The Stanton Session (XL/Beggars Group)
Stiff trance, toothless two-step, antisocial drum ’n’ bass and antiseptic nu-skool breaks have left some e-music fans wondering what’s so fun about peace, love and dancing. England’s DJ-and-production duo Stanton Warriors thirsted for a return to frolic, and so created the world’s freshest sound, “break-step,” through artful genre jumping and individualized remixes. The Warriors’ The Stanton Session mix CD reaffirms the vitality of dance music as a participatory sport that continues to find fuel in the imaginations of its DJs.
The duo started out as party mates in England’s West Country, working together at a U.K. garage label, spinning out and remixing tunes to fit their vision. Their breakthrough tune, “Da Virus,” landed on the nu-skool campus, but left the curriculum open to melodic, revitalized booty breaks that lean on Miami bass and skip to two-step’s bourgeois pace. And their sound — a blend of funked-up two-step and warmed-up nu-skool breaks propelled forward by shout-outs and jiggy pop-hop rhymes — has single-handedly revitalized breakbeat production.
The Stanton Session is a groundbreaking compilation of hand-raising midtempo syncopation, featuring the Warriors’ Dominic B on the turntables; Mark Yardley throwing in bits, pieces and a cappellas from a sampler; and guest MC Moose leading the charge in the kind of sound-system serenade not heard since LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad tore up drum ’n’ bass with Logical Progression. Low-frequency attacks such as the Warriors’ remix of the Basement Jaxx’s “Jump ’n’ Shout” and Azzido da Bass’ “Doomsnight” gyrate, collate and escalate effortlessly on the new 19-track set; these British white boys have brought feel-good breaks back into the limelight through shameless genre slumming. The Stanton Session has more bounce than a ’63 Impala on hydraulic steroids. Whether you drink 40s, Cristal or Red Bull, you can certainly toast to that.
GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER
Magazine No. 5 (distributed by Drag City)
Galactic Zoo Dossier is a labor of psychedelic love issued 1.5 times a year by one Mr. Plastic Crimewave, known on more prosaic planes of reality as 27-year-old Steven H. Krakow of Chicago, Illinois. Millennial technology and Crimewave’s peculiar ambition mean that GZD — which once upon a decade would have been but a smalltime photocopied mail-only rantpaper — takes the form this issue of a nationally distributed, full-size, 52-page $15.95 deluxe mag-package featuring cardstock yellow-and-purple covers, an utterly mental compilation CD and 50 R. Crumb–esque story-plus-illustration cardboard “Damaged Guitar Gods” trading cards.
The ludicrous grandiosity of GZD’s format is almost overwhelmed by the single-mindedness of Crimewave’s determinedly lo-fi, third-eye presentation: The article titles are Pee-Chee-folder doodles, the text is handwritten, and all the illustrations are CW drawings of band photos or record-album covers. Paging through GZD — with its endless articles on psych-scene bottom-dwellers like The Smoke (“recorded in the summer of 1968 by possible genius Michael Lloyd”), The Moon (“delicate Hollies-style psych in the Sagittarius vein”) and Forever Amber (whose sole album was composed and arranged by a high school teacher and sung by his class) — one gets the profound sense of a bong-water-stained time capsule left to us by a 1969 teenage enthusiast with time on his hands and a lot of Oracle (the ur-hippie Bay Area underground paper) ink on his fingertips.
CW is not alone in his obsessions, and while GZD is full of the usual Ptolemaic Terrascope/Ugly Things/Here ’Tis/Scram zine subjects — Skip Spence, the Monks, early Alice Cooper, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Tomorrow, Cluster, Japanese acid rock — the perspectives are enthusiastic, informed and fresh. Syd Barrett or Kim Fowley or Frank Zappa turns up in every article, but where else are you gonna read about Chevy Chase’s psychedelic band Chameleon Church, Kraut-rockers Necronomicon (“serious, intellectual, unyielding bombast”) and contemporary S.F. band Mirza (“like Charlton Heston naked wrestling a wild bull in a Dayglo universe”) and get trading cards of cosmic guitarists like Randy Holden, Randy California, Gary Lee Yoder and Michael Karoli?
Unbeeeeeeeelievable. (Jay Babcock)
The Rock (Bandit/BMG)
George Jones is an unrivaled prolific force. In true hillbilly fashion, the Jones crew has lost count of how many albums he’s recorded, but his 164 charting records are an undisputed fact. The Rock is perhaps his 225th release and, like most all Jones albums, contains some mesmerizing artistry, a few amusing gobbets of bad taste and several outright abominations. Parity isn’t a serious concern, though, because when he hits it, the crap is forgotten.
That, of course, brings to mind Garth Brooks and his “Beer Run” duet contribution. It’s as corny a romp as Jones has ever subjected himself to, but the really awful part is the CD-booklet cop-out “George Jones does not in any way condone drinking and driving.” Still, the worst is yet to come, with banal, empty songs like “I Got Everything,” Music City dreck at its weakest and another representation of Jones’ mystifying carelessness over choice of material.
The worthwhile numbers hardly disappoint. The title track (about a gal who’s rolled away) and the intriguingly ambiguous ballad “Half You Over You” (a tale of soured love that also plays as a metaphor for Jones’ relationship with contemporary country) are loaded with the singer’s impeccable interpretive sensibility. The flag-waving lament “50,000 Names,” a grim visit to the Vietnam memorial, is a stunning example of Jones’ power, presented as a series of lyrical images. Jones runs through glimpses of memorial tokens — the voodoo offerings of beer and cigarettes, faded snapshots, weeping family members — with a range of plaintive phrasing, some words shrewdly sustained, others oddly shaped or affectingly downplayed, suddenly breaking into conversational recitation for maximum pathos. It’s a bushel of up-
to-date corn, harvested with masterly skill.
Closing with Billy Joe Shavers’ invocation-of-Hank classic “Tramp on Your Street,” Jones shows he’s still one of the very finest American singers — a
redneck Sinatra. (Jonny
THE LEAVING TRAINS
Emotional Legs (Steel Cage Records)
This is the Trains’ first alb in six years, and it comes across like an aerosol can in the fireplace: extremely flammable, contents under pressure. The band, under the guidance of longtime helmsman and Weekly contributor Falling James, has been consistently active during the interval, but a changing scene and the decline of the underground ol’-school punk-label network has kept the Trains offa the racks. This has got to be beyond frustrating for James, who had consistently cranked out close to a record a year since the Trains’ debut, Well Down Blue Highway, in ’84. After a nine-record run with SST, the band is back on Philly true-blue dirt-punk label Steel Cage, home to heathens like Antiseen, Limecell and the 440s.
Emotional Legs, produced with an unrefined clarity by Andrew Buscher, kicks off like a somewhat typical three-chord punk stomper but gradually unfurls into something more cinematic, though no less vitriolic. The feel begins to broaden with a well-chosen cover of the Urinals’ moody “Black Hole.” In James’ own melancholic, wistful “Dumb as a Crayon,” the singer defends his looked-down-upon girl, chiding the naysayers, “I shoplift at your daddy’s store,” and reassuring his girl, “I like the way your smile implies a crime and says, ‘Let’s get out of here.’” On the other side of the coin, drummer Dennis Carlin’s “Judy Don’t Mind” comes off like an update of the Monkees’ theme. The aptly titled “New York Is Gone” begins with a riff straight from Television’s debut, and seemingly bemoans declining urban music scenes in the U.S.
Over an hour in length, this pressure cooker blows off six years’ worth of steam with wit and finesse. (S.L. Duff)
THE SWAN SILVERTONES
Saviour Pass Me Not (Collectables)
Of the hundreds of musical instruments used to make music, one — the human voice — remains the most powerful. And nowhere are vocals more moving than in spiritual music. While gospel has always nurtured the most gifted singers (who’ve often gone on to secular music), the Swan Silvertones, formed in 1938 in the Appalachian coal fields, boasted some of the best vocalists ever to stand behind a
This twofer reissue includes a pair of the group’s most enduring efforts, 1959’s The Swan Silvertones and 1962’s Saviour Pass Me Not. Both feature the group at its inspirational best, in performance and sound quality; this is some of the most stirring “soul music” (in more ways than one) you’ll ever hear. Beginning with the group’s biggest hit, a silky
reworking of Inez Andrews’ “Mary Don’t You Weep,” the voices — Claude Jeter’s cooing falsetto, Louis Johnson’s gritty asides, Paul Owens’ crystalline tenor and William
Conner’s rich bass — are nothing short of angelic. Backed by Linwood Hargrove’s solo guitar (à la Pops Staples), a snare drum played with brushes, and an occasional bass, the singing is incredibly rich, full and, in these strange times, comforting. (Check out the messages in “Saviour Pass Me Not” and the doo-wop-style “Brighter Day Ahead.”) One of Jeter’s asides in “Mary” provided the inspiration for Paul
Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”; Simon later tapped Jeter to sing on “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” (from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon). James Brown’s “Baby Don’t You Weep” was little more than a secular reworking of the tune heard here. The rolling “Take the Lord With You” and the
oft-covered “How I Got Over” are soulful hand-clappers; “That Day on Calvary” is a beautiful spiritual, while “Sinner Man” and “My Rock” are jubilee-style barnburners. The complex arrangements and nimble vocals on “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Amazing Grace” are years ahead of their time.
With so many musical “advances” focused on technology instead of content, listening to these records is likely more of a revelatory experience now than it was then. (Michael Lipton)