A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Sunday, June 16, 2002

I begin with some Schizoid Man farewells to Janusz Torbicz, our man Temple's father--who passed away suddenly last week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer..so some hearty Father's Day cheers and big-ups to him...Rest In Peace, Mr. Torbicz--a 21 guitar-riff salute to you. And a Happy Father's Day to me own Da--I bought him a couple of military history books 'cause that's his bag..but don't think I wasn't going to buy him the Psychedelics Encyclopedia as a gag gift..no, that one ended up in my possession.
I had to work a shift at the record store yesterday and found an interesting item in the cut-out/cheapie bin. It's by English eccentric Ivor Cutler and the title is Cute, (H)ey?. The disc packaging resembles a small book, which is fortunate because it's part of something called the "Songbook Series", released by EMI Records in 1999. Apparently, the idea was to approach an artist and give them free reign to compile a disc of some music that inspired them or to spotlight certain music that they really felt was under-exposed to their fans. I decided to buy it because, well, the price was right and also I knew Cutler from his guest spot on Robert Wyatt's phenomenal 1974 record Rock Bottom. I don't know much about him, except he's a poet who also dabbles in recording and was on the periphery of the English psych counter-culture inthe late-60s/early 70s. He gives a brief description of the tunes he has selected--such as "That a woman of the calibre of Nina Simone should need to sing the song 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free' reminds me that xenophobia is alive and kicking" and on the last page: "That's all, folks, but if you feel I've sold you short, try listening to silence, the music of the cognoscenti. You'll never look back.". I don't feel I was sold short--it's a nice mix of styles. Cutler has included Albert Ammons' "Shout For Joy", a boogie-woogie piano solo from 1939..the Nina Simone tune is excellent..as are the Arvo Part choral pieces, very haunting, but with a calming effect. He also chose some Eastern European music out of due for part of his ethnic background: 6 Romanian Folk Dances, the Bela Bartok piece and two Marta Sebestyen tunes ("Madoscai Szolo-Orzo" and "Edesanyam Rozafaja"). Cutler has a fascination with African drumming so that is represented by a track called Drum Rhythms and he continues the African theme to the track right after, Miriam Makeba singing "Kilimanjaro". He sneaks a couple of his own tunes into the mix: the silly but amusing I Believe In Bugs with Cutler singing and playing harmonium and the similar I'm Walkin' To A Farm--Cutler sings "I'm walkin' to a farm/to grow wheat as a refrain..it's goofy but has a nice drone-y feel--thanks to the harmonium which makes Cutler draw certain words out to fit the drone of the instrument. Robert Wyatt makes an appearance singing on Cutler's tune Grass, a fairly psychedelic track with tabla, piano and something in the back-ground that sounds like a sped-up saxophone or a snake-charmer's horn. The mix is rounded out with Mahalia Jackson's "Didn't It Rain"...Lennie Tristano's poly-rhythmic jazz jam "Turkish Mambo" and a traditional Japanese song "Miyagi Mago Uta". I enjoyed listening to this very much and jumping from a Japanese traditional a capella song to Mahalia Jackson's gospel phrasing wasn't jarring at all...or an Eastern European folk tune into a quasi-psych song that starts with tabla beats--it's first rate! I think the series is out-of-print now and when I checked out a website address they had printed on the back of the "book" to see what other titles were in the series--I ended up at a Virgin Records site with, like, Lenny Kravitz' mug plastered on the screen..Oi..Wot's all this, then?!!
Listening to Ivor's stuff reminded me of another English eccentric, Ron Geesin. Ron is also a multi-instrumentalist/spoken-word artist who got his start in a jazz group playing piano and banjo. He left the band and started to make home recordings featuring his spoken-word observsations and tape experiments. He somehow parlayed that into a record deal with a small label and released his first full-length A Raise Of Eyebrows, in 1967. It's a strange album, even for '67..with Ron saying things like "It's certainly random.. in his Scottish burr and playing high-speed banjo..or the sound of breaking glass, followed by a dim-wit laugh..and a proper English voice saying "There are bricks in your garden..go and throw them at your neighbors" as if from a pulpit. Some of the more avant-garde in the psych counter-culture picked up on Ron's record and eventually he met Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and the two were commissioned to provide the music for a documentary about the human body. Music From The Body was released in 1970 on EMI's "progressive" label, Harvest. I don't have this in my collection yet--so I can't give you any hints on how it stacks up--but Vernon Joynson wrote negatively about it in "The Tapestry Of Delights". I don't completely trust Joynson's opinion..so I will be adding "..The Body" to my collection at some point. Waters invited Geesin to write the orchestral parts for the next Floyd album, Atom Heart Mother, which was in progress at that time. He did an admirable job and you can hear the result in the "Atom Heart Mother Suite", which takes up the whole first side of the L.P. (and is the first long track on the CD re-issue). The orchestral bits give the piece it's flow and smooth the transitions from one part of the suite to the next--I have a live bootleg from the Fillmore West with just The Floyd playing "Atom Heart.." un-accompanied and some of the transitions are slightly rough. After that..Waters and Geesin parted ways as Pink Floyd were going in a more "back-to-basics/four guys jamming" direction without outside frills, so Geesin continued with his solo work. He released an album of experimental electronic music for a record library only--not for the public..but he did issue As He Stands on John Peel's "Dandelion" label in 1973. It's similar to "A Raise..", except he gets more sophisticated with his studio trickery and upgrades to synthesizers for his keyboard sounds. There are some great moments, especially Wrapping A Keyboard Round A Plant and the shout-out to Waters, To Roger Waters, Wherever You Are. Geesin would continue on, releasing sporadic albums and making a lot of music for BBC docs. The best of these are collected on Hystery, released on Cherry Red Records in 1994--it's out-of-print now but pops up on E-Bay every once in a while. The two albums "A Raise.." and "As He Stands" were released on CD on the See For Miles label in the early 90s. That disc is also out-of-print..but you can score that on E-Bay as well. Not for everybody..but if you like outre stuff.. a little spoken-word..some jazzy piano and frantic banjo..all done up with a sheen of psychedelia (and that's just his early records!)...Geesin's your man! I think Ivor and Ron should collaborate--now *there's* an exercise in complete weirdness--hey guys, if you do make a record together--you've got at least *one* guaranteed sale! That's all folks...see ya next time..Peace!