and is known and loved by millions as James Garner’s father in The Rockford Files TV show).

Most of the plots revolve around the trusting and friendly Sgt. Doubleday winning friends and admiration from the military brass and the ladies, with his senior sergeant, Ames, trying to take him down a few pegs and show off, both of which he fails at…miserably. This formula worked quite well through all six films (and there were two more, distributed by Lippert Pictures in the post-WWII period, not included here). If you can imagine a combination between a classic Roach two-reeler and Abbott and Costello’s BUCK PRIVATES (surely an inspiration for Roach to ride the coattails of), that’s what you get here, with no padding of any kind. Anyone who enjoys 30’s Roach comedy shorts and Abbott and Costello should enjoy these films….and this set from Classic Flix. More sets of Roach Streamliners will be coming this year on DVD, the next being a series totally unknown to me, western comedies starring Noah Beery Jr. and Jimmy Rogers (a son of Will Rogers, though not the same man as Will Rogers, Jr.), scheduled for release at the end of June. I’m looking forward to it!

Speaking of Robert Lippert, he also produced 40 minute (more or less) features with his pre-Lippert Pictures outfit Screen Guild Productions, circa 1947-48, a series of four Mountie films starring Russell Hayden (which are available from VCI as a set and which I really enjoyed), and a series of two detective films, THE HAT BOX MYSTERY and THE CASE OF THE BABY SITTER, starring Tom Neal as private eye Russ Ashton, with the ever-bumbling Allen Jenkins as his sidekick. THE HAT BOX MYSTERY is on You Tube, and THE CASE OF THE BABY SITTER is on one of the Kit Parker Films’ FORGOTTEN NOIR sets.

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You need some “streamliners” in your life, so I’m sharing links for two PD ones, mentioned above, which are on You Tube. First, the Tom Neal detective film THE HAT BOX MYSTERY, from 1947:

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and when you’re through watching that,

inside information

the 48-minute feature film from 1934 INSIDE INFORMATION, starring REX LEASE and TARZAN, THE POLICE DOG, an old favorite of mine (I reviewed this online about 20-25 years ago, but alas, it’s no longer up and I don’t have a copy of the review…and yes, I did try the Wayback Machine)….

June 12, 2020

The Great Metropolitan Steam Band (Decca Records LP, 1969)

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great metropolitan steam band

THE GREAT  METROPOLITAN STEAM BAND

Decca Records LP, released 1969

A1 Blues Ain’t Nothin’
A2 Keep Your Hands Off Her
A3 Doctor Jazz
A4 Cocaine Blues
A5 Spare Change Rag
A6 It’s Tight Like That
B1 I Want A Big Butter And Egg Man
B2 Jackass Blues
B3 How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field
B4 Cold In Hand
B5 Basin Street Blues

As the other bands who had albums released on Decca Records in the 1967-70 period can surely attest, Decca was not the hippest label to be signed to. They were a large company (part of the huge MCA conglomerate) and had excellent distribution and clout within the industry, but beyond  The Who and (for a much different audience) Rick Nelson, their releases of new bands tended to sink in the marketplace….great albums by bands such as THE NOVA LOCAL and THE FORUM QUORUM should have gotten much more attention than they did back in the day.

Undoubtedly, the same thing happened with THE GREAT METROPOLITAN STEAM BAND album, although I can imagine it getting a good review in, say, a college newspaper in a city in the Northeast where they might have played, and it is certainly a pleasant and to some degree timeless album. Basically, the band is in the old-timey tradition of the revival jug bands who were popular in the early-to-mid 60’s, though there is no jug here (some of the few online mentions of the album drop terms like “ragtime” and “vaudeville,” which are not really that accurate, but do help you anticipate the overall flavor of the album—-one nice element about the band is that they blend a number of styles together so that it’s difficult to put any label on them, other than “acoustic” and “old-timey”).

Members included vocalist Bonnie Bagley, guitarist Eliot Kenin, and also Peter “Sy” Simmonds and Rocky Rockwood. Bagley reminds me somewhat of Bluesville Records-period Tracy Nelson if she went more in a Tin Pan Alley direction, though I suppose listeners at the time might have thought of Janis Joplin. I also hear a bit of the brassy, stagy side of someone like Cass Elliot (I mean that as a compliment!). When the Steam Band broke up, she joined legendary New England trad-jazz unit The Black Eagle Jazz Band, which makes perfect sense as the Steam Band is very much in that general tradition, which would have been more clear if the band had horns in it. I’m assuming the guitar and mandolin work is from Eliot Kenin, a man who worked in folk music for decades and is a jaunty and inventive player here. The instrumentation, always understated, varies from track to track, but includes tuba and mandolin and harmonica and banjo.

According to online sources, the band originated in the Boston area circa 1968, which makes sense when one thinks of  Jim Kweskin’s longtime residency in that area and with Boston always having a folk and old-time music audience and club scene (some of the bluegrass revival bands of the early 60’s had a foot in Boston). I would imagine they were a fine live band who could keep an audience entertained and with a smile on their faces, but they were more than a “good-timey” band as they took on one of Ed Sanders’ adaptations of William Blake (the arrangement here would appeal to Carter Family fans!) and also their soulful and languid six-minute take on “Basin Street Blues” hints at some interesting possibilities not heard on the rest of the album.

Somewhere along the way, they hooked up with producer and music entrepreneur David Blume, co-composer of “Turn Down Day” and husband of folk great Carolyn Hester, then going through a fascinating period with her psychedelic outfit THE CAROLYN HESTER COALITION. Blume signed them to his Red River Productions (which also included Hester’s Coalition and jazz-fusion band Osmosis (with Charlie Mariano, a former Bostonian)) and co-produced this album, which was released in 1969. Blume also worked at Paramount Records (another great label for little-known, poorly-promoted LP’s  from the early 70’s) and had many interesting and diverse credits over the decades.

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A single was released from the album, and the album itself was also issued in both Germany and the UK (and there is a mega-rare UK mono pressing too).

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Despite the front cover, there’s nothing remotely psychedelic about the album—-the back cover, with band members in a straw hat and a stovepipe hat and holding a tuba and a string bass, gives a much better depiction of what the band sounded like.

I could find nothing online about their time as a working band in Boston. Perhaps some Boston music historian has gig flyers, club listings, etc. There is always an audience for this kind of music among specialists, and it also usually goes over well with large audiences (outdoor city festivals, 4th of July celebrations, etc.) in a superficial way because of its spirit of fun and its timelessness. Also, everyone from 5 to 85 can appreciate it and finds themselves tapping their toes.

A second album going more in the direction of the “deeper” side found in “Basin Street Blues” would have been nice, but evidently the album was not a big seller and the band broke up (I wonder how Decca could have marketed it?).

Like so many obscure “roots” albums of the late 60’s and early 70’s, this was reissued on CD by the Korean “Big Pink” label, but that import CD would probably cost you a  lot more than a used copy of the actual LP—-50 copies are for sale at Discogs, starting at $2.00. Should you find this for a few dollars at a used record store and you enjoy, say, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (Mary Anne and I just saw a Kweskin livestream from his living room a few weeks ago, and the master is still in great form!), you’ll probably enjoy it. I listened to it three times in a row earlier this morning, which is what prompted me to write about it. If you have a taste for this kind of old-timey, acoustic 1920’s-based sound as interpreted by young musicians from the late 1960’s, you’ll enjoy owning this, and tip your hat to the musicians, wherever they may be, for making this largely forgotten album. I would love to have heard them in some neighborhood watering hole in Cambridge in 1968, being cheered on by their local fanbase….

great metropolitan steam band 3

June 11, 2020

Washington Irving and Germany, by Walter A. Reichart (1957)

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irving germany

WASHINGTON IRVING AND GERMANY

by Walter A. Reichart

University of Michigan Press, 1957

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Professor Walter A. Reichart held a chair in German and Linguistics for many years (1925-1974) at the University of Michigan, and we Irving readers are fortunate that someone of his background and depth of knowledge took on a project regarding the relationship between Washington Irving and Germany. He is not the greatest admirer of Irving’s works, particularly the ones from the period the book covers, perhaps being too much of a classicist and having a natural aversion to works with an organic form, and he also tends to allow the circumstances of the often-rushed composition of the trilogy of major works under review here—-THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, BRACEBRIDGE HALL, and TALES OF A TRAVELLER—-and Irving’s own self-deprecating comments about the works to color his view of them. Also, in 2020, we are much more apt to appreciate the form and function of a collage-based work, such as these three volumes are, than a professor who started teaching in 1925 might be.

irving bridge

Irving’s works and writing life do divide up conveniently into different periods.

There is the “early” period of political satire with SALMAGUNDI magazine (1807) and other magazine work, evolving into the satirical faux-history of Deidrick Knickerbocker’s HISTORY OF NEW YORK and his editing of the ANALECTIC magazine.

Irving then spent a number of years in England, culminating in his greatest popular literary success, in both North America and Europe, THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, published in 1819-1820. The English years are dealt with in this book as an introduction to his time in Germany and Austria, 1822-1824, which are its focus.

THE SKETCH BOOK does rely on Irving’s adaptation of German stories and folktales in some of its sections, though Irving had not actually been to Germany yet, and Prof. Reichart’s encyclopedic knowledge of German language and literature insures that he has read multiple German versions of what are believed to be the source texts for Irving’s adaptations, and he’s also gone through Irving’s own personal library at Sunnyside (what survives of it), even to the extent of studying Irving’s annotations of the texts. This kind of primary research is a model of what literary history and analysis should be.

irving, traveller

The majority of the book, however, deals with Irving’s period in Vienna (he did not like it and never really made deep connections there) and Dresden (which he DID like a lot, and where he made very close friends and was part of the English-speaking literary social set). Reichart has studied the personal diaries of many of the people Irving interacted with, has checked the dates of events Irving was known to have attended and found contemporary news items regarding them, and regarding Irving, and he offers a  meticulously documented (through primary sources from the parties involved or present while it was happening) account of Irving’s brief romance with the lady considered the love of his life, Emily Foster, which happened in Dresden.

As a professor of German language and literature, Reichart knows exactly how much German Irving was able to master—-in reading, in translating, and in speaking—-and we could probably describe that level as “functional but not deep and not that aware of the complex subtleties of the German language”, though he was able to read and comprehend stories and tales much better than, say, philosophical or theological texts, but those (fortunately) did not interest him anyway.

Reichart then goes into detail on the creation of the two follow-up volumes, both filtered through the Geoffrey Crayon narrative persona, to the Sketch Book, BRACEBRIDGE HALL and especially TALES OF A TRAVELLER, the one which was expected to be Irving’s “German Book,” the way Bracebridge and its earlier cousin were “English books.” It did not turn out to be very German-based at all, and Reichart goes into that and the reasons why, and exactly what is WAS based on, in much detail.

Although Reichart is not a great fan of either book, feeling TALES is a relatively weak work, you will learn an incredible amount of information here about Irving’s sources, and also the then-common tradition (used a lot in Italian works that Irving had read) of a narrator-character who not only tells tales told to him by others, but who then allows other characters to both tell tales themselves and to have them go one step further and re-enact a tale told to them—-thus, you can be four or even five levels removed from the narrator at some points in the book! I’ve always been fascinated by that technique, which for an 1824 work seems very contemporary and foreshadowing techniques found in the twentieth century and beyond.

We also learn A LOT about Irving’s short-lived period as a co-translator of plays, which on some level seemed both a favor to his friend and a way of making quick money. I’ve read two of these plays elsewhere, but not knowing the source plays or the popular-stage tastes of the period, I’m not sure of what to make of them. They certainly are not of great value, except to the devoted reader who has to know everything.

Reichart’s literary detective work about Irving’s few years in Germany and Austria is a revelation for those who care. In the end, he does not find the works under review to be of much value, but he provides so much primary research for the reader that his conclusions rooted in his personal taste are not that important and are really just a small part of this scholarly work.

Ironically, as the book “fades out” near the end of the final chapter, Reichart discusses the many ways that Irving influenced German authors both of the day and later in the 19th century. If only he’d added another chapter on THAT, but I suppose it’s beyond the scope of the book, which is about Irving himself did that was related to Germany or things Germanic.

Irving moved on to Spain in 1825 and thus closed this chapter of his life and work. He moved on to books rooted in Spain and its history and later after going back to America became primarily an author of non-fiction works, which took advantage of his skills as a fiction writer. He’d experimented with narrative persona first through Jonathan Oldstyle, then through Knickerbocker, then through Geoffrey Crayon, so that by the mid 1820’s, he was ready to take on a new narrative persona….Washington Irving…. which (with some exceptions) he used for the rest of his writing life.

He did bring the Geoffrey Crayon persona back for a fourth book later, THE CRAYON MISCELLANY, which combined his TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES with studies he’d had in the can of the home of Lord Byron and the home of Sir Walter Scott, but that’s beyond the scope of this book.

As for myself, I consider the SKETCH BOOK an excellent work (still being read today), but BRACEBRIDGE HALL is a masterpiece, and as a fascinating and complex literary work, TALES OF A TRAVELLER is on an even higher level. I re-read all three in succession in a period of about 3 months last year, which is really the way to experience these. Not only are you reading them in the order composed, but you can experience Irving’s growth as a writer of complex full-length literary works with each book. A contemporary study of the form of each of these three works, viewing them as early versions of what later might be called a collage or assemblage method of organization, would be most welcome, but as I’m near retirement and have not been in a graduate-level class since 1990, I’m not the man to do it.

My hardcover original copy of Reichart’s book is another de-accessioned library discard, this time from Tacoma Community College, whom I thank. It only cost me $4, and I see at ABE Books that you too can get your own copy for under $10 today.

I’ve also acquired and started to read another specialized scholarly Irving volume, on the author’s longtime relationship with his British publisher, the John Murray publishing house (which went through multiple generations of Murray, a version of which still exists today). Perhaps I can perhaps discuss that later…..

bracebridge hall

June 10, 2020

four more Bill Shute reviews for UGLY THINGS #54

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I was saying a while back how it was a bit of a break to have only four reviews to write for the next Ugly Things, issue #54—-well, those are now written, but UT editor/publisher Mike Stax has convinced me to take on another four reviews, and as I am anxious to get free review copies of all of these, I happily agreed. One CD and three LP’s:

CD: various artists, MORE LONG-LOST HONKERS AND SHAKERS (Ace, UK)

the long-awaited second volume in the fine ACE series of obscure rockin’ instrumentals, with 14 unissued sides

more honkers

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LP’s (all are Record Store Day 2020 vinyl from the Org Music label):

NAT TURNER REBELLION, “Laugh To Keep From Crying”, acclaimed unreleased 1969-70 LP from Philly area soul-funk group

nat turner

Various Artists, “Sun Records Curated by Record Store Day, Volume 7: Blues”, nice one-LP collection of Sun Records blues–don’t forget that Sun started off as a Blues label

sun blues

JIMMY SWEENEY, “Without You”, nice collection of released and unreleased sides from this Southern singer-songwriter whose famous “unknown” demo “Without You” (included here) was played for Elvis by Sam Phillips in 1954 (Elvis later recorded the song in the 1970’s). Sweeney will make a lot of new fans from this eclectic and well-researched set.

jimmy sweeney

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And I’ve already got a few albums set to review in UT #55, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here….

 

June 9, 2020

BATTLEFIELD ACTION #75 (June 1982, Charlton Comics)

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battlefield 75

BATTLEFIELD ACTION #75 (June 1982, Charlton Comics)

BATTLEFIELD ACTION began at Charlton in November 1957 (“Rip-snorting Combat Tales,” the cover of that issue read) with issue #16—-prior to that, the numbering sequence had been used for FOREIGN INTRIGUE, and before that JOHNNY DYNAMITE. It went on hiatus in 1966 with issue 63 and was revived again in 1980 with issue 64 as a home for war-comic reprints from earlier Charlton publications. Charlton fans knew that if you did not see the ALL-NEW designation at the top of a Charlton comic in the late-period, it was a reprint. This reprint series of BA continued until issue 89 in November 1984, as Charlton was desperately trying to change its business model. Issue 89 was the only one sold at a cover price of 75 cents (previously, it had been 60, but Charlton decided to use higher quality paper and thus took a gamble by raising prices), and it turned out to be the final issue.

Followers of Charlton Comics who were around in the early 80’s will tell you that Charlton product became much harder to find with each passing year. Living in Oklahoma in 1982, when BA 75 was issued, I’m not sure I knew any outlet that sold Charlton comics new off the rack. I would find them maybe 6 months or a year after the cover date in the cheap pile at a comic shop in Tulsa or OKC, or at flea markets/junk shops in the area of Northern OK where I lived, usually for a quarter or so. When I moved to Virginia in 1985, it was much the same situation, although Charlton had pretty much gone under by then. Charltons were not hard to find, but only in the secondary market. Comic shops rarely bagged and boarded them (unless they had some 1950’s item that was considered collectable)—they’d be in the “loose” sections. Even today, in 2020, one can find a relatively good VG copy of many 70’s and 80’s Charltons for a dollar or two, even less when dealers decide to cut back on old stock and you’re willing to buy a quantity. Back in the 80’s, I had a small notebook (small enough to fit in a shirt pocket) with Charlton titles alphabetized and with the numbers I owned of each title listed on that particular page, and I’d bring that with me so as not to buy duplicates….because after all, the particular issues of these western and war comics I specialized in kind of blurred together. This was my pre-computer, pre-internet way of organizing the collection. I still use a similar method, actually, a hard copy, not something in a computer file.

When I was in high school, I remember some fellow students who wanted to join the military when they graduated, and some of them read war comics. Others were the kind of people who read military-oriented fiction and enjoyed B-war movies. I also used to travel by bus (Continental Trailways, usually) in the 70’s and early 80’s when travelling through the Midwest/Southwest, and there were a number of poorly-paid recent recruits on those buses, travelling back home to visit their wives or girlfriends after finishing their basic training, and I remember seeing some of those E1 and E2 soldiers reading war comic books while travelling by bus. My guess is that after a few years in the real military, they stopped reading BATTLEFIELD ACTION or WAR or FIGHTIN’ MARINES.

This issue contains three stories, and as the text among the indicia at the bottom of page on states, “all editorial material herein contained was originally published in, and is reprinted from, publications copyright 1972 by Charlton Publications Inc.” Thanks to the essential Comics.org website (as 1972 content is not PD, this material would be found at Comicbookplus.com), I can see where these piece come from:

SOMEONE HAS TO DIE comes from ATTACK #6 (July 1972), A MARINE IS ONLY ONE MAN comes from ATTACK #5 (May 1972), and THE LAST KILL comes from ATTACK #6 (July 1972).

Checking my records, I don’t have either of those issues among the 14 issues of ATTACK in my collection, although they have the familiar quality of a good B-movie. If you don’t like that, you’d call it cliche-ridden; if you do like it, you’d call it “archetypal” or “using common tropes of the genre.”

One quality I always appreciated about Charlton Comics was the grungy inexact Warhol-esque appearance of the actual product. As with a record from a small label where the label is applied off-center or there is a typo in the credits or an artless splice is audible to even the casual listener, these qualities (to me) give Charlton a “real” and non-slick quality….and you don’t even have to open my copy of this book to get that. The cover image here is from online–I don’t presently have a scanner, so I can’t scan my own copy–but the top 25% of the Charlton logo and the soldier’s face  are cut off on my copy (see pic for what my copy DOESN’T look like). Then when you open the book, the pages are awkwardly cut with some pages being about 1/2 shorter than others, and other pages have the printing running a bit high or low….or off-center. Actually, the lining-up of the color with the lines of the images is relatively good, by Charlton standards, throughout, though not on the level of a DC or Marvel (thankfully!). For me back then, it was like going to the drive-in and seeing an Al Adamson film that had been shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm. It was proudly a non-corporate product, and that slight taste of outsider flavor made all the difference.

No story has an art or writing credit (although there are informed online speculations)–no auteurs here! We’ve got World War II (the most popular war in comic books) covered in the first story, Korea in the second story, and a novel merger of WWI and WWII in the third story. SOMEONE HAS TO DIE has the well-worn story of a young father in Europe fighting the Nazis who has not yet seen his newly born daughter (who incidentally was named after the unit’s tank!) and the trials he goes through in merging his duties as a soldier with his role as a father figure, both in the present and in the big picture of future influence; A MARINE IS ONLY A MAN has a somewhat confusing narrative of a WWII GI who was injured in the War, went to college after the war, and became a journalist who is then embedded with a Marine unit in Korea–it’s one of those stories that hangs on a seemingly clever play on words that’s later given an ironic re-wording; THE LAST KILL (clearly the work, on some level, of San Antonio’s own Pat Boyette) is a story of the links between the people fighting the war on both sides and has an ending I’d call a twist if it were not telegraphed so clearly throughout, and it neatly combines WWI and WWII (and by extension, the post-WWII era on the homefront in its final scenes). In their own way, each story is somewhat thoughtful and not the usual “kill as many Krauts and/or Commies as we can” found in other war comics, but then the talent providing the stories for these comics was from the generation that fought in WWII and/or Korea, so even if they themselves were not veterans, they knew many of them, and thus had, even if second-hand, the painful wisdom of those who’ve been at war.

Advertisements tell a lot about the assumed readership of the specific comic book. During the Vietnam era, many war comics would have ads for affordable engagement rings which could be bought on time-payment plans by anyone in the military for that special gal back home. In 1982, with Vietnam long over, the ads suggest a sad kind of unhappy/unsatisfied (whether he knew it or not) reader with a “world I never made” kind of vibe. 6 of the 8 full-page ads (not counting the obligatory “Sea Monkeys” ad on the back cover) are for products that are aimed at bringing someone luck or changing one’s streak of bad luck or changing one from a weakling to a winner. Ads cost money, so someone must have been responding to these ads for the companies to keep running them (they are seen in western comics too, though not this high of a percentage). Someone with credentials in psychiatry and a specialization in the post-Vietnam comic-book-reading male psyche could no doubt provide us with an insightful commentary on what’s being signified here, but honestly, it does not take a genius to see what qualities are being played upon here. It’s a kind of primitive comic-book-level variation on the same audience-baiting, playing on fears and supposed inadequacies one sees in classier form in ads for erectile dysfunction and baldness-cure advertising.

It might be just a throwaway 80’s reprint comic from a bargain-basement publisher to some, but it’s actually much more, a kind of smeared-newsprint message in a bottle from a world long gone while at the same time keeping its value as pulp entertainment.

As the slogan used to say, CHARLTON COMICS GIVE YOU MORE!

 

battlefield 75

June 8, 2020

The Table Talk of W. H. Auden, by Alan Ansen (Ontario Review Press)

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THE TABLE TALK OF W. H. AUDEN

by Alan Ansen

Edited by Nicholas Jenkins

Introduction by Richard Howard

Ontario Review Press, 1990

auden table talk

Although I have not read much of his verse in the last 20 years, when I was in my teens, W. H. Auden was one of the persons whose work motivated me to get into poetry. More recently, in the last few years, I have been working my way through some of the wonderful scholarly volumes of his Collected Prose, as I can find them at reasonable prices. While much of it was written to help pay the rent, it is a pleasure to read him on any subject, and you can easily hear the man “speaking” through the various reviews and prefaces and the like, as I doubt he would have put much time into editing a for-hire book review, particularly in his later years. He could do this in his sleep, true professional that he was. I’ve also been picking up various compilations of his (then-) uncollected prose….and savoring it. Thus, it was inevitable that I would eventually stumble across this witty and entertaining collection of Auden, often with a few drinks in him, opining on every subject under the sun, though most of them literary or at least about the arts (he’s quite the opera lover—-also, during the period contained in the book, he collaborated with Stravinsky on an opera!).

We have these spoken comments thanks to Auden’s friend and follower Alan Ansen (a name certainly known by serious students of William S. Burroughs), who would go home after an evening with Auden, or after walking Auden home from a reading or a class, and get down his memories of what Auden said, while it was still fresh. These comments come from the period 1946-1948. Ahhhh, if only someone had been there to do this for the rest of Auden’s life. Some of this quality leaks into his reviews written for money for magazines, but here, there is no responsibility needed as one would need for a literary review, no concern about being questioned to justify what he’s saying. He might well say the opposite thing tomorrow! There is also a delicious cattiness to many of his comments. It’s always a joy to be around someone who’s incredibly well-read in a number of areas, and fluent in a number of art forms, and let them pontificate, especially after a drink or two. It’s not like I’m getting much of that right now with the Coronavirus lockdown, so the 75-year old comments of Auden, with a drink in hand and essentially “performing” for a younger friend who was in awe of the older man and thus provided an excellent audience, are great entertainment. I only wish the book was 500 pages instead of 100 (100 plus explanatory notes, that is).

Here are some random lines I underlined in pencil while reading. You could probably come up with your own list, depending on your interests and sense of humor.

————————————————–

(About James T. Farrell) “Studs Lonigan should have been drowned at birth. It’s very unfortunate, but when a character has absolutely no free will it becomes very boring.”

…………………….

“I’d very much like to know the real inside story of the Vatican: it must be the most exciting place in the world, where spirit and world come closest together. That’s where I’d like an official job most of all.”

……………………

“You know, I can’t stand the French.”

……………………

“I think the existentialists were absolutely phony.”

……………………

“There are two things I don’t like. To see women drinking hard liquor and to see them standing at bars without escorts. Women should drink port with lemon. Oh, after you’ve been riding or something like that, you can have something stronger.”

…………………..

“The jukebox is really an invention straight out of hell.”

………………….

“I know a lot of people who think well of Coleridge. I’ve never been able to take his vocabulary.”

…………………

“I’ve often thought of doing a versified detective story.”

…………………

“I’m really terribly annoyed over this teacher rating business. It’s democracy in the wrong place. It assumes that everyone’s opinion is as good as everyone else’s, which is simply not true. The result is that the teacher is encouraged to clown–to be an entertainer. But the teacher should know when to be boring–something necessary for students sometimes. I remember one man at Oxford who infuriated the students by telling them to look up things whenever they asked a question. He was lazy, but it did them a lot of good.”

…………………

“I shouldn’t let anyone under 25 read Whitman, and Hart Crane is dangerous for the young.”

…………………

“Did you see The Importance of Being Earnest? It’s an extraordinarily good play. It’s about nothing at all, which is what makes it so good.”

……………….

“Most people don’t realize that Churchill is a comparatively decadent follower of Burke in his oratory. That’s why they think he’s better than he is.”

………………

(on Yeats) “the more I read him, the less I like him….he was a horrible old man”

……………..

“Isocrates reminds me of John Dewey. He’s a mediocrity who’s usually right whereas Plato is a man of genius who’s always wrong.”

……………

“I can’t understand why the Germans didn’t keep up the bombing of London. If they’d gone another month, England would have given in, Churchill or no Churchill.”

……………

“I’m always amazed at the American practice of allowing a party in a homosexual act to remain passive–it’s so undemocratic!”

………….

“The only way to spend New Year’s Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel.”

…………..

“Swinburne does what Shelley wants to do more successfully than Shelley.”

………….

“I don’t think Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much.”

============================================

Oh, it’s not all catty remarks. There are insightful comments on many literary subjects, about music and the visual arts, etc. How could there not be!

Still, the bitchy pearls in the book put a smile on my face dozens of times and often had me laughing out loud. Were I at the next table overhearing these comments, I would have had the waiter send a round of drinks to Auden and Ansen, whatever they happened to be drinking.

Now, I raise a shot-glass of Texas blue-corn whiskey to these gentlemen in the afterlife. No doubt Auden is ever the raconteur, even in another dimension!

 

 

June 7, 2020

One Man Army: The Action Paperback Art of Gil Cohen (New Texture–Men’s Adventure Library)

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Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY HC cover

One Man Army: The Action Paperback Art of Gil Cohen

(New Texture–Men’s Adventure Library)

Edited by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle

available in hardcover (see above) and softcover (see below)

order online from:  Amazon US link for One Man Army, hardcover

Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY PB cover 2

Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle follow-up their superb books devoted to the work of Samson Pollen with this exciting and beautifully done collection of the paperback book art of GIL COHEN, a man known and respected for his magazine art, his paperback book art, and his aviation art. More specifically, ONE MAN ARMY covers Cohen’s work for the iconic MACK BOLAN: THE EXECUTIONER paperbacks and other related series written by Don Pendleton.  The Pendelton/Bolan books are a genre unto themselves, and many used bookstores will have an entire section devoted to these paperbacks. Pendleton had a streamlined, tightly-wound, whip-crack literary style that did not have a wasted word and pulled the reader from chapter to chapter. In some ways, the entire industry of 80’s and 90’s straight-to-video action films (still being made today in quantity, by the way) are indebted to the vibe created by Pendelton/Bolan/Executioner books.

While the books delivered the goods, those goods might not have been purchased without the cover art. Remember, in the pre-internet era, people did not “surf” in their spare time and stumble across things that would catch their interest for 30 seconds—-they went to a bookstore or a newsstand, looked over the offerings, and spent their hard-earned money on a physical book….a MACK BOLAN: THE EXECUTIONER paperback. It was a conscious purchase that necessitated leaving one’s house. Those memorable hard-boiled, stylized covers on the books managed to distill both the content and the attitude of the books into one image on the cover–it had to be an image that would both inspire someone to buy the book and to plant visuals into the readers’ minds when they got the book home and spent an evening or two with it. For many readers, the images in their mind’s eye would grow out of the image on the cover, using that as a seed planted in the imagination. And that seed was planted by artist GIL COHEN. It’s no wonder that when Pendelton switched publishers, Cohen was asked to continue doing the covers, and when non-Executioner spin-off series were started, Cohen was asked to do those covers too—-after all, Cohen’s art was an important touchstone of the brand. He was also responsible for the picture of Bolan that ran for years at the top of the front cover, separate from the cover art. Even if you never bought or read a Mack Bolan novel, you saw them in bookstores new and used, and you knew what the brand represented by seeing the cover, even at a distance….that was due to Cohen’s art.

Editors Deis and Doyle has collected over 100 ORIGINAL ARTWORKS by Cohen used for these covers, and they’ve presented them with clarity and richness and taste in this fine book. When I first heard about the book coming out, I assumed we’d be getting the paperback book covers, but no, we get the original paintings. To say they are full or beauty and power would be an understatement—-they are both precise (Cohen is an ex-military man—-as was author Pendleton—- and someone familiar with weaponry, so not just the weapons, but they way they are held and the position of the fingers and the arm is accurate) and evocative.

Each of the 100+ artworks here takes you into its own vivid world and suggests the action and intrigue you’d get in the actual books—-we also get a fascinating 12-page  introduction, in Cohen’s own words, about the paperback commissions, his working technique, his use of models and his methods for exactitude and specificity, and his take on the Bolan/Executioner books and their legacy. You couldn’t ask for a finer representation of this side of Cohen’s work.

MB#80 Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY Running Hot (1985)

MB#56 Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY Island Deathtrap (1983)

MB#60 Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY Sold for Slaughter (1983)

MB#31 Gil Cohen ONE MAN ARMY Arizona Ambush (1977)

and now a sampling of some of the original paperback covers:

mack 1

mack 2

mack 3

ONE MAN ARMY: THE ACTION PAPERBACK ART OF GIL COHEN is a lush and exciting book, putting you into the action and in the hands of an action-art master. It has my highest recommendation. Another home run for the Men’s Adventure Library division of New Texture books!

You can learn more about Mr. Cohen’s aviation art here:  https://www.aviationarthangar.com/gilcohen.html

June 6, 2020

Elvis Presley, “Spliced Takes: Blue Moon” (CMT/Star CD)

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elvis spliced 1

ELVIS PRESLEY, “Spliced Takes: Blue Moon” (CMT/Star, CD, released 2017)

With Elvis boots being issued regularly since the 1970’s, and more still coming out every month, and with RCA’s all-Elvis archival label “Follow That Dream” Records having released 150+ albums (some of them multi-disc sets) of studio outtakes and live shows (not to mention the archival releases on the main RCA label, which started with 1973’s initial volume of A LEGENDARY PERFORMER) in the last few decades, there’s not a lot of new unreleased material available for bootleggers to issue, which has led to repackaging of earlier boots. Yes, there are new tapes of audience recordings of live shows surfacing, being digitally restored, fixed-up, and released on CD, but in terms of studio outtakes, the well is largely dry. When the “Venus” label issued a collection of previously unknown alternates of soundtrack material from some of Elvis’s weakest films on an album called HARD KNOCKS a few years back, it was treated as a revelation in the Elvis community, and indeed, it was.

Beatles fans are familiar with the concepts of “outfakes”—-artificially created “rarities” issued on bootleg albums or distributed online. Some of these have been quite interesting (I have a 2-cd set called MAGICAL MYSTERY EXTRACTIONS, which I play quite often), where individual tracks are isolated from multi-track tapes (or through creative computer editing) and mixed together to create “new” and fresh tracks. Well, fresh to some extent—-if you know the original recordings well enough, you can hear that what you are getting is simply an extracted “part” of a more complete group performance. With so many Beatle recordings from 1965 on being created through layering overdubs on multiple tracks in the studio, the stripping away and recombining in new ways of their studio creations can create an interesting and enjoyable listening experience. However, when we have both the original masters and the alternate takes which are out on bootlegs, it’s debatable whether such “extractions” produce anything “new.” However, unless we are talking about recent McCartney or Starr live shows, there is obviously no “new” Beatles or Lennon or Harrison material to discover, unless it’s in the vaults of their estates or of private collectors. Yet “new” Beatles boots continue to appear, many recently offering “spectral stereo” transformation of the early EMI recordings. Someone must be buying those (I’m not) or they would not be appearing.

With Elvis, the creation of “outfakes” has been a bit different (—-and by the way, I am definitely someone who enjoys Elvis’ 70’s recordings MUCH MORE when the overdubs are stripped away and we get the basic small-group track—-this started with the legitimate OUR MEMORIES OF ELVIS albums on RCA and then the many boots and then FTD albums that offer the “pure” basic tracks). The CMT/Star outfit has created nearly 20  albums called SPLICED TAKES, covering all parts of Elvis’s studio recording career, where someone edits together a Franken-master from different takes of an Elvis performance to create a “new performance” from pieces of different takes, some of which are then given a home-computer remix, echo (where the alternates were “flat”), looping, etc. Clearly, someone had fun doing this, and the results are quite impressive in the sense that the seams don’t show too obviously (perhaps they would show if I played the 3 albums I have—-all I need of this series, to be honest—-on headphones, not on speakers in a room).

I made a point of getting this BLUE MOON volume because it covers the Sun recordings, every take of which I have memorized, and the pre-Army RCA material, which is etched into my consciousness almost as much. Of course, the fatal flaw of an album like this is that Elvis DID NOT want records issued that were stitched together from pieces—-he wanted a recording of a REAL in-studio performance. Yes, there were a few early RCA masters cobbled together from two takes, or with a vocal “patch” overdub, but that tended to be when a satisfactory master was not produced and something  usable had to be salvaged: “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” ‘Poor Boy,” and “Playing For Keeps,” for instance. You can see SP next to the master number in the Presley discographies (I’m looking at Tunzi’s ELVIS SESSIONS III to verify this). It was rare, however, until some of the lesser 60’s film soundtracks and then in the period after the 1973 Stax sessions.

Not only is CMT/Star churning out these albums a few times a year, they are also reissuing them four at a time in attractive digi-pak 4-CD longboxes, creating yet another level of product for those who seek out the “collectible.” I don’t plan on buying any more entries in this series, but I am glad to own BLUE MOON and it sounds great blasting in my car.

There are also people out there, especially in Europe with its looser Public Domain laws for vintage recordings, producing “new” versions of 50’s and early 60’s Elvis recordings by doing awful new overdubs, creating new computer-produced “stereo separation” and “mixes,” but life is too short to spend any precious time listening to them, let alone discussing them. My Elvis listening time is much better spent listening to newly surfacing 69-77 live shows. The ELVIS LIVE 1969 box which I reviewed for UGLY THINGS has ELEVEN full shows on it (that should keep you busy for a while), and labels such as FTD and the “import” Straight Arrow regularly offer quality live Presley product.

For the record, here’s what’s on SPLICED TAKES: BLUE MOON:

……………………………………..

That’s All Right – Spliced take 2,3
My Baby’s Gone Spliced take 6,7,6
Ill Never Let You Go – Spliced take
Jailhouse Rock – Spliced take 7,8,7,6/Pick up take 2
Shake, Ratlle and Roll – Alternate Master (long version)
When It Rains It Really Pours – Spliced take 8,5
I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine – Spliced take 2,3,1
Money Honey – Spliced take 10,5,6
Paralyzed – Spliced take 12,5 *
I’m Counting On You – Spliced take 13,UN,14,13
I Want To Be Free – Spliced take 8,9
Doncha Think It’s Time – Spliced take 39,47,40
Playing for Keeps – Spliced take 7,18 *
Poor Boy – Spliced take 1,3
Lonesome Cowboy – Spliced take 25,20 *
Treat Me Nice (1st movie vs) – Spliced take 12,13
I Was the One – Alternate Master
Don’t Leave Me Now (Record vs) – Spliced take 17,15,18,8
I Love You Because – Spliced take 4,5
Blueberry Hill – Spliced take 6,5,4,7,8
Baby, I Don’t Care – Spliced take 4,1
Lover Doll – Spliced EP/LP/EP Version
Let Me – Spliced take 3,4,3 (reversed master)
Too Much – Spliced take 12/insert take 2 *
I Beg of You – Alternate Master
Rip It Up – Spliced take 18,17,17
Young and Beautiful (record vs) – Spliced take 1,3
As Long As I Have You (movie vs) – Spliced take 6,7
Harbor Lights – Spliced take 6,7
Blue Moon Spliced take 7,8

elvis spliced 2

I’m not seeing this particular volume of SPLICED TAKES on You Tube, but other volumes can be found there—just do a search of ELVIS, SPLICED TAKES if you’d like to sample this phenomenon (you certainly should not have to pay for it!). Since I can’t provide you this album, here’s something you’ll enjoy…..a live version of one of the tracks on the album, PARALYZED (always one of my favorites of the early RCA period), performed at the Louisiana Hayride (in Shreveport) in December 1956, Elvis’s final performance on the Hayride.

 

 

Also, in case you aren’t familiar with the original studio version, here that is:

 

 

June 2, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #8, Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari (France, 1961), starring Lex Barker

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tresor 1

Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari (France, 1961)

starring Lex Barker, Marpessa Dawn (from Black Orpheus), Frank Villard, Odile Versios, and (uncredited) Walter Barnes

directed by Edmond Agabra

French language

tresor 5

Lex Barker pretty much moved his acting career to Europe permanently in 1958 and then starred in 42 international productions until 1970, when he moved back to the USA and worked in TV guest shots until his premature passing in 1973 at the age of 54.

I’m happy to see that my blog posts on Barker’s films get regular hits year after year from his many fans around the world. Here is a film that is new to me, and I’ve never seen an English-friendly version of it on offer in 40+ years, but an excellent quality French-language copy is presently on You Tube and I highly recommend it.

This film comes after his run of Italian productions such as Pirates of the Coast and Secret of the Black Falcon, but before the two Dr. Mabuse films made in Germany, and before his resurrection as a major star through the series of Winnetou westerns with Pierre Brice.

Le trésor des hommes bleus is a French production shot entirely on location in Morocco, in both the beautiful coastal city of Mogador/Essaouria and in interior desert areas, with many Moroccan locals in supporting roles. One source states that the film is basically a French production, with the Spanish co-producers needed on paper in order to take money out of Morocco at the time, but not actively involved in the production. It certainly plays more like a French film than a Spanish one (Barker’s MISSION IN MOROCCO from 1959, though shot in English, was essentially a Spanish production and looks like one).

tresor 3

Director Edmond Agabra is a new name to me, but he was assistant director on the Academy Award-winning 1956 short THE RED BALLOON, and Le trésor des hommes bleus has some of the same striking use of color and magical sense of place. His only other credit as director (and not assistant or second-unit) is a 1989 family Christmas film with marionettes, which has zero reviews on the IMDB!

tresor 4

Barker plays Fred, an American adventurer (as I’m watching this in French, I’m sure some of the finer plot points are evading me) in the Mediterranean who befriends a sailor (Walter Barnes) and a French businessman and his daughter, who is attracted to Barker. He is part of a caravan heading toward the interior, and when he gets separated from the others, he stumbles across a community who all dress in blue. It turns out that there is a hidden treasure in this area, and a seedy character in the caravan named Fernandez, with whom Barker trades barbs and blows a number of times, is after this treasure by any means necessary. Barker being the attractive and virile man he is, there is another lady also interested in him, a local villager played by Marpessa Dawn, star of the classic BLACK ORPHEUS (who, I just discovered, was born in Pittsburgh! I always assumed she was French or perhaps from a French colonial possession), a lady who radiates charm (looking at her credits, I see that she had a small role in Dusan Makevejev’s infamous 1974 SWEET MOVIE, though that did not register with me at the time when I saw it—-there were too many bizarre and disgusting images in the film for me to notice the supporting cast, although it had others such as John Vernon (!!!) and George Melly in it!), and was an excellent choice for this role as she steals every scene she is in, seemingly effortlessly.

tresor 6

The plot unspools in some interesting and unexpected ways (which I won’t give away) while at the same time hearkening back to the well-known world of older adventure serials and pulp stories. Barker here is in the tradition of B-movie adventure heroes such as Rod Cameron, and for much of the film he wears a loose and billowing white shirt which exposes a good bit of his athletic chest, in case you forget he was once Tarzan. Barker worked a lot in these exotic European adventure programmers set in a Colonial fantasy world, and he exudes just the right combination of thoughtfulness (he was a multi-lingual Ivy League man, after all), ruggedness, and wit to make him convincing in these films–no wonder he made so many.

In addition to the location shooting and many locals in supporting roles, the production design is quite impressive here, as is the photography. Though not a high-budget film, what interiors there are suggest, through colored lighting and use of small and suggestive details in the set dressings, much more than the producers could afford to depict. Every franc spent is on the screen.

The community of the “hommes bleus,”  when the film finally stays rooted there at about the halfway point, is peopled with local Moroccans who may well be doing for the cameras some variation on an indigenous celebratory dance-music program—-it would be interesting to know the backstory there.

In any event, Le trésor des hommes bleus / Il Tesoro dei Barbari is an entertaining and well-made escapist adventure and one of the least-known films in Lex Barker’s career.

It’s available in French on You Tube, and you can program (through the settings tab at the bottom of the screen, which looks like a gear) auto-translated English subtitles to give you an idea of the plot and its developments, but once you’ve got that, it’s not a film that requires a lot of linguistic information to provide characterization and explanation of incidents. Barker and the main actors went into this project knowing it would be dubbed into various languages, as did the writers, so even if you have minimal French, you can watch this and get carried away with it, forgetting what language it’s in.

A link is below….enjoy!

tresor 7

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June 1, 2020

newly rediscovered, the 1929 early-sound crime short THE LINE-UP

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:52 pm
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lineup

Want to see a fascinating film that you’ve never seen before? It comes from a unique window of time in that brief period between silent films and talkies, and it is a poverty row independent production made on a shoestring in New York on a limited number of small sets.

Film-makers had to re-learn their craft during the early days of sound, and it’s to the credit of the obscure people who put together this film that they were willing to step into the arena at the beginning of the sound era and take on the big boys at their own game, with few resources but big ambitions. According to the film notes provided by Geno Cuddy on the You Tube presentation of THE LINE-UP (1929), the small company “Classic Pictures” planned to make a dozen dramatic shorts, although THE LINE-UP was the only one that got made (Cuddy’s notes describe a second film that had a title and concept planned—-read the notes yourself before you watch the film). Director Charles Glett had only directed one previous short, in 1927 (evidently available on an Alpha Video compilation DVD!), and he was scheduled to direct all 12 films. He never directed another film after this one. Writer Frances Kanes, who gets special “by” billing on the title card, has no other IMDB credits. Producer Carl Lipman has no other IMDB credits. There is surely an interesting backstory about the production of this film and the creation of “Classic Pictures,” but alas, none of the principals survive to tell it.

What does survive as a sole 16mm print, made available to us for viewing by crime film authority (and author of a book on the films of Peter Lorre) Ray Cabana, who has a number of interesting observations on the film in a comment on the IMDB. You should read that too.

Anyone who has seen films such as DANCE HALL RACKET (1954), or any of Fanchon Royer’s 1930’s productions, or any of Bud Pollard’s films, knows the production sleight-of-hand techniques used in very low-budget indie cinema to make a “feature film” shot on a limited number of sets, and they are clearly in evidence here, though there is also a clever plot, some interesting (and in a few places quite daring!) photography, some novel settings, enthusiastic performances, and a truly surprising ending, all of which work together to make THE LINE-UP a fascinating curio well worth your time. Heck, it’s only 24 minutes long. Coincidentally, I watched one of the Hal Roach “Streamliner” features yesterday, ABOUT FACE with William Tracy and Joe Sawyer, which was 42 minutes long, so I’m in a kind of “less is more” mood right now, I guess, and THE LINE-UP does not need to be a second longer than it is.

Yes, the sound is not clearly recorded in parts (and some parts are shot silent, of course, since film-makers were still thinking in terms of “sound sequences within a film” in early 1929), but anyone who has seen early-sound low-budget films (watch HOWDY BROADWAY some time!) can adapt to that. The film also has the refreshing “outsider” technical quality one sees in something like Dwain Esper’s early films such as MANIAC or NARCOTIC.

I can’t imagine anyone interested in early indie cinema or outsider film or 30’s low-budget crime films NOT finding THE LINE-UP a fascinating experience. I certainly did, watching it a second time immediately after the first. Thanks to Cabana and Cuddy for making it available.

Perhaps it’s time for me to now dust off that half-finished blog post from a year or two ago on the early sound 1929-1930 comedy shorts of Pathe, right before they ceased production.

Forget about Netflix or Amazon Prime for a while, and take 23 minutes to watch THE LINE-UP via the You Tube link below….and let’s hope other previously unknown independent films from the early-sound era surface in the next few years.

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and if that’s not enough, how about a double-bill….yes, here below is a 1928 short subject, also made in New York, starring Tommy Christian’s dance band (stars of the previously mentioned HOWDY BROADWAY), called PEP AND PERSONALITY, from Raytone Talking Pictures.

 

Enjoy. And the entire double bill runs about 35 minutes!

I’ll try to be back again within the week with comments on a 1961 French adventure film starring Lex Barker (right before his German Dr. Mabuse films) shot on location in Morocco, something which also, like THE LINE-UP (and PEP AND PERSONALITY), should be new to most readers/viewers.

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postscript…. contrary to the IMDB credits for THE LINE-UP, the film’s star WILLIAM BLACK is definitely NOT the William Black who appears in the off-the-wall 1934 LIFE RETURNS as Dr. Cornish’s assistant. I just watched half of LIFE RETURNS to verify that! The William Black in THE LINE-UP had a long string of silent-film credits (if it’s the same actor–see my comments below) and appeared in W. C. Fields’ 1930 film THE GOLF SPECIALIST. If the IMDB birth year for Black is correct, though, he was 59 when he made THE LINE-UP, which I find hard to believe. If so, he must have found the fountain of youth, as I’d doubt this actor is over 35. Perhaps he’s another William Black….or the birth date is wrong.

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