By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
KEVIN COYNE Sugar Candy Taxi (Ruf)
While musicians and artists often simplify their work as they get older, British singer/songwriter Kevin Coyne has changed little since the late '60s. His latest release (which brings his total to 36) sounds as wonderfully childlike and eccentric (not to mention occasionally twisted) as decades-old classics like Marjory Razorblade.
A product of the same art-school/blues-revivalist crowd that spawned the Stones, Beck and Clapton, Coyne was clearly the most unconventional. Despite the requisite brushes with success -- he was one of Virgin Records' first signings and was reportedly asked by thenElektra prez Jac Holzman to fill Jim Morrison's shoes in the Doors -- his quirky folk/blues/rock has eluded most listeners. Staffed by his sons Robert and Eugene, "Porcupine People," a distant, paranoid cousin to Randy Newman's "Short People," is all the introduction you need, as Coyne is tormented by nasty porcupine folks with "cruel and jagged minds." "Maybe I'm paranoid," he sings -- his plan for revenge involves taking them out to "porcupine tea" and poisoning "every cup."
But Coyne, who has lived in Germany since 1985, is no Marilyn (or Charles) Manson; his plots are simply childish fantasies. Elsewhere, he's shamelessly in love with a phone-sex operator ("I'm Into Your Game") and lusting after his wife's best friend ("She really turns me on/I get kinda hot when she knocks on the door"). Aside from being one of the greatest song titles ever, "Happy Little Fat Man" introduces a full band that conjures subdued images of "Saviour" (from 1975's Matching Head and Feet). "Normal Man" might have been inspired by the patients Coyne tended to while working in a psychiatric hospital in the '60s -- but maybe not.
As with his countrymen Robert Wyatt, the late Nick Drake and more recently Momus, Coyne's confessionals are inspired by a world that's all his own. Watch for West Coast shows in September. (Michael Lipton)
LOS ZAFIROS Bossa Cubana (Nonesuch/World Circuit)
The Jamaicans who manhandled New Orleans R&B into reggae weren't the only Caribbean residents who were paying attention to U.S. mainland music during the '50s and '60s. Judging from the exquisite evidence on Bossa Cubana, some young Cuban vocalists were tuning in to classic American doo-wop, digging its sweet capitalist-tooled harmonies and giving it their own spin, Fidel be damned.
Los Zafiros (the Sapphires) have been virtually unknown on these shores until now; David Byrne anthologized a lone cut by the group on his 1991 Luaka Bop compilation Cuba Classics 2: Dancing With the Enemy. But they were post-revolutionary stars on their home island, and even successfully toured Europe (where they reputedly numbered the Beatles among their admirers). Bossa Cubana was pulled together by producer Nick Gold of World Circuit Records, the label that ignited the current Cuban-music revival with its 1997 album Buena Vista Social Club; while that record sparked a frenzy for older styles of son, the Zafiros set, comprising 196367 recordings, shines a light on the electrified pop made by Havana's postwar generation of rock-&-roll-bred musicians.
The four singers in Los Zafiros -- Leoncio "Kike" Morúa, Miguel "Miguelito" Cancio, Eduardo Elio "El Chino" Hernández and the sublime tenor Ignacio Elejalde -- favored groups like the Platters; the current anthology includes a dizzying, intense Spanish version of the American doo-wop act's "My Prayer." But they also displayed a uniquely South American flair: Witness Elejalde's mind-bending version of Luis Bonfa's "Canción de Orfeo" (the theme from the Brazilian film Black Orpheus) or the triple-tongued, high-energy bossa nova of the title track. Powering everything was electric guitarist Manuel Galban, whose low-key, delicately plucked obbligatos supply the softest of cushions for the quartet's vocal latticework.
Tragically, Galban is the sole surviving member of Los Zafiros; even pop stars laboring under a Marxist banner apparently couldn't resist the temptations of the music biz, and all four vocalists had died prematurely by 1995. This magnificent, unjustly obscure group is saluted on the new album by Buena Vista Social Club's Ibrahim Ferrer; backed by Galban, the 72-year-old singer pays tribute to his successors with a cover of an apt Zafiros ballad, "Herido de Sombras" -- "A Broken Shadow." (Chris Morris)
CHEAP TRICK Music for Hangovers (Cheap Trick Unlimited)
You'll be dancing many thank you's to Ho-Masubi, the Japanese fire-evoking god, when you put on Music for Hangovers, Cheap Trick's new, positively scorching live album -- that is, if your living room isn't reduced to ashes immediately. Cheap Trick burns the house down splendidly. Initially available only through Amazon.com and the band's Web site, Hangoverscan now be purchased at any self-respecting record shop on this great green mudball.
Possibly the most bootlegged band in the universe, Cheap Trick has released only one other official live recording (the infamous Cheap Trick at Budokanin 1978). Culled from four sold-out shows at Chicago's Metro, Music for Hangoversis superior to Budokanin every way -- quality, musicianship and energy. It's a rare band that's at its peak after a quarter-century, but Cheap Trick delivers, as evidenced by Hangoversand the band's criminally underappreciated last studio album,Cheap Trick(Red Ant). Hangoverscontains the band's '70s chestnuts -- jumping, jangly takes on "Surrender," "Hot Love," "I Want You To Want Me," "How Are You?," "If You Want My Love," "Dream Police," "Gonna Raise Hell" and a "half-assed acoustic" version of "Oh Caroline." (They graciously made sure not to repeat the CD playlist at their recent, sold-out Palace show, which included an acoustic version of their big '80s AOR hit, "The Flame.")