Once again, I, Gary Pig Gold, lived the year with ears wide open, forever scouting far under the socio-musical radar for sounds that may just have passed you by over the past twelve months and counting.
So, here then is a Top 10 of sorts, respectfully listed, as always, in strictest alphabetical order.
* Debris — Static Disposal (Anopheles)
Like its creatively miscreant Canadian cousins Simply Saucer, Chickasha, Okla.’s one and only Debris spent those dreaded mid-’70s recording some of the most totally incongruent, while at the same time brilliantly iconic music this side of your nearest, dearest Dictators demo. And, thanks to those ultra-visionaries at Anopheles Records, more than a full hour of these historic, histrionic sounds — including the band’s entire semi-self-released 1976 vinyl long-player — are herein recycled for all the world to embrace and/or run screaming in the opposite direction from.
Veering most wackily from post-“Trout Mask” repartee to EchoPlex-laden merry lo-frequency modulations, the hard bedrock ‘neath it all somehow always keeps things concrete and coherent in solid Blue Cheer style. Is it any wonder then that Debris had a standing invitation throughout ’76 to play both Max’s Kansas City and CBGB (too very, very bad they never made it, though). Suffice to say, “Static D” must certainly be 2007’s most challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, deep sonic experience.
* The Doughboys — Is It Now? (Ram)
The true teen originators of vintage-‘66 Jersey Beat (read all about it in Richard X Heyman‘s literally loud Boom Harangue book), Plainfield, N.J.’s very own Doughboys have just now released their first new recordings in — wait for it! — four long decades. Yet so far from sounding in any way retro-stalgic, the band’s debut CD (produced at the House of Vibes in Highland Park, N.J.) is quite simply, quite pimply, a red-white-and-blues-too, all-American roller-rock wonder that easily puts such pretenders to the Jersey throne as that Boss man, for one, straight to shame and back. Nothing but cool, crafty meat ‘n’ potatoes rock and soul — and whenever none other than original Nashville Strawb John Hawken adds his Alan-priceless 88’s to the equation, things get even, well, doughier!
Yes, in a fair and just world, the D-Boys’ “Too Little Too Late” for starters would be tops inside not only Little Steven’s Underground Garage — but that’s hardly any excuse to keep on waiting to get your own copy of this disc.
* The Freddie Steady 5 — Tex-Pop (SteadyBoy)
Bonafide-and-then-some Texas Hall of Famer Freddie Krc — yes, he of Explosives and even Roky Erickson fame — keeps things more than merely steady throughout this 13-track, 38-minute breath of fresh Austin, Texas, air. Ably astride alongside Patterson Barrett‘s Farfisa-soaked carnival keyboards, Freddie dreams of 2001’s Cavestomp Fest, crossing Jackie DeShannon by way of Gene Clark (“She Has a Way,” indeed). And as if all that wasn’t nearly more than enough, “What’s So Hard About Love” nods most reverently toward Augie Meyers whilst whipping up its very own Texas tornado or three.
Meanwhile, in between spinning all this Tex-Pop (and waiting for the next Bill Lloyd disc), check out Mr. Krc’s other grand 2007 project — none other than SteadyBoy’s Jenny Wolfe and the Pack.
* The Lickity-Splits — Another Taste of the Lickity-Splits (Lickity-Splits)
I duly raved rabid all over (Col. Knowledge and) The Lickity-Splits’ 2005 Bomp!/Alive disc, but despite even that, somehow this delicious combo’s latest and greatest has yet to find an actual real-world release! Nevertheless, said grand new lickity taste continues mining that same rollicking frat-rock as ever, conjuring the perfectly greasy pre-Beatles production, um, values of no less than Sen. John Kerry‘s 1961 Electras LP whilst sometimes – simultaneously! – shakin’ and quakin’ with all the anti-aplomb of Otis Day and his Knights‘ bastard sons.
These never more than four- to eight-track home-recorded gems just go to prove, yet again, that it’s the song that honestly counts.
* Lolas — Like the Sun (Jam)
The first three bars may sound terrifyingly (late-period) Frank Zappa, but fear not, for the remaining 58-minutes-plus of this latest day-glo treat from Tim Boykin and company is one harmony ‘n’ soleil-drenched, slap-happy pickin’, grinnin’ treat throughout. You see, as he makes sure within all his powerfully popping productions, Boykin never ever fails to keep it infectiously melodic, yet whilst always remembering to layer the snap and crackle. For example, “Watch the Movie” is enough to make one toss their last three – at least! – Paul McCartney albums, “Sticker” could revive those Swinging Blue Jeans with one white guitar stuck behind its back and “Going All the Way,” for starters, should absolutely score the very next Quentin Tarantino epic.
Meanwhile, “Ramon Ghetto Chef 2” is the great Black Sabbath/Sweet gunfight that, most unfortunately, never was.
* The Modd Couple — Daze Gone By (Modd Couple)
Brooklyn, N.Y.-born, street (and AM radio) raised, and today warmly Florida-based, the most moddest couple I’ve ever really known have created another half hour of sweetly sublime, wholly two-straw shake-worthy soft pop pleasure for your lazy next Sunday afternoon. Only ever needing Rick Silver‘s guitar, Terry Bo Berry‘s percussion and their twin voices like (as per “When We’re In Love”) chocolate/vanilla, Dacron silk rainbow snowballs, theirs is the kind of quite quietly understated music which, if you’ll let it, draws you instantly, welcomingly and entirely in. And then once you’re “there,” the rewards can be many, and often. For example: “Baby Don’t You Turn Your Back on Me” turns into the finest slice of Belmont Avenue doo-wop of the strictest, sweet city Dion caliber I’ve heard in pig’s years!
* Jack Pedler — Let’s Get Nervous! (Race)
Welcome to Wonderful J.A.C.K! (Do not adjust your set). Voted Drummer of the Year at the Hamilton Music Awards — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada being, and remaining, the most musical ‘burg in all of North America, at least – the beat beneath most every single great white northward record of note now unleashes his latest uneasy listening masterwork. And what a nerve-mauling delight it surely is, extremely broadcast throughout in true Firesign Theatre by way of Who Sell Out pirated radio waves.
We belt immediately off with that one and lonely “Diesel Drivin’ Dyke” deep into “Toxin Town,” which, by the by, should be adopted without delay by the aforementioned Hamilton’s Chamber of Commerce. And speaking of the newest world orders, “Mapled Red and White” just must be the definitive alt.-Canuck national anthem some of us have been waiting all along for.
* The Sprague Brothers — Best of the EssBee CD’s Vol. 2 (El Toro)
Here they both come again! For the third – count ’em – year-end in a row, Frank Lee and Chris Sprague made my list with this Spanish (!) assemblage of tracks originally released on a series of albums for their legion Japanese (!!) fans. Yep, the Sprague Brothers’ indisputably international way with a tune run rampant from, speaking of fellow Lone Stars, the Bobby Fuller-y “All Night Long” and even a couple of ravin’-on pre-Crickets Buddy Holly hoppers (“Down the Line” and my long-time fave “Gotta Get You Near Me Blues”) clear on cross-pond toward several hunks of Frank Lee‘s be-luv-ed Merseybeat (“She Won’t Stay For Long,” most especially).
And while they’re at it, where would John and Paul ever been without Don and Phil (e.g.: the Spragues’ startlingly mature reading of the Everly Brothers‘ “So How Come” and a similar take on the Searchers‘ “Goodbye My Love”). Mix ‘em all together and top with some hot country and surf instrumentals, and you have here 20 choice cuts that, as Frank Lee himself insists, are “influenced by none, inspired by many.”
* The Squires of the Subterrain and Big Boy Pete — Rock It Racket (Rocket Racket)
This brazenly self-confessed “mostly mono split CD hootenanny” between the most legendary Big Boy Pete Miller (got any Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers vinyl in your collection?) and that equally stature-esque Squire Christopher Earl is one half-hour’s-plus of rockin’ and then rollin’ bopabilly, guaranteed to send stockings to the closest dance floor within a half dozen shakes of Tom T. Hall‘s opening “Make Like a Snake.” Yes, the source material is, not surprisingly at all, impeccable throughout (Charlie Rich, Larry Williams, Buddy Holly ‘n’ Bobby Fuller, again!) and the performances never less than reverent, but without putting anything, or anyone, in any museum whatsoever, musical or otherwise. Just take the Big Boy’s fractured ‘n’ frenzied take on “Queen of the Hop” — why, I haven’t heard such a joyous jumble since those Cramps hijacked the first Mungo Jerry album.
And the Squire’s original compositions herein are nothing to be sneezed upon, either — in particular the two-by-four to the floor’d “86 Lumber” and that completely hungover “I Quit Quit Drinking Today.”
* Robin Stanley — Chronic Empire (Creative Artists)
My good longtime Vancouver pal Robin, who I spent many an evening playing bass for within the Fun With Numbers band a decade or two ago, at last returns with another thought-provoking yet ultimately uplifting collection of ruminations upon home, heart and matters even further and deeper reaching. Now, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, here is a man, and a songwriter, with a keen eye for detail and an ear set to make some sort of sonic logic from all around him, and me, and you. In other words, this is one disc that proudly wears its lyrics right there on its inner sleeve.
Then musically, too, each track sports a gaunt sophistication in both arrangement and performance (“Born Under a Bad Sign” in particular). “A Heart Without a Home” effortlessly drags Blood on the Tracks Dylan clean into chronic R.E.M. fields, “Love’s Made a Fool of Me” similarly declouds the often foggy Daniel Lanois approach and you’ll find Robin’s “Suburban Lawns” spread happily beneath their fondest waterloo sunset. Elsewhere, Lyndon Toftager’s accordion adds a perfectly sorrowful world-weariness to “Angel of Mercy,” and also bringing much to the mix is lead guitarist Ian Crew, whose “Best Mistake” solo cuts just like a Mick Taylor of old.
But always atop it all, Robin’s vocals are extremely assured and biting in their sincerity, necessary indeed when singing of “Waiting for the World to End” in frightful John Fogerty fashion, for one. Indeed, this is a collection of songs that may require repeated close listens before fully revealing their close-knit weave of lyrical and musical sophistication, but Robin always was a novel as opposed to comic book sorta guy.
Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.