* Rock N’ Roll ’50s Blues Essentials This is a generous helping of blues and R&B. and one of those bargains you can find on eMusic that keep me coming back.
Just one problem. Many of the tracks were mislabeled. It looks as if there are duplicates of several songs, 11 in all. It’s not eMusic’s fault. The same album is listed on Amazon and iTunes with the same mistakes. It’s probably the fault of the digital distributor.
This points to one of the problems with the digital age. Without an actual physical product in hand, it’s way too easy to spread the wrong information about an album. And with obscure tracks, who’ll know but the fanatics?
Using several internet sources, I was able to identify 6 of the mislabled songs. But 5 of them still stump me. I’m not sure of the artists on any of them. They are Track 2 (It might be called “Tommy T”), Track 6, which I’m pretty sure is called “Take the Hint”; Tracks 27, 28 and 37.If anyone has a clue, please let me know.
I stumbled across this while searching for some early stuff by Guitar Shorty, who played a benefit in Santa Fe last month for our mutual friend Kenny Delgado. In this collection I found an early tune by Shorty called “Ways of a Man.” It’s a funny little tune about all men basically being scumbags.
Among my other favorites here are “The Hunt” by Sonny Boy Williamson, which is a humorous novelty tune about coon dogs, the two (!) Ligntnin’ Hopkins rockers and Jesse Knight’s “Nothing But Money.” If Big Joe Turner was the Boss of the Blues, Jesse sounds like his thug enforcer.
But the compilers might have saved their best for the first here. “Get Your Clothes and Let’s Go” by Crown Prince Waterford probably sounded pretty risque back in the ’50s. Now it’s just crazy fun. (Unfortunately this opening song is one of the mislabled tracks.)
* Calypsos From Trinidad: Politics, Intrigue and Violence in the 1930’s by Various Artists. Another great Arhoolie compilation.
What is it about calypso that can even make a song about injustice, poverty and murder sound almost … happy? You hear very little outrage or despair in these songs. The singers — who have cool stage names like Growling Tiger, Roaring Lion, Tiger, Atilla the Hun and The Executor — skewer their politicians with a wise, sly smile and wicked lyrics.
Somehow these singers pull off political protest without the self-righteousness of so many American folkies or the pre-fab poser rage of second-rate rappers.
Wouldn’t it have been great if we’d had Lord Executor around here in New Mexico to sing “Treasury Scandal” during the whole Robert Vigil /Michael Montoya mess.
Of course, politicians in Trinidad often were not amused. In fact “Sedition Law” by King Radio deals with censorship of the calypso menace.
(Beware! There’s lots of mislabeling on this album too. Among other thins, they took the “growling” and “Roaring” from the Tiger and the Lion. Get it together, e-Music!)
* Sanders’ Truckstop by Ed Sanders. Here’s further proof that I have unhealthy obsessions about music.
Back in my early years of college, I remember KUNM playing this funny faux-country song called “Jimmy Joe, The Hippybilly Boy.” Sung by Ed Sanders, a founding member of The Fugs, it’s about a long-haired country boy who meets a tragic end.
I’d looked for this for years but was unable to find it. I’m not sure what made me think of “Jimmy Joe” recently, but I looked up Sanders on eMusic and lo and behold …
I probably should have just downloaded that song. It’s still funny to me. There may be a couple of others — For instance, “The Iliad,” which is the tale of the legendary shit-kicking homophobe Johnny Pissoff. And maybe “Banshee,” which is about one of Satan’s demon lovers.
But most of the rest of the album doesn’t hold up. The hippie humor is dated and Sander’s fake hick accent gets annoying. If you want to hear really funny, really warped music about rednecks and hippies, check out Twisted Tales from the Vinyl Wastelands Volume 4: Hippie in a Blunder.
In Ed’s defense though, you could argue that his work was a precursor to Mojo Nixon, Angry Johnny & The Killbillies and maybe even Southern Culture on the Skids (though none of the Hemptones can pick a guitar anything like SCOTS’ Rick Miller can.)
* The 16 tracks I didn’t get last month from Soundway Records Presents The Sound of Siam : Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam from Thailand 1964 – 1975. The Soundways label never ceases to amaze me. It’s best known for its compilations of amazing African rock, funk and soul. Now they’ve turned their ears to Asia.
There’s some cross-cultural hijinx that would make 3 Mustaphas 3’s heads spin. For instnace “Diew Sor Diew Caan” by Thong Huad & Kunpan basically is an Irish fiddle reel gone Siamese.
You can find direct influences from Western rock and pop in these grooves. Because none of the songs on this Soundways collection are sung in English, it’s not as obvious as the Thai Beat a Go-Go collections where you find Siamese versions of songs like “Hit the Road Jack,” “Lady Madonna” and Hank Williams’ Kaw-Liga.
But on “Sao Lam Plearn,” The Petch Phin Thong Band draws straight from “Jumping Jack Flash, ” And in the middle of “Kai Tom Yum” by Kawaw Siang Thong, the melody seems to change to that of Leo Sayer’s 1970s AM Radiio sap hit “More Than I Can Say.” (But since Leo didn’t release that song until the late ’70s, Thong probably got the tune from the earlier version by Bobby Vee.)
For those who don’t speak the language, the rueful laughter and dialog toward the end of “Kai Tom Yum” by Kawaw Siang Thong might sound sinister, like foreign mobsters about to commit some atrocity.
But it doesn’t get anywhere as sinister as The Viking Combo Band’s “Pleng Yuk Owakard” The title means “Space Age Music,” but with its Dirty Dog bass, shouted lyrics, machine-gun drums and weirdo organ, it sounds like a murder after hours at a roller rink. (This song was included on Thai Beat a Go-Go Volume 1. Except there it’s called “Phom Rak Khoon Tching Thing (I Really Do Love You)”)
* Two songs from Battle of the Jug Bands. I’d never heard of any of these groups on this album, released in 2000. But who cares? The beauty of jug band music is that anyone with the proper spirit (and in some cases, proper spirits) can play it. The album is connected with an actual annual event, the “Battle of the Jug Bands,” which takes place in Minneapolis every weekend after the Superbowl.
I picked up jug band versions of “Kung Fu Fighting” by a group called Girls on Top and the Rolling Stones classic “Sweet Virginia” — a natural for a jug band treatment — by Hoakim Yoakim & The Eggwhites. More on this album next month.